Unexpected Blessings in the Year of COVID

Very few people would argue with the fact that 2020 was, overall, a big, awful, stinky dumpster fire of a year! It has been so challenging in allll the ways and has required A LOT of self reflection. BUT… I’m generally an optimist and like to “look on the bright side” and “find the silver lining” and other such sunshiney cliches, so I’ve been trying to focus on the many, many unexpected blessings that my family has experienced this past year. 

My kids have gone to a very small Catholic school since my oldest was in kinder, and we love, love, LOVE our school and school community. It’s this wonderful little parish school with many families who’ve been there for several generations (not us. We’re newcomers all the way), and our community just feels like family. However, along with most of the rest of the country, in the spring when ‘Rona reared her ugly head we were stuck doing “distance learning” and it S U C K E D! Our sweet, wonderful teachers were working SO HARD and my kids are pretty adaptable little humans and they’re bright, smart, and all-around amazing (maybe a little mom-bias here, but seriously, my kids rock!), but it was so freaking hard! We managed to survive all 3 months of school that way, with lots of tears, patience, phone calls with teachers, and so on… but I knew we had no desire to do that again! So come August, when we still didn’t know if our school would be able to open, we made the choice to homeschool for this coming year. A lot of little things led to that choice, and maybe I’ll share that full story another time, but it was such a God thing and it’s led to such giant blessings for my family. 

My children’s relationships with one another have blossomed in the most amazing and beautiful ways. My twelve-year-old is frequently found entertaining his little brothers, ages 4 and 1. Before school shut down back in March, he was still a great big brother, but their relationships have strengthened and deepened during the past 10 (?!?) months of near-constant togetherness. Homeschooling has given us the opportunity to continue enjoying this time together, while all our children are still at home. My oldest is in the 8th grade and we are staring down the barrel of high school and with that comes this shift into lightning speed. I’m excited for all that lies ahead, but I’m also left a little breathless at the thought that we are just a few years away from our children growing up and beginning to fly the coop. I want to soak up as much of these years as possible… years when my babies are still all home together, learning and growing together. A year of forced family quarantine has really opened my eyes to how little time we have left like this.

The perks of homeschooling extend beyond togetherness too! I love the comfort of knowing that whatever weirdness the world throws out to the schools this year, my children’s education won’t suffer because of it. We’re able to have consistency without worrying about schools closing down again or struggling through distance learning. We’re looking forward to taking up some new hobbies this year too! We just started doing some online piano lessons recently, and are looking into options for other sports and hobbies that are still safely meeting in our area. The freedom in our schedule is such a fun benefit! 

All in all, dumpster fire or no dumpster fire, I’m intent on finding the good in this year. I’m working to cultivate a grateful mindset and keep focusing on the positive. After all, St. Paul urges us in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I hope you’re all hanging in there too! What have been some unexpected blessings that have come your way this year? Please share with us in the comment section. And please know that you are in our prayers! ♡

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My Journey to my Vocation

My Journey to my Vocation

To really answer the question about when I felt called to motherhood would actually have to start back with the question of when was/did I feel called to marriage.  Mostly because I knew that if I was married I would become a physical mother and if called to the religious life I would be a spiritual mother.  So which one was God calling me to….

I was never really sure about where God was calling me.  I spent 5 weeks in Mexico at a convent praying and asking God – but the answer I got every time was that it was my choice and He wanted me to be happy.  I wanted someone to tell me – I wanted surety and certainty.  I never got it. 

            After spending so much time with the nuns in the convent, seeing and living the life they live I decided to continue to pray and discern the religious life.  While I was there and discerning I remember a nun saying to me, “Why would you want to get married?  That’s a hard life – being a nun/sister is easy.”  I felt for a while ‘called’ to enter the religious life – but not that particular order (they were teachers, I was in nursing school at the time) so it made sense to find a convent or order with the charism for nurses/nursing.  When I came back and started telling people I was met with mixed reactions – some were supportive, some were questioning and some were negative.  These came from family and close friends – making the decision even harder as well as making me question if I was in the right.  So I slowed down and continued to pray, but I realized I was still not certain – still not assured.

            Shortly after I came back some friends introduced me to someone they thought would be a good match for me (though to this day they may still deny it). The whole story of starting to date and dating is another post in and of itself – which I hope to write someday, but suffice it to say that we started dating a few months after we had been introduced. 

            I was open with him and said that I was uncertain of my vocation – but that while we dated I would be discerning marriage.  He had gone through a similar discerning time and had decided for sure that he was called to marriage, but he was very supportive and understanding.  As I dated him I realized that I could be happy either as a religious or as a married woman.  It really was my decision.  Well, if you met my husband you would understand why I chose what I chose.  But – the story doesn’t really end there.

            We were married and hoped to start a family as soon as possible. We were, and have continued to be, very blessed.  (Our sixth child is due this Thanksgiving.)  However, I struggled with my vocation – even after I had children, in times of trial I was tempted to wonder if I had made the right choice – what if God had called me elsewhere and in my selfishness I had done what I wanted and not what He wanted.  And I’ll admit that in times of severe trial I even asked myself if this was what I really wanted.  I realized now it was the voice of temptation telling me that I wasn’t good enough at motherhood, at marriage and I would have been better off in a different vocation.  These lies were just that…lies.  However, it took me a long time (years) before I could completely shake off that particular struggle and lie.  

What I have come to learn and know in recent years (with the help of a spiritual director and especially the writings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Louis de Montfort– though the Gospels and other saints contributed as well) is that I must embrace my vocation.  It was my choice and thinking back to what that particular nun said to me (about the life of a nun versus the life of marriage), in my case, she was right.  Marriage and motherhood are hard – but oh so worth it.  I try and embrace my vocation every day – what that means to me is that I work hard at doing my best – which will never be what I want it to be – but it will be what I can do.  Do what you can, not what you can’t.  I focus on trying to be the best mother and wife and knowingly fail in different ways (sometimes small, sometimes big) everyday.  But the important part is that the next day, I get up and I do it again and I try to do better.  Sometimes I succeed.  If I’m honest I would have to say that most times I succeed.  But that’s not the point, as St. Teresa of Calcutta would say, “God has called us not to be successful, but to be faithful.”   That has been what I strive for; to be faithful. I have asked Mary our Mother to help me in many ways and that has made a huge difference as well. 

            So it’s been a journey and being in the middle of it is a great place to be for me right now.  I can look back and see immense growth.  I can also look back and say, without a doubt, this is where God wanted me – this is where I am supposed to be – this is where I was called.  The challenges in this life are what are going to form me into what God wants me to be and I know that He only ever gives me as much as I can handle.  Even when I fail – He knew I would fail – and in that failure He wants me to come to Him – humbly, and ask for His help, for without Him we can do nothing.  As it says in Philippians 4:13, “ I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

            If you have found yourself struggling, with your vocation, with motherhood or in your marriage I would suggest the following to you.  I highly recommend Introduction to a Devout Life or a small meditation book called Roses among Thorns by St. Francis de Sales and True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, these books have brought me comfort and much reflection and prayer – all of which have brought me closer to Christ, which is of course our end goal. My spiritual director shared this quote with me and I admit to having come back to it many times, it almost makes me want more challenges and struggles….almost.

The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart.  This cross He now sends you he has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.  He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”

-Saint Francis de Sales

God Doesn’t Call the Equipped, He Equips the Called

I am so excited to be embarking on this new journey with my sisters! This blog will be a collective of our thoughts, prayers, and reflections about our journeys through motherhood. We are sisters through marriage, but our friendship pre-dates any of our marriages and I can’t express adequately how much I love and admire these two women! So let’s get this thing started!

A little about me… I’m Kimberly. I’ve been married for 13 years and I’m blessed to be Mama to 5 of my favorite people on the planet! I’ve always known that I was meant to be a mother, but it truly shocked me when I realized that marriage and babies don’t automatically kick-start that magical domestic thing that successful moms seem to have mastered! I have the nurturing part… I was born with that! I always loved taking care of babies and children. But I am disorganized and naturally kind of messy. I didn’t like to cook and I just did not understand how in the heck I was ever going to be a good -or even adequate- homemaker. But as I was told waaayyyy back when I was involved in youth ministry… “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” My oldest is 12 and there are still days when I wonder what the Lord was thinking when He made me responsible for 5 little humans (and let’s be real, a husband too!). But God’s grace is so HUGE that where I lack, I know He is filling in those gaps.

Motherhood is finding the balance between Martha and Mary DAILY. Reading stories and nurturing children balanced with cooking and vacuuming. Spending peaceful quiet alone time in prayer or crying out to God while I’m elbow-deep in dishwater and haven’t started dinner yet. Some days I feel like I am crushing it, and there are some days it feels like it’s crushing me. But I know that in every moment -the good, the bad, and the ugly- I’m living out the vocation that I’ve been called to live. Days filled with cleaning, diapers, feeding, teaching, holding, and the list inevitably goes on… I continue trying to live out my life keeping in mind this quote from one of my most beloved saints, Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

The Call

Motherhood. It’s not something I gave much thought to, growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I gave plenty of thought to boys and being married, but not much beyond that. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, Mother, was never an option that they asked about. It was something I could be, but as as extra, besides what my real job would be. As I got older, I did get the comments about “what a good mom you’ll be someday”, but I was pretty sure those people didn’t really know what they were talking about. Mothers are patient. I have a short fuse and am stubborn as a mule. Mothers are gentle. I think my sister hurt herself from laughing so hard when I asked if she’d ever described me that way. Mothers are selfless. Selfishness remains one of my biggest flaws to this day. The list goes on. Long story short, I was not sure I was (or ever would be) qualified to be a mother.

After high school, I did a couple years of volunteer youth ministry, where I learned more about vocation. People often think of the religious life when they think of vocation, but really, it’s just following God’s call to Religious life, Marriage, or being single. I gave a lot of thought to becoming a nun, but realized that my desire for that life had less to do with feeling called and more to do with hiding from what I really felt called to…motherhood. Dating was not just spending time with someone who’s company I enjoyed, but discerning if that person was someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. My husband had me from the start when we spent hours talking about books and nerding out together over our favorite fantasy authors, but he really had me when he confessed, “Look, I like you a lot, but I don’t believe in casual dating. I’m looking for someone to marry. And I’m called to be a father, so I’m looking for someone who wants to be a mother. If that’s not something you’re looking for, we should part ways now.”

Little did he know how much those words meant to me. I would have squealed for joy and hugged him, except we were on the phone (we didn’t actually live in the same town). I settled for doing a little happy dance in the hallway of my apartment instead. And the rest is history. Now we’ve been married for 12 years, have 6 beautiful children, and have realized that the call to parenthood looks in reality nothing like what we thought when we were starting out. Those, however, are stories for another time. It turns out that I didn’t need to be the “perfect” mother before I had children, I just needed to say “yes” to God’s call, and let Him fill the brokenness with his grace; sometimes through other people, and sometimes by changing me. It’s an ongoing process, and an ongoing call. I just need to keep saying “yes” to Him and the grace he has to offer.