Pockets of Grace

It certainly seems that we’re all in the throes of summertime. Graduation party announcements are stuck to my whiteboard, an expected wedding invitation will arrive any day now and a quick glance at our family calendar tells me we’ve got plenty of things scheduled. Any casual conversation during a grocery store run-in indicates that summer is in full swing and we’re all “busy.”

If I take a step back from over-analyzing and fretting about those calendar squares, I see there is goodness within these summer months. My perennials came back to life this year in full abundance, exceeding any expectations I may have had during those cold winter months. The garden was planted weeks ago and is shooting forth good growth while we begin to anticipate its fruitful vegetation. Another homeschool year is complete and I’ve already begun ordering and planning our next school year. A couple of bigger outdoor landscape projects that we were determined to finish before July, have come to completion.

It takes a different mindset to retrain our focus and find the correct perspective, doesn’t it? As someone who is a planner and organizer, the over-filled squares and the endless list of “must do” can get me anxious. There’s never enough time in the day, the weeks are too filled and I’m too tired at the day’s end. It does take me numerous times throughout any given day to stop myself and look around. I only need to seek what is the next thing that needs doing. What does my day look like today (not the full week or month ahead)? Who needs me most this day?

When the world and life is swirling, my restless heart begins to do the same. My children notice my stress and rushed pace, right along with an unhappy household.

When I take a deep breath, rest in the Lord and pray a silent prayer, the outlook is much more simple. Do you know what I see? I call them “pockets of grace.” Moments of beauty, calm and living life uncomplicated. Do they last all day? Very rarely. I again get caught up in the bothering of daily life. BUT, I know they are there. I know that only through the grace I’m sent each day am I even able to accomplish the smallest (and largest) of tasks that my life and vocation call on me to do.

I look forward to this season of summer, even if it flashes by in a blur. I desire to be intentional this summer. To make time for people and not screens, relationships and reconnecting rather than disengaging in frustration, days of rest, a treasury of books read and picnic lunches at playgrounds before dropping off my older kids at rehearsal. I remind myself that these days are passing, things will slow down again when we cozy up with blankets on dark winter nights.

How can you make this a summer of slowing down? What small ways can you reconnect with family, friends and with Christ this summer? Look for the pockets of grace in your day and go to bed each night with a heart of gratitude. Maybe it’s just for surviving the summer carpooling, drop offs at VBS, swim lessons and other social events or maybe for that chance you were granted to serve someone.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

A Few (Of My Favorite) Places to Find Mary

Spring is the perfect time to honor Mother Mary and perhaps take a drive on a little adventure, don’t you think? As a child, our family often took Sunday drives to familiar and unfamiliar places. Most times they led to us checking out a well built and beautifully detailed church (Many were left unlocked back then.) and finishing out our journey by locating the nearest Dairy Queen. Now with my own family, we don’t make those same Sunday drives, but we have located a few great spots where we’ve found Mary. I’ll even share our favorite place to pray and honor Blessed Mother Mary at the very end!

  1. Grasshopper/Assumption Chapel, Cold Spring
Image of Mary at Assumption Chapel, commonly called Grasshopper Chapel, in Cold Spring (photo courtesy St. Boniface Church)

This was a common destination for our family when I was younger. Driving up the hill and finding the serene trees and quietness around the chapel was always a treasure. Being there was a prayerful experience, whether inside the cold granite chapel or enjoying a picnic out in the grassy areas. In the summer time, you can even head here for one of the Masses during their annual novena of Masses (watch the Visitor for dates). Read the story about how the chapel came to be and its significance.

  1. Stella Maris Chapel, St. John’s University

Grab your comfy shoes and head out for a walk along The Chapel Trail to find this hidden gem. St. John’s was also a common place where my family headed in my younger years, especially to walk out to the wooden pedestrian bridge that spans the freeway. Just last summer, I took my kids and we met up with my parents and brother’s family for an afternoon trek. With kids ranging from toddlers to teens and a couple of strollers, it made for quite the eventful memory, but it was great to see the renovations and enjoy the woods.

  1. Mary Garden, Sacred Heart Church, Sauk Rapids

Living an hour away from St. Cloud, we only recently discovered this one while on our Holy Thursday Seven Churches visitation tour. Tucked away around the side of the church, following the pleasant path and over the bridge, you’ll find Our Lady of Guadalupe. (I’d like to see this one when in summer bloom.)

  1. Our Lady of the Hills, Millerville

If you’re up for a pleasant country drive to find a 22-foot high Mary beyond the Alexandria area out on a gravel road, this one is for you. The statue was built in 1993 in thanksgiving for answered prayers. The size alone is captivating and kids are impressed with her magnitude in this little hidden away spot. While you’re out driving, you could also make a stop to climb up to Inspiration Peak, the highest point in the area, to gaze out over the land and praise God’s goodness. This makes a great Sunday drive, and family memory worthy outing. Find a bit more and directions here.

  1. Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, Christ the King Church, Browerville

While stopping in to visit the church a couple of summers ago (If you haven’t seen this magnificent church, you really should stop in and pay Jesus a visit in this exceptional place.), we found the rock grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Set in the small wooded area next to the church, it’s a sweet alcove to stop and pray while taking in the enormity of God’s creation in the shadow of the towering church. If you’re following my family’s tradition of ice cream treats along the way, Cherry Grove Market on the edge of town serves up hand dipped ice cream in their little store (closed Sundays).

  1. Mary Garden, Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre

This is our family favorite! Being that we’re just a short 15 mile drive from this peaceful spot (and there’s a DQ in this town as well), it has become a favorite place to stop for a few minutes, to pray an the rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. Set to the side of the church, between it and what used to be a parish house, once you step within the well designed and landscaped garden with climbing greens and statues of the archangels along with Mary, serenity overcomes you. It is well tended and the flowers are always so exquisite that it surely is just a glimpse of heaven.

Whether it be in your home, church, town next door or a Sunday drive away, find a way to encounter Mary this May or this summer, in a new and special way. May she keep you under her mantle of watchful protection.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

With great hope

While I sit here, I can hear my three littlest kids out on the porch playing in the 20-something degree April weather. What cruel and unusual punishment old man winter decided to deal us this Spring! I’ve already written off April, deciding that we’re just going to lose a whole month of Spring, brown grass and fresh air. Right about now, we all need that new air in our lungs and those of us with younger kids have been hanging on desperately to turn the calendar page to finally get out of the winter season.

There is something that Spring brings and it’s always with a great hope that we long for it, especially when we are in the thick of Winter. How could the season that brings new life, new color and all sorts of new beginnings to our corner of the earth, not be one of great anticipation?

We dressed in our Easter finery (even baring our toes in new sandals), running to the risen Christ who brought us beautiful hope at his resurrection. The sacrifice and struggle of our Lenten journeys behind us (But still with us in the form of our growth in that season.) as we joined in expectant joy celebrating his revealing himself to Mary and the apostles.

When we are a people of faith and of longing, we cannot help but hope. We long for light in our darkness, answers to our long awaited prayers, signs to ease our troubled minds and hearts and we hold on to these sometimes tiny threads through the gift of hope.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of hope is this:

 

            to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true;

            to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment, to expect with confidence

         

The Catholic Dictionary defines it this way:

            The confident desire of obtaining a future good that is difficult to attain. It is therefore a desire,  which implies seeking and pursuing; some future good that is not yet possessed but wanted, unlike fear that shrinks from a future evil. This future good draws out a person’s volition. Hope is confident that what is desired will certainly be attained. It is the opposite of despair. Yet it recognizes that the object wanted is not easily obtained and that it requires effort to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way.

The Easter season and Spring fit intricately together, fulfilling those desires for both the liturgical and seasonal changes. We look forward to and embrace the new life in both of them, the longer light hours of our day, the brighter places in our prayer life that were brought about by the season of Lenten observances, and the celebration of Church feasts that follow the Resurrection. We continue to desire and seek hope around us, warding off the desolation and despair that even things like more snow in April tend to bring our way.

I look forward to continuing to rejoice in this Easter season and even optimistically look toward the prospect of mud season. If you know me or you have little kids who cannot ignore the smallest mud puddle, then you know that this is really letting go for me. Letting go of the dark and the cold, the confinement and the snow and truly reveling in the release and rebirth that is Easter. Even if it doesn’t look like it outside my window.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Don’t Give Up On Lent

It’s been a bit of a “muddling through” kind of Lent, it seems. I suppose that doesn’t sound quite right in a way. It’s probably because it just doesn’t really ‘feel’ like Lent. That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress or determination to follow the prayer, fasting and almsgiving standards. I even set the bar low this year with the aim just to follow a small handful of spiritual and physical to-do’s, so that I could intentionally spotlight those areas that needed adjusting.

‘Flourish’ is my word of the year for 2018 and, as I prayed and jotted down Lenten ideas, they seemed to fall under flourishing. There it was, “Flourish this Lent.” Based on something I had recently read suggesting that Lent should reset, pare away and focus on the important, those became my three main focus categories. I could easily come up with areas of struggle that fell under each. I’ll admit that while they look simple on paper, following through in action has proven challenging. Breaking a cycle and changing my ways is hard work, but it took me longer than a short season to acquire these bad patterns. Digging in and prayerfully breaking them down like a chisel to the stone will be part of the duration, not just this liturgical season.

From day one of Lent 2018, two meaningful themes rose to the surface indicating more of what I also needed to find in this season: healing and forgiveness. It became apparent that there were wounds that were going to take time to heal and forgiveness needed to be given. These were not on my agenda and I easily became frustrated that God would ask a bigger task than I felt I could fulfill in six weeks. Small steps and amazing grace will help guide these areas over time.

Those seemingly low bar items on the list have naturally provided me with plenty to work on and God has seen to it to present me with numerous ways to chip away at them. I guess because I don’t feel like I’m being challenged or in great physical pain this Lent doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. I’m in this game for the long haul and it doesn’t all end with Easter morning celebrating. I am just beginning and so are you. We are still in this (sometimes) grueling season, but it is a time of preparation that will reach far beyond Easter. It is a time to renew and pull ourselves back into our relationship with God. Don’t be so quick to wish it away. Dive in. There’s still plenty of time.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

 

 

If I but touch the hem

When a common theme comes up in your prayer time or the Scriptures, do you hear it? Do you stop to listen and take heed?

I’m certain that such recurring themes are not usually coincidence. Especially not when they fall within a time span of less than one week. When those promptings happen, they tend to stir the heart and get the gearboxes in my mind starting to move.

Consider these recent Scripture passages (emphasis mine):

“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  Mark 5: 25-34

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them,”Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”   Mark 5:38-41

“Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6: 56

 Reading these over again kind of makes me appreciate the Gospel of Mark with new fondness. When I sat in the pew on Sunday and Father Sudhansu (a priest in themSauk Centre parish cluster) in his homily spoke the sentence that I had been contemplating for several days, my husband and I did a sideways glance and smiled at one another. Father Sudhansu said,

“Those who are in need of healing want to just touch Jesus.”

 These people in the scriptures lay aside everything in order to be near Jesus, meet him, just touch him. This is what we seek, isn’t it? We walk by faith and sometimes it’s only the thread of hope that we grasp. Our bodies and souls are in varying degrees of a need to be healed. In the darkness of the night, I too feel it.

“Jesus, I need you. There is this area of my life, a relationship, unforgiveness, anger, fear, hurt, despair, that I cannot move away from. I cannot fix on my own. Come near me, Jesus, let me just touch your cloak.”

 As Father Sudhansu also mentioned in his homily, just as Jesus felt power go out from him when he was touched, there is a strength and energy that leaves each of us as we hug another person, “Like 1,000 horsepower of electricity!” While Jesus sees our need for healing and He offers that healing to us, He may also send that healing to us through the embrace of a human touch that we can feel and see, or send us to deliver that healing embrace to another for him.

 Maybe now is the time that Jesus is passing by and saying, “Arise! Your faith has healed you, my child.” Let us ask Jesus for strength to walk forward to a path of healing that draws us closer to Him. Now is the time. Arise, my brothers and sisters!

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Word of the Year {Part 2}

This is the second in a series.

Right around the same time that baby Joy entered my world via a computer screen, another face also joined hers. This one was slightly familiar, but only by name and photo. Her name was Mallory. Another Facebook post from a friend led to Mallory’s Caring Bridge site and her story which was just unfolding. I had connected with Mallory’s mom several years prior when both of us were just blogging moms whose paths happened to cross. I met Lori twice in recent years and found her to be a faith filled woman whose smile and kind heart left an imprint. Now her family needed prayers as Mal was diagnosed at Christmas time (2016) with rhabdomyosarcoma, a fairly rare malignant pediatric cancer. After a few initial procedures, an MRI and then a CT scan were ordered, and it was confirmed that a cancerous mass was in Mal’s left nasal cavity.

Feeling inadequate, being limited by miles and connection with the family, our family started to pray. It was all that we knew to do in order to help in some way, just as we were praying for baby Joy at that same time as well. With each Caring Bridge update and photo posted, even from across a screen something still came through in great prominence. Mal’s family motto during her hospitalizations and treatments followed a theme, that of St. Padre Pio: “Pray. Hope. And don’t worry.” Their own persistence in prayer and faith began to lead and deepen my own. While I’d always been prayerful, it became evident early on in our following Mal’s journey that God had more in store. Our family became constant prayer warriors for Mal, along with sending words of encouragement and love as often as we could during the months that followed. We connected deeply with this family whom we barely knew, celebrating the triumphs of cancer treatment and hopeful prognoses, along with the heartbreak of new challenges Mal faced.

Photo taken Oct. 30, when Mallory was visited by Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Through it all, Mallory’s faith never faltered, she never saddened or lost hope in God. And one day as I stared at the screen captivated by the face I saw there, I realized what it was that I was seeing. JOY. As if for the first time, I recognized it. My word for the year wasn’t for my own happiness in what life was going to bring me in 2017. Joy was something I was going to learn. It was being shown and taught to me by following the example of a simple teen whose focus was on Christ while she traveled down an unexpected path. Throughout her suffering, she still shared joy and a smile. She was showing people like me how beautiful life in Christ really is and accepting that He would use her as an instrument for others. From what I’d read over all those months in comments and journal entries, it sounded like young and old alike found joy through Mal’s life and the faith she lived out daily, even before a cancer diagnosis.

Mallory with Sarah’s daughter, Gianna.

In September, our family met up with Mal’s family in Duluth while we were in town for a few days. It was a surreal encounter for all of my family and being able to touch the person and spend time with the family for whom we’d been praying for months. I think I still feel her embrace and playback her gentle smile. While that was both the first and the last time I’d touch her physical body, it will not soon be forgotten. Not two months later, on November 7, Mallory’s earthly fight was over and her eternal life began.

At Mass on the Sunday after Mal passed away, I remembered how much Mal loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. After communion I had this overwhelming sense of the joy that Mal was feeling as she beheld the throne of God and the unexplainable magnitude of heaven. It was the first time in days that I caught a glimpse of some meaning behind Mallory’s passing. Her place in heaven was prepared, she was ready and she no longer needed to go through the earthly pain.

Sometimes with joy also comes sorrow. Had I known when JOY was placed on my heart what it truly would mean, I wouldn’t have imagined it quite the way that it ended up. God’s intricate weaving is like that sometimes, creating beauty within a tapestry of sadness that our human minds cannot grasp.

You can read Mallory’s Caring Bridge journal and share in her story at her site by clicking here.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Word of the Year {Part 1}

It’s become a practice of mine over the last several years as one year closes and the new is in view, to think and pray about a word to focus on/intentionally seek out for the upcoming new year. They tend to pop up unexpectedly and yet so perfectly. Three years ago, the resounding word that popped up everywhere that December was FIAT (meaning ‘yes’) and I tried to push it away. The main reason? My primary point of reference for fiat was Mary’s ‘yes’ to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. The human, tired mom side of me felt that God’s prompting to me with the word fiat couldn’t possibly mean an unexpected ‘yes’ from me to embrace and carry another pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I most definitely were open to having more children. I just don’t know that the realistic side of me was ready to accept it beautifully, but God knew. Looking back, He had already been preparing me and my heart to be open even where I didn’t see it. And guess what? Shortly into that new year of 2015, we found out we were expecting a new little one in September. Oh gosh, how I laughed (and cried)! And you better bet that pregnancy took more ‘yeses’ and being resigned to God’s plan rather than my own “perfect” one. You also should know that fiat turned into a boy that we couldn’t possibly imagine our family without. Fiat definitely was meant to be for 2015.

Fast forward to December of 2016 and I became aware of the word JOY entering around every corner. Brushing it away, assuming it was because it was near Christmas and that word is often used in décor and references everywhere, I continued to seek something different. There was no avoiding it. Even as the first days of 2017 began, joy still found its way. I wondered where I would perhaps find new joy or maybe a different way to be joy-filled each day in my vocation. I most certainly could use a brush up in attitude and true happiness in my life and vocation, so I was up for it.

It didn’t take long for me to learn that joy was to be found in circumstances and two particular people, a toddler and a teen, to stir me to the core.

Within a day or two of solidifying JOY as my word, God put before me the story of a little girl, baby Joy, as I opened my Facebook newsfeed one early morning. I read the horrifying story of a toddler, not much older than my youngest, who was in a coma due to a drowning accident over Christmas (read Joy’s story here). Tears filled my eyes as I read Joy’s story and the urgent request for prayers. Her parents’ faith and humble intentions that she just be given the chance to survive, prodded my own belief in a miracle.

My family and I joined prayer warriors across the globe who heard about baby Joy. My heart connected to Joy’s mother, Kristin, a woman whom I’d never met, but with whose motherly heart I could identify. In the days and weeks that followed, I checked Facebook for any updates as often as I could each day. There was something about being united in prayer, but also witnessing a miracle as it unfolded. Joy had gone from being without a heartbeat for nearly thirty minutes, to coming off of a ventilator and out of a coma, to smiling and laughing. Later in January, Joy left the hospital and I watched the video with tears streaming down my face and cheering her on.

I kept praying for Joy and her family, thinking of them often. I still followed her journey on Facebook and was delighted to read any updates I found (especially this one at National Catholic Register).

I learned a lot about the power of prayer and the impact of a single life in the world. I’ve seen how the smile of a radiant, life-filled toddler who is a walking miracle can draw the family of God together through even the most tragic life events. I also found that what God was teaching me about joy would be a link to deeper, unforeseen relationships to the body of Christ.

This is part one in a series.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Advent Series: Grasping for Meaning

Advent is moving forward with momentum, but I guess that isn’t something new, is it? Once I found out my beloved season would be cut short by a whole week I knew I needed to be intentional this year.
I was heard on several occasions in September and October lamenting to my husband that I was already running out of time. Back then, it was about Christmas gift shopping and that was my focus. I wanted to go back to my old ways from a few years back where most of the gift purchases were complete by the beginning of Advent. I knew that for me, the stores and crowds were a trigger point for stress in years past. I’ve also found that online shopping and having gifts delivered to my door cuts down on overspending as well.

Having the opportunity just to pop in the store only for needed family essentials these last couple of weeks has been helpful in letting myself settle into the season differently. Yes, there still was the decorating and the gift wrapping along with baking, but those things could be taken in stride more easily on days at home that allowed more time to do them.

I also discovered that when I have had to make those quick stops I was more aware of all the “stuff” that surrounded me and sent me into sensory overload. I’ve done most of the errands on solo trips, so it allowed me to notice more without my own children to manage. My eyes saw the overstocked shelves, along with extra displays of “things” to fill stockings and gift bags. My ears heard squabbling siblings, disgruntled parents and bickering spouses disputing gifts and money.

My heart felt sad and heavy. In those overcrowded stores, we were all bombarded with ideas and things and stuff while we whizzed past others in what felt like cart wars to get in to the shortest check out lane. We’re all searching, preoccupied and overwhelmed. What are we looking for? Maybe happiness, joy, peace or satisfaction of some kind.

And we’re all missing it.

We’re preparing. We are once again on a journey to a manger where an infant is born to save us all. Humbly and simply, He was born. We tend to miss the message in the flurry of activity that the post-Thanksgiving weeks bring to our calendars.

How can we make these last days of Advent count? How can we settle in, even for a few moments each day, to discover the true meaning of Advent? Who needs us this Advent? We are surrounded in this world with so many human beings who do not need some-thing, but some-one. How about those elderly who are alone and without family to visit them? The neighbor who is not able to bake on their own any more, but may appreciate the cookies? The family at church who is mourning through their first Christmas without a loved one? Or your own family member whom you struggle most to love?

All is not lost. There’s still time. Where can you spread joy, peace, comfort and love as a gift to the infant Jesus?

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Saints in the Ordinary

The first snowfall was right outside my window and I was sitting in my house weighing my options. I had obligations, both to God and to my family on this particular day.

All Saints’ Day tends to be one of my favorite Holy Days and it’s like one of those “Amen” kind of Catholic days. The day where I call to mind all of these amazing and holy men and women who have ran the race and finished well. These holy souls who I call friend, intercessor, confidant and role model.

But this day, I had kids with schedules and commitments, so that meant the handful of Mass options in the area could realistically only come down to one for us. It also meant, like it does on most Holy Days, that I take a shift with all the kids while my husband takes a pew on his own at a different Mass option. The snow was making the little ones even more excitable as they watched it out the window and it was making me more frustrated. I didn’t have time for this! How inconvenient of the weather to ruin my All Saints day.

I readjusted my tarnished halo, bundled up the kids and prayed a prayer for safety as we headed out on the road for the fifteen mile drive to church. The roads were far from ideal and I ended up tailing a truck with a cattle trailer the entire drive. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to speed today any way. (Bless me Father for I have sinned, I may have in the past.) I tried to refocus my heart while feeling anxiety creep in my chest. Scurrying about from home to church, back home again and then in the opposite direction to another activity wasn’t really how I’d wanted to spend my day. We parked in the lot and were accompanied by others who were rushing in to Noon Mass over their lunch time, along with many members of the older generation. We were greeted by the kindly gentlemen ushers as I scanned the seating arrangements. Of course, the good hearted Catholics took up most of the back half of church, allowing no room for a weary mom with five kids to slide in and remain anonymous. I decided that was fine and, after arriving to church with minutes to spare, I most certainly deserved a place in the front third of the church. I settled in and calmed myself as I prepared for Mass to begin. I allowed myself to familiarize myself again with the unsurpassed beauty of this particular church. As the choir sang the Gloria, God nudged me a little reminding me that all of this is why I love my faith, love our rich traditions and respect such things as obligations of Holy Days.

God also allowed for opportunities to grow in my own humility and saintly endeavors during that Mass as the toddler threw his pacifier past the lady on the other end of our pew and into the abyss of the side aisle. Or when the toddler also figured out that the thick rope that held the kneeler also could be played much like a banjo. I tried not to let them bother me while pretending to be Super Mom as the Keeper of the Pew. If only they all knew that secretly in my mind I was certain that my wish to remain inconspicuous during one Mass was once again too lofty a saintly goal. I pressed on, determined to call on the saints and angels to give me peace and serenity in that moment. After all, I had gotten us all to Mass safely and on time and I knew that one way or another God would bless it. The final blessing had come and the final hymn had been sung. We began putting on the winter coats and hats to leave church. I felt an inner sigh regretting that it just didn’t feel as special this time around. I suddenly heard a voice from the gentleman in the pew behind us. I turned, ready to defend, but stopped short.

The man smiled a broad smile, leaned in and said, “You’re doing a marvelous job”.

I smiled back, held back the tears and nearly hugged the sweet older man. He had no idea that on that day my motherly confidence was lacking and, while I was being a dutiful mom and Catholic, I felt anything but saintly.

Never doubt the impact of your simple words to that person in the pew in front of you, the smile you send across the room or the promptings telling you to reach out to someone today. You just may be the saint on earth modeling those in heaven, by just one gesture or word. Choose to make that look and those words ones of encouragement to build up the kingdom of God.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Harvest and Labors of Love

I found myself rather unprepared to flip the calendar to October. I’m not really sure why it came as a surprise, but my September came and went in such a flurry. I suspect that the part of me who loves to relish in the beauty and serenity of crisp fall mornings and brightly displayed foliage, finds October to be bittersweet. While it does happen to hold my birthday, it also brings about the return of earlier evening darkness and more gray days that come along with it. I find myself with thoughts of Christmas gift planning and how to strive toward a more meaningful Advent already coming to the forefront of my mind, even before the dreaded white stuff flies. I guess I’m a glass half empty sort of gal come autumn. The carefree me wants to hold tightly to the days of summer gone by, missed opportunities and bucket list things we just didn’t get around to this year. The practical side of me says that all these things pass and as the leaves turn and drop, there will also be good times to warm ourselves indoors and reconnect as a family again.

This year I’ve found myself ever more aware of harvest and the weather for farmers. While I am not a farmer myself, we live in an area where large farms are the norm and their operations are enormous. What hard work and endless hours they toil and labor! I’m not sure I’ve ever appreciated and marveled at their commitment and tenacity as I have lately. On the blustery days while I’ve sat inside tending to my tasks, they are dodging rain days and missing out on some of their own precious family time. The massive tractors, combines and semis that pass by provide a constant flow of loud traffic by our home these days. Everywhere I drive in our area, another field is being turned over, beans and corn harvested and day or night, equipment is making its path.

While I sat with the weekend before me, I was overwhelmed by my own harvesting and labor yet to be done. There are apples to be turned into applesauce and canned pie filling, many gallons of frozen tomatoes that I stockpiled during picking await becoming spaghetti sauce, soup and tomato sauce and the squash needs to be baked, scooped and frozen. Thankfully, the potatoes sit in the corner of the garage just waiting for consumption and don’t need any immediate attention. I needed to stop myself for a moment and thank God for His bounty this year. Although my garden did seem to lack in the thriving department based on seven mouths to feed, I at least had the land, time and knowledge to grow a garden. Maybe the harvest wasn’t in abundance, but it will be a welcome gift during the winter months when I can go to my freezer or canning cupboard and pull out something that God helped me to grow.

When I actually stopped to think about all of this goodness and thank God for it, despite its potential failure, a small piece of perspective gave me a clearer view. If I consider the hard work of the farmer, rather than details like how the soybean harvest leads to an influx of lady beetles in my home, I find a different view that sees the hard work of the landowner. I come to recognize better that my work is not my own. My work is His work. Together, we share in this labor of love, but we all most likely benefit from it as well.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.