Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
My dad always taught us that if we borrowed something, no matter what it was, we should return it in better condition than it was when we borrowed it. I’m pretty sure that applies to our children too. Before our first baby was born, my Grandma told me that the children I would bear weren’t mine, rather, they were a precious gifts on loan from the Father and it was our primary responsibility as parents, to help them get to heaven. Grandmas thinking may seem a bit countercultural today. The word might have us think our primary task is to get our kids on the most prestigious teams, the most elite dane troops or into the most impressive schools. While we’re aiming for first string, first chair and top score, Jesus is begging us to show our children that nothing is more important than giving him first place in our lives.
Holiness, simply put, is oneness with God so here are a few things we can do as parents to make good on our responsibility to help our kids grow in holiness and give the Lord first place.
*Pray with and for your kids every day. It’s hard for kids to understand the importance of Jesus and His Church if we rarely talk about it.
*Do as I do! Our kids imitate what we model. They need to see us pray, read scripture and trust in the Lord. We are teaching lessons when we’re cut off in traffic, talking about the frustrating co-worker at dinner or putting an envelope in the Sunday collection.
*As you travel to games, concerts, recitals and events, make sure to include some trips to the really important places like Sunday Mass, Eucharistic Adoration or even a quick stop to rest from the noise and chaos in a quiet, peaceful church. As christians, we know Jesus is with us always but a special stop to sit in his Eucharistic Presence is good for the soul. It also shows our children that Jesus is important enough to stop for.
*Say NO to the things that don’t point your kids to heaven. That could be screen activity, movies, music or friendships. Their holiness is more important than your popularity.
*Point them to the Holy Ones. The world sets before our children people who don’t always use their gifts and talents to glorify God. Since moving into a cave to shelter our kids from all of that isn’t very practical, we can shower them with stories of the holy men and women of our faith. Many of the saints lived crazy, amazing, adventurous lives and their stories are interesting and inspiring. Put them before your kids to serve as heroes and role models.
“Holy enough” is not a thing…holiness is a continuous journey toward the Father so as we help our children grow in holiness, we will find ourselves growing too and that is a very good thing!
A Seed To Plant: Pick something from the list and make a plan to put it into action this week.
Blessings on your day!
Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. 1Peter 5:7
Usually when I think about humility or God humbling me it’s painful or embarrassing. This weekend I was greatly humbled but it was not like that at all. I was humbled in a gentle, sweet, beautiful way. When I was a little girl I remember my Dad stopping one day and sitting me up on the hood of the truck so I could watch a combine gracefully and powerfully take down a field of wheat. It all seemed so huge and amazing to me as a child. I was in awe at how the whole process flowed together to complete a massive task. Dad made sure I was in the perfect spot to see the work and he let me ask as many questions as I wanted and then he just let me watch in silence and take it all in. This weekend was sort of like that except it was with my other Father!
As I set out Friday morning to go to Boise it was one travel hiccup after another but there was a peace in my heart and time after time God just guided me through it all. He put people in my path that were kind, friendly and funny. He walked before me and all the hiccups just resolved as I followed in his wake and felt his mighty hand at every turn. I went to Boise to share, teach and give, but I received much more than I gave. I had the beautiful opportunity to meet women who shared their stories of joy and sorrow and pain and triumph. They opened their hearts to share and pray and I was so very humbled to listen and pray with them. The mountains and the retreat center grounds were so beautiful and peaceful. I went to work, but instead I was humbled as I watched God work.
As I type this, I’m sitting in an airport waiting for the second flight that will take me home. I will get there shortly before midnight and tomorrow is the first day of school. I have a whole new batch of middle lovelies to set off on a new adventure with tomorrow. There are copies to make and plans to finish. There are things to think about and prepare for but he’s just letting me sit in silence with complete confidence and peace, knowing that he will show his mighty power. I’m sure I will wake up at 4:30 in the morning and hit the ground runnin…I’m sure my luggage will make it to Lansing…I’m sure I can catch a turn at the copy machine before school…I’m sure the peace and awe in his ability to organize and orchestrate even the teeniest detail will leave me humbled and in awe.
This weekend as he moved among the beautiful women at the retreat, I was filled with hope and joy and reminded of his mighty power. I thought today would be a good day to remind you of it too. I can’t lean on my own abilities but when I realize all he can do…all he’s waiting to do for us if we ask, I feel like that little girl sitting on the hood of my daddy’s truck just taking it all in!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes today to be still and notice things that have fallen in place and then humbly thank God for the good work. If things aren’t falling in place, ask him to get you out of his way so you can watch him work; the view is always better when you’re behind him!
Blessings on your day!
**When life gets busy...it calls for a re-post! This one goes back to the "little lovely" days. It's old but I still haven't mastered the lesson!
Be quick to listen. James 1:19
In our classroom, there are five student tables and in the center of each table there is a blue cup that contains pencils and erasers. Since seven year olds and electric pencil sharpener go together about as well as whip cream and onions, I am in charge of all pencil sharpening. One day this week I had carefully explained directions for a math page. I had answered all the questions and thoroughly checked for understanding, so I told the class they could begin. A few of them said something but I was busy putting a Band-Aid on a little girl’s hangnail and then the second grade teacher popped his head in my door to ask a quick favor and then I took a second to reply to a note one of the kids had given me from his mom. After dealing with all that, I did a quick scan and noticed none of the kids were working on their math so I said, “What’s up guys? Why aren’t you working?” One of the little lovelies said, “We’ve been trying to tell you that you picked up all our pencils to sharpen them before recess and you didn’t give them back.” I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry…instead I told them I needed more coffee! One of the girls told me later not to worry about it because kids are pretty used to grown-ups who don’t listen so good.
When I ran across this verse in my notebook of favorites yesterday, I knew it was meant for me. I love the way God thumps me over the head with His word sometimes. This verse seems a little strange doesn’t it? We are very quick to comment, very quick to evaluate, very quick to eat, and drive and clean and…the list goes on and on. We do almost everything quickly except listen. My mom used to say,“Girl, there is a reason God gave you one mouth and two ears…so you could listen twice as much as you talk.” After the pencil episode this week, I think I could use a little practice with listening.
One of the fascinating things about Mother Teresa was the way she lived this verse from St. James. People of every status and walk of life commented on the consistent and loving way she would listen. She had the amazing ability to listen completely and compassionately as if the person speaking was the only other person in the room. That is a gift! The thing that makes living this verse so tough is that listening requires us to slow down, be present and do only ONE thing…listen. That seems so contrary to the way we spin through our days. Sometimes it’s these Scripture “one liners” that really throw us a challenge. Are you up for a challenge?
A Seed To Plant: Spend the next few days being the second person in the conversation to speak…start with a “hello” and follow it up with a spurt of careful listening.
Blessings on your day!
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
I’m sure we’ve all heard the line, “if you aren’t part of the solution; you must be part of the problem.” They are wise words but perhaps a bit misunderstood. I think being part of the solution doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem single handedly but rather making an honest attempt at working toward something better. There are some mighty problems in this world to be solved and I sure shootin didn’t cause them, plus I know for a fact that I am not in the position to solve them. So should I throw in the towel and go cry in the closet? Nope! I was reading an article about an amazing woman named Dorothy Day and she had one little idea that put it all in perspective for me.
Dorothy Day was a saving grace to so many who were left physically, spiritually and emotionally crippled by the devastation of the Great Depression. Her motives and actions were genuine, compassionate and life changing. She provided a beacon of hope during a time when there wasn’t much. She didn’t solve the financial problems of the day but she worked in her own way to be part of the solution one person and one family at a time. She didn’t offer money, but rather provided the most basic needs of the suffering. She offered dignity, shelter, hope and joy…so much joy. She didn’t give a lot ,but what she gave mattered greatly. She said, “We contribute to the misery of the world if we ignore beauty and joy in life. If we seek the will of the One who sent Jesus, we need to open our hearts to joy.”
It’s not hard to find the problems, but we get in a big pickle when we have an even harder time finding the beauty around us. It isn’t often we see a smiling baby or a gorgeous harvest moon on the front page of the paper or newsfeed but when we do see them they give us a lift. Who doesn’t love a good giggling baby video shared on social media? They just let us escape for a few minutes. After reading the article I realized my role in the solution was easier than I thought. It’s my job to connect with beauty and joy. John Ruskin was a famous art critic from England who used to say “We have the duty of delight.” That line made me realize we sometimes see joy and beauty and peaceful things as frivolous and non-productive. We think we have to work and take things to task and ponder serious matters in order to be responsible, informed citizens. Did you hear that, I think God just belly laughed!” We’ve got it so twisted up it isn’t even funny.
God is the maker of joy and beauty not the creator of evil, cynical, corrupt or absurd so why not focus on the things he made and leave the rest of the mess alone? Dorothy Day didn’t solve the problem of the Great Depression, but she sure was a solution to those she was able to bring delight to. Sounds like a much better way to spend my day, what do you think?
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit and make a list of things in your world that are beautiful and joyful and then go about the duty of delighting in them instead of stewing over problems you can’t solve. It is perhaps the most important work we can do!
Blessings on your day!
Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
I’m a pretty big fan of the “Gospel according to Sheri”. In other words, I often like to do things my own way, predict the ending I fancy and try to arrange every detail along the way. I can count the number of times that has worked well on one hand; and they were probably just happy accidents. As our house is about to become empty and quiet again I was questioning his plan when I happened upon this verse and it was a beautiful reminder that he has a job and so do I. His job is to manage the universe and each life he created and my job is to let him do his job. Seems pretty simple don’t you think?
Many of us are at a parenting crossroad and social media is about to blow up with posts about taking kids off to college and staring Kindergarten or the last year of high school, this verse just rings in my mind and echoes in my heart. It reminds me that our kids were designed to grow up not live in our basement until they were 30. Our kids were meant to learn, grow, travel and live. They are going to meet people and make friends; some will shape their character and some will test it. They are going to make great decisions steeped in the love and wisdom we’ve slathered them with and they will most likely make some not so great decisions and those will be where the real learning takes place. Independence is a great thing until we watch our kids creep away from us and use it! I’ve always heard people talk about growing pains but I didn't expect parents to be the ones who suffered from them the most!
Our youngest child begins her last year in college and that makes me feel really old! I’m really scratching my head wondering how that happened when I’m still celebrating my 29th birthday! The truth is, time races by whether we want it to or not and as parents, we want our kids to be happy and safe. Sometimes we worry but through the process of trusting, there comes great peace. The other night as I was thinking about my college senior and my soon to be married son it made for a long night and in the middle of that long night, I grabbed a pencil and paper and these thoughts just tumbled out. I’m sure they are from him because I would not be writing in a notebook at 2 in the morning just for my own amusement. I hope they just might come in handy no matter what new crossroad you find yourself at this day.
*Your child is mine…I love them more than you and I will care for them today and every day after.
*I parted a sea, I can make sure your child has someone to play with at recess.
*I put a piece of me inside them, just ask me to help it shine through them.
*Being mine is far more important than being on the team or the homecoming float so help them keep their priorities straight.
*The more time you spend in worry, the less time you spend in trust.
*I always know what’s best…it isn’t always easiest but it’s best because best is getting to heaven and only I know that path for your child.
*My plans for them far exceed yours…let me do my work and just pray for your child to cooperate.
*Tell them you love them but make sure they know I love them even more.
*Truth trumps popularity every single time so demand honesty.
*You can’t pass the test unless you do the lessons…and some lessons are really hard…let them do the work, especially when the lesson is hard.
*Trust me, thank me; when things are easy and when they are hard; don’t worry, I’m a very reliable Father!
*Pray for them and pray with them, speak my name together and often.
*My love isn’t attached to being first, best, beautiful, popular or perfect so please don’t let your love be either.
*It’s not your job to constantly rescue and save your child, one particular Friday my Father watched me suffer through something really awful that turned out pretty awesome! I knew he was there but he didn’t do it for me.
*Everything in life isn't easy...but everything isn't hard either; know that I'm there loving you through it all.
*If your child needs someone; I'll always get there first, teach them my call sign...JESUS COME!
A Seed To Plant: Write this verse on a post it and stick it somewhere you’ll see it when you worry then pick a couple things from the list that hit your heart or that might touch someone you know who is worried about a child and ask the Father to help you put it in motion.
Blessings on your day and on your Children’s backpack wherever they may be taking it this fall!
Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. Psalm 32:5
I spent some time in my classroom the other day trying to unpack and get ready to start a new year. After spending three hours there the best way to describe the way it looked as I turned off the light and walked out is “the cupboards threw up!” There were stacks of books, bulletin board fabric and border containers open and bulging out everywhere and piles of “things” on each available flat surface. The chairs are all stacked in a tall pile and the computers are still draped in blue plastic bags with cords coiled into neat spools. It looked so awful I’m not sure I want to go back! It’s amazing how much faster and easier it is to pack it all up in June than it is to unpack it all in August! It reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently that said, “I love vacation; it takes me 4 hours to pack and 4 weeks to unpack!” It was a painful reality when I consider the task every teacher faces when it’s time to get the room ready to go for a new school year.
The reality of the piles and the mess will make it hard to go back in there on Monday but it just has to be done. There is no magic spell or closet full of helpful elves that will sneak in under cover of darkness and get the job done so I’m just gonna have to buckle down and slug through it all. I have to focus on the first morning I will walk in and see that shiny floor, curtains hung, bulletin boards finished and everything all in its place. Eye on the prize kind of thinking I guess! I suppose it’s all so uncomfortable because it causes us to tackle the undesirable and most of us would like to slink away from that any chance we can. As I tripped over piles all afternoon I got to thinking about my bad habits and sinfulness. I’d much rather avoid those than deal with them! It’s pretty easy to take the bad stuff like my shortness of patience or my quick judgements and tuck them away like books in a closet but they need to be dealt with from time to time. If I didn’t acknowledge the mess in my room and the stuff on the bottom shelf I wouldn’t really be ready for my best school year. I suppose my eternal salvation requires the same attention. I realized as I was dusting, sorting and organizing, it’s about more than supplies; it’s about my soul. Every corner of my life needs some inspection, evaluation and action. There are things I need more of and definitely things I need less of!
When my room is ready I will waltz through the door with a light and cheerful heart but in order to get to that point I have to be willing to do the heavy lifting, the scrubbing and the sorting. As I plopped down next to a pile of text books and school supplies I figured I’d better pay twice as much attention to cleaning up my soul and addressing the things that distance me from the Father. Just like my classroom in June, it’s much easier to tuck it all away that pull it all out and deal with it! I think I’ll take some time this week to treat my soul like I do my classroom in August…unpack it all, sort it and do what’s necessary to put it all in order!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a cupboard or closet this week to unpack and clean…after you finish with it, go through the same process with your soul!
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I’ve said it a hundred times; “Comparison is the thief of joy!” But that doesn’t stop me from getting a little carried away sometimes. As a parent, I find myself exceptionally quick to compare. One of the really great parts of being a teacher is that I get to see families in action. I am impressed constantly at the parenting I see happening in this community. I’ve seen tough love, gigantic humor, incredible logic, deep faithfulness and inspiring mercy. When I see a parent do something awesome I often say to myself, “Geeze, why didn’t I ever do that!” I see parents who are more creative than I was, more patient than I was, more prayerful than I was and I often feel like I should send my kids a note of apology…especially the first one! Knowing what I know now, there are lots of days I’d like to go back a couple of decades and start over because my kids deserved a mom that was more fun, more carefree, and much less…well…nuts about things like picking up socks and brushing teeth and all the other stuff I thought was a big deal at the time.
When the comparisons get me all flustered, I stop myself and realize I did the best I could and that the kids have a super great dad who balanced me out. It’s about then that I also realize that the one thing I REALLY got right then (and now) is to pray for my kids dozens of times a day. That makes me sigh in relief because despite my shortcomings as a mom, God’s really the one in charge! Sometimes I still look back and hope I got more things right than screwy! I hope I taught them enough lessons about truth, compassion, faith and kindness. I think as parents we sometimes get lost in the fear of “did I do/ or am I doing enough.” We second guess ourselves and we compare. I think sometimes we hold ourselves to the most ridiculous, impossible standards. We let Pinterest be our compass. We think if we’re sitting still we’re wasting time and we forget that they are his, not ours. He made them perfect and no amount of glow in the dark slime, elite ball teams or private lessons in anything will ever top the perfection with which they were created, nor will I ever be able to top the love and protection the creator has for them. Comparisons are not the work of the Father.
As we prepare for the first of the three little Wohlferts to get married, I was feeling sentimental, old and inadequate. I was making this list in my mind of all the things we didn’t do like go to Disney, let the kids play every sport they wanted or take trips that exposed them to culture, art and travel. We went to Grandpas in Kansas, went camping and spent most of every summer raising livestock getting ready for the 4-H fair. I got a little carried away thinking I hadn’t done enough when I came across this letter written by a foster child from Oklahoma. It sort of put everything in perspective. The child was asked to write about the things they wanted in a family. Here is the response…
In my family I want food and water. Don’t hit on me. A house with running water and lights. I want love. Mom and Dad don’t fight. I want no drugs. Don’t kill my pets. Help me with school. Nice clean clothes. No lice or bugs in the house. Clean house and a clean bed with covers. Don’t sell my toys. To be treated fair. Don’t get drunk. TV in the house. Let me keep my games and school stuff. Nice shoes. My own comb. Soap. Nice safe house with a heater. A coat and a toothbrush.
After I finished my big ole ugly cry, I thanked God for my parents, then I prayed for the astonishing number of kids who could have easily written that letter and then I realized that things like trips, fancy stuff and being the Pinterest Mother of the Year meant nothing. Turns out I gave my kids more than I realized…they were prayed for, read to, loved, challenged and held responsible. They had to work and sometimes entertain themselves and figure things out. As I often do, I had let things spin sideways in my mind and left God’s work out of the picture, taking on the weight of it all myself. I suppose once again I got a lesson in trading comparison for gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the places you compare yourself to others. Pray with that list for a couple of days and then tear it up and ask God to help you replace those comparisons with gratitude. If you’re a parent, stop and say a prayer for each of your children right this minute and then go play; dinner can be late, laundry can pile up and dishes can be washed later…just go play for a few minutes! If you’re not a parent, what can you do to help one and all of us need to stop and pray for families everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
The page has turned to August which means I made my first trip to my classroom. There are still a few weeks of vacation left but the eighth month on the calendar signals something in my heart to begin again. It’s time to rediscover! Rediscover which cupboard I shoved my stuff in, rediscover the excitement of a fresh start and rediscover my love for this work I’m called to do. Todays guest blogger is one of the boys but there is an problem; I don’t know which one. This post is the electronic equivalent of forgetting to put your name on your paper. There are a few in my inbox with no name and since I can’ t hold up the papers to see who belongs to each one, and since it’s electronic and I can’t tell by the handwriting, I’ll just have to say this guest blogger is an amazing, anonymous writer. His points about knowledge and discovery seem to be the perfect fit for the beginning of August.
If you forgive others trespasses your heavenly father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14
Every time I entered the church while reading the book Rediscover Jesus, by Matthew Kelly, I asked myself, “What does Rediscover Jesus mean?” Since I finished the book I’ve been thinking about all I learned. I realize that just like Matthew Kelly says, knowing about Jesus isn’t the same as truly knowing and loving Jesus. That part seems pretty important.
A great example is going to mass. Sometimes we don’t want to go to mass because we don’t truly know Jesus. Sometimes we don’t want to do the right thing because it’s hard and because we don’t truly know Jesus. I can learn stuff about Jesus but that’s not the same as learning to really know him. Since he changes, depending on how much we need him and what we’re going through, we have to rediscover him again and again
I think the important thing I learned is that if you rediscover Jesus, your life will change for the better. You will grow as a catholic, and a disciple. Since then I’ve thought about the whole book I realized that if you rediscover Jesus, you forgive, you help, and you love others just as Jesus intended. Rediscovering Jesus is like knowing and acting…that’s harder but it sure changes you!
A seed to plant: Next time you enter the church, think to yourself “Do I really know Jesus or do I just know of him?”
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com