Saturday, February 28, 2015

My needs, his needs, His plans

It's 9 p.m.  I need to do the dishes; he needs me to rub his back while he falls asleep.  

It's midnight, 3 a.m, and 5 a.m.  I need sleep; he wakes up and needs me to cuddle him.

It's 6 a.m.  I need my morning coffee; he needs me to change his diaper and cuddle on the couch.

It's 9 a.m.  I need to take a shower and do the laundry; he needs me to come play with him.  "Play trains with me, Mommy."  "Play Play-Doh with me, Mommy."

It's 11 a.m.  I need to make lunch for the kids, alone, by myself, for one minute; he needs to help.

It's 1 p.m.  I need him to take a nap, because I need a nap; he does not need a nap.

It's 3 p.m.  I still need to take a shower today; he needs a snack, and he needs Mommy to tell him a story.

It's 5 p.m.  I need to make dinner; he fell down and got a boo-boo, and needs cuddles and an ice pack and kisses to feel better.

It's 6 p.m.  I need to get dinner on the table; he needs me to help him find the perfect hiding place to surprise Daddy when he gets home.

It's 7 p.m.  I need to talk with my husband, reconnect; he needs both of our undivided attention.  "Let's play Superman!  Mommy be Louis Lane, Daddy be the bad guy, I will be Superman!"

It's 8 p.m.  I need to lie down, space out, and cruise Facebook; he needs to take a bath, brush his teeth, put his PJs on, read books, and pray.

My plans for our day look a lot different than his plans.  But they aren't really his plans; they are His plans.
He wants me to comfort my little boy while he falls asleep and during the night when he is scared.  He wants me to change my son's diaper.  He wants me to spend time playing with my son, making memories.  He wants me to put the wants of my son first, to teach him, validate his ideas, and make him feel important.

Becoming a parent means sacrificing my wants and needs for my child, just as Christ sacrificed for us.  Sometimes I forget that.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What We Wore Sunday!

Happy Sunday everyone!

Here I am at almost 30 weeks! (Flour on my bump from baking today!)

Here's Ellie Jo!

This little cutie and her little smile!

Didn't get a picture of Caleb's church clothes, because he insists on changing into pajamas for his naps.  Here he is, eating peanut butter out of the jar while squatting on our island.  We're awesome parents.

And here's the reason for the flour on my bump!  My Great Grandma Lois's recipe I've been practicing with my Kitchen Aide mixer I got from Cameron and the kids for Christmas. 

Not much else new around here.  Our kids continue to be allergic to sleep, mostly at night.  Cameron started training to become an Acolyte two weeks ago.  It will be interesting to see if he can serve during the masses with our kids, as I think Ellie will shout out "Dada! Dada!" until he picks her up....

As the former pastor of our previous parish (now Bishop Vasa) says, have a miserable Lent!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What We Wore Sunday (Husband Edition)

Today I'm making Cameron and Ellie be the subjects of What I Wore Sunday.  

He's mad at me because I didn't tell him his tie wasn't long enough in this picture.

Check out the boots!
Our priest gave a great homily about marriage and family since it's World Marriage Day today.  He talked about how if he were the devil, what things he would do to attack marriage and families: convince parents that social media is more important than listening to their kids, husbands to forgo loving their wives for loving images on computer screens, wives to seek emotional fulfillment from gossip and reality tv shows instead of their husbands, and families to be so busy with sports and other obligations that they never have time to pray.  I started getting tears in my eyes listening to it.  Especially the stuff about social media really hit home.

Then he said something like "But fortunately I'm NOT the devil, I'm a Catholic priest, and so today I invite all the married couples to stand and renew their vows."  So he had all couples stand up, face each other, and the spouses take turns repeating their marriage vows to one another.  I was really tearing up now, this time from happiness.

Even though it maybe felt a bit silly to be doing this in the middle of a Mass, we and many others were really deeply touched by the whole experience.

It was 50 degrees and sunny out today, so we played in the snow (and water puddles) in the parking lot after Mass.

"I climbed the snowy mountain Mommy!!"

Speaking of snow, Caleb and Cameron made their first snow man!  And Caleb decided he wanted to sit on it.  So Cameron made some stubby shoulders and put him up there.  (I was at the store when this happened...)

In other news, we keep inching closer to my May 8 due date.  The kids are clingy as ever, so it will be interesting.  The other night Cameron came home late from work after we had all eaten dinner... here are some photos he took on his phone as he tried to eat at the table:

For more What I Wore Sunday, go see What I Wore Sunday @ Fine Linen and Purple!  Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Trust and Tithing


Suddenly, a few weeks ago, I decided to become a responsible father/adult, tackling our wills, budget, retirement plans, and college savings plans.  It then occurred to me that we need to get serious about something else: tithing.

Ahh, tithing.  We gave it a good shot this year, intermittently writing checks and dropping them in the collection basket.  But more often than not, we ran out the door late for Mass after finally convincing Elsa/Farmer/Superman to put on remotely-acceptable Church clothes, and left the checkbook at home.  Looking back over the year, we donated an embarrassingly small percentage of our income, and while we can try to make it up somewhat by the end of the year, that's painful.

So, below is my reflection on tithing and trusting.  This has been rolling around in my head for a year, but sometimes accepting something intellectually does not translate into action.  So, I'm now putting our money where my mouth is (or something like that?), and next year we can't possibly fail to tithe now that we've done the whole preachy-blog-post thing.  Right??

* * *

Tithing means giving one-tenth of one's earnings to the Church and/or charity.  (Fun fact: the word itself actually stems from the Old English adjective for one-tenth.)  Tithing dates back at least to Genesis, and was mandatory for much of Church history.  

Many are quick to point out that we need not be legalistic about 10%.  But the wisdom of Christian history and tradition points to 10% as the minimum target for most people.  It's true that some people truly can't tithe, and most people are unable to tithe at some point in their lives.  But can a reasonably comfortable family--the typical family with fairly new electronics, brand-named clothes, and cable TV subscription or a gym membership--really claim that 10% is too high?  Try this mental exercise: imagine telling a great saint like St. Therese of Lisieux or St. Francis of Assisi that you cannot manage 10%.  Would he or she agree?  If so, give what you can.  If not, consider tithing.

As a whole, we have more disposable income than perhaps any people in history.  Yet only around 2% of US Catholics donate 10% of their income to charity and/or the Church.  If so many of us are so comfortable, why do so few of us tithe?  At least for us, one of the main reasons we haven't tithed was a lack of trust in God.  If we gave that much away, we fear, we would not have enough.

But God rebukes this way of thinking.  In Malachi 3:8-13, God tells us: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."  Note that this is one of the few times in scripture that God invites us to test Him.

This idea is powerfully addressed in one of my all-time favorite books, God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  In God's Smuggler, Brother Andrew recounts decades of smuggling Bibles across the Iron Curtain.  It's a thrilling account, and I can't recommend it highly enough.  But one recurring theme in the book is giving abundantly to God and trusting that He will provide for us.

In the book, Brother Andrew recalls when he attended a missionary training school in Scotland.  The school sent out students in groups on a mission trip designed to increase their trust in God.  Each group was only given a one-pound banknote to pay for all transportation, lodging, food, and expenses for putting on meetings and prayer groups.  They also could not ask anyone--except God--for any gifts or support.  Finally, they had to tithe 10% of all donations they received on their trip.  (Note that this extremely faithful Protestant seminary felt tithing to be essential, even for missionaries with almost nothing.)

 As Brother Andrew described, his group immediately gave away a tithe of all of its donations, but not everyone followed this strategy:
Another team that set out from school at the same time we did was not so strict about tithing.  They set aside their ten percent all right, but they didn't give it away immediately, "in case we run into an emergency."  Of course they had emergencies!  So did we, every day.  But they ended their month owing money to hotels, lecture halls, and markets all over Scotland, while we came back to school almost ten pounds ahead.  Fast as we could give money away, God was always swifter. . . .
In other words, God blessed Andrew's team's faithful tithing, not just spiritually, but financially.  Of course, this is no Prosperity Gospel--Andrew's team still lived like missionaries, but their needs and obligations were faithfully met, not by their own scrimping, but by God.

As a result, Andrew's team learned to trust deeply in God for all of their needs.  One particular episode is especially instructive.  One day while the team was speaking to a large group of young people, a member of the team felt inspired to suddenly invite the audience to afternoon tea the next day.  "Afternoon tea" in Scotland requires tea, cake, bread, and butter, but the group had none of these things nor any money to purchase them.  As they had come to expect, however, donations of these items started flooding in from the students themselves, even though the team had never asked for anything.  A few hours before the meeting, the team had everything it needed, except cake.
The tea had been announced for four o’clock in the afternoon.  At three the tables were set, but we still had no cake.  Three-thirty came.  We put on water to boil.  Three-forty-five. 
And then the doorbell rang. 
All of us together ran to the big front entrance, and there was the postman.  In his hand was a large box. 
“Hello, lads,” said the postman. “Got something for you that feels like a food package.” He handed the box to one of the boys.  “The delivery day is over, actually,” he said, “but I hate to leave a perishable package overnight.” 
We thanked him profusely, and the minute he closed the door the boy solemnly handed me the box.  “It’s for you, Andrew. From a Mrs. William Hopkins in London."  [Mrs. Hopkins was a benefactor of the missionary school who knew where Andrew's team was staying but had no idea of their needs.]
I took the package and carefully unwrapped it.  Off came the twine.  Off came the brown outside paper.  Inside, there was no note — only a large white box.  Deep in my soul I knew that I could afford the drama of lifting the lid slowly.  As I did, there, in perfect condition, to be admired by five sets of wondering eyes, was an enormous, glistening, moist, chocolate cake.
God used the team's trust to satisfy their needs, inspiring a woman, far away, with no knowledge of the team's need, to send Andrew a cake.  God not only used that woman's giving to further Andrew's missionary work, but more importantly, to inspire Andrew's trust in Him.  (God's Smuggler is replete with far more dramatic examples than these of God's faithfulness to his servants, but I don't want to spoil the entire book, so go read it yourself!)

Now, it's true that most of us are not missionaries.  Many of us are parents, responsible for our families, and could not responsibly give everything away and hope for "cakes" in the mail to pay the mortgage or the gas bill.  But for most people reading this, that's not what tithing would mean.  Instead, tithing would mean being a little less comfortable.  Another year in the old car.  A less substantial vacation.  A less extravagant Christmas next year.  Tithing would mean we probably will have less than our neighbors, but still more than almost everyone else on the planet.

Tithing is a leap of faith, to be sure, but God has promised to provide for us.  Do we trust Him?  If so, prayerfully consider making tithing a part of your budget for 2015.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Years from the Guenzels!  

Our New Year's Eve was pretty tame around here.  We went to the vigil mass for the Solemnity of Mary.  We recently wrote that masses were going easier for us.  Somehow our kids must have learnt of this, because since then, they have set out to prove us wrong.  Last night, their games included Who Can Dance More Wildly In The Isle, followed by Scream Super Loudly When Mom and Dad Stop Our Dancing, and, everyone's favorite, Yell At The Altar Boy To Stop Ringing The Bells.

After mass, they made up for it a bit.  We were talking with some friends, and we saw both our kids chasing down a toddler who was running away from them at top speed.  We didn't know the toddler or his parents, and we cringed as our kids close the gap, only to see them both squeeze the little boy in the biggest hug ever.  The toddler broke away, but this cycle repeated, with our kids gleefully yelling "Baby Boy!" as they pursued and embraced him.  Poor little guy, all of the adults were too amused to lend any assistance.

When we got home, we watched Cars and had some ice cream.  Then, out came the fireworks.  Well, party poppers.  (And of course I got out the camera to play with.)

Notice Annie's eyes are closed, because party poppers are SCARY.

Ellie was not especially amused, but Caleb loved it.

Then things got really crazy.  We turned off the light and busted out the glow sticks.

That's all for now.  God's blessings to all of you in the New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Guenzels!  This is as much of a Christmas Card as we're sending out this year.  So here goes.

Caleb and Ellie:


And greetings from the new baby:

We just had his/her ultrasound, and decided not to find out his/her gender.  May 8th is approaching fast!

Christmas was lots of fun.  On Christmas Eve, we sang happy birthday to Baby Jesus and blew out a birthday candle:

Christmas morning, Ellie woke up at her typically 6:00, but this time she and Daddy woke up Caleb and me to come downstairs and see what Santa brought: more Thomas the Train stuff for Caleb (including a Cranky the Crane!!!) and an Anna doll for Ellie!

Ellie preferred playing with Thomas the Train.

Even Daisy got something!
When it came time for 9:30 Mass, a certain little boy was completely unwilling to put on Church clothes.  So, this is how we went to Mass (the picture taken at Cameron's parent's house afterwards):

Yup, that's Caleb in his pajamas.  Oh well.

Speaking of kids in mass--Ellie and Cameron have been routinely hitting morning mass (while Caleb and I continue to sleep!).  It's incredible how sweet everyone has been about Ellie attending.  Cameron had someone stop him the other day in the parking lot afterwards to say "I just want you to know how much I enjoy seeing your daughter in Mass."  He proceeded to say that one of his struggles is in finding joy in our faith and having little ones in Church helps with that.  Sounds right, after all, joy is just overflowing from her chubby little face!

Ellie enjoys it, too.  The other day, a really sweet elderly woman who loves to say hi to Ellie was putting on her big, fuzzy, red coat, and Ellie pointed at her and shouted "ELMO!!"  Every day when she comes home from mass, I ask which priest celebrated it.  Although she can't say either name, she will say "YESHHH" when I say right priest's name.

One thing we've noticed over the past few months is how much easier taking kids to Mass gets with practice.  Not that we're much better with the kids--we've found it helps not to have toys or food in Church, but otherwise their behavior isn't much different than it was when we first started.  What is different is our reaction to our kids.  We've learned to simply relax.  And it's surprising how quickly we are able to transition between prayer, grabbing a kid from running towards the altar, and back to prayer again.  We always assumed that we would never get as much out of mass as before we had kids, but now we think we get even more.

And, of course, as distracted and even downright naughty as Caleb can be in Mass, we continue to see benefits from it.  Just the other night, Caleb, blowing out the Advent candles said: "I'm an altar boy!... and Superman."

In related happenings, on Saturday our diocese held an event by Bishop Emeritus Bruskewitz to "Bless the Baby Jesus," so Caleb and Ellie brought their baby Jesuses from their nativity scenes for his blessing.  They got a kick out of that.  

Afterwards, cookies and juice were served downstairs, which meant that dozens of kids were hopped up on sugar and running around in the room.  It was hilarious and crazy and fun.

That's all for now.  Merry Christmas to everyone!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What We Wore Sunday

It was an eventful week and weekend around here.  I came down with a bad stomach bug early in the week and spent several days pretty miserably.  Thanks to my mom who came over several days to help out.

Then we had the feast of St. Nick, and we continued the tradition I had as a kid: chocolate coins in shoes!

Oh and also this happened.

And this.

Saturday night mass was also eventful.  For some reason, both kids were AWFUL, and we had to take each out multiple times.  On the plus side, one of the things Caleb shouted out loudly during mass was "TABERNACLE!" when Daddy was quizzing him on the name of things in the Church.  At least's he's learning...

Mass was said for our friends who recently lost their infant daughter, so please remember them in your prayers tonight.

What I wore:

Sweater vest thing: JC Penny's
Maternity shirt: Target
Non-maternity stretchy skirt: New York and Co.
Boots: Target

Then today we had Caleb's third birthday party with the theme of Thomas the Train.

Cameron getting artsy.

Cameron insisted on putting this one up.

Oh, and also, we took our dog to the groomer saying we wanted her to have really short hair, and this happened:

 We have to tighten her collar several holes.  Poor girl will be cold this winter.  But at least we'll go a few months with less shedding!

For more What I Wore Sunday, go see What I Wore Sunday @ Fine Linen and Purple!  Thanks for reading and have a great week!