Tag Archives: vocation

Interview with an Everyday Catholic: Theresa Thomas {June’s Dreamer in the Spotlight}

28 Jun

Theresa Thomas
Source: The Integrated Catholic Life

I am so honored to be featuring Wife/Mother/Home-schooler/Writer Theresa Thomas, as this month’s Dreamer in the Spotlight! She is the co-author of the recently released book, BIG HEARTED: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and blogs at Theresa Thomas~Everyday Catholic. She also writes articles for The Integrated Catholic Life and Today’s Catholic.

A funny thing that I have to share is that while preparing to do this interview, I discovered that Theresa’s family and my family actually went to the same small parish at the same time until I moved to Tennessee. When I saw her beautiful family photo on her blog some members looked familiar, but I didn’t make the connection until I discovered that she lives in South Bend, Indiana. It’s a small world for sure! I often marveled at how well- behaved all her children were during Mass!

Anyway, without postponing this inspirational interview any longer, here it is! As you’ll see, it’s packed with great wisdom and touching moments!

How do you balance writing, homeschooling, and caring for a large family?

Well, it’s like golfing. You aim toward the pin (set your goals) then you hit the ball where it lies (roll with the punches). If you think too much you’ll ruin your swing (rhythm, routine). You have to find your own personal feel, react decisively on instinct and be natural. Yes, I’m married to a golfer. 🙂

Seriously, balancing these things can be like a tightrope walk, but the best way I’ve found to approach it is with love and humor. Things go wrong sometimes- that’s just life. Also, I’m going to make mistakes- we all make mistakes- but just diving in, trying hard with focus, keeping a smile on my face and love in my heart (even when the rice spills all over the floor or I can’t find my car keys or someone loses her spelling book, or one of the girls informs me that her toe poked through her ballet slipper and her instructor said she has to have new ones by next class in one hour) is my best advice and the way I balance!

I try always to put family first. I made a vow to my husband and to God. So everything –and I mean everything- comes after my responsibility to them. That being said, taking care of myself is part of that- it’s important because I’m no good unless I’m well nourished and rested. Moms can only give what they have, so I try to take the time to eat well, exercise, pray and get enough sleep. I do that for all of us. 🙂 I wrote about this all here.

Raising a large family is a challenging endeavor. Children need attention in a myriad of ways. Meals have to be made. The house has to be cleaned. My first responsibility is my vocation of wife and mother, and homeschooling is part of that vocation, a chosen part of that vocation so it is integrated into our daily life.

Photo by Scott Leonard of Valentino's Photographics (Granger, IN)

Photo by Scott Leonard of Valentino’s Photographics (Granger, IN)

Writing mostly comes early in the morning or late at night, when everyone is in bed. I have a column due each month for Today’s Catholic and I try be organized and write ahead, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say sometimes I’ll have a noon Friday deadline and it’s 11:25 and I’m still punching out at the computer! That’s just life! Because of the topics of my writing, I’m often invited to speak on various radio programs. Twice I’ve forgotten a scheduled interview and had to wing it. Once was at 6:50 a.m. and I was actually still in bed when the phone rang. I jumped up and seeing the caller ID was the radio station, I cleared my throat about six times before I answered. I scrambled around while it was a commercial and I was able to quickly make some coffee while the producer was putting me on hold for the host. Once we got talking the interview actually went fine but boy, was my adrenaline pumping at first! So, am I balanced? Sort of. Most things get done, although not always perfectly! And thank goodness for radio where you can do interviews in your pajamas. 🙂

In regards to homeschooling—

David and I determined after much research, prayer and discernment 18 years ago that God was leading our family to homeschool (until high school), and it takes 100% of our time. Homeschooling is a way of life. It’s a way we parent. It’s just part of the rhythm of our days, and one way we try to say ‘I love you’ to our children. Homeschooling isn’t for everybody, but it is for us, and I believe that somehow it is an important part of my children’s formation for their eventual mission in the world.

God gives different families different charisms, different gifts, and as parents we are to discover God’s will not just for us and our children individually, but also for our individual families. I believe that homeschooling is part of what God is calling our family to do. Other families have other callings. This is ours.

I struggle just the same as everyone else with balancing work and play in a large family. My house is not always in order, and worries and concerns pop up here just like everywhere else. Sometimes, like any other mother I slump down in a chair and look up to heaven and ask, “Really, God?” One day, in the midst of a particularly trying day, I sat down at the kitchen table and started laughing hysterically- nothing more could have gone wrong that day and it was the only thing left to do. One of the girls walked in and I’m sure was like, “Mom has lost it.” No, that’s how I find it- peace that is. You have to be able to laugh. Life is ironic and funny and challenging, sad and sorrowful and a million other things. There’s time for seriousness for sure, but knowing when to laugh keeps levity and right perspective.

Being a mother is like being a baby who is learning to walk- you try, you fall, you get up and try again. It’s the only way, really. You just keep moving forward with joy and hope. Then one day you’ll be standing there and look back and say, “Hey, I did that!”

How would you define what it means to be big-hearted, especially in the context of family life?

Being big hearted is a way of thinking and acting. It is putting others first. We have a few little favorite catchphrases in our family. One is “it is a privilege to serve.” Ten and twelve-year-old big sisters know this when their little sister asks for a drink of water. Big brothers know this when a younger sibling asks if they’ll play catch. My older sons who have graduated from college and are out of the house are great. They will phone or text their younger siblings to find out what is happening in their lives and give advice and encouragement. Being big hearted is looking out for others ahead of yourself, and that starts first with siblings and family, and extends out to the rest of the world.

Being ‘big hearted’ doesn’t necessarily mean having a big family- it can mean that of course, but families are big hearted when they welcome a child with a disability, adopt, open their home to grandparents, or in a thousand other ways serve others. Being big hearted can be doing small things in the home with great love. Big-hearted families are easy to spot. They are not perfect. They simply try to love radically. Inevitably, these families are marked by joy. Their hearts are open. We can all be big-hearted.

You shared some great personal stories of your own family in BIG HEARTED. Could you share another special big-hearted moment that wasn’t in the book?

Well, I don’t frequently share that I battled cancer eight years ago, but I did. I was personally challenged to big-heartedness in April of 2005. I had to accept the cross that was offered to me. On April 5, 2005 I gave birth to my ninth baby. Within two weeks, my 20-year-old youngest brother was killed in a car accident, and the day of his rosary at the funeral home I went in for a biopsy. Two days later I was diagnosed with cancer- Hodgkins lymphoma to be exact. The story of part of my struggle was published here.

Through this experience I was challenged to be true to my Catholic faith and reject artificial birth control. It wasn’t easy.

On a lighter note, one personal family big-hearted moment occurred recently when my husband and I were sitting in the family room after dinner together. Our two youngest daughters surprised us by calling us in the basement to visit their ‘restaurant’. Of course we dropped what we were doing and went downstairs. Children need the gift of our time and when we gave it to them that night, we were really the ones who were blessed. The whole story of that is here.

Being big hearted is not just doing amazing things outside your own family, but by doing little things with great love inside the family too. Parents can be big-hearted daily simply by giving their children their time and attention. They will find that that type of big-heartedness reaps big rewards.

Do you have a favorite book, quote, song, or movie that motivates and inspires you?

Yes!

File:It's A Wonderful Life.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my all time favorite movies. What a gift to be able to know what your sacrifices and love have done for others! I think some day in heaven we will all look back and see the ripple effect we had on others’ lives, both good and bad. This movie is great on so many levels- it has a hardworking, feminine, beautiful loving mother (Mary), a selfless, honorable, full-of-hope-and-dreams father (George). It’s a story of integrity, hope, love and meaning. It captures so much about what life is all about. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is truly a big screen big-hearted story!

I have several favorite quotes:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (Mother Teresa)

“Do small things with great love.” (I think this has been attributed to several sources including St. Therese and Mother Teresa)

And this, which I’ve had taped on my wall for many many years.

“Let nothing disturb thee. Let nothing dismay thee. All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” -St. Teresa of Avila

~

Thank you, Theresa, for sharing so much of yourself with us today!

For more about BIG HEARTED, please read Theresa’s interview with Randy Hain.

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

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A Reflection on 8 Years of Marriage

25 Jun

6-25-05

The above photo is one of my favorites! Adam and I were so happy to share this special day with so many of our close friends and family members! I remember not wanting to leave the next day to drive from Indiana down to Tennessee, because it was so wonderful to be around so many people I loved at one time! Occasions like this must be a small taste of what heaven will be like!

Today marks our 8th wedding anniversary! Here we are – a dog, a conversion, a house, two kids, and a 30th birthday later! AND HAPPIER THAN EVER! We truly feel so blessed to have been called to this vocation. We’ve had to go through growing pains, just like any couple does, especially in the first few years and when adjusting to the life-altering event of a first child! We’ve yelled, thrown things, cried, rolled our eyes, and slept on the edges of our beds as far apart as possible… There have been plenty of moments that we’re not proud of, but we have come through every challenge and emerged closer and stronger because of them!

It’s amazing how much things improved when we began TRULY putting God at the center of our marriage and surrendered our will to His! We mutually sacrificed more for each other and the good of our family. (It’s interesting how kids quickly change our priorities for the better, huh?! We’re forced to be selfless and re-examine our lives!) We started focusing on daily blessings and treasuring small moments. Joy has multiplied in our family in recent months!

A couple years ago, we both began journeys of seeking out God’s will and really being open to whatever He asks of us. I started devouring life-changing books about inspirational and faithful people with great wisdom! (I currently have quite a stack on my bedroom dresser waiting to be tackled!) I asked God to help me with my quickness to anger towards Adam, and you know what? He did! I’m happy to say that God’s grace has shaped me into a much more understanding and positive wife!

Adam began facing a lot of family hurt that had kept him in an emotional prison. He buried his former vision of his fantasy music career and started asking God how his talents should be used in the context of keeping his family his main priority. He started listening to Catholic radio again and watching impactful documentaries. He read (listened to) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Adam has grown into a joy-filled man full of confidence and conviction.

It has been eight years of chiseling and sharpening each other for heaven! It is a tragedy that so many couples abandon their vows before they experience the joy of a bond made stronger after facing adversity with forgiveness, faith, and hope. God-willing, eight years is just the beginning of our married journey! We know there are many years of change and challenge ahead (and probably some more eye-rolling on my part!), but with God at the center our love will endure!

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

February’s Bloggers in the Spotlight {7 Quick Takes (#7)}

22 Feb

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 207)

I’m linking back up with the 7 Quick Takes crew at Conversion Diary today! It’s been awhile, so I’m glad to be a part of it again! This is also the fourth Friday of the month, which means it is Dreamer in the Spotlight time! So, once again, I’m combining both to bring my list of seven awesome dreamers – blogger edition!

Since I have focused on the topic of vocations quite a bit this month, I figured that it would be fitting to showcase seven amazing bloggers who inspire me with their dedication to fulfilling their vocations. You probably are aware of some of these blogs already (many are regular 7QT-ers), but hopefully there may be one or two that you aren’t familiar with and can check out! Let’s get started!

1. Humble Handmaid

This blog by Erin Franco is one of my absolute favorites! Her tagline pretty much sums up a big reason why I chose to feature her today – “Writing about my “yes” to God’s plan for my life, one late night blogging session at a time.” As a mother in my twenties myself, I can relate to a lot of what Erin discusses. I love the honesty of her posts about trying to be a good parent, wife, and Catholic. Erin’s passion for her beautiful family is evident all over her blog! If you are a young wife/mother and don’t already follow her, DO IT – NOW!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

2. Moxie Wife

First, I have a confession to make! I haven’t read Hallie Lord’s book Style, Sex, and Substance yet! It is on my to-read list for this year, though! I love how Hallie writes as if she’s a friend just filling you in on a great new product she found or linking you to an amazing article, in addition to sharing great advice about being a good wife and encouraging your husband! This is a lovely blog that embraces married life as the vocation that it is!

3. Biltrix

Obviously, blogs are a great way to evangelize and Biltrix is one of the best sites that I have found that does this very thing! The authors- James Stone, Fr. Jason Smith, Fr. Jose LaBoy, and Fr. Joseph Tham- use Catholic teaching and a little bit of humor to shed light on current events and enhance awareness of a variety of topics. Be sure to check out their blog to find out what a Biltrix is!

4. Life Happens When

This convicting, joy-filled blog is courtesy of former English teacher, wife, and mother of two, Leanne Willen. She is also a regular 7 Quick Takes participant! Just like Humble Handmaid, I stumbled upon this blog on Catholicmom.com when she wrote a contributing post that I connected with. She is another woman that I feel I can greatly relate to, since our kiddos are about the same ages! Leanne is frequently challenging herself and others to step outside their comfort zones and enjoy the blessings in life, especially family. I had the privilege of guest posting on Leanne’s blog back in November!

5. The Veil of Chastity

Okay, all you single ladies (repeat and sing it in your head, “all you single ladies”) out there! This blog is for you! Soon-to-be-published author of The Veil, Cindy, blogs about the vocation of single-hood and chastity. (And, also participates frequently in 7 Quick Takes.) She states on the sidebar of her blog, “I pray this blog provides wisdom and hope for single girls!” Cindy did not get married until the age of 38, so she can relate to all the single Catholics out there who are hoping to find that special someone! There is a lot of truth in this blog and it is definitely worth checking out!

6. Captive the Heart

For those single ladies mentioned above who are about to get married, this blog is your next stop! Stephanie Calis, also a contributing author at Ignitum Today, shares great ideas for wedding fashion, receptions, and ceremonies. She also writes wonderful spiritual reflections, and- bonus- I just love her joyful attitude that comes out in her writing! 7QT-ers will probably be familiar with this blog already, but if you are not, be sure to click on her site!

7. Conversion Diary

So, I have to give a big nod to Jennifer Fulwiler, who hosts 7 Quick Takes each Friday! For those reading this who aren’t already aware, she is an atheist-to-Catholic convert and somehow finds time to write, speak, blog for the National Catholic Register, manage a household of five kids (with one more on the way), and, oh yeah, star in a reality show! How does she do it all?! And with such a great sense of humor?! Thanks, Jennifer, for giving all of us Catholic bloggers a place to connect and support each other! (All episodes of her show are now available via her website!)

Of course, there are many more blogs out there that I would love to highlight, so I’m sure a Part II and Part III will be coming in the future. As usual, if you know of someone that should be featured in my Dreamer in the Spotlight series or if you’d like to write a guest post to share your own inspirational story, please contact me!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Who’s your favorite inspirational blogger?

The Greatest Vocation of All!

15 Feb

20130228-203819.jpg

I ran across the above quote last weekend and had to share it! It expands perfectly on my post about vocations from last Friday! It’s also timely, considering yesterday was St. Valentine’s Day – a day all about LOVE!

For the Year of Faith, I signed up for the daily e-newsletter, Read the Catechism in a Year, and Day 122 held this amazing paragraph by Jeff Pinyan.

If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members to Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF IT’S OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE – IT’S ETERNAL!

In addition to reading this last Saturday, I heard a visiting Franciscan priest speak about this same topic at Mass on Sunday. He emphasized respecting others as the way to show love.

No matter who we are or what job we have, we are all called to love one another. Sometimes we get caught up in finding our passion and the right career, but no matter how old or young, rich or poor, etc., we can always make it a priority to show love through our everyday actions and treatment of others.

Have a great weekend full of love, everyone!

Above background image courtesy of Phaitoon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Embracing Our Vocations: The Key to Joy

8 Feb

work-life balance

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes pursuing dreams can be selfish.

We may be so focused on achieving what we want to accomplish so that we can make more money, be recognized, feel valued, etc., that we risk damaging relationships and destroying our faith.

So, how do we know when our dreams are good or when they are detrimental to us or others?  I think the answer comes when we take a look at what it means to have a vocation.

The past few days especially, I have been thinking about this quite a bit.  It’s been a consistent topic of conversation between my husband and me as we navigate what God is calling us to do.  And guess what?  I received a newsletter from DynamicCatholic.com this past Saturday with a special message from Matthew Kelly regarding this exact thing.  Here is what he wrote:

The Peace and Joy of Unique Ability

A few nights ago my little girl, Isabel, came into my office at home after her bath. With a huge smile, she walked over, grabbed my phone, held it to her ear, and said, “Call me, daddy!” I played along for a few minutes and then she came over, got up into my lap, buried her head in my chest and gave me a big hug. It was one of those times when I was able to be completely in the moment… and I was happy.

If I think back a few years, I was not so happy. I wasn’t unhappy. I loved my work, but something was missing. I didn’t have the deep peace and joy I have today. What was missing? Vocation. We talk a lot about it, but too often our talk is sterile and dispassionate. But vocation really is a thing of beauty. It is that thing that helps us make sense of everything. It is the feeling of finally being at home in our own lives. It is that place where your unique ability explodes usefully. It is the thing of great worth.

It also requires tremendous work.

How are you doing with your vocation? This Lent, I would like to encourage you to either search more rigorously for your vocation or give your vocation another look and recommit to it. Take it to the next level.

The world and the Church need more people who love life and live it with passion and purpose. Vocation animates us – brings us to life. Vocation fills us with a peace and joy that is immeasurable if we embrace and dedicate ourselves to our call.

Pretty powerful stuff!  Being an involved parent and spouse requires a lot of sacrifice, but it is also extremely fulfilling! This is exactly why my husband Adam tells people that he is the happiest that he’s ever been!  I’m sure the same can be said for anyone who has responded to God’s call for their life.  This is where we find our purpose, passion, and as Matthew Kelly stated, “peace and joy.”

Maybe, though, you are still saying “What is a vocation or how do I know what my vocation is?”  I did a quick little Google search to find a definition and stumbled upon the website Vocation.com.  While it is geared to those contemplating religious life, I found a great little article worth sharing titled, Is it a vocation or a job or a profession?  Below are a few paragraphs…

[…] when we use the word vocation we introduce a vertical dimension into our life, especially into our thinking process and decisions, since the point of reference when we talk about vocation is God’s will – what we believe he is calling us to do with our life, the purpose for which he created us as it relates to the salvation of our own soul and the salvation of others. So a vocation is not something you switch out of on a whim, since it is not something you go into lightly. In following a vocation the main question is: What does God want? and not: What do I prefer? So it would be a major mistake to approach a vocation to the priestly or consecrated life, or to marriage, thinking only of ourselves and not being willing to commit ourselves to it, “for better or for worse” because we know God wants us to see it through.

And so, if there is ever a conflict between our profession and our vocation, it is always the vocation that has to win. A married person who knows that a career opportunity that opens up to him will most probably destroy his marriage must opt for his marriage vocation even if the price is his career. A baptized doctor who risks losing his license if he refuses to do certain immoral procedures will follow his Christian vocation and even at the cost of his medical career. A priest who is a great success in a particular field of ministry and is asked by his bishop to serve in a different area must follow his priestly vocation which includes obedience to his bishop, rather than his “success” in a particular field.

I think the key when evaluating our dreams, is to always be sure that our aspirations are under the umbrella of our vocation.  Just as the article above mentions, if our goals are at the expense of living out our vocation, then they must be abandoned or reconstructed.

For us personally, the re-working of goals is why many of you may have been wondering why Adam’s website isn’t up yet or why we haven’t been promoting any new songs.  In addition to a lack of ample time, we have been going through a process of identifying priorities, finding nuggets of truth and wisdom, and assessing how everything fits in with our vocation of helping each other get to heaven and raising holy children.  I firmly believe that God wants to use Adam’s musical talents to reach people, but just how that all is going to happen  is still in the works!  I have already seen how much grace and peace he has given us especially in the past year, so even though the road ahead is a mystery, I have no doubt that we are on the right path.

When we stop trying to do things our own way and embrace God’s plan for our life, we will find true joy that is unattainable anywhere else!