Author Archive for Melanie Jean Juneau

How Theology of the Body Impacted My Life

large family

My husband and I read a life-changing article thirty-two years ago when we were on a rare date night for our sixth wedding anniversary. Parents of four, we really wanted to remain faithful to Church teaching by refusing to use artificial birth control, but we already felt stretched to our limits financially, emotionally and physically. I am tiny and had never even held a baby before my first. Growing up in a Protestant home with only one sister, it had never even occurred to me that I would one day mother a large family.

After my conversion to Catholicism at nineteen, I earned a degree in English Literature at a Catholic College. Everyone thought I was called to the religious life, especially the Jesuit priest I worked with as a student chaplain. Everyone was shocked with my sudden vocation change, especially me.

I had moved east with Michael after our first baby was born which cut me off from daily contact with friends and family. Although I enjoyed living in the country, raising our own vegetables and later even all our own meat, it was an isolated existence. I felt like Ruth in a foreign land but without family support because Michael’s mother was busy with a huge extended family. In addition, my husband struggled with depression. Worldly opinion screamed that we should not have any more children.

Natural Family Planning

The question we had struggled with for years was, “How could we remain faithful to Church teaching when Natural Family Planning did not seem to work for us?” Intuitively, I already knew a call to trust in God could not just be an intellectual assent but included entrusting my fertility to God. Catholic teaching stated couples should space their children with abstinence but we slowly discovered I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation.

Of course, we did our best to remain faithful to NFP. However, each successive child after our third was conceived on the second, third, fourth and fifth day before ovulation. A couple of babies were created before I even had a first cycle when we thought I was still infertile. As my doctor said once, “Ah, I remember reading about a woman in New Zealand, two years ago, who conceived five days before ovulation.” I raised my hand and chirped, “Well, you can add me to that list!”

Theology of the Body

Then on our sixth wedding anniversary, sitting in a busy pizza place, I was flipping through our local diocesan paper when an article jumped out at me. I was excited as I read a statement by Pope John Paul II which stated that using contraceptives not only damaged a couple’s intimacy but also harmed their spirituality. We were both struck dumb, sensing a powerful Presence of God as this truth pierced our hearts.

Michael and I try never to let anything hinder our journey into God’s heart, so this truth now meant artificial contraception was definitely not an option. Of course, I cannot find the exact quotes we read that day but the following is close enough:

In the conjugal act it is not licit to separate the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect, because both the one and the other pertain to the intimate truth of the conjugal act…Therefore, in such a case, the conjugal act, deprived of its interior truth because it is artificially deprived of its procreative capacity, ceases also to be an act of love.

It can be said that in the case of an artificial separation of these two aspects, as real bodily union is carried out in the conjugal act, but it does not correspond to the interior truth and to the dignity of personal communion – communion of person. This communion demands that the language of the body be expressed reciprocally in the integral truth of its meaning. If this truth be lacking, one cannot speak either of the truth of self-mastery, or of the truth of the reciprocal gift and of the reciprocal acceptance of self on the part of the person. Such a violation of the interior order of conjugal union, which is rooted in the very order of the person, constitutes the essential evil of the contraceptive act. (Theology of the Body, Aug. 22, 1984, 398)

Love…is therefore the power given to man in order to participate in that love with which God himself loves in the mystery of creation and redemption. It is that love which “rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor. 13:6) (Theology of the Body, Oct. 10, 1984, 406)

Although we could not imagine how large our family would become, the words of John Paul II , quoted in that newspaper article, resonated within both my husband and me. Guilt lifted off us and a surge of excitement, a sense of purpose welled up from within. It took time to really believe that none of our children were simply a failure of the NFP method. Many small experiences kept reinforcing the truth for us that God called each of our children into being with our co-operation. We’d stumbled blindly at times and then a burst of clarity would shine light on our purpose.

This Is Your Call

For example, twenty-five years ago, I once again slipped into panic mode, worrying if I was pregnant with my fifth child. Suddenly my whole body relaxed and I heard these words within me: This is your call. This is your vocation. This is your witness to the world.

All sorts of objections rushed into my head. “What on earth do you mean a witness, a witness to what? Stupidity? People don’t understand. They just think we are irresponsible or idiots.” Then unexpected joy bubbled within me and I sensed these words in my spirit, “I am with you.” Once again peace wrapped like a blanket around me. It was an actual physical sensation. My mind was calm and my spirit felt strong. That was it for me; I understood and I said, “Yes.” Though I still cringed under disapproval from society, I always understood my children were saving me by compelling me to dive deeper into my spirit, discovering the power of eternal Love at my core, a love that can stand strong against all opposition.

We have lived through years of suffering, surviving and even thriving thanks to the gifts of humor and faith. I can honestly say we are joyful because we answered a particular call to parent a large family. Thanks to Theology of the Body, I can proclaim with confidence that mothering a large family is my call, my vocation and my witness to the world.

Jesus Is a Baby Whisperer

Let the Children Come to Me, Fritz von Uhde (1884)

Let the Children Come to Me, Fritz von Uhde, 1884

The best way to communicate with preverbal little people is to connect with their inner spirits, in with, and through the Holy Spirit because Jesus was an infant Himself.  However, unlike human adults, I do not think Jesus has forgotten what it was like to be a preverbal little being. In this sense, God could be called the perfect baby whisperer because He is in tune with how baby’s think and feel.

If an adult wants to learn how to become a baby whisperer, it is a good idea to approach infants and toddlers in the presence of the Trinity.  Our heavenly Father is not only our Father, He is a Father to our infant’s as well; He has a real and vital relationship with them.  Jesus and His gentle Spirit will teach us if we stop and listen by approaching our baby in a spirit of prayer, yes, but most of all with a spirit of mutual respect because we are in the presence of a fellow sister or brother in Christ. If a mere horse whisperer can learn how to read a horse’s cues and respond in a way a horse can understand, using body language and voice tones, how much more can humans learn how to relate to an infant’s mind, emotions but also to their inner spirits. In fact, we can become holy baby whisperers who actually nurture our infants inner spirit.

Infants are complex little people who see, hear, touch, communicate, receive information and who above all, remember. Of course, we can readily see babies react to loud, sharp or deep voices but a newborn will even turn to look at a voice he remembers hearing in the womb. It was amazing to watch my first granddaughter turn towards her mom and dad’s voices in recognition. When her parents cuddled her, she calmed down immediately because she was constantly reassured of their love and devotion while she was still in the womb. Now out in the world, she knew she is safe and protected especially in their arms. This is why all babies are sensitive to the approach of a stranger.

The most obvious personal example of a stranger /infant situation  I can recall is my six-month-old daughter. I was holding her when a tall, slender, older priest, dressed all in black, gently reached out to hold her. He smiled and patiently waited while Mary tensed her little body, drew back and looked him up and down very suspiciously. She drew back a second time, even further, and once again glanced from his head to his feet and slowly looked back at his face again. A third time Mary repeated the process. Suddenly she relaxed, broke out into a wonderful smile and reached her own arms out to lean forward so Father could pick her up.

My baby was receiving unspoken messages from Father’s facial expression, his tone of voice, body language and emotional and spiritual ‘vibes’ which radiated from his inner spirit. In short, even though Mary was not talking yet, she was not an idiot. We tend to forget.

Michael and I were lucky because we somehow understood, right from the start, that we were relating to another human being when we communicated with our babies. I stopped and listened when they cooed and then I answered them when they finished cooing. It might sound foolish but I believe this attitude instilled respect for themselves and others. I tried to treat them as people, albeit little people.

Sometimes family and friends were critical of my inefficient way of mothering. I just couldn’t make myself mother my babies any other way. Perhaps it was because I was not used to children. Basically, I just included the kids into our life as intelligent little people with feelings, opinions, tastes and preferences. If we respected each child’s preferences, they cooperated and worked alongside us better. In the end, this impractical, slow way of doing things made our home life run smoother. It was a way of relating which began on the baby’s first day in our family.

Some people are intimidated by babies and little children. Just remember, babies are not idiots but smart little people who just can’t talk yet. However, babies are in tune with the Holy Spirit. Babies spirits are alive in god. So, the best way to communicate with preverbal little people is to connect with their inner spirits, in with and through God.

Wise, Humorous Survival Tips from Mother of Nine 9

Baby with cake

The following original tips for parents are child proof, child tested, and  guaranteed to turn any child-created disaster into a comedy in minutes.

  • Kids need time to be bored; that is how creativity is born.
  • Ignore the bad and praise the good.
  • The only thing that could kill you as a mother of a large family is pairing socks.
  • My ceiling is my children’s floor.
  • Don’t get upset over messes. It is just part of the normal routine.
  • More children are easier than less. If you have one or two kids you have to be everything for them but with three, community starts. Babies are preverbal, not idiots.
  • Children help you forget what is not important.

All Dress-Shopping Fathers Go to Heaven

My husband and I learned how to depend on Divine Providence to meet out kid’s needs, especially our fashion-conscious teenage girls because we had nine children and little extra cash.

melanie's teensWith the grace of God, we lived through scores of tragic-comic dramas as my saintly husband, Michael, shopped with our  six daughters. Since I was at home with a crew of little ones, dad was the designated chauffeur and shopping monitor in our family.  He is a smart man; he always prayed before driving into town with the girls.

Our oldest daughter  still remembers and mentions a miracle shopping trip when she was 14 years old. She had her heart set on black, Baby Jane shoes for her grade eight graduation ceremony. As they entered yet another massive shopping mall, Michael heard the Lord whisper, “Turn right  and go into the first shoe store you see.” Right in the entrance was one pair of Baby Jane shoes, in the right size and on sale for half price. My daughter was thrilled and satisfied with the rather plain dress her grandmother sent for her because she wore those shoes.

For my second daughter’s graduation from our small country elementary school to high school, Dad volunteered once again for the shopping expedition into the city.

Four hours later,  my  daughter barged through the kitchen door, glared at me and announced very dramatically,

“I am never shopping with him again!”

She stomped through the kitchen and slammed the solid wood door to the hall behind her with a dramatic flourish.

A few minutes later, her father slipped through the front door, shoulders slumped and silently communicated his exhaustion and defeat.

“So,” I queried tentatively, “How did it go?”

Michael sighed and began to describe one scene in a dress shop. He had picked out a few pretty dresses which he felt were appropriate. Holding up a flowered print dress with a high, round collar, he called out to his daughter, “This one is very pretty.”

Our daughter responded by rolling her eyes dramatically,“Daaad…that’s way too childish.”

The sailor style dress that Michael thought was perfect was similarly dismissed. Then, our thirteen-year pulled out a black, spaghetti-strapped, slinky, black dress and squealed, “Dad, this is exactly what I am looking for!”

Poor Dad sighed but allowed her to try the dress on. She emerged from the dressing room complaining,

“It makes me look fat.”

Right then and there, my poor husband’s only desire was to sink into a deep hole because the store attendant and her customer both weighed about 300 lbs. each. Both women chimed in and exclaimed to our 115 lbs. teenager, “Oh no dear, I don’t think you look fat at all!”

As usual. God managed to work out our dilemma.  Our oldest daughter came to the rescue. She borrowed a cream-coloured dress from a friend, embossed with swirls and a Chinese style collar that was decent but not childish. The dress delighted our daughter and calmed my husband’s nerves.

It was and still is an educational experience for one of my adult daughters to shop with one of her younger sisters. After a particular stressful shopping trip, my oldest daughter stumbled through the door, complaining about her hard to please sibling.  She rolled her eyes and sputtered, “Do you want to know what kind of dress she wanted me to buy?!”

I laughed, “Oh, we know, sweetie, we know.”

Would You Boycott Christmas? Why Catholic families should celebrate Halloween!

halloween image

I raised my nine children in the shadow of  other dedicated Catholic mothers, mostly homeschoolers, who thought Halloween was evil, dedicated to witches. Their children were not allowed to celebrate with their neighbors but went to a church basement to celebrate All Saints Eve.

This church was an hour away from us. More importantly, I felt my children suffered enough  because of a perceived alienation from their peers. At our tiny, Catholic, country school, everyone dressed up for the day and often joined friends afterward to go door to door. I did not want to deny my kids the joy and creative fun which surrounded this cultural, childhood tradition.

If you have any concerns about observing Halloween with your children, please read It’s Time for Catholics to Embrace Halloween by Father Steve Grunow over at Word on Fire. I wish I had been able to read Father Steve Grunow’s research and commentary thirty years ago. He would have saved me a lot of grief because, although I let my kids celebrate Halloween, often dressed as a saint, I felt guilty.  I learned something new, something liberating, which freed me from decades of guilt.

GUESS WHAT? HALLOWEEN IS CATHOLIC!  

October 31st,  November 1st and 2nd, are the “Days of the Dead” because Catholics pray for, or remember, those who have passed through the thin veil which separates life from death.  All Hallows’ Eve, on the evening of October 31 is the night before All Saints’ Day on  November 1st. Then, on the day after All Hallows’, we remember souls who are in Purgatory.

all-saints-day-2

The  True Origins of Halloween

We often hear that Halloween is a pagan holiday but this is not true.

All Souls Day originated with the Bishop of Cluny, who in A.D. 1048, decreed that the Benedictines of Cluny pray for the souls in Purgatory on this day. The practice spread until Pope Sylvester II recommended it for the entire Latin Church.

In Irish popular piety, the evening before, Halloween (All Hallows or “Hallows’ Eve”) became a day of remembering the dead who are damned. These customs spread, starting the popular focus of Halloween on evil, scary characters and the fate of damned souls.

The customs of Halloween are a mixture of Catholic popular devotions and regional French, Irish, and English customs. Dressing up comes from the French. Carved Jack-o-lanterns come from the Irish. English Catholics initiated the custom of begging from door to door. Children would go door to door begging their neighbors for a “Soul Cake.” In turn, they would say a prayer for those neighbors’ dead saying, “A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!” Customary foods for Halloween include cider, nuts, popcorn, and apples.

Just as Christmas is still Christmas  despite our culture’s attempt to ruin it, Halloween is still a holy day for Catholics despite our culture’s desire to make it something ugly. As Catholics, when we boycott Halloween, we pull back from our own festival. Rather than withdraw or label Halloween as evil, let’s reclaim our Catholic roots and celebrate Halloween with joy.

Hanging by My Fingernails

Before I had the courage to let go of my whole way of living, two inner images rose up in my mind as symbols of my controlling behavior.

When my family was still young and I had only seven children from twelve-years-old down to a newborn, I earnestly strove to raise the best children I could. Yet all my effort was actually hindering their development because my anxiety and control acted like a barrier, a prison around them. I was, in fact, preventing my children’s inner, natural development into well-balanced, creative people.

broken-wagon-wheel-1405148000B82I did not take subtle hints, so a powerful inner image rose up from my subconscious which symbolized what I was actually doing by refusing to let go of control.

First I saw an ocean and a tiny black dot in the water. Slowly the image grew larger till I was face to face with a huge octopus.

The scene switched and now seven tentacles wrapped around each of my children with my husband in the eighth. All of them were grey, limp almost lifeless.

I suddenly realized that I was, in fact, the octopus; I was squeezing the life out of my family.

In this inner vision, a sword appeared in a blaze of light and severed each tentacle one by one. The severed tentacle shriveled and fell off each child. As soon as each one was set free, they began dancing and laughing in the sunshine. Soon all seven were joyfully playing.

The eighth tentacle was wrapped tightly around my husband. The kids stopped playing and kneeled on the ground, weeping, desperately pulling and tugging the tentacle but to no avail. Suddenly, in a flash of light, the sword of truth cut through the tentacle, my husband was released and came back to life.

Yet even after this appalling self-revelation, I still could not let go of control.

It was like I stood on the hub of a wagon wheel with my large family balanced on the rim. I crouched on the hub, frantically turning this way and that, grabbing all the broken spokes, desperate to hold the crumbling structured together.

I realized that I had to let go of this futile sense of responsibility and control but I was afraid to stop, afraid that one moment of inattention would cause my entire family to tumble down into the abyss.

I was trapped.

Yet, I realized that once again, my tension, my control acted like a wall, shutting out all life. My sincere concern and earnest self-sacrifice actually magnified everyone’s brokenness by freezing everyone and everything.

It took years, but I finally surrendered control. The broken spokes were instantly repaired. The kids and my husband started smiling. I was free. We were free.

I read a quote that said the worst sin against another human being beside hate and murder is trying to control and manipulate them because you are stealing their real identity, molding them into a false image. Sometimes we just need to “let go” of the things that we worry about (i.e. our children, loved ones, or family members). When we are able to do that, we (and the people we care about) can then truly experience the freedom of living!

Pre-Natal Memories

Sleepy Baby Mary Cassatt

Sleepy Baby by Mary Cassatt

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

And before you were born I consecrated you.”

— Jeremiah 1:5

The day Ruth turned two, her godmother dropped by to celebrate her birthday. Since Ruth was articulate for her age, her godmother wanted to try an experiment she had about read in a hospital newsletter. The article stated that if you asked a young child, when they knew enough words to communicate but before they were ‘too old’, they could tell you about their life in the womb. So we decided to test this premise.

Ruth was very tiny but smart, so she startled people with her excellent verbal skills. With her attention completely on her toy, my daughter answered in short, clipped sentences. I felt a bit foolish as I asked her,

“Ruth, do you remember when you were in mummy’s tummy?

She answered, “Yaaa.”

So then I wondered if she remembered any details,

“What was it like?”

Again Ruth could only spare a one word answer,

“Warm.”

“What else was it like?” I questioned.

To which Ruth answered quite succinctly, “Dark.”

“What could you see?” I probed, but Ruth was frustrated by my dumb question,

”Nothin; it was dark!”

So I scrambled, “What did you do in my tummy?”

Ruth said nonchalantly, “Dwimming.”

I checked to make sure I understood her, “Swimming?”

Ruth nodded.

“Did you like living in my tummy?” I asked.

She nodded again.

Then I thought of a really good question.

“Do you remember coming out, being born?”

Ruth scrunched up her nose and sighed, “Yaaa.”

“What was it like?”

She stopped playing, looked up and said in disgust, “Like a B.M.!!!”

(This is how we referred to a bowel movement with our children.)

That answer shocked me into silence. I looked over at Ruth’s godmother. She raised her eyebrows and mouthed one word.

“Wow.”

How to Survive Teen Drama with Grace

Teenagers.  I am living proof it is possible to actually enjoy those annoying, hormonal, child/adult hybrids who have taken your phone, tv., computer and fridge hostage.

One of my sons, in his early teens, had just announced he could not stand living under our roof another minute,

“I’m out of here!,” he bellowed, “and don’t expect me to come back!”

The door slammed and he tore off on his ten-speed bike. Of course, my father was visiting and witnessed this dramatic episode. After a few minutes, Dad turned to my husband Michael and wondered, “Aren’t you going to go after him?”

Michael calmly kept reading, then looked up and explained, “Oh, I’m not worried. The only place near enough to bike to is one of his buddy’s and they don’t feed kids over there. He’ll be back when he is hungry enough.”

melanie photoSure enough, hunger brought my son home late that night. We did not need to pronounce any ultimatums because the recognition he still needed to live at home and attempt to get along with our rules and his family was humbling enough. No need to rub his face in the facts.

Teenagers are often humiliated by their mistakes in judgment so they relish the opportunity to catch us in the wrong.  For example, Michael’s usual response to swearing, disrespect or a poor attitude was, “Leave that sort of stuff at school!”

One evening at the dinner table on a Sunday, Michael yelled in anger at the dog.

David had just filled his plate and was coming back to the table. He leaned over, looked at his dad and with a twinkle in his eye and a huge grin on his face said, “Leave that sort of stuff at church, eh Dad!”

Michael snapped out of his bad mood and had to smile. The kid was right. David’s humour diffused the situation and Michael was the one who had to apologize this time.

Teenagers have a deep inner compulsion to rile their parents and flaunt rules in a blind attempt to figure out who they are in and of themselves. If I remember this fact, I don’t overreact to obnoxious behaviour. I like to compare teenagers to two-year-olds because the very same dynamic is unfolding, only this time it is a stressful transition from childhood to adulthood which requires many years to complete. I read somewhere that young adults finally get an adult brain when they’re 25! In our family, we actually celebrate this birthday and welcome our offspring into full adulthood.

Sometimes teenagers, boys especially, like to prove their new-found strength. David loved to come behind me in the kitchen and with a huge grin on his face pick me up and swing me around or even turn me upside down!

“Oh well,” I’d think to myself, “This too will pass, this too will pass.”

Standing Up for Large Families in Our “Tolerant” Modern Society

A prompt on a health website asked, “Are you an advocate for any cause?”

I sputtered to myself, “I am not an advocate for anything or anybody!”

Immediately after that statement, a new idea popped into my mind, “Hey, wait a minute. I stand up for large families in modern society!”

family joyAs a mother of nine children, I have met more condemnation than acceptance and more questions than understanding. Perhaps it is because I do not look like the mother of a large family. I am tiny, look younger than my age, and all my life people have labeled me as “cute.” People’s first reaction to me is shock. Confusion follows because I am happy.

A joyful, cute, tiny mother of nine simply baffles people. I shatter all their preconceived notions. The typical image of a multipara woman would be a large, matronly, robust, grim, battle-axe of a mother, efficiently marshaling her young charges with little time to coddle or love the poor deprived dears.

Parents with two children cannot fathom how a mother of a large family manages to cope with all the work necessary to keep up a home as well as have enough time to love each child.

However, in many ways, more children are easier than less. In a large family, a seven-year-old will repeatedly read the same book to a toddler who loves one particular book. A ten-year-old feels important when he can help his six-year-old brother who struggles with reading. A young teenager delights in rocking a tiny, dependent infant to sleep.

For me, family started with three because then community started. A community works and plays together and for little children work is as fun as play. I included everyone in ordinary household chores and made chores fun. A trained Montessorian once declared that I ran my home like a Montessori school. What a wonderful confirmation that was for me.

My kids were not deprived because I usually could not sit and play with them in the traditional sense. Instead they received an inexpensive educational experience simply because I integrated them into the running of our home.

It was never too soon to give one of my toddlers a job such as picking up the toys his younger sibling drops from the high chair. The secret was to delegate, each according to his or her talents, but never to order them around like they were in the army. They chopped wood, helped fix the car, weeded the garden, and took care of the animals. If teenagers are still treated like kids or overindulged, they don’t have a purpose and become really angry. When parents appreciate their kids’ contributions, their confidence blossoms and matures.

Employers love my kids because they know how to work and do not take anything for granted. Many have said, “I will give anybody with the last name Juneau a job.”

Large families strengthen the basic foundations of our society. They live lives of greater interconnectedness. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’re not an island unto yourself. You learn how to share and barter both skills and things with others. My children who go to college or university adapt well to communal life in a dorm or a shared house. Just imagine, they already know how to share a bathroom with a lot of other people. They know how to get along with opposite personalities, how to give and take. For starters, they know how to cook and clean up after themselves.

Healthy, large families benefit society. So open your mind and heart the next time you see or hear of one. The condemnation is really hard to handle and totally unjust in a society that loves to call itself open-minded and tolerant.

Effective Mothers

Last year, one of my daughters, who was finishing up an Honours Degree in Religion and applying to Teacher’s College, asked me what I thought were the attributes of an effective teacher for her application. When I considered effective teachers, I immediately thought about effective mothers.

One of the best ways to learn how to mother and teach is to remember both the good and poor examples from our own days as children. I remember cringing in fear in the presence of one angry, yelling mum who always seemed at her wits end with the antics of neighbourhood “brats.” However, the mum who actually liked her children’s playmates and listened to them was the mum who did not have problems with the neighbourhood kids. Mothers must remember what it is like to be small.  A mother is most effective when she lives as a child of God herself, because kids learn not by angry, condescending lectures, but by watching mums live and work, love, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Do you want teachable kids? You yourself must be humble and teachable.

GettyImages_450746627The most important trait for an effective mother is patience, because children can be exasperating, annoying and irritating.  Countless experiences with my children reinforced this basic fact: the best way to handle poor behaviour is by modeling good, patient behaviour myself because actions and emotions do speak even louder than the correct words. When I remained calm and patient, the kids settled right down.

Equally crucial is the quality of compassion. Kids intuitively know if an adult likes them, understands them and empathizes with them. Once again, if an adult is cold and cannot relate to a child emotionally, a child will act up in their presence. In my experience,  mothers who were the most compassionate, who could truly empathize, were the most respected. Kids want to please adults who they like and respect. It is the compassionate parent who can maintain good behaviour because they treat their children with mutual respect and compassion.

A good mother must be innovative and adaptable because kids need variety. Children do not learn well when they are bored and one style of mothering does not fit every child.

Most importantly, an effective mother is passionate about teaching and loving her kids. It is passion, an inner drive, that is not dependant on seeing results right away. It is passion from the Holy Spirit that prevents discouragement or burnout because it is an inner fire that motivates and energizes mums. We must learn to connect spirit to spirit, heart to heart with little people in and through God if we want to teach and form them into children of God.

Image credit: Getty Images

Become Like Little Children

Sympathy by Briton Riviere

“Sympathy” by Riviere (1878)

Some religious people would maintain only a mature, adult Christian can act lovingly, with a conscience. Yet Pope Francis and even Sacred Scriptures disagree with this narrow view.

St. Paul explains that God will judge everyone by much how truth God has revealed to them. If a tribe hidden in a jungle has never heard the gospel, God will judge them based on what they know and St. Paul assures us all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil — or a conscience.

The problem is tapping into and living out from my core where God has inscribed a moral code on my heart. It is  hidden in my deepest self. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness and simply stop and listen, even a child knows what is right and what is wrong.

The second problem is finding the strength to do what is right. Thank God for Christ, because he offers an easy way to love. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.

No wonder Jesus says,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

And in even stronger terms,

“I assure you,” He said, ‘unless you are converted and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven…’” Matthew 18:4

A relationship to the living God is child’s play. Listen to this exchange between my young children:

One afternoon, I was making dinner, standing at the counter with my back to our three youngest children. Grace and Daniel were lounging around the kitchen table, with three-year-old Rebecca perched like a little elf on a high stool, happily swinging her legs.

Simply making conversation, Grace who was eight, asked Rebecca,

“Rebbecca, whose your favorite, Mum or Dad?”

Rebecca replied,”Both!”

Still facing the counter, I looked over my shoulder and intruded on their conversation, “Smart answer, Rebecca.”

Rebecca was not done, though.  She added, “But she’s not my real mum, Mary is.”

Grace rolled her eyes, slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand and said incredulously, “Where does she get this stuff?”

I tried to explain as simply as I could, “Well, the Holy Spirit is in her heart and she listens to His voice.”

Rebecca jumped right back into the discussion and chanted in a sing-song, lilting voice, “That’s right. God the Father in my heart. Baby Jesus in my heart. Holy Spirit in my heart. Mother Mary in my heart . . . but . . . I still like Mum and Dad the best!”

Grace rolled her eyes and plunked her head down on the table with a loud sigh,“Where does she get this stuff?”

I just laughed.

A few weeks later, as I crouched down to tie Rebecca’s shoelace, she picked up the small gold cross I wore around my neck and said,

“This is the cross of Jesus and the glory of God shines all around it.”

Grace rolled her eyes again, slapped her forehead and asked, “WHERE does she get this stuff?

She gets it right from the source of all truth.

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If you enjoyed Melanie’s charming story, check out her free book on Amazon: Echoes of the Divine:  Slice of Life Stories from a Mother of Nine9.

Babies Are People, Too

Newborns are complex little people who see, hear, touch, communicate, receive information and, above all, remember.

Many adults are tempted to treat babies like cute little things. They forget to communicate with them as people. They forget that those cute little bodies house hearts and souls. I discovered early in my mothering career that it is important to treat infants with respect by listening to infantthe sounds they make and watching and interpreting their body language.

Most people have noticed that loud, sharp, or deep voices cause a newborn to jump, but a newborn will also respond to a voice he remembers hearing in the womb. It was amazing to watch my first granddaughter turn towards her mom’s and dad’s voices when she was only hours old.  When her parents held her, she calmed down right away because she had been constantly reassured of their love and devotion while she was still in the womb.  Out in the world, she knew she was safe and protected in the arms that were connected to the familiar voices.

Conversely, all babies are sensitive to the approach of a stranger.

I was once holding my six-month-old daughter, Mary, when a tall, slender, older priest, dressed all in black, gently reached out to hold her. He smiled and patiently waited while Mary tensed her little body, drew back and looked him up and down very suspiciously. She drew back a second time, even further, and once again glanced from his head to his feet and slowly looked back at his face again. A third time, Mary repeated the process and then suddenly she relaxed, broke out into a wonderful smile and reached her own arms out to lean forward so Father could pick her up.

My baby was receiving unspoken messages from Father’s facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and emotional and spiritual ‘vibes’ which radiated from his inner spirit.  Even though Mary was not talking yet, she was still a person with intuition and wisdom because she processed the information she received and made a decision to trust this priest.

Babies are people too, and when we treat them as such, they reward us with connection and trust.

Isaiah 49:1

Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.