At then end of a long day, when you just came inside from playing in the dirt with your brothers you just get SPUNKY!
I love my kids....this is just all part of loving the moments on the high ground of life.
At then end of a long day, when you just came inside from playing in the dirt with your brothers you just get SPUNKY!
I love my kids....this is just all part of loving the moments on the high ground of life.
Today our little Catholic Hybrid School will graduate our senior class. Through family friendships and school events, I watched two of them grow into peaceful and God Fearing young adults. These two also became my very first senior photo clients!
Neil is a quiet young man of deep thought (like some of my best high school friends). He will go out west to college, and will begin the study of media production from a Catholic perspective at John Paul the Great Catholic University. This is a great fit for him.
In our school I observed how he is a quiet, humble leader of the younger students. Many boys looked to him, literally looked directly at him, before doing almost anything to observe the example he would set. His example became their course of action. He respectfully fulfilled his duties to the school and family very well. His quiet leadership leaves a void for the school population, which will be noticeable until another boy fills his vacated role.
Mikayla is a lovely young woman, of sincere virtue. She lets God's grace work through her life to help others. She will enter studies at Aquinas College in Nashville this fall. She will be more than a normal student though, as she continues her discernment of vocation with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a teaching order of nuns.
Again a great fit for this woman's character. In our school, and with her family, she is a guidon for a prayerful life. You can see it when she enters a room. Small children hold her hand, and admire her. Her baby sister simply adores her. She also walks with a grace beyond her years. When she enters chapel with her matillia, she peacefully focuses herself and those around her on the mass and prayer. She is no wallflower though. She demands unimproved family campsites, and can rough it with the best of them.
I hope I captured a bit of the reflected glory of God these two bring to the world. I enjoyed watching as my children gravitated to them at school and band over the last two years. I knew their example would be good ones, and not misguide my children on their own path to adulthood. I continue to learn a great deal from their parents as well, since they are good examples of parenting in a stormy world.
Mikayla and Neil: May God's grace continue to fall on you, and your souls never let your eyes wonder off the prize of heaven. You've started the race for the prize well, and may the finish be even more virtuous in God's eyes as you change the world for His Glory. Amen!
This morning was the first day our tree was up...we follow the old tradition of decorating at the last minute...and out of her room like busy bee on a mission sprang child number four. Kellie ran to the kitchen, grabbed the stool, and without a skip of the beat sat before the well lit tree (thanks to Kevin lighting it before she got up). "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells..." and the partially remembered songs flowed through the house punctuated by "Kalen sing...Kev Kev sing....Baby Jesus!"
This is the Christmas Magic we long for in our memory of ages past. It was the time giants roamed the earth. Mom made magic cookies. Hugs felt heaven sent. In these memories, even Dad smiled as we enjoyed another magic tree tree lighting and train run. This is the memory we wish every child could have, and we could share. Experiencing it in our children makes our hearts warm and pulse quicken in joyous anticipation of seeing what St Nicholas left once again...
As parents we too often miss these moments. Just minutes after I snapped this golden memory, I found myself assaulted by four excited children and one just wanting a diaper change. The noise became defining...well for our house anyway...and I lost all sense of the magic moment. I lost it until I developed my "negative." When the image appeared, I felt the magic arise in my heart once again.
Our childhood faith filled Christmas Magic images are glimpses of the promises in heaven. Like the Star of Bethlehem, these moments can lead you to the home Christ prepared for us all. This Christmas I pray you will find your moments, keep them close to your heart, and let them lead you home.
The First Lego League's first elimination round starts on Saturday at 7:30AM. Our Regina Caeli Darebots will be there, and ready to compete. Under the direction of Coach Les Levergood, Assistant Coach Fred Bunn and myself they grew a great deal...or maybe in spite of our coaching they grew! If you want to catch up on their adventures you can visit them at the website Regina Caeli Darebots.
The team practiced two to three times a week since late August. Now after the long series of rehearsals they are ready to compete....for the first and possible last time! Coach Levergood ran a tight ship this year, and Coach Bunn brought excellent programming instruction to the kids. Solving the mysteries of the gyroscope was an incredible experience for the kids. I helped them build out their presentations.
The team will do three presentations to judges Saturday morning. The first will be their sales pitch for ways to improve collection methods of depleted uranium on test ranges and battlefields. They will then explain how they grew as a group using the lessons from Core Values. Finally, they will discuss robot design and programming methods. In the afternoon they will run their robot Penguin through the course several times using different teams of Darebots. At the end of the day, they will find out if they are in the upper third of 40 or so teams. If they are they may move on to regionals in January!
Tomorrow Coach Levergood will guide the seven of them through six and half hours of final rehearsals! So pray for Coach L and then the team!
Each fall I get very reflective on my mortality. I see my passing life like the leaves. I hope and pray my colors will be strong and bold for the Lord when my time comes to pass to the next phase of life.
God does things mysteriously to us mere mortals. This week I witnessed a testimony of faith from men and women of amazing power as we lifted up others in prayer. I felt the sting of arrows of despair when evil crossed my path. I heard the wisdom of the Lord written down over a period of three thousand years from his disciples across the ages, and found hope to deflect the disparaging arrows in the Divine Office. I also received a gift to help my discernment on future missions to advance the Lord's intentions with the gifts he entrusted to me.
The week still has time to go, but it is giving me much to ponder and wonder about in the awe of his Grace. God is good all the time. I hope my ability to see his works, and those of evil trying to tear us apart, will help my colors shine brightly for him all my days here and the hereafter.
Today I found myself blessed to watch my son Kevin participate as an altar server at mass for the first time. It is a moment which almost put tears of joy in my eyes. Why? I could see in his eyes and his deeds he wanted this moment with all his heart.
Last night Kalen and I prepared Kevin by holding a practice mass, as conducted at RCA with Father Tran's preferences, twice on our deck. Kevin impressed me with his memory of how the bells rung, the way people stepped around the altar, holding his hand on his chest and the procession in which he would accompany the priest to the nursery to deliver the Eucharist to those working there. I already knew he memorized much of the consecration prayers, but this was pretty amazing for me to see first hand. For all of his daily eight year old distractions, he was paying attention every mass.
Today two upper school boys, John Paul and Stephen, took Kevin over to the chapel to set up and do a final rehearsal. This is something which endears me to Regina Caeli. Our youth are normal youth, but we parents call them out a little more each year to live their faith. At the end of a 15 minute preparation, Kevin came out tripping over the seam of the smallest cassock and stood with Father Tran and Stephen to enter the mass.
He went down the isle with his serious face on, and nervously looked over to Stephen from time to time to make sure he was doing the right thing. Stephen looked out for Kevin as a big brother should, and Kevin earned a smile from Father Tran. Kevin sure made his Daddy proud. It sounds silly to many, but I was proud because he entered the Army of Christ today at the altar of our Lord as a willing servant for the community. it is a major step on the road to adulthood of life and faith.
Thank you God for letting me see this day in the company of so many good friends!
Just a moment of fun as my son reaches for the sky. I never knew one could get so high on a swing...but he pulled it off! It reminded me of what we can do when we don't let fear overcome our lives, and let our faith in Christ guide us on the right path to achieve the aims of God above. it may be close to the meaning Christ wanted us to remember when he said we needed "Faith like a Child."
The Doctor was in last Saturday night. She did house calls for everybody! Luckily she confirmed we are all in pretty good shape headed into our Fall Break from school. We are almost homebound since we still have three days of dance, two Robotics classes, doctor's appointments, a dead refrigerator, and music! Regardless of our staycation status, we should have time for plenty of moments like this one where we enjoy a few moments of family time...can get the house set for fall both inside and out!
Today I had the opportunity to attend the Blue Mass honoring and praying for all First Responders with Bishop Gregory at Christ the Redeemer in Atlanta. Met many men and women who man the line and guard us from the terrors of the night. Thanks be to God for such men and women.
I pray our nation returns to God with respect for Natural Law and the life of the unborn so we can be the great nation our founders intended.
Just a month ago I had a baby girl roaming my house. Today I have this little girl, who reminds me she is a big girl. She puts in hair in ponies and tells me she is cute, and plays with toy horses with glee. She chases her brothers with lightsabers with complete abandon, and swings with power a Sith could desire. Oh where has my baby girl gone?
The baby girl is now a determined little girl. Her red hair, gleams in the sun and proclaims the fire of her will to set things right. Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara-the quiet man) would meet her match in this little lady! This little girl keeps the boys on notice, and then smiles coyly at her Dad...keeping him wrapped around her still little finger. Oh the Daddy knows the trick being played, and only prays the rosary harder begging for her to use that fire for the Lord all her days! What a force for God she could one day be!
My baby girl is now a little girl...and all is as it should be!
These are the moments when a parent's heart melts just a little. Between normal conflicts children have over toy ownership, using crayons on someone else's homework, songs being sung too many times, and a dozen other issues we occasionally have little moments where we catch a glimpse of parental heaven. Whenever your children find displaying the love of friendship (filia) for the fate of their siblings, you know something you are doing worked to get God's message through to your charges for at least a moment.
If our parental hearts melt in joy with a moment like this, I can only imagine the joy in heaven when one of us reaches sainthood to go beyond the gates into heaven. Angels of all types singing, saints of old grinning and reaching for our hand, and a parental smile on Christ after passing the test of our final judgement might be amongst the sights and sounds we'd see. Oh the glories of such thought!
Well for five minutes I saw my parental heaven walking before me again...I hope we all get to enjoy it in heaven as well!
Do you need someone to pray with you? For you? The prayerbook above is meant for you!
How did this happen? (This is the hardest post I've composed over the last four years!)
In 2014, after much introspection, I realized a need for more consistent personal prayer in my life. Prayer with God needs to happen in good times, meditative times, times of discernment as well as times of need. A year ago I failed in most of those areas by being hit or miss. On cue, God sent my son to me with a book about St. Dominic and the rosary. A year of growth started in earnest as I devoured the book. As I wrapped up the first year of work, I noted progress in many areas and several continued shortfalls.
Prayer from others literally kept me upright following our two 2014 miscarriages. Since then I made it a point to let others in need know I will pray for them as well. The opportunity to pray with others had two incredibly powerful moments this past year. One with close friends as we prayed over their sick child in the ICU. The other was with a co-worker recovering from a heart attack in a different ICU. In the second case it was special as we prayed with his wife and another friend from work.
I know God was listening, and I am grateful he supported full recovery for both requests. I don't want to sound crazy, but God's grace was so present in each moment I was shaking afterwards. The realization God was amongst us in those moments, tending to his children, left me feeling rather meek.
This year I wanted to be more consistent in fulfilling prayer requests as they came in. So I picked up a spiritual diary to catalog the requests over the next year.
I publicly announced this year's prayer campaign on St Dominic's feast day at John Paul's baptism. Current requests recorded so far include needs of friends for their parents, the manager of a transmission repair center fighting liver and pancreatic cancer, young men discerning their future vocation, our school's success at its mission, a friend's child with the same risks my wife had in pregnancy, a young priest at his parish, a new widow and her family, and two co-workers with heart ailments to mention just a few. I also have some for people who never asked, but just have an obvious need for someone to requests God's intercession on their behalf.
Each night I review the prayer requests, hold it close, and pray for those inside.
Prayer is the only thing I can do for most people I know in need. I have no worldly riches, and little spare time in my days to travel and be with the many I know in need.
So you can see, this prayerbook is for you. Please help me direct my prayers to God to help you, and I what I pray will be our collective journey to sainthood in the Kingdom of God.
P.S. Reply to the post, shoot me an email or better yet give me a call! I'll add you to the prayer rolls!
The vast majority of people outside our little homeschooling community think we were nuts for rejoicing on the possibility of a fifth child in our family. I could not disagree more with the majority.
The Bible described children as a blessing, and large families were a reward from God. Nowhere in the Bible does a large family equal a curse. I would agree having a large family however can present a challenge from time to time! So far nothing I've faced is insurmountable, just a great set of challenges.
With the arrival of child number five, good young John Paul, I look forward to enjoying one more round of moments like this one above. I have the seasoning of parenthood four times before to know snuggling with my baby on the couch, in between diaper changes, is one brief moment in time. The only moment in which I get to love my son with these cuddles. In a few years, he will be all boy and want to wrestle the old man into submission!
I received five wonderful sets of moments like this. I am looking forward more good times ahead, with the full knowledge valleys of darkness will exist as well. It is all part of the large family blessing I behold day in and out.
P.S. Photo credit to my favorite assistant Carrie Wojtkun who caught me sleeping on the job! I did all the post processing for her!
This past Saturday we had the privilege to baptism our son John Paul in the faith of our forefathers. I am happy to know the faith in scripture and tradition handed down from the Apostles themselves resides in all of our children.
Now back to living the faith, and striving to be the example and teacher our children God needs me to be. Thank God for family, friends, reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit to help us meet the mission.
P.S. Yes it is hard to hand over the camera....but sometimes you have to live the moment.
Kevin: "Dad was I this small?"
Dad: "Yes son you were once that small"
The joy of teaching a culture of life to your children is that even when the baby gives a yelp, the older kids know this is part of respecting life from conception to death. You know you succeed in reaching their souls with with this understanding when they have such great awe for the new members of the domestic church...and all people created in the image of God around them.
My older children saw the trials Mom went through for nine months to get John Paul to birth. They understand more than ever the depths of love she had for each of them before they were born. Each of our children, at the age of reason, now understands this baby was their baby brother from the moment of conception in the womb (even if they haven't had "the talk.").
The big kids will soon will associate what Mom suffered as part of her agape love for each of them, when only our God knew their name and destiny. The older kids now also understand in a larger sense why abortion is decidedly agains the commandments of God. John Paul was never a bunch of harvestable organs and stem cells. John Paul was John Paul when two halves became one whole.
As crazy as the calendar is now these are the good times. As crazy as life will get it the coming days, months and years if we get the concept of agape in their heads and hearts I think we have a good chance of succeeding as parents. I hope we raise children who fulfill the Lord's two great commandments: To love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul. To love your neighbor as yourself.
I pray to God we, and parents everywhere, achieve this noble goal as well. For there is no other option than this if we are to form a civil society where peace can reign.
Proverbs Chapter 4
THE TEACHER AS MODEL DISCIPLE
1 Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive, that you may gain understanding!
2 Yes, excellent advice I give you; my teaching do not forsake.
3 When I was my father’s child, tender, the darling of my mother,
4 He taught me and said to me: “Let your heart hold fast my words: keep my commands, and live!
5 Get wisdom, get understanding! Do not forget or turn aside from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will safeguard you;
7 The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom; whatever else you get, get understanding.
8 Extol her, and she will exalt you; she will bring you honors if you embrace her;
9 She will put on your head a graceful diadem; a glorious crown will she bestow on you.”
The New American Bible for Catholics, Proverbs Chapter 4
What happens when you take three sweet little girls, from three different grades, all growing up together over the years and let them play? Magic smiles and poses appear! Their different heights made a naturally interesting composition! Maybe this will make it past the yearbook editor and get a thumbs up!
P.S. Ok Fujifilm fans this was my often neglected 35mm prime set at F2.0 to handle the poor gym lighting. Yes the ISO is 3200, but the X-Series RAW file handles it well in Capture One 8. Even the jpeg was excellent! I just enjoy playing with RAW files whenever possible because I adore the extra headroom to craft my final images.
The hardest part of virtue training is we all need to do it everyday. The most fun you can have in virtue training is to come up with ways to make your children remember the experience. On this night my buddy Les worked up the game and the stations for our club.
Each child went to the start point and put four weights on the arms and legs. They then faced the questioning period of three questions. Successful answers removed one weight. Then you ran the obstacle course to me...standing in for St Joseph where you recited your St Joseph prayer. I told the boys to talk to their mother. Then you went to Mary, portrayed this evening by a lovely four year old, to say the hail Mary. Mary then sent the boys to her son Jesus (represented by a crucifix) to recite their Act of Contrition to dump their final weights. The whole event gets timed and champion crowned.
I think it was fun to see this little girl's reaction to the boys coming to her, especially her big buddy above. For the record...the boys did pretty well on answering the questions.
This is why photojournalism is so much fun. Capturing real life, not made up stories or events designed to draw the press in is what excites me! It makes you think on your feet as a photographer with your tools at hand. When the action happens you have to grab it fast!
P.S. The boys you see above are all part of the Blue Knights Boys Club we started two years ago...we hope to grow a little this year at a new home....praying hard it can work out.
As the sun sets on this 4th of July weekend I had wonder about the radical changes sweeping our country. Lots of mixed emotions in this land. I cannot believe how much we've changed as a people in the last 25 years. I still need to sort it all out in my head. Until then, I will snap up a few more pictures evoking the memories of the land I swore with my life to protect 26 years ago....before it disappears forever.
Today my bride and I celebrate seventeen years of marriage. The rings you see above display the weathering, scratches and soil of living as a couple. These years included ten moves, five home purchases, four children (14, 11, 8, 3), one baby on the way (34 weeks thank you God), four miscarried babies in heaven, hundreds of friends across the country, illnesses galore (some very scary), tears of joy for children's achievements, arguments, resolutions, and deep religious growth granted by God's grace of faith to both of us inside the sacrament of marriage. We each fear the premature loss of the other more than ever. Just the thought takes our collective breath away.
We now, through the years of experience, understand the deep commitment required to maintain this relationship. We learned of the complex interaction between all the forms of love: agape (self gift), philia (friendship), ludus (playful), and eros (physical). At this point of our marriage we can only say we are starting to to keep them all in proper perspective. We find our marital joys multiply when we use these tools God built in us while building his kingdom here on earth. This understanding is right on time. Little kids normally only provide little problems. Big kids have the big head hurting problems to deal with. The next seventeen years should be more interesting then the last seventeen. Therefore we have a lot more work to do on our relationship.
My wife and I lamented the Supreme Court ruling yesterday. It was wrong on a matter of states rights and morality. More importantly it gave into the concept that everyone deserves happiness and love as they personally define it at this moment. The concept of love people throw around in common speech today, has a diluted definition resulting from poor catechesis by churches and schools. I also venture to say the concept comes from a lack of self reflection. The constant bombardment of noise in our brains from so many media sources provides no silence in which God can be heard. If our marriage followed such a fluid metric, we would be a separated wreck of humanity by now.
We will pray our country does not continue down this manmade path of tyranny. This is of course the inevitable result in any country refusing to subordinate itself (and its rulers) to Natural Law principles. This couple will continue to trust in God's compass, not our internally flawed guidance systems subject to radical narcism. We will need it to navigate the scary world now before us.
Thank you God for making my wife, and revealing yourself to us through the graces of his son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful for the journey you gave us to travel together. Amen.