Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A family retreat... a change in focus

We've recently returned from the Domestic Church annual family retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

A family retreat... is it possible that those two words function in the same sentence, you ask? Last year, we had our very first retreat, and it was in St Francisville, LA. We had 19 families (complete with 43 children; 9 of whom were under that age of 1 year), and this year we traveled a bit further because the retreat was extended from 4 days to 8 days. It was a 14 hour drive for our LC crew ( minus 3 hours for us New Orlean-ians), and I want to give a shout-out to may AWESOME kiddoes for doing a fantastic job during that drive (both ways)! Aside from one child getting car-sick in the first our, it was COMPLETELY uneventful! Those kids survived it, and they did so without a DVD player (bc we don't have one, not because we're martyrs)!

There were 10 familes and around 25 children (one of whom was 5 weeks old)...
So what happens with our children? The children basically have their own mini-retreat going on simultaneously headed up by different adults each day while the other adults experience Scripture study, talks on prayer and the spiritual life given by different retreatants, and couple prayer and dialogue. That all takes place in the morning and evening sessions, but the entirety of the afternoon is dedicated to "family time" where we spend time together as families. This year involved many hikes, rock-hopping, swimming, creek-exploring, Biltmore sight-seeing, etc. Here's a few pics captured from those precious times...

 Chimney Rock North Carolina - we decided to hike the stairs up to it... no we weren't on anything, we just wanted a challenge. ALL the kids made it like champs... even Jacob the 2 1/2 yr old.

Is it possible? You think? There was a grocery store (for all us who had to continue to go to the store to buy milk and diapers), a wash-a-teria, and the retreat center was just like a Motel, with 2 queen beds in every room, towel service, and a HUGE porch covered with rocking chairs, and of course, complete with a full few of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My parents came on the retreat, too, which meant that we had Therese sleeping in their room every night, Jacob and John Paul in a bed, and Micah in a pac-n-play. So going to bed a night was hysterical with Jacob and John Paul leg wrestling (Jacob discovered new-found freedom not sleeping in a pac-n-play for the first time) and Micah would call out to them like a dog in the night... howwwl. After a few rounds of shh-ings by David we would eventually fall asleep... around 10:30. All the early risers with hang in a common room and drink coffee before morning prayer (complete with much sought after Community Coffee- sorry Maxwell House, you just don't cut it). It went beautifully! Much better than we ever expected.

A few things that I have decided to share with you about what God did for our marriage just in case your vocations/marriages may be in a similar place:

A retreat (a week-long especially) gives you time to evaluate your life and its details in a way that also give you a chance to work on a CHANGE to it (as opposed to simply seeing the problem then going home as a shorter retreat might do).

David and I came to 3 huge realizations (from our couple dialogue and couple prayer). I share it with you because it applies to you, it will change everything by the grace of God.

1) I have been focused on what God is NOT doing and being disappointed and resentful because of it.
2) David has been carrying our marriage when it comes to addressing walls between. I was a comfortable with complacency, and I relied on his sensitivity to certain situations and relied on him to bring up any problems that needed discussing. I imagine many marriages have one spouse who does a lot of the grunt work when it comes to the relationship dynamic, and I imagine that it's a lonely place. Since returning home, we've BOTH made a point of tackling walls AS SOON AS they come about. It's been helpful so far...
3) GOD has revealed to us that two things that HE desires for our marriage and for our family are JOY and AWE (yes we asked Him directly and waited in silence for His answer... it's part of the formation materials... I suggest trying it out!).

I hope this has given my readers (whoever/wherever you are) something to chew on. God is faithful and the fruits and graces of this retreat have been EVIDENT!!

God be praised!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A thought that punched me in the soul...

At Mass the other day, a precious priest named Fr John at St Anthony of Padua (where we've been frequenting since moving here) said something that has changed me...


A Christian by definition means to love another person. So as much as I have been pushing to have my "alone time" so that I can pray and talk to God in silence, a real Christian means loving others!

No don't get me wrong, I know that personal prayer is ESSENTIAL for the life of a Christian, but as David says, "Prayer is not a reality without the other"...

Now how 'bout that for a game-changer?  Being a Christian REALLY means pouring myself out for David and for these guys... and whoever else God sends our way.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Living on Carrollton: Week 1

Shall I compare thee to a summer's house? Thou are more large and much more... filled with exactly the same stuff from our regular house... A summer house. That's what I'm thinking of our time in Holly Grove (that's what this area of NOLA is called... who new?)

We have been blessed abundantly throughout our first week here. David walks to work, Micah has slept through the night 3 of the 6 nights, we've had visitors almost EVERY day, the zoo, the aquarium, Creole Creamery... and to top it all off, we are preparing to go on a family retreat in North Carolina for Domestic Church. That's right, our whole family gets to go on retreat together for a week with our precious DC community (don't you wanna join DC now??!?!) David's sister and uncle's family live down the street, I have a cousin and his fiance' here as well. So we are not without family.

David has likened this week to being in a foreign country: nothing is done on automatic pilot. We have to actively think through everything. Where's the pots? How do I do laundry when it's on the second floor? Where is a flippin' Walgreen's? I can't find my teapot to boil water for the French Press bc I had to return the coffee pot to a friend before we left. Oh and we have an industrial kitchen (beautiful gas stove and restaurant size refrigerator)... but no freezer. I've discovered that a freezer is overrated; so is a stainless steel fridge. Those little fingerprints are impossible to get out.

We are, as I've mentioned earlier, living here until our house sells, so we're still praying for that. And if you're wondering what to pray for, it's THAT!

We are on Carrollton Avenue, which means we get to see and hear a little bit of everything. The children are totally intrigued by streetcars, and because it's been our practice to pray a "Hail Mary" when we hear a siren, we're pretty much getting a rosary's worth of 'em by sunset. And this is the view that we have from our front porch:

The house itself used to be a shelter for women and children in situations of domestic violence, so when people see a full family (not mention MEN) coming in and out of this house, they are quite intrigued.  A lot of people are asking if we bought the house... I want to say, "Thanks for thinking that we look like we could afford a half a million dollar mansion, but know, we're renting it for NOTHING." I just chuckle and say that we're renting for a little while. But it has brought many people to our door welcoming us to the neighborhood. One precious couple even brought us flowers!

David loves his job, and he has already been able to answer one of my burning questions: Do you have to do marriage prep weekends?!?! The answer is a lovely NO! The Archbishop is on vacation for the entire month of July, so David says that he can do all his messing up while Archbishop Aymond is gone, than be perfect by the time he returns. Unfortunately, though, he has already been hit up to go on the the March for Life, but I can't talk bad about the friend who suggested it because he's a priest now. You're lucky Fr Tim... you're lucky.

So that's week one...
And yes, we have two guest rooms and two pull-out couches, so what are you waiting for? July 21 (when we return from retreat) we're back open for the Dawson B and B... our summer house.