Saturday, July 25, 2015

Celebrate This Week

This evening we just arrived back from my sister's house. My mom drove the girls and I over, and our 7 kids played and played and played. This afternoon we went swimming before heading back home - the girls and I all sleeping.


In the middle of starting to post, my husband just walked through the door and said his harvest schedule is now over. We arrived home from vacation on Saturday, June 27 and heard that Monday he would start his harvest schedule at work - 7 AM - 7 PM (sometimes later) 7 days a week. He only had one Sunday off because of rain slowing down the harvest. Unfortunately, it was a day that I was out of town with our oldest for church camp.

July is always a bitter-sweet month. I am always thrilled to have extra time with the girls - my only full month of the year officially off contract with only some occasional work to do. Yet, I rarely see Manuel, so I am always ready for the announcement that he is shifting back to 7 AM - 3 PM.

Now that's the only celebration of the week I can focus on for now because I am so excited! Here's to family time. Here's to finishing out the soccer season together!

Monday, July 20, 2015

All That I'm Called to Be

I had heard the song on the radio or Pandora before, but it wasn't until I opened a link from Chris Stefanick's newsletter around Father's Day with his words, "This song cuts me to the heart," that I saw Sanctus Real's video for Lead Me for the first time. As I watched it in the quiet of the morning before waking up the rest of the family to leave on vacation, the words really sunk in and resonated with me. I could relate to Stefanick's words related to the song "[cutting] me to the heart."

Though written from the perspective of a father, I could easily see myself in it as a busy working mom and wife. The first decade of our marriage was a swirl of events - college degrees, careers, having children, moving, buying houses, my husband's residency and citizenship. As our tenth anniversary approached, my husband pointed out many of these events and then asked a question that caused me to pause and reflect, "What will we be looking back on in another ten years?"

I realized that more than anything, I wanted to be able to say 10 years down the road that I was able to focus on my family. More important than other milestones or accolades, I wanted to be able to say that I was able to reel in my career and align my life to showing that my family was a top priority.

As a result, August 2012 - August 2022 is a time frame in which I want to continually ask myself what progress I have made, which moments felt the most significant in order to prioritize similar scenarios, and to to consider how to problem solve challenges. Inspired by Ali Edwards' One Little Word, I have been doing Focus of a Decade: Family alongside my yearly words.

Almost 3 years in it is easy to see that I made some attempts in the right direction but was still frequently feeling overwhelmed. This year my focus on family collided with my One Little Word: core. All of my other attempts set me up to see that while I was making some overall progress, something bigger was needed. I needed deep honest reflections about the underlying issues behind my career/family challenges. I needed to make myself realize that being a wife and a mother couldn't always be coming in second and third to my career. I needed to realize that I had wrapped so much of my identity into being an educator that I often had a sense of too many "have tos" that I was working toward an unrealistic moving target of all that I wanted to do, which was counter-productive to feeling enough in any of my roles. It was about recognizing the vocation I chose - married life and that being a wife and mom can't always be when I finish my other to-dos.

So I began my journey to focus on the core - to determine what was most important in my different roles in life and then consider how to accommodate, shift, and eliminate as needed in order to align my life with the core.

Surprisingly, though I had appreciated moments in my life where I had a stronger prayer life and more active involvement in my church community, it was often lost in the shuffle of the career/family juggle. I had not intended that this year would point me again and again to my faith. It was counter-intuitive to add another big component into a juggle that had already felt overwhelming as a dichotomy; yet, I should have recognized all those  years that what I really needed to make significant progress with that career/family struggle was to prioritize faith and the rest would fall into place. Ironically, I have even had a Faith, Family, Friends image on my wall for years, and of course, there are frequent reminders at church to put God first. For whatever reason, I still just didn't get it.

That's why lines like these from the song hit me at the core:
So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

*Note: When I went to get the link to the Sanctus Real website, I noticed Matt Hammitt's statement about leaving the band. I got goosebumps as I read, "'I've been traveling far and wide singing the song 'Lead Me', but now I want to sing it less and live it more.' [...] I've always struggled to reconcile my life on the road away from Sarah and the kids, but after all these years I'm confident that my calling is to be at home more, consistently making God and family my ultimate priority." I am feeling even more inspired by the song now and look forward to listening to Matt Hammitt's podcasts.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Celebrate This Week

When Ruth Ayres, started a new blog Ruth Ayres Writes, I noticed a shift into inclusion of new writing territories, including an exploration of her faith. I just noticed that is currently the most frequent tag on her blog side bar for her posts. She was one of the inspirations for me to have the confidence to start sharing my faith in a more public way.

With her new blog, she also started a new feature called Celebrate This Week. I regularly participated for a while at the beginning. Now, as I start fresh with a new blog, Celebrate This Week is something I would like to participate in regularly once again. Friday evenings/Saturdays mark the shift into the weekend, and regularly pausing in a concrete way to think about those celebrations that have been floating around during the week will be a great way to focus on the core.

This week I celebrate:
(1) Extra moments with my girls this summer - watching the big girls play soccer, doing a Mommy and Me swim class with my youngest, coloring, watching movies, sitting in the yard. I celebrate all the time we have spent together this summer and all that will still come this last month that I am officially on vacation.
(2) Having Camila calm down in my arms this afternoon as I prayed the rosary and then staring into her eyes as she fell asleep. Quiet moments with her without anywhere else I need to be are priceless.
(3) The courage to step outside of my comfort zone. This week was week #2 of taking Camila with me to daily Mass and we were able to stay the full Mass every day. I needed to shift to the side or back at times when I was trying to get her to calm down; however, we never had to completely leave. In the swimming class, I also went down the water slide with Camila and she loved it. That might not seem like a logical fit with the "stepping out of my comfort zone theme" but that was the first time I have been on a water slide since my oldest was an infant and I misunderstood a tip from another parent and Celeste went flying out of my arms and into the water when we got to the bottom. She was perfectly fine, but I was shook.
(4) Guidance. Whispers over time based on intentionally seeking God's will for my life and praying for the ability to recognize, understand, and then take action to align my life to His will. With this commitment comes peace based on the space for quiet reflections and confidence in my decisions.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Daily Mass: Not Just for Retirement

Welcome to my new blog. You can see a brief introduction to the focus of my blog here.

The only time I remember attending daily Mass, aside from church camps when I was younger, was when I was in Mexico for summer with my husband and our daughters (4 and 1 at the time). I had just finished my second year teaching, and we split our time between an urban city where some of his family lived and a rural community where he grew up. The weeks we were in the rural area there was an especially sharp contrast to the rush of a school year and the overall climate was peaceful and slow. An opportunity for daily Mass quickly became part of the rhythms of my day, until we shifted back to the city and when I eventually boarded the plane to head back to Oregon and another school year.

Though I had fond memories of being able to attend daily Mass, it was not a part of my reality as a busy, working mom trying to keep all the balls in the air. Instead, I viewed it as something I would really like to do once I was retired.

This winter while on break, I planned on going to daily Mass for a few days when both my husband and I had days off. Then something happened (I think either my toddler or I was sick), and I only went once, rather than the multiple days I had envisioned. I longed for those retirement days when daily Mass could be a part of our regular routine, not just vacations.

Then a seed was planted when I was at a First Communion retreat with my daughter this spring. Our youth minister encouraged us to attend daily Mass if possible. Shortly after, I was talking to another mom at our church asking if she went and about the timing. I realized that while I couldn't consistently go for the rosary at 7:35, that I could work toward making it to Mass at 8 AM 1-3 times/week. It didn't have to be an all or nothing decision.

That was my goal, but it didn't work out in the first week. The timing of our morning routine was off, and I didn't want to walk in late. Instead, that first week, I reflected on what I needed to change in order to make it happen. I thought about when I needed to wake up (and conversely go to sleep), what I needed to cut out of the morning routine, when we absolutely had to leave the house. I also saw the person I had talked to the week before after Sunday Mass and she said to go even if I was a couple of minutes late.

By the second week, I was ready to implement what I learned the previous week. The biggest surprise for me was that because daily Mass is shorter than regular Mass, the change impacted my morning routine with the girls more than it impacted my work schedule. Previously, it was fairly common that I ended up dropping the girls off at the latest time I could, instead of the half an hour before when parents can start dropping off kids. Then I still needed to drop our youngest off at day care. When I shifted my schedule to consistently dropping off at the earlier frame of the buffer zone, I was able to make it to Mass and then get to work about when I had been arriving many mornings anyway.

Especially in the first week of actually going, it took some fine tuning. However, once I got started, in the next few weeks, instead of being a goal for 1-3 times of Daily Mass, I realized that it was turning into a personal non-negotiable, something at my core. Unless there was something out of the ordinary, such as a field trip or an 8 AM meeting, I was going to be there every day.

My current position as a teacher educator provides more flexibility in my schedule than when I was a classroom teacher. Going to daily Mass still would not be possible if I had my 7:30 AM contract start time; however, realizing it would work in my current position made me think about the importance of not putting up obstacles without evaluating what really is set in our current lives and where there is flexibility. This is especially the case when thinking through a core lens, considering whether obstacles are in place because of something that is not at the core (such as computer time in the morning).

This year is all about thinking about those shifts, those possibilities and the alignment between the life I am living and what I most care about.