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....
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.
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.
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.
It is the time of year for getting ready to do our lent traditions to clear our hearts and souls for the coming of our savoir Jesus Christ. This is great! Being the 100th anniversary of Fatima also lends some urgency down the hearts of many faithful, as one of the primary calls Mary made was to repent and do penance for our sins and those of the whole world.
In a series of happy God driven coincidences, I opened a book my dear wife provided me for the first time (I just finished two others...she wants me to get spiritually smarter) The SPIRITUAL COMBAT and A TREATISE ON PEACE OF SOUL by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. This book is a guidebook for many a religious soul, and a few saints like St. Francis de Sales. In just a few pages it roped me in, and started answering a few questions I've had.
Recently several experiences begged me to look for answers to the the proper understanding of a rule based and spirit based path to heaven. As a law and order type guy my whole life, simply following the rules is a very simple path for my little brain to follow. Do X and receive Y. The problem us law and order people have is this still leaves us short, because to obtain heaven we need nothing less than perfection in our souls as well as our actions!
Rule based paths to heaven are also dangerous to many of us. When we observe and judge people poorly because they are not as "observant," or will not practice the same extreme forms of asceticism we personally choose to do. When we do this, we easily fall into sin because we are comparing and showing off our "holiness." We become modern day Pharisees.
Instead we must carefully chose the form of self denials and rigor of our prayer life to draw us closer to the mysteries of Christ. This type of introspection, combined with strengthening spiritual exercises makes us primed like an soldier for the great battle working in unison with God's commands . We need all the strength possible for our daily battles with the prince of evil who seeks to turn us from the path of God to his by hook or crook.
Our example in all of this can be our dear mother Mary. In the Bible she says but a few words, but attends every major event with our Lord. She faces every temptation and torture a mother can endure, but never gives in to sin Mary also was compliant with the old Law she was born under, and the example of the new law of her son. She silently witnesses and participates in the unfolding of salvation, but never brings the focus to herself. Everything she does assists the Lord as he completes his mission for the world and all people in every age. Her Immaculate Heart always complements, and never overshadows the Sacred Heart of her son and our Lord.
As we go forward into Lent, Mary's Immaculate Heart example should guide us towards heaven. Accept the hardships of the fallen world, but never waver from following the law of God. We also will remember to seek greater understanding of God in all things we observe and do, and to bring God's graces to all those we meet.
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?
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.
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.
Mission Control this is John Paul.
JP - MC go ahead.
MC I have the toys in sight. They are magnificent. Two Fujifilm cameras, loads of lenses, batteries and HOLY BIRTHDAY CAKE the 56mm is here!
JP you have permission to acquire the toys.
MC I have a problem...oh my it is a rigged flash...I'm on film...he caught me red handed.
JP Break Off! Break Off! Go to ground!
MC will play baby no worries. I'll get another chance...I know where the toy mine is now.
Then my daughter Kellie says, "My hair is messy!" The Daddy replies, "Well you were having fun twirling your dress!" Kellie then screaches with a belly laugh happy as can be because this is what she remembered:
Thank you Aunt Jane for all your work! A dress for my doll and I and purse to boot! Some really nice other outfits as well! Annalise (the doll) is now in her pajamas enjoying a short summers nap with Kellie. These are some great moments to remember. It is what being a family photographer is all about.
Funny things happen in the desert. Even though it will get to 95F before 9AM and a swim feels good, getting out will still send chills down your spine. Kevin is adjusting to this reality like a champ. He loves his morning swim, and now knows how to dry off in a flash.
I bet you don't remember your first cookie...it must be a magical moment though. Normally Momma does not let the kiddos get a cookie or serious sweet until they have their first birthday...but there is something to be said about being child number five! Momma gives in to the magic of the moment a little more than with the first four!
Oh he loved it! What a joy to see! Uncle Micheal thought he'd have these all to himself....not anymore!
With the news from Dallas and Tennessee today, one could rightly believe the world is up in flames. The world is changing and there would appear to be no hope....but this is what Uncle Screwtape would have us all believe. There is hope...more hope than we can imagine if we still believe unicorns can walk amongst us!
I am being a bit silly, but it is true. Amongst all the terrors of the world, we have plenty of signs of natural law bringing joy and hope to people. How can I say this? Do you love your child? Do you sacrifice your personal conveniences to help your spouse when they have a bad day? Do you pray and give alms to the poor in some way? Does any one of these items fail to let grace and mercy through you to others?
Amongst pain we see now, and know that is coming, we can still bring Christ's gospel through us in word and deed to the world. It is this grace, flowing through us to others, which will provide the world the renewed church. One which will conquer the evil at some point, and let God's plan unfold in ways new and unexpected to us mere mortal men.
Oh..and the Unicorn water cannon my daughter has in her hand packs a heavy stream pounding. It made me believe in its power a few times in our water wars last night!
A few years makes a huge difference for all of us...and the power of photographs lets us see this so easily. Here we see my son Kalen jumping to Grandad in June 2010...and then July 2016. In 2016 Kalen was all about fun, toy trucks and legos. Today all those apply; but now he has his own sunglasses, Leatherman tool and enjoys serious talks with Grandad after pool time.
Vacation is a time to enjoy your family, but also time to reflect on where you are, came from and need to go. I think I'll be doing all that for a little while this month!
The magic of bubble or two in the life of a child is indescribable. A bubble is a one of a kind creation with a fleeting lease on life which can captivate a child's imagination. One set of magic bubbles like this will propel a child to make many more bubbles to see it if the magic will come again. I guess it would not hurt us adults to have our own fleet feet bubbles to call our own!
Time flies and it lies.
It seems like yesterday I went out for an easy five mile run with my cousin David, showered up and put on my blues ensured these rings were tucked in with my brother Karl and we went off to the church to meet two priests (who are like brothers to me) to get married before God and family. I remember the door swinging open and my soon to be Father-in-Law smirking at me saying "I loved her first." The whirlwind day of photos, holding hands, being the focus of attention wore my bride and I out. I remember thinking of the marriage being about the two of us, swearing fidelity to each other before God.
Today I started with rescuing John Paul (child number five) from his crib at 4:55AM, resting a few more minutes and then going for a laborious 2.9 mile run (every tenth counts now). On coming home I see three boys doing chores and enjoying each other's company. Two girls and a momma fast asleep...and I think...wow a lot happened in eighteen years. Soon we'll make a doctor's visit and I'll be off to work for the rest of the day.
Nothing could symbolize the massive change and frozen time better than our wedding bands. Nicked, bumped, worn smoother, worn 24/7 and still as strong as when new. If possible, they might even defy the laws of physics and be stronger now than ever before. It is almost like the rings adapted with us to experience, trial by fire, success, failures, responsibilities and the love of children we're blessed with.
I love my Carrie Anne, and I truly think no one else in the world would put up with me like she does. Her wisdom is sound, and heart warm. This warm heart powers our family, and keeps us on track. The self sacrificing love Carrie displays with each child she carries is simply heroic. The nine month sickness and long recovery she fights through each time has to count for something good when see meets our Lord one day! She is pretty cute too!
More than loving her alone, I love the "us" our marriage creates. Our constant lessons of agape love, brought by the opportunity to be a family, allow us to bring Christ into our family everyday. Mastering these lessons provides the spark I see in couples married and happy at 25, 40 and 50 years. This is the love which should inspire us all to holy matrimony for life, grows healthy families, and shows us how to claw our way towards heaven through better and worse a fallen world provides.
I know we have so much more to face in our lives. The world is right now in a tremendous crisis of faith, and needs Christ more than ever. I write this not to boast, but to help others see the way to heaven through Holy Matrimony and its foretaste of heaven. I had a friend who said he was surrounded by friends with failed marriages, and was scared to become married out of fear generated by those failures.
I told him what I now know is true...seek out those who succeeded. Learn the lessons of the happy 40-50 year marriages, and put them into your heart. Learn sacrificial love, and seek one who wants to give of themselves without limit as your partner. Pray over everything, and keep Christ front and center in your family life...he will guide you through the tough times which will come.
So today pray for us, pray for your marriages, and pray for those who need to find peace in self to make either a vocational commitment to marriage or holy orders. It is the best gift we could give the world!
When I saw this windmill I could see the outline, but not the details. The vast contrast between the bright rising sun and the shadow side of the windmill also deprived my eyes of fine color detail. My brain knew what was before me, but my senses could not grasp all the details as the wind gently started moving the blades and changing the scene.
I looked into the scene and then began to think of our spiritual lives. We first know the world as it exists around us with natural light and law. When God's light falls on the land the contrast between the right and wrong becomes distinct. What we thought before of our environment will radically change if we embrace God's law as our spiritual dawn arises.
This is the key moment in the transition between dawn to day in our spiritual lives. If we accept God's law over us, the light will continue to grow into full day. If we decide to follow man's law alone, we'll need to wait for the street lamps to come on to make sense of the world. Street lamps are no substitute for God's light.
Even with embracing God's Law bringing on our spiritual day, our earthly minds will never see the world as clearly as God sees it. We will, however, be gifted with the knowledge and graces needed to avoid pitfalls if we ask for them with heart, mind and soul. If we grasp the offered graces, sacraments, and penance we have a better chance to stay on the path to heaven.
If we obtain the prize of heaven through the gift of God's mercy, we will one day see as God sees. The outlines will suddenly become full of detail, the high contrast will yield brilliant color, and the slightest breeze will be noticed and appreciated.
Sounds good to me...