Peggy Writes

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He Would Have Been 18 Today

In our home today, we remember in our hearts how life would be, if he was here.  He would be 18 years old, a senior and in the midst of college preparation.  From the moment you find out you are expecting, most women fall in love and shortly there after we can see ourselves holding that baby, we can smell their sweetness and we play in our mind a reel of watching them grow, laugh and love.

In October 2014, I wrote this reflection and decided to share again, as it is All Souls Day.

My ten year old son came home from school today in a bad mood. He was picking on his sisters, reluctant to begin his homework, and grumpy about the after school snack I offered. I’ve learned to give him some time before trying to figure out the reason behind his irritability.  That night, when I tucked him into bed, I asked “Why such a long face?”  He said that at school that day, his teacher had asked if anyone would like to offer up a special prayer intention, and he said, “I prayed for you and Dad and for the baby you lost.”  He was sad, because during recess, one of his classmates told him he was always making up stories no one believed his story of a baby who died. At that moment, my son began to cry, and my heart broke for him. At the same time, I was also taken aback by his prayer intention. My first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage over 14 years ago, and my husband and I had only mentioned it a handful of times to our children.

A few days later, on our way to Sunday Mass, my son asked me, “Mom, so why did we forget?” In the rush to get our 5 children to church and still trying to fix his sister’s hair, I responded in a hurried tone, “Forget about what?” He said, “The baby.”  I didn’t process his question until after communion when I was kneeling down to pray, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Why had I forgotten?  As I prayed, I imagined this child in heaven with the saints and the Holy Family, and was overcome with emotion, I began to weep. For the next week, this image of the little one I had lost continued to resonate in my heart and on my mind, along with the inescapable question of why had I forgotten?

During the winter of 1999, my lifelong best friend and I both found out we were expecting our first child. The babies were due in October and we were delighted not only with our little baby bumps, but to be going through this life-changing experience together. At 14 weeks, however, my pregnancy took a terrible turn. My husband was out of the country, so my girlfriend left work to join me at the ultrasound where together we saw the absence of my baby’s heartbeat. It was unspeakable, but my friend was so incredibly supportive. I have always been so grateful to her for her selfless love, for enduring that experience with me and sharing the grief with the loss of my child.  It must have been even more difficult for her as she was still expecting her own.

To someone who has miscarried, people’s genuine attempts of condolences sometimes feel more like thoughtless words: “Well it must have God’s plan,” or “The baby probably had health issues,” or “You will have others,” or “It was only 14 weeks, and it happens too many.” Unsure of how to really process this type of loss, I did what I imagine many women do: I put my grief behind me and went back to my daily routine.

The following year, I became pregnant again, and we went on to have 5 children in 7 years. Our children knew that Mom had lost 1, but there was no discussion beyond that. Being around many conservative moms over the years, and since I’ve entered the Catholic/Christian blogging world, I’ve often been struck when I’ve heard women say, “I have 6 children on this earth, and 2 in heaven.” It never occurred to me to mention the baby I lost.  I could understand how women, who were further along in their pregnancy when they lost their child, would refer to their child, the loss, their grief and even the soul.  I realized that in my mind and heart, I had convinced myself that our lost pregnancy didn’t carry much weight. I had pushed my feelings down, never allowing myself to love or know this child, not allowing this soul to be present.

I believe in God-incidences. Recently at a conference, I was introduced to a woman who shared with me (without prompting) her similar experience of suppressing her feelings following her miscarriages. She told me how she had been transformed, however, on a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia (the location where 30 years ago the Blessed Mother appeared to 6 children, revealing messages for the world, visions that continue to this day). The woman had the opportunity to go to reconciliation while at Medjugorje, and the priest, without any prior knowledge of her situation, remarkably asked her about the babies she had lost 20 years ago. Like me, she hadn’t embraced the lives of the children she had miscarried, and told the priest she didn’t know their gender. He proceeded to guide her through a prayer of sorts, in which she imagined herself standing before the Blessed Mother and Jesus, who were holding the hands of the children; she saw one was a girl and the other, a boy. The priest told the woman that God plants information like that in our hearts, and to trust that feeling, to name the children, and to remember them. He reassured her that the children love her and are waiting until the day they are reunited with her. She described the great love she felt from the Blessed Mother and Jesus.

As this woman told her story, tears were rolling down my cheeks. She knowingly asked, “Did you lose a child?” “Yes,” I replied. She continued, “Did you name your child?” I said, “I never knew if it was a girl or boy, so no.” In my gut, however, I had always believed the baby was a boy, so on that day I named our son Riley Thomas O’Flaherty.  The woman encouraged me to pick a day as his birthday, and suggested All Souls Day, pointing out that this was one day a year that I could hold that child in my heart, but also in the community of others in the celebration of the Mass.

Over the next few days, I spent time in prayer and began to imagine this child desiring a relationship with all of us, and in a way, guiding us in our faith and life. I drew comfort in picturing this angel boy riding on the bus with my other children, and as an angel might do, providing them encouragement, comfort or solace on any given day.  My heart is warmed by the image of Riley talking with Jesus about how he wants blessings showered upon my husband, his earthly father, as he strives to launch a start-up business.  How Riley may ask the Blessed Mother to provide me a gentle spirit with my children when I am exhausted at the end of a long day and am feeling so depleted.

This women had also shared with me that through prayer, she has come to feel that God wants all women to know His love—women who have lost a child through miscarriage at week 3, 12 or 40, as well as women who have lost a child through an abortion; that He loves us all, that the children’s souls are at rest, and that the child can be remembered in a special way, regardless of how they are lost.

One morning, weeks after my encounter with this woman, I realized that I, too, felt transformed. The sensation was almost as if our family had expanded by one overnight. What a gift I have been given, to now experience that additional love, both for Riley and from him (even if it’s on a spiritual level and not a physical one). I went back to my other son and thanked him for listening to his inner voice (the Holy Spirit) and for reminding us of this gift we have in heaven.

We will celebrate Riley’s birthday on All Souls Day each November. Another tradition I’m planning, to help keep his memory alive is to buy an ornament for our Christmas tree with his name on it, which will join those we have for our other children. And just as I’ve come to feel Riley’s presence with us here on earth, I now ask him to be an intercessor in heaven for my prayers.

Are you, or someone you know, in need of healing transformation?

  • Check with your local church or diocese many hold a private Memorial Service for families who have lost children in the womb, to facilitate healing and to honor the eternal lives of the children in heaven.
  • Name your child and creating a special day of remembrance may be a first step.
  • Rachel’s Vineyard is “a safe place to renew, rebuild and redeem hearts broken by abortion. Weekend retreats offer you a supportive, confidential and non-judgmental environment…to help you experience God’s love and compassion on a profound level.” Retreats are held in both Catholic and nondenominational settings, in 48 states and 57 countries. www.rachelsvineyard.org

Share your story with me or share this reflection with women or men who may benefit from hearing this story.

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Peggy O’Flaherty, is a public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children on earth and 1 in Heaven. Her recent writing projects include “Faith In the Family, Night Time Prayers?” and “OneParish Catholic App.” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

 

 

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Creating a World With Compassion

November 1 seemed an appropriate day to repost this blog I wrote in January of 2014

With tears in her eyes a friend approached me in the parking lot after mass. She was reaching out to comfort me and express her concern for our family celebrating our first Christmas without our dads. She knew that both my husband and I lost our fathers this last year. We moved into a conversation that caused her to ask “where has all the compassion gone in our world?”  When acts of violence and hatred seems to be on the news daily, I wanted to look further at the virtue of compassion.

Several years ago a very good friend of mine, at 20 weeks along in her first pregnancy was told by her doctor that her baby had a fatal chromosomal condition. Heartbreak doesn’t clearly express the impact that news had on my friend and her husband. After many consultations they were told with almost certainty the baby wouldn’t survive too full term and surely beyond birth. They were given the option to terminate the pregnancy. Through prayer they decided to carry the baby, as long as God would choose. On Thanksgiving Day that year, on her delivery date, she delivered a beautiful baby boy who was already resting in the arms of the Heavenly Father. Benedict’s funeral was emotional for all in attendance and yet the faith demonstrated by my friend, her spouse and both sets of grandparents was a testament to their faith. The priest who presided made the comment “some people live an entire life and never make an impact and yet this little boy wasn’t even able to live one day and his life touched the hearts of hundreds.” Over the years I have always wrestled with how to keep his memory alive. I wanted to honor his life, yet respect my girlfriend and her privacy and pain. Finally I opened the window with my friend and acknowledged the anniversary of his life and then I allowed her to take the lead. She shared that Benedict’s life deepened their roots in Christ and through their beliefs; they found true joy for the life they shared with this child for 9 short months. They also shared a heart of gratitude for all the people who recognize that little boy’s life as a gift, no matter how short. Benedict’s parents took comfort and reassurance in God’s plan through this passage.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD.

  Plans to prosper you, never to harm you;

plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

I think we can all relate to the uncertainty of what to say to a friend, when they have experienced loss or a disappointment. We have all known someone who has lost their job, lost a parent, had trouble with a teenager, stress in their marriage, a child is born with disability, a family member is suffering from addiction or depression, a new mother is wrestling with postpartum the list of life challenges is endless. Finding the right words to reach out to them or acknowledge them can be filled with uncertainty. Starting with thoughtful consideration of the circumstances, along with prayer may be a good start. I have always appreciated a hand written note, a hug and a friend who can lend a listening ear.

Shortly after my husband lost his father, we had attended a middle school basketball game.  We were surprised when an 8th grade boy, named Jack with no hesitation came directly up to my husband, extended his hand and said “Mr. O’Flaherty I am so sorry for your loss.” I looked over his shoulder to see his parents, who may have nudge him over to express compassion, yet his parents were no where to be found. Jack’s efforts were directed from his own heart. Jack’s ability to demonstrate compassion shows that he was taught and formed with compassion as a value. At 13 years-old he showed maturity of heart, he took a risk that was driven by concern for another person’s life circumstances over his own feelings.  I believe Pope Francis is encouraging us to extend the church from the circle of our family out into the world. Evangelization is spreading the gospel of Christ and that is best done through our loving actions. Simply following Jack’s example of extending compassion is a good start for all of us.

So to my dear friend in the parking lot, I am hopeful that compassion still exists in our world. The feast of the baptism of the Lord, reminds us of our own baptismal promises. We are called to actively engage in extending love and compassion to others. Taking a step to acknowledge another person’s pain can be risky,  It can absolutely be uncomfortable.  It requires extra effort to extended yourself for others.  Yet, I feel the benefit can transform our world.   

Here is Benedict a Thanksgiving gift to our world.

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Who would benefit from your compassion today?    When you step onto the train today or into the elevator or get cut off by another drive, however might a smile or kind word change their day?    Find a chance today to be good and kind.

XO Peggy

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Evangelization, Lead with the Beautiful

Last summer at the Downers Grove Rotary Festival, St Mary of Gostyn hosted a lively booth to celebrate our 125 Anniversary with our local community.   The Crowe Family loved having their photo taken with our Pope Francis cut-out.   It’s our mission to go out into the world and share the good news.  We are called to invite people back home to participate in God’s love. Summertime is the perfect time to share that invitation!     

 

Jesus had 12 apostles. Ponder for a moment 12 people (or 12 families) you know. What if you could get even 3 of those individuals/families to take you up on an invitation into the richness of parish life? What if just 1 person or 1 family began to know Christ in a new way because of your efforts? What if they began participating in the life of your parish and in the sacraments with renewed vigor, and then they, too, invited others? Faith could grow exponentially!

Try a few of these ideas this summer and see who responds:

  1. Start specifically praying for neighbors, people in the community and that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts.
  2. Look at the parish calendar of events and consider which specific events may have the most appeal to a specific person or family.  Perhaps he or she is a golfer or the family would enjoy attending the parish picnic.
  3. Bring home a parish bulletin, circle information about the event, and hand deliver it with a personal invitation to join you for the event.  
  4. Invite someone to Mass on a Sunday morning and then back to your home for a pancake breakfast (This was my Dad’s favorite practice).
  5. Invite someone to a Saturday or Sunday evening Mass followed by a BBQ at your home (or out for pizza at a favorite local spot).
  6. Drop off donuts and coffee at someone’s home after you attend Mass on Sunday morning, and let them know you were thinking of them.
  7. Share a copy of the parish bulletin electronically with a friend or neighbor via your smartphone.
  8. Share a direct link to your favorite free Catholic app (OneParish is loaded on my phone), explain why you like it and how you use it, and encourage someone new to download it.
  9. Share something inspiring that you read online. The OneParish Catholic app has easily  shareable content: With just a click you can share Pope Francis’ latest tweet or a video from Bishop Robert Barron.
  10. Talk openly about what you love most about your parish: the music, the preaching, the charitable works done in the community, the way the youth group has supported your teens, and/or the friends you have made through ministry groups. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious!

My dear friend always reminds me that we are called to evangelize like a butterfly and not like a bee.  When Helen Keller couldn’t see and couldn’t speak, it was a loving teacher who gently taught her sign language that opened a door for her to to connect with the world around her.  We are called to be that loving guide for others and it can be as easy as a warm and authentic invitation.  

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Educational benefits of travel for youth

This morning I sat down to begin my workday and found Grania’s final speech for her sophomore speech class, opened on the google drive.  She presented early this week on how she feels travel is a form of education.    With her approval, I thought I would share – this was her draft, her notes, subsequently added to notecards.   This wasn’t a final product/document turned in for grading, thus she nor I corrected the grammar.

Introduction

From a young age I have always loved to travel. Whether it’s going to my aunt’s lake house in Michigan for the weekend or flying across the world to China.  I love every type of travel. Traveling is such a great thing that everyone should experience. In the Bible in the book of Sirach chapter 34, verse 9-12  it says “A much-traveled person knows many things; and one with much experience speaks sense – an inexperienced person knows little, whereas with travel one adds to resourcefulness. I have seen much in my travels, and learned more than I could ever say.” Travel has always been an important thing to my family. In 1972 my grandparents moved my dad and his four other siblings to America.   After attending Notre Dame my dad and some friends backed-packed around Europe. A few years later he was lucky enough to get the opportunity to teach English in Japan for two years then in 1991 he went to Mongolia and backpacked around China. My parents both urge me to travel every opportunity I get.   This summer my mom and I will travel to Nicaragua on a mission trip to serve the poor.

 

The benefits of traveling at a young age rounds out your education, here are some supporting reasons:

  1. Traveling brings an awareness of other other cultures and appreciate for what other people value.
    1. For example – when in Japan it is respectful to take off your shoes, when you walk into someone’s home.
    2. The knowledge you gain when meeting someone from a different country, forms a cultural awareness that can be used in business, politics and even in our schools.
    3. Learn to appreciate what others value, doesn’t happen by staying in the safety of your own town/home.  Once we gain this appreciation we are supposed to  help other people like friends and family become more aware, as well.

2. Traveling brings exposure to the economics, languages and arts of other countries.

  1. Walking through Paddington Station, I heard multiple languages and learned new currency.  Who knew in some areas of the country you have to use money to use a public bathroom.  Or in other countries, they don’t use a toilet – the simply squat over a hole.
  2. Traveling helps you expand your horizons and explore things you have never seen or eaten before, such as Peking Duck or the shaving of the duck’s feet.
  3. Travel opens mind and opens your heart to cultures and their people and their views.

 

3. Americans can be very isolated on many world issues such as poverty and oppression.

  1. Of course there is violence everywhere in the world. But there are other places like third world countries that have much more violence and poverty than we do in America.
  2. We aren’t able to understand what other countries go though by looking at the T.V. every morning watching to the news.  We need to be up close and see it, we need to serve.

 

4. Travel is a form of education and adds value to our life.

  1. Travel obviously is a form of leisure and yet it holds enormous educational value.
  2. Travel develops a sense of confidence, freedom and independence.
  3. Talking to strangers and meet new people is a great life skill.
  4. Three of my cousins have studied abroad. My cousin Connor studied in Ireland for a semester and my cousin Molly did the same thing in Rome. My cousin Kaylee did a summer visit to the Orient.  Each of them had amazing experiences and they returned home with a new appreciation for other cultures.   Each of them have encouraged me to do it in the future.

 

Conclusion

Traveling at a young age has the ability to expand our minds and 1 mind, 1 person, 1 heart can change our world.  When we live in the same town our whole life and travel only inside the United States, it limits the lens for which we look at the world. The lens shapes how we see things in our everyday world.   By traveling across the seas and into different countries the lens expands, our views expand.   We start to have an open mind and start to think not just about the county we live in but the whole entire world. As Ibn Battuta once said “Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” This quote really stands out to me. My parents have stories from traveling that i can’t even picture happening in a million years. And I hope to have stories just like that after I travel the world.

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Make Money From Home

Redbook Rodan and Fields

The November issue of Redbook Magazine featured my business with Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields.   I run my own skincare company that leverages social commerce and lifestyle marketing as the vehicle for success.  The integrity of the products, the business model, which allows me to run a business from my phone, the leadership and training were all appealing to me when I started in January.   My initial goal was simply to help pay for the groceries, which is no small bill when feeding 7 people and a dog.   When I met that goal, I decided to dream bigger.   So what are you dreaming about?    Maybe it’s building up your retirement account or savings into a college fund, maybe its a vacation next year for your family or a plan B for a raining day.   Or maybe you have always wanted to build something of your own but didn’t know if you could do it.

Several of my partners made this youtube video of this business and it reminded me of the reason I said “yes” to something totally outside my comfort zone.    I remember telling my friend and now partner….. “I can’t sell skincare, I sell God.”  She reminded me in this business we don’t sell anything.   We simply wash our face and share our great results.    Please take a few moments to watch this video and then lets talk about how this business could be the vehicle for you to achieve your dreams.    I would love to help you dream big.

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What is Your Calling?

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Christian Women Entrepreneurs

Why in the heck would God call invite me into a business of selling skincare?   Tune in today with my interview by Christina M. Webber, MS, Speaker, Christian Women Entrepreneurs Coach, and Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist.  Christina coaches Christian Women Entrepreneurs how to confidently do God’s will by changing messages and patterns that block them from earning more money in less time while embracing their many roles in life.

Please contact me directly with any questions or to explore God’s call in your life.

Blessings,

Peggy

630-327-2213

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Lasting Impact of Childhood Abuse

Have you had a chance to see the movie Tomorrowland?  In it, the main character, a young heroine, repeats a story back to her father, in his moment of defeat, a story he told her during her childhood.  In the story there are two wolves: one is darkness and one is light. “Which one wins?” she questions him. After a pause she continues, “The one you feed the most.”

Since I was in 3rd grade, I’ve been haunted by a ghost of my past, bound up by the shackles of abuse, feeling a prisoner of the violence that was inflicted upon me.   I’ve lived bent over by the voice of shame that was whispered to me when I was only 8.  Fast forward ten years; as I was preparing for college, I sat with an administrator who was reviewing my ACT scores, and he said with a smirk on his face, “Girl, I think a monkey would score higher on this exam than you did.”   Somehow, one negative voice triggered other angry voices that had been repeated in my head — feelings of fear and having no value. Those voices were drummed up again and again over the next 30 years, by decisions I made that led to mistakes, or missteps on roads that were winding and unclear. It felt natural for me to focus on those voices of pain that led to self-doubt.  And to quiet those voices, I felt driven to strive for many things, some of which weren’t healthy.  Yet I also felt drawn toward joy, a lifeline that always seemed out of reach.  Now, however, at almost 48, I’m finally starting to shake myself of those heavy chains.  Inner strength is beginning to emerge. Feelings of finally being redeemed, and growing into the person that God intended me to be, are being fostered.

My life circumstances over the last year and my circle of influences have caused me to look at why and how I’m choosing to live my life.  In scripture Luke chapter 10 verse 27 we hear, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This year I’ve come to realize that loving neighbor and others is tricky when you don’t love yourself.  Now I’m settling into love of self, and accepting God as the power that frees me from those heavy chains.  It’s taken many years to discover and foster that self-love and look at my authentic self.  (I’ll save those details for another blog.)

Black Crow

As I was pondering the sensitive nature of this entry, I heard the fear creeping up in me: “What might people may say or think of me?”   For me, confidence and self-love starts with acknowledging my feelings and I do that best through prayer while taking a run.   My run took me down a tree-lined street, where suddenly, an enormous black crow landed directly in front of me on a low-hanging branch.  He appeared to look right at me, and did his “caaahaaa” as if he was laughing at me.  That crow reminded me that we live in a world where good and evil are both present on every road I take.   I decided I wouldn’t let that crow intimidate me — I picked up my pace and popped in my earbuds.  The first song I heard was by the group Mercy Me.   The lyrics of “Greater” clearly state the voice that I now hear inside of me.  God’s voice in my heart is far “Greater” than those voices of my past, the naysayers in my world, and those who try to intimidate me.  Like the heroine from the movie Tomorrowland, I am choosing to feed the voice of light.

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Lilacs, Rwanda, Immaculee and Women’s Inner Strength

Have you noticed the lilac bushes are in bloom?   In the Midwest every spring in early May the streets and yards are lined with beautiful purple fragrant lilacs.   Perhaps you grew up with a Common lilac, Persian lilac, Dwarf Korean variety, Himalayan, Chinese lilac or even a lilac tree.    My sister Linda Kay Doyle had a beautiful white lilac bush that she cherished.  It was an exceptionally fragrant lilac in her yard, just off her deck.    My sister Linda died 10 years ago today, May 5 2005.   She was an avid gardener and whenever I would visit her home, we would walk arm and arm around her yard to explore what was currently in bloom.

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Linda was an educator who was very compassionate and cognizant about the surrounding world.   She was always giving me fiction and non-fiction books that would get me thinking.   We had long conversations about the underlying theme of books such as the Kite Runner and The Red Tent.   The week before she passed she urged me to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle.

Hotel Rwanda is the story of the 1994 horrific genocide that took the lives of one million people who were brutally murdered in Rwanda, Africa.   In an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.   In three months, one million Tutsis; men, women and children were massacred by the hands of the Hutu marauders.   The movie shared the courage of one man who in the face of unspeakable dangers granted shelter to thousands of helpless refugees in the hotel that he managed.

I never had the chance to chat with Linda about her thoughts on the Rwanda genocide.  And yet, two years after she passed, I learned about a woman who survived that genocide and knew that I had to hear her story.  Immaculee llibagiza was a Tutsis college student, who was urged to go into hiding by her father.   Immaculee found shelter at a pastor’s home, where she and seven other women hid from the deadly rebel mob in a 3-by-4 foot bathroom for 91 days.    During those 91 days of unimaginable suffering, Immaculee found her faith, taught herself English and most incredibly, committed herself to a life of peace, hope and forgiveness.  Even for those who had murdered her family.

Last week, I was privileged to attend a luncheon entitled “Aid for Women” and the keynote speaker was again Immaculee.  She again shared her powerful life lessons from her Rwanda experience of love, forgiveness and world peace.    The organization she spoke was in support of Aid for Women, which has been instrumental in providing support for women and especially empowering women to choose life.  They provide funding to Heather’s House, a home for unwed mothers providing education, medical assistance, spiritual and housing support.  You can read more about their organization at www.helpaidforwomen.org.   You can read one of Immaculee’s several books or watch this short video about her story.

Linda placed an enormous value on the inner strength within a women and the bond of friendship between women.   Considering Linda’s own health limitations, nothing held her back and I knew she drew strength from faith, friendship and family.   Where do you draw strength to be the women God intended you to be?  How do you age gracefully and rest within the challenges of your life, the body we have been given and live within our unique giftedness?  How do the relationships in your life help you to fly?  Helping women explore these questions have become my life work.   Thank you, Linda!!!!

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Creative Ways to Manage Household Finances and Rely on Faith

Frustrated MOm

Each month as the household bills come rolling in and we watch the scale tip; too much money going out and not enough coming in – it can be a hard pill to swallow.  It is emotionally draining, pounding on the ego, frustrating and very easy to become envious of what others have and doubting of decisions that brought us to this point.  This has happened to us before, as when we were first married we purchased our first home and had to settle into a mortgage payment that was a stretch.   Then several years ago we felt the pinch, being in our third home and managing the growth of expenses with a family of 7.  Now married 20 years this summer and 18 months into owning our own companies and again we have to make some major shifts in our spending and our income.  In times like these I hear my dad’s voice “you need to make sacrifices, what can you live without.”   Then my inner mom voice chimes in and says “roll up your sleeves and find a way to fix the situation”.

Getting organized is usually my first defense and that starts by reevaluating our expenses via a color coded spreadsheet.  As a stay home mom, through trials we learn how to be creative for example; on where to shop to find the best values for groceries (Aldi), how the majority of household providers (cable TV, security systems, phone companies) are willing to drop your monthly expense by simply asking and cooking at home on a budget versus eating out is an enormous savings.    Once those options are exhausted more difficult choices may be necessary.   When I had four small children under the age of 5, I shared with my husband if I didn’t get some help around the house or with laundry I may never make it to see them graduate high school.   Over the last 10 years, I was blessed each Tuesday from 9:00 – 2:00 with my own personal Mary Poppins.  She arrived each week and magically created order in our house, especially the laundry room.   I was spoiled and saying goodbye to that luxury was extremely difficult.   She helped me care for my newborns and she will be missed.  That sadness was lifted when I watched the kids’ expressions, as I showed them their new job charts.  I kind of chuckled when I heard one of them say “clean the bathroom sinks, are you serious?”    My oldest sister has the motto “a family that cleans together and prays together will stay together.”    In our fast past society, busy with sports and activities on the weekend, I believe we lost sight of this fundamental life lesson on working together to care for our home.

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We have many harder choices in front of us, that other families have faced and with perhaps less options than our family.   A few things that I have noticed in this chapter of our life; the idea of walking in faith when we have so many unknown pieces is challenging, rising to be the person I believe God intended me to be is much harder than I thought when under stress and giving into despair is easy.   On the flipside I am noticing blessings in the very small things of life; such as the joy of teaching my child how to wash the baseboards or asking one of the children to help me with calculating the groceries so we stay within a budget.  Or staying home and having a family game night versus going out to the movies.

We have found ways to supplement our monthly income by selling some toys and items around the house via an on-line garage sale site.  I have opened up my schedule for a few more speaking engagements; one at a Christian book store opening in the spring and a morning retreat for the Joliet Diocese Deaconate Wives.  This is my real passion, so please pass along my name if your parish, community or network is in need of speakers.  I also am working as a consultant for my favorite skincare solution and feeling so good about helping individuals address basic and everyday skincare needs; such as sun damaged skin, wrinkles, dull and sensitive skin, acne and eczema.  Having balance in my life for healthy eating, fitness, skin care, nurturing relationship and faith formation all help my confidence and relieve stress.

Last year I spoke at Illinois Benedict College to a group of students about “Using Your Strengths and Gifts to Follow Your Dreams.”    I shared with them wisdom from Saint Catherine of Siena “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on Fire.”  It is easy to doubt who God intended for me to be when life is at a crossroads.   When following your dreams isn’t quite financially sustaining the family then prayer and patience is necessary.  In scripture we hear that God doesn’t want us to worry and he wants us to trust in Him.  I also believe that God gave us a heart and a mind for a reason.   I believe he asks us to be creative, think outside the box, wear many hats, look at all your options, reevaluate what is important and how do the choices we make impact our not only ourselves but our children as well.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream….”  C.S. Lewis

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Find Light In Darkness

Last night our oldest daughter received her fourth sacrament, Confirmation.  The Mass was celebrated by Abbot Austin Murphy and he reminded us that we have already received the gift of the Holy Spirit during our Baptism.  The Confirmation is another level of accepting the love that Christ gives to us.  God’s love come to us in the form of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we have been given to be shared out into the world.  During the Liturgy the choir did an outstanding job singing “Go Light Your Candle” by Chris Rice.  I shared this song via the youtube video, as perhaps a reminder or for inspiration.  The opening lyrics begin……”There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold. There is a Spirit who brings a fire – ignites a candle and makes His Home.” and then the song goes on “So carry your candle, run to the darkness, seek out the hopeless, confused and torn……”

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This year I have been pondering the scripture from Jeremiah chapter 29:11 “I alone know the plans I have made for you, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”  Considering my own candle has been feeling dark and cold, this scripture is frustrating for me.  It is great that God has plans for me, I wish I knew the full details of those plans.   Yet when I heard this song it provided me a bit of comfort, knowing Christ has His Home in my heart.  I find comfort in being thankful to see the candle burning brightly in others, especially my newly confirmed daughter.

Perhaps I know God’s plan for me, at least for now, go and pick my kiddos up from the bus stop, help with homework and make dinner.   Amen.

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