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I think we would all enjoy a warm, loving home life. We might yearn for it even more if we didn’t

grow up in one. It can give all the family members a sense of security, as well as a sense of

rightness about who we are. A warm and loving home is extremely beneficial to the mental

health of all the family members.



Additionally, researchers find that people for whom faith was at the root of the warmth in their

home growing up are less likely to leave their childhood faith in adulthood. If they leave, they will

be more likely to be drawn back, especially once they are raising children themselves.


We all deserve a warm and loving home. Not on our own merit of course, but because we are

children of God made in his image and likeness. He shares his divine dignity with us, and

dwelling in a place that lovingly upholds that dignity is what we intuitively long for.


If we had a chance to live in the same household as Jesus, wouldn’t we want him to feel

honored, comfortable, safe, cozy, listened to, appreciated, and loved? We would want to give

that to him to honor his dignity as God’s son and show him how much we love him.


That’s the kind of home we should want for our families as well, because we honor our status as

God’s children when we do, and help each other live into that dignity.


But what does a warm and loving home look like?


We are bombarded with images of what our homes could look like. Decorating shows, every

social media platform, magazines, and stores dedicated to home decor, give us a zillion ways to

make our homes beautiful. Sometimes all that content can make us feel like we’ll never have it

together enough to have a pretty, perfect home.


The good news is that creating a warm, loving home isn’t about beautiful decor. It’s about

attention to the relationships in the family.


Too often, we put off building relationships with our family members until the house is clean, the

homework is finished, the semester is over, the crisis is past, the emails are answered, etc. Of

course, it never all resolves itself. The world never stops spinning to allow us to focus solely on

our family life.


This is not new to the social media age (although it may heighten it). We see this dynamic

played out in the very famous scripture of Mary and Martha. Jesus is visiting the home of the

two sisters. Martha does what most of us would do. She gets to work to provide a clean space,

a wonderful meal, and all the things that one would do when having an honored guest visit their

home. Mary just plops herself down at Jesus’ feet and visits with him. Martha, feeling like she’s

been stuck with all the work, gets cranky (just as many of us would). She goes to Jesus and

tells him to tell Mary to get up and help her. But then Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are

anxious and worried about many things. There is only one thing, and Mary has chosen the

better part, and it will not be taken from her.”


Aren’t we as moms anxious and worried about many things, especially these days? But creating

a warm and loving home can actually do wonders to reduce our anxiety and worry and that of

our children. But, as this scene shows, it’s not about the constant business of creating and

maintaining that space. It’s about creating moments of connection with our family. Think of the

scene again. Mary just sits on the floor at Jesus’ feet. She’s not caught up in formality or making

a good impression. She’s caught up in Him.


It’s moments of connection that our children’s hearts long for. It’s moments of connection, when

we can get past the tyranny of our to-do lists, that our own hearts long for.


When we aren’t having those moments of connection, we get burned out and think, “Why am I

doing all this? Is it all worth it?” It’s when we have those moments of connection that it all

miraculously becomes worth it.


We see the holy significance of this when we think of what we read of Jesus’ mother Mary in the

bible and the images of her that art has given us. We never see how she decorated her home.

We have no descriptions of how hard she worked to keep her house clean or how beautifully

she plated a meal. What we do have are stories and images of how present she was to her son,

including standing by Him through His entire passion and death. In these stories, she didn’t

necessarily DO anything that she could check off a to-do list. But she was fully present.


This kind of maternal presence is what every child longs for. When they have a bad dream, they

call for mom. We don’t have to DO anything. We just have to be there. When they feel excited

about an accomplishment, we hear, “Hey mom! Look at what I can do!” When they are

struggling, they want their mom’s help and comfort. It is mom’s presence they yearn for.


And you know what, in those moments, they don’t care if you haven’t vacuumed or what you

look like. They aren’t noticing if you have your makeup on, if you're dressed in an awesome

outfit, or if you're looking your worst because you just woke up, or you're in the middle of

scrubbing the bathroom. All your child cares about is that you are present, and they feel safe,

and loved by you. Because your love, attention, and presence affirms their dignity in Christ and

assures them they are someone worth being present to.


Because we are God’s children, we long to connect with the feeling/knowledge/experience of

God in the midst of all the brokenness and difficulty of the world. We get glimpses of our

connection to God through our moments of heart-to-heart connection with others.


As mothers, we are called to fill our children up with these moments and through them, give our

children a sense of the depth of God’s love for them. These moments give them a sense of how

they deserve to be treated as a child of God, and how they should treat others, as children of

God, as well.


But how do we get them?


Moments of connection do not have to be contrived, beautifully detailed, or Instagramable. In

fact, if we post EVERY special moment we have with our kids, we risk making them feel

objectified, and that “likes” are more important than your relationship with them. If social media

is part of how you provide for your family, it is important to set clearly stated boundaries. For

instance, “I need a half-hour to take pictures. After that, the equipment goes away, and I’m all

yours” is a good way to set those boundaries for yourself while managing your family’s

expectations.


Yet moms have fallen into this pattern way before social media. We might put all our energy into

the perfectly presented Christmas/Christmas activity. We might put all our hopes for catching up

with our family, or the kids finally getting along, into that one week of vacation we desperately

need. We might only let ourselves have fun with our kids when we get to that mega theme park.

Even if all those things go perfectly, they are too few and far between to fix any relationship

deficit that exists from not having a consistently close relationship. Of course, those big

moments rarely go perfectly, and if we have all our energy, hopes, and money focused on them,

then anything that does go wrong can feel almost catastrophic.


Now to be clear, no mom does this kind of thing intentionally. It’s just how life seems to work for

various reasons. But we can do something to break the cycle by building warm, nurturing

moments into our ordinary days.


We begin by intentionally looking for opportunities to connect during the day. Little things like

making packed lunches together in the evening, folding laundry together, or turning off the music

and taking out the ear pods when driving somewhere can allow us to just share time and catch

up with each other. When my oldest daughter was in high school, we made it a habit to have a

cup of tea and get ready in the same space every morning just to get some time together. Look

for any opportunity and tweak it to work for you as a moment of connection.


The next step is to actively schedule moments of connection each day and each week. Let’s

start with daily. Many of us feel like there isn’t a second to really connect with our children during

the day, and there’s no denying that with all that is expected from families now that it can be a

challenge. Yet when we know how much our children, and even we, can benefit from real

heart-to-heart connection we can see how important it is to schedule time onto our family

calendar.


Get the family together once a week (perhaps Saturday morning over breakfast) and look over

the coming week’s schedule. Discuss where you can fit in connection time. For instance, there

are a lot of games that only take 15 minutes to play. Can you fit in that 15 minutes to actually

have fun together right after dinner, first thing in the morning to start the day in a happy way, or

right before bed. Be creative!


Other ideas include reading a chapter of a book together, taking a walk together, working on a

project together. What would give you space to create connection? The task doesn’t matter. The

time to connect does.


Now please don’t think that I’m saying that an orderly home, or creating a beautiful atmosphere

is antithetical to creating connection to our family. Those things and little thoughtful details can

help our family members feel special and loved when they are done to enhance our sense of

well-being and our focus on each other. We just have to remember to put the relationship

before the staging. When we do, we invite God to help us remember how much he loves us

through the love we show one another.

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Once heard a priest define God’s grace as, “The gift God makes available to us to help us lean

into our divine nature as His children, and to help us live out all the virtues in a way that is

improbable, if not impossible, without the gift of grace.”


I really appreciated this reflection. When I heard it, it called to my heart. How easy it is in the

non-stop daily life of motherhood to forget that we are given such an amazing gift, that allows us

to move beyond our human limitations, stubbornness, and fears, and allows us to call upon God’s grace at any time?


It’s so important to realize that it really is ANY time. I think many of us think we can only ask for

God’s grace when we are at church or have a special prayer time, or when we are in a terrible

crisis. But we can ask God for His grace at any moment, in any place.


I have learned to do this to keep me calmer, saner, and more capable of being the person, and

the mom, I want to be in all those daily challenges motherhood throws at me.

For me, the prayer usually goes something like this, “Lord, I need your help. This situation is

making me (fill in feeling here: angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, heartbroken, confused, ______).

Please help me be the person you want me to be in this situation. Please show me what to do

and what virtues you want me to practice right now so that I, and the other people in the

situation, feel closer to you and your love.”

Then I take some time to listen and think. Sometimes a fully formed solution will come to mind.

More often, I will just know inside that I have to do one little thing differently, or exercise one

virtue in that moment that I wasn’t in the mood to exercise before I prayed. For instance,

perhaps I suddenly remember to place my child’s well-being before my own frustrations, leading

me to remember to speak more kindly, and work on small steps we can take together to improve

the situation.


Maybe I’m struggling with balancing everyone’s crazy schedules and how overwhelmed I can

feel by having to juggle it all. In that moment I can ask the Creator of the universe, the God who

created the cycles of night and day and the turning of seasons, to lend me a hand in balancing

my life and bringing order and peace to my family life. Getting a God’s eye view of my family’s

scheduling demands gives me a far better perspective and helps me remember that the creator

of everything is also very good at the details. Sometimes this prayer allows me to get my head

around simply taking one thing at a time. Other times God helps me take the initiative to call the

family together to actually map out our schedules and make a plan together to help it all run

more smoothly.


Whatever the situation, when I remember to stay rooted in the grace of God by actually turning

to him and asking for His guidance and help, I am able to exercise virtues and skills that had

previously not been available to me when I was dealing only from a place of overwhelm.

I have often been made aware of others having this experience of grace as well. Countless

times callers to my radio show More2life will begin the call by saying, “This is amazing! I’ve been

going through a tough time, and I told God I needed help. Then I turned on the radio and your

topic today is exactly what I’m needing to hear!


These times are always an amazing blessing to anyone who experiences them. I know

personally that it is possible to experience them more frequently when we practice tuning into

them more by talking to God throughout the day, especially in the mundane times. For instance,

if I am folding laundry and I’m not exactly enthusiastic about one more load, if I just

conversationally admit it to God in my thoughts, I am often suddenly granted the joy of being

grateful for having clothes to fold and loved ones to care for, and then the chore seems easier. I

might consider this smarmy if I was just chastening myself about my attitude. But I’m not. I’m

actually experiencing gratitude bubbling up in me as a gift because God is responding to me

having brought my feelings to Him.


Of course beyond the daily situations, we can all experience truly tragic, difficult times in life. I

am not saying that if we just talk to God we suddenly get the immediate and exact answer to

these kinds of times. But I can say, from many such personal experiences, that when I am

exercising this practice I am much more able to see the small gifts that can console my heart, or

follow promptings that help me take even small steps toward improvement.


The more we root ourselves in talking to God as a constant, compassionate companion, and

tune our awareness to His responses, the more easily we recognize His loving, guiding

response of grace in our lives.

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Updated: May 13

"You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and

wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

- Psalm 139:13-14.


A new baby is such a gift and delight! It’s so wonderful to simply spend time gazing at a new

baby, finding joy in their tiny fingers and toes, their precious faces, the adorable belly we just

want to kiss while we change their clothes.


Personally, when I am with a baby in our family, I am moved to awe in the presence of such a miracle! It is so easy for me to thank God for all the love and amazing detail He has put into this unique and unrepeatable tiny miracle person.


While I may daydream about all the fun we’ll have together as the child grows and can do many new fun things, or what their favorite interests might be as they grow up, or what contributions

their gifts and talents may bring to the world when they are grown, it never ever occurs to me

say, “I’ll only love and enjoy this baby when they achieve certain things in life.”


Of course I don’t! It would be horrible to cheat myself out of reveling in every moment of this

baby’s life! It would be cruel to the baby. It would be downright sacrilegious not to be filled with

gratitude and wonder in the presence of this new creation of God.


So why do we withhold this same kind of love, joy, and appreciation of ourselves from

ourselves??? Truly why?


Babies can’t DO anything. They can’t walk, talk, wipe themselves, or stop themselves from

drooling. But we look at a baby we love, and we think, “ Oh my goodness! What a perfect little

person!”


But most of us never feel that way about ourselves. We always have something to criticize

about ourselves and it often eclipses everything else we should recognize as good.


We sometimes celebrate the way we are made when it has helped us achieve a goal.

For example, we may appreciate how our bodies are made when we run a 5K or the way our

brains are made when we graduate from an advanced degree program. Most of us only

celebrate the way we are made when we do something we consider extraordinary or others in

our lives validate. Additionally, while a wonderful thing, the achievement of a goal is often

preceded by many moments of running ourselves down as we strive to reach the goal. We

often tell ourselves we’ll be happy with ourselves when we’ve lost a certain number of pounds,

gotten a promotion, completely uncluttered our lives, had a certain number of children, won our

parents’ approval… Fill in your own blank here______.


This focus on achievement can steal so much joy and peace from us as it clouds our vision of

everything else that’s good about us. We may tell ourselves that our criticism is motivating us

toward our goals, when we are actually undermining our emotional and spiritual well-being and

perhaps even feeding feelings of depression or anxiety.


We would benefit greatly by acting toward ourselves as we would a dearly loved baby in our

lives, with love and a sense of awe.


I am not suggesting that we dote on ourselves in a narcissistic way, but instead the very

opposite by following David’s example.


In Psalm 139, David acknowledges God, all-knowing and all-powerful, as his creator, and gives

God all the praise. He takes time alone to focus his heart and mind on who God is and

enumerate His works. We can read moments like this throughout the Psalms.


We need to do the same. We are God’s creation, body, mind, and soul. We need time with God

to contemplate and give thanks for all we are, just as we take time to rejoice in every detail of a

baby we love. Try focusing on one part of your body, any part, your hand for example. Just look

at it. Maybe the first thought that comes to your mind is, “I need a manicure. My nails are looking

bad.” or “My skin is so dry.” Now turn down the volume on that inner critic and look again the

way you would look at the hand of a baby. Admire what God has created. What an amazing

design! All those small bones fitted together for so much movement. The beautiful skin that can

gently caress someone you are caring for, but also stand up to so much hard work. Those nails,

no matter their condition, help and protect you in so many ways. Whether or not your hands

work optimally or not, their design is still amazing. And you know what? You didn’t create them.

God did, as an awe-inspiring gift to you. So when you admire them it isn’t vanity. It is praise unto

God. Just like when we admire a baby. So intentionally direct your thoughts and thanks to Him.


When we do it lifts us out of the mundane, the self-criticism, the pursuit of accomplishment and

then connects back to the divine.


We can cultivate our awareness of God’s divine goodness with other practices such as lifting

our minds out of the daily grind by reading uplifting spiritual books (even a page a day), or by

focusing on any natural beauty around us. Noticing natural wonders such as the ever-changing

colors of the sky, the buds on the trees, and even a dandelion pushing its way through a crack in

a city sidewalk can reawaken our awareness of the glory of God. We can visit an art museum

or gallery and soak in the richness of colors and textures outside of our ordinary surroundings.

One of my favorite experiences is visiting an aquarium and seeing all the beautiful sea creatures

and the intricacies of their colors and shapes that God bothered to create even though they are

not easily seen by the average person. These kinds of moments can fill our hearts with an

appreciation that we can then use as a positive filter for how we see ourselves.


All of these things, just like the beauty of new life, help us acknowledge the goodness and

vastness of the God who decided to create you and me. He created you. He values you. He

loves YOU. Seen in the light of His vast awe-inspiring power, our acknowledgment of how

wonderfully we are made is not vanity. It is gratitude!


Of course, we are called to grow in virtue day by day, but we will do that better by

acknowledging that we are created in His image and by joyfully trying to grow to be more like

Him than we can by running ourselves down for our imperfections. Just like we celebrate our

baby’s skill development step by step, we need to encourage ourselves. If our little one is

working on taking their first step but ends up falling on their bottom, we encourage them to try

again and cheer them on. Only a truly horrible person would yell at them telling them they’ll

never be good enough to walk, so why do we say defeating statements to ourselves when we

are growing and developing new skills and abilities?


When we fall into negative self-defeating patterns, we should do as David did and praise God

that we are wonderfully made, and trustingly ask for the help to grow into the person He created

us to be step by step, day by day, just like our children trust us to help them grow and thrive.

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