I heard much sad news, was stuck indoors, and saw the constant clouds out the window today. So I looked for a moment of solace. To find one I went into "view my memories mode"...and found a bit of color to share. It helped me think of the glory of God, and crack at smile to end the day.
The title suits my baby Big Girl. Took this after a hot day, late summer birthday party with her friends riding ponies. I swear you can see her independence, sweetness, and sass all in one shot.
Some people say a good portrait is supposed to let you see more than the image of a person...it is supposed capture the essence of the person. I can use some more practice, but this captures Kelley....
Time is in very short around here. It is a constant race against time to get up, feed, cloth, clean, teach, maintain, and then get back to bed before it starts all over again. It seems at least half of the eight of us are always out of sync with the others....Too often our weekends are merely Groundhog Days.
Well in the midst of all this I was able to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity provided by the Cherokee Gun Club. I was able to spend over four hours with the two big boys on the range learning safety, good habits, and showing them what a fun lifetime hobby looks like under the guidance of an incredibly patient guide and trainer from the club. Look them up, and if you have kids who want to learn the same...contact them. You will not regret it, in fact you'll be trying to schedule another visit! The boys will not let me forget to...and Momma liked the confidence the boys came home with.
The key to the day was the tutelage of Mr. Richard. You will not find a calmer and nicer man to enforce safety while displaying the joys of shooting. He listens, coaches, and keeps the focus of boys in a way I wish I could emulate. He made my job of being an extra safety and assistant coach a joyous one. In fact he made it easy for me to come home and say I helped my boys grow up a bit today. So I got as much a gift from today as they did.
One message I always find myself returning to in this blog is why my photography is important to me...and it so much relates to life. You have to find the good moments and appreciate them. Today was one of those good moments to be a Dad. Thanks God and the Cherokee Gun Club.
One thing I love about spring in our home in Georgia is the ever unfolding reminder of the march of time. All through the summer the blooming bushes and flowers will rotate with a beauty to remind me of how much greater His Glory will be in heaven. If you can find a loveliness like this here in a fallen world; imagine what beauty will await where perfection, justice and holiness prevails everywhere.
Happy Sunday! Enjoy some time with God today!
Just a few shots from going out and about with Kevin after dinner tonight. This boy may have a hard time concentrating on finishing his dinner, but he focuses pretty hard out here with his rod and reel.
Carry your cross today. The Saints remind us, the only way to heaven is through the cross. We must suffer, and learn to rejoice in that suffering. This is such a hard concept if we are of this world and not Christ's. (I struggle with this debate daily myself!) So let us not be like the masses and flee our Lord in his time of need. Let us take up our personal cross, and follow Christ in his way of the Cross.
PS Please pray for the boys...we start carrying our cross today at 1155, St Brigid to Regina Caeli, Academy.
St John Paul the Great says: "No one apart from God can give you true happiness." He calls us to follow the example of Mary, in complete unconditional "yes" with no compromise or laziness. "Humanity is in urgent need of the witness of free courageous people who dare go against the tide and proclaim with vigor and enthusiasm their personal faith in God, Lord and Savior." This mission is never easy...and is impossible if we rely on the power of man alone. He quotes Luke to remind us "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
I am starting to get "it" in the long line of repentant sinners knowing I just need to do what we should. Tonight I'll pray we can all embrace the power of the supernatural God to be what we are truly called to be in our eternal home.
(Quotes and Lesson courtesy of Lent and Easter, Wisdom from Pope John Paul II, Compiled by John V. Kruse and published by Liguori Publications page 54)
The last two weeks were crazy: Long work days, family fighting off various rounds of the December virus, robotics competition, about two cords or more of fallen tree branches in the yard, family challenges that come with six kiddos, we lost a great American soldier I once was proud to call my own, trying to discern God's will for my family, and a dozen other crazy moments and challenges.
All this made me have a hard time focusing today. Very hard! All that stuff was running around in my head. Luckily I was able get a good rosary in at church, and then work on that yard doing physical labor for a few hours. In the rhythm of prayer and breaking down branches I centered myself for a while. So when Kalen and I came in from the rain, I was able to appreciate this one moment of two boys of mine playing.
In that moment of personal peace I was able to catch a photo of two boys secure in a warm house, loving each other, two boys who know they are loved by their parents, and safe from so much evil in the world...for just a moment. Now at the end of my day a friend lost his son-in-law in an accident, and I know I need to pray for him and his family. The sorrows and confusion of the world is back on. They, and so many others, need a moment of peace to begin to work towards healing.
I'll pray for all those who need their moment, because in my moment of peace I realized again how blessed I am. Blessings however cannot stay still, they must move on to help others. So I will do what I can in prayer tonight. I'll also pray someone who reads this, may just be inspired to join me in looking for moments of peace to share with the world.
The world outside is frightful. The agents of chaos are legion right now. Mass destruction warfare is now more possible than ever before, because courageous men did not act when the opportunity was present. In our country, agents of anarchy want to use their evil to deliver tyranny on the masses through imposed Marxism. In our church, the evil theology of modernism is encased in prelates unfaithful to the unchanging magisterium of Christ's bride on earth. Inside family life we also have the chaos of too much noise competing for the attention of us parents and our children.
Now is the time to pray. Pray for a moment of silent reflection amidst the storms, war, noise and chaos. Find your moment and ask to be the instrument God needs you to be to bring the world back to him one soul at a time. Now is the time to become the missionary of his word, to create safe havens for our families to make the new missionaries, and to remember this struggle is an eternal one on God's timeline not ours.
Like everything else the Lord teaches...what seems hopeless by the world's terms is actually the situation where we can use his power working through us for miracles in our time to flow. It all starts with a prayer to beat back the chaos. The call is now out there...what do you say>
As a child I'd never believe one day Americans would have to live in fear about flying the flag of the United States from the own property. I'd never think there could be a moment of doubt who'd you'd root for in an international sports match. I'd never believe if someone raised here would tell told me this flag was a symbol of oppression while they spouted socialist tyranny as the way I must live. In too many ways the world is upside down, mostly from a lack of education rooted in natural law.
Yes I am missing pride in our flag and the ideals of valor, unity, balancing self interests, and reach for the goal of being one with God it clearly enshrines.
This weekend the 9AM needed a volunteer family to take home an older chalice, called the Elijah Cup, and put it in a prominent place in the home. Every time we see it, we should be praying for an increase in responses to vocation calls from Christ.
Well the kids asked and jumped into the isle...as another family further up and on the side also went up. To make it even more interesting a family up front, good friends of ours, also started to leap up and then stopped. We did not see the Deacon motion to the family to our right so we kept charging down the isle...so the six of us kept walking to the delight and laughter of the parish on collision course with the other family!
As we saw the other family come into view ahead of us, we sheepishly turned about. We were headed back to our pew for the dismissal rite when we heard a booming voice...."Wait we have another one!" from Father John Bosco Tri. So we went on up and accepted the cup he held!
I don't think Father Tri was going to let us go. See Father Tri and my John Paul already had a little talk. Father Tri offered John Paul use of his vestments two weeks ago....he seems pretty sure my JP will join him soon. (JP is only 22 months old right now so they are a little big on him.)
The serious side of all this is however, we need everyone to respond deeply to their vocation call. God does not stop issuing vocation calls. The problem is we just don't respond as we should primarily due to fear. Fear of giving ourselves away totally to God's design, fear of the reaction to our family, fear of the ridicule the world will put on us for being "old fashioned", or even fear of not knowing a safe place to begin the journey.
The result is a horrible vacuum. One priest for thousands of families, and the loss of nuns to build social networks of schools and services all mean the Body of Christ does not get the care it needs. A loss of religious vocations means families suffer as well, because trained religious are not there to nourish with sacraments, knowledge of sacramentals, and caring hands. The carnage does not end there though with the failure to heed our vocations.
How many fathers are afraid to lead their domestic church towards God? How many mothers are not bringing the heart of Christ into the daily routines of family life with courage? Without true fatherhood and maternal care, the fires of vocation will merely smolder in our souls. Never will the vocation fire burn bright for either task God could give us. All this leads to greater pain for the body of Christ as marriages suffer, sacraments go under offered and utilized, and churches close.
Recently I read how Mother Teresa understood her spiritual darkness to be her participation in the pain Christ has when we reject his cry of thirst to add our soul to his. Imagine how we could soothe Jesus suffering if we all began to encourage children to become religious if they receive the call? On their journey to discernment, we parents would need to grow in our faith as well since we are their first teachers. A testament to this growth of faith, would be the rejection of the contraceptive movement, and the growth of larger families once again in Catholic households. From larger families historically come greater the number of vocations. This occurs since boys and girls do not feel the subconscious need to ensure there is an heir for the family name, or someone to care for parents in old age.
So pray for a great response to the vocations God sends us at any time in our lives!
Here is a short prayer for vocations I found:
O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to youth that they may know the vocation wherein they can best serve God. Give them courage and strength to follow God's holy will. Guide their uncertain steps, strengthen their resolutions, shield their chastity, fashion their minds, conquer their hearts, and lead them to the vineyards where they will labor in God's holy service.
From EWTN: Click here to see the original
As a college student I really enjoyed my history assignments. Being a photo guy, I of course dug deeply into my pictures, maps and diagrams. In my senior year at West Point I watched my company pass in review on parade on my first personally acquired camera. When I printed the photos I found myself looking at a present day image, which could be from the relatively distant past if were not for some modern building in the background.
I was soon looking at every historical image differently. Every image of a battle, congressional debate, city street, factory or farm had me replacing the face of yesteryear with one of ours. We could be those past people, if it was not for an accident of historical timing. This made me appreciate photography even more, and my own place in history.
The event also made me remember a quote I heard from President Ronald Reagan a few years earlier:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
(From the Quotations Page)
While our DNA will allow us to recreate moments as actors from the past with ease, certain important lessons such as the American concept of freedom only will be passed on and lived with through deliberate efforts. Putting myself into the shoes of soldiers, statesmen, explorers, industrialists, farmers and my forefathers getting off the boat only made this lesson easier to understand.
Our current Western society praises itself on being rooted in control over nature through application of science and reason. Nowhere is this more evident than through control and size of the family. Embracing a large family is in fact the anti-thesis of control of nature. Therefore any counter-cultural move away from strict family control sets off a firestorm of emotion, debate, and shunning to bring people back into the fold.
The argument for a controlled size family is a logical outgrowth of the Enlightenment. The penny sized description of this philosophy is: If I can reason something out (logically order it through science) and I want to will it into being, the result I want to make can and should be as I want it to regardless of any historical or scientific obstacles. While the goal of Enlightenment thinkers is good, to make the world a better place, it fails because it assumes all things are ordered according to a single person's will.
In a precisely ordered world replacement level children would not be bad...it would simply ensure a stable society with Mom and Dad being replaced by their little children. It assumes there is no war, famine, enjoyment of bountiful years, divorce, recurrence of the Spanish Flu, accidents, control of passion by all people, natural spoiling of children, or change of political order. When in history has this ever happened? If I apply a scientific method to the review of history against any one of these factors, much less a combination of two, I can say never with confidence.
A view of family across all traditional cultures shows having a large nuclear family is a reward and sign of prosperity. Large families can take a loss, as tragic as it might be, and still survive to another generation. Families with large families embrace passion and reap the rewards with a 99% stability rate (i.e. no divorce) when using Natural Family Planning. In large families where parents have all the children help each other natural selflessness arises. Even economic science shows growing populations increase GDP, while stable and declining populations result in a loss of economic power despite automation.
Yet just saying have a large family is also a poor scientific argument as well. Many large families fail because they may be open to life, but fail in another basic component of success. One has to look into the why behind successful families everywhere, and its origins. These reasons come from observations in natural law, not man's law.
In Genesis we see man was not complete until he had a wife. Together they were to be fruitful and multiply. Proverbs tells us a man will have no fear to argue in the city gates when surrounded by his children. Jesus tells men they must serve their families to the point of complete self sacrifice, and women must listen to their self sacrificing men. (This addresses our greatest vices as men and women of power going to our heads, and sets the example for their children's future relationships) Time and time again we also read throughout the Bible we all must look for the Lord's direction, and build our world towards it. Embracing these lessons points us towards successful family models.
St John Paul II, in his masterful Theology of the Body, also reminds us men and women complete the other sex in marriage. In the marital act we participate in renewing creation with God. Acceptance and loving our resulting children then completes the family. When viewed in its totality, this sets up an environment where family life can mimic the Biblical revelations of Natural Law. This type of environment fosters good and minimize bad family effects we can see in the physical world around us, while moving from generation to generation.
In the a few short words above I hope this lets you understand where I started on my journey towards embracing the title of this post: Be Not Afraid (of a Plus Sized Family) in today's world. This decision does not come without challenges, doubts and trials. It is emblematic of real life, needing a constant renewal. Nothing worth doing ever came without cost...and never will. So be not afraid to look at the reality of the world, and use its very nature to form a better future according to the will of God revealed through nature. I promise the experience will really ENLIGHTEN you!
P.S. Besides where would I get my cute photos of family life from without this many kids?
I cleaned up the mess of a 15 month old boy's self instruction in the art of eating, only to find an hour later I missed one more little crumb maker in a corner of the kitchen. I used to get mad at messes like this, but over the last year I've chilled out a lot. Somehow this cheerio made it into my rosary meditations last night. Somehow this little cheerio, my reaction to it and the Sacred Heart of Jesus all came together.
As I went through the Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation and Discovery in the Temple) I thought of the incredible trust Joseph and Mary had in God. First you have two people who have a plan...got job, get married and live a nice little life in Nazareth with a few kids along the way. Then an angel appears to each of them and says...God has a different and much greater plan for you! Both gracefully accept their commission, and they became the gateway for our Lord Jesus to enter the the world and save our souls.
After meditating on the first four mysteries I found myself thinking about how each our arrival in our family changed our worldly plans. Gone were the new cars, fancy house, and two people generating good steady incomes. I thought of how we prayed over the decision to homeschool our children, and the lifestyle changes it brought on us. I thought of our acceptance of being open to life in our marriage with the blessings of five children and five miscarriages it brought. This brought me back to the Cheerio on the floor while Jesus was in the temple as a young man.
I related to the panic Joseph and Mary had when they could not find Jesus. I could only imagine the things they wanted to say when they found Jesus calmly going about his father's work in the temple. In the moment of finding Jesus, Joseph and Mary each were able to view a mini-transfiguration. Jesus foreshadowed to them his future mission, and how well he would perform it. Joseph and Mary were able to put all their emotions and order, and enjoy a moment of clarity on what their entire lives were entirely ordered for. Jesus' parent saw a glimpse of Jesus Sacred Heart on display.
That cheerio on the floor, one of hundreds I am sure, is one of the many of sins I've committed against God's law in my lifetime. Jesus may have used that cheerio to have me peer into his Sacred Heart. When I saw the cheerio, I quieted my mind and fury about why it was there. I just accepted it was there.
Christ gives constant charity to me for my sins despite the wounds I place on his heart. In turn I must continue mirroring his charity in my life despite all the changes and challenges the world and my choices put in the way. This is what his parents did, and this is what I am called to do in living out the gospel through word and deed.
Well time to go...little guy just finished his breakfast. Low and behold! There is a cheerio for me to pick up.
Things going a little crazy right now? Election got you in a funk? Well how about a dose of happiness? This is John Paul's version of a pick you up smile!
Catching babies and children is a hard task, but a little flash and quick thinking help. In this case John Paul was happy since he was on a swing, and making it go very very fast. The flash caught the action in freeze frame where it counted most: the eyes. The flash also put a sparkle in the eyes which gives you a sense of life in a frozen frame. His natural smile completes the moment without the typical childhood squint and cheese.
This is what great family portraits are all about...making art where the going is rough!
My daughter just finished a very special trip with her grandparents. Ten days visiting Washington, D.C.; seeing godparents; enjoying some new clothes; but most of all enjoying a different vision of the world she lives in. She learned a great deal about where she comes from on my side of the family. My daughter lives a very virtuous life, and is a role model for me her Dad. Her selflessness for living God's law is impressive. While she was gone though, her absence let me think about how God's relationship with each of us in the story of the Prodigal Son. This story is always about the tale of the two sons, but it also gives us a deep insight into the love of God for each of us.
In the previous excursions of my children with grandparents I never had a child who was at the age to explore life away from the family. This time though, my daughter took a trek to the outstanding Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. There she met one possible destiny. She saw shelves and shelves of great books. She sat in classes where she had more of the Shakespeare memorization complete then the students (recent homework at Regina Caeli), and also experienced a class knowing she was not yet ready for it. When she was done she found a great college, and felt it could be a home away from home for her.
My young lady left, and seriously contemplated the next phase of her life. Thankfully for me, her description of why included the statement "They really try to live out our Catholic faith there dad." In the story of the Prodigal son, however, the boy wanting to live in man's world chooses to live by his own rules. He leaves the father, and the father knows he may never come home. This faithful father also realizes the son may also forfeit a home in heaven for his soul, and this fate would trouble the father even more than a failure to return to the family home.
When the father sees his son coming home repenting of his sins, he rejoices. He hugs and adorns his child with all he can. While the physical return home is good, the father knows a repentant son will be with him forever in the paradise of heaven. Since tradition teaches us the father is symbolizing God the Father, we know the human joy and love we see pales to the love God has for us.
So when my daughter returned I rejoiced in having my faithful and true daughter in my care once again. I also thought of the Father in the Prodigal Son. Here a son, who was dead to him, returned home. The son showed repentance, and demonstrated his embrace of the Lord's ways. If my joy was immense, I could only imagine the joy and love God poured forth into the moment when sinners come home.
What an awesome God to believe in, and see reflected in natural law throughout history.
Back in June I was able to get up to the mountains of North Georgia. It was hot, but a good time to explore a little of more of the state. One opportunity I received was the gift of an early rising to meet the sun. Watching the earth go from black through its purples, reds, orange and full daylight was a simple pleasure. What a gift from God!!
If we believe the Bible, God's Grace and Wisdom abound on this earth. We also know God pronounced humanity good at our creation. So what keeps us from finding these two tools needed to help us navigate the world in harmony with the Father's will if our nature is inherently good? We all know it is the noise of the world preventing us from finding God in the silence of our own hearts and lives.
Noise comes in many forms. Lack of sleep, too much TV, too much Facebook, illness, threats to our livelihood and our families just to name a few. The challenge to quiet the noise requires solutions unique to our individual identities. For introverts prayer will come easy. For sanguine temperaments simply standing still long enough for grace and wisdom settle in your life may be the challenge of a lifetime. For melancholics not falling into despair when challenges smack your life may be the constantly renewed roadblock of a lifetime.
For each person there is a solution though. It just takes the time and dedication to find it. The examples of saintly and holy lives abound in history, and even in modern times. We just have to look for them. Then when found we have to take the next step and act to apply the lessons in our own lives.
In the quiet of quite a few vacation timed desert morning walks, I was able to quiet my mind enough to get to church on a weekday for mass and confession. It was wonderful. The grace and wisdom revealed saved me once again from wrongheaded paths. I know I will need to seek yet more grace and wisdom for many a coming storm, but it was reassuring as always a minor miracle appeared when needed.
I hope you find your path to points of grace and wisdom today as well.
If you ever get a chance to look at a list of the top ten toys history ever created...you will not find last year's Christmas craze on them. You will instead find toy cars, soldiers, trains and digging supplies for boys. For girls I am sure you will find dolls, stuffies and all their accessories. I know there are exceptions out there, but the reality is you will not find many! This is what kids play with!
So here we have Uncle Micheal's trucks out back one more time. At home we have the matchbox and airplane toys from both myself and my brother...and even my uncle (or my kids Great Uncle). These toy trucks and planes are universal hits. When built American tough, like a child, they will last generations.
It got me to wondering...if toys go from generation to generation why don't we look closer at lessons from the past. I'm sure what God said 5,000 years ago or 2000 years ago really still has some staying power. It might help us in our present circumstances!
Well we were not in Lake Havasu for more than a day when Grandma loaded up the two big kids and took them to someplace they find better than Disney World...a Library. Out they went, and back they came with one and three books respectfully. When not engaged with board games and outdoor fun their noses are buried deep in their books.
Simple things we need to remember are all part of Capturing His Glory in our daily lives. I'm glad I get to see it!