Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Geese

A story of salvation…

There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and the metaphysical meaning of Jesus The Christ, despite her husband's disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, the wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.

"That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth through a man called Jesus who became the Christ? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump.

Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese.

Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm.

So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them.

The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away. He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn't catch on.
Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

"Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?" He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human.

"If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud.

Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese.

He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn and one by one the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: "If only I were a goose, then I could save them!"

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to lower Himself to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese--blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and enlighten us.

That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized. As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and he pondered this wonderful thought.

Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Jesus who became the Christ had come, so that we could become the sons and daughters of the Living Christ.

Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: "Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!"

Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is!

H/T: http://www.gospelweb.net/Christmas/christmasgeese.htm

PaperGoose
Make your own Christmas Goose decoration:
http://www.thetoymaker.com/Holidays/Christmas/ChristmasGoose.pdf

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Greetings

Dear friends and family,

Most of you already know about the thrilling adventures we’ve had this past year. We enjoyed our visits, phone calls and Facebook encounters with you along the way. No matter how big or small our daily adventures were, we made certain that “Family” was the main focus. Now both in our thirties, we see what many of you already know… life comes at you fast and leaves just as quickly. So it’s what you do in-between that counts.

 

The year 2009 started off slowly, getting back into the swing of things with home schooling our children. Tom went back to work at the Monticello Nuclear Plant building some rather complicated scaffolding inside. He worked long shifts, and sometimes it seemed he’d leave before we were up and fall asleep shortly after arriving home. It was hard on us, but boy were we excited to see him walk through that door! So when we got word that he was getting laid off unexpectedly in May, we decided to thank God for the break – however long it may be. It lasted 5 months, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Prayer is a constant for us, but additionally we’ve continued to trust in God’s Will and rely on the charity of others. It made the stress fade a little. Thankfully Tom is back to work at Xcel Energy in Becker. Ever driven by that coal plant? He works in those clouds near the ground, rebuilding the cooling towers.

 

Life with four children keeps us on our toes. For entertainment and education, we took a field trip to the Science Museum of MN. The kids enjoyed seeing the Grand Canyon up close at the Omnitheatre. Jonathan stirred in Melissa’s belly while Sabrina clenched onto Tom’s. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin welcomed us with chilly weather in June – but it sure beat the floods of last year. That’s where Tom discovered his love for golfing and Mikayla was just tall enough to ride the water slide alone. Back at home we’ve built many blanket forts, read many stories and endured piano concerts in our living room.

 

Being thrifty can mean finding a deal or making your own. Tom setup a nice work area for Melissa’s sewing and crafts in a little nook of their bedroom. She loves sewing dresses, dolls, curtains, blankets, gifts, etc from bargain fabric. This area has also become Fix-it Central for all those well-loved toys and books! The wait was over and it only cost $5 from a local sand pit… Stanley was thrilled when he got to go get the softest sand ever for his sandbox on his birthday! And lucky for us, local homeschoolers gather every autumn to play Soccer for free. We even watched Mikayla kick up some snow in her new shin guards and snowsuit– nothing could stop them from playing. Keeping the kids active comes in many ways such as running around the stairwell, playing outside, going to open gym, and challenging each other on the Wii Fit. Since Tom was home during the summer, he took it as an opportunity to get the landscaping and painting done himself, as well as help some other farmers, including his dad. Speaking of being thrifty… anyone else take advantage of refinancing at these amazingly low rates?

 

We need the deals because we’re not such a little family anymore. Even though compared to many of our friends we only have a “starter family,” four children seem to be our max for now. Last fall, through the inspiration of wanting to become more open to life, we got pregnant with Jonathan – born July 15th. He’s such a joy, and the other children have really taken to him. He was born a few weeks earlier than his due date, our 4th c-section. Right after he was born we kissed and he was whisked away to the NICU due to fluid around his lungs, but thankfully recovered in two days. We will never forget the kindness of the nurses and the abundance of prayers from all of you that week. We pray for all who are and who have been in the NICU, what an experience. He’s become our “little stinker” and now a healthy 5 month old, he’s ready to explore. Kudos to Melissa for her record breaking breastfeeding, where the other three only lasted a max of 2 months – Jonathan is still a “boob man.”

 

While “Family” is our focus or theme, “Our Faith” is the background music. Our Catholic faith is integrated into everything we do, including our home education curriculum and time with family and friends. Seton Home Study has provided an enriching lesson plan for Mikayla who is 7 and in 2nd grade. Stanley is 5 in Kindergarten and Sabrina is 2 in Preschool. Mikayla is preparing to make her First Reconciliation in Jan 2010 and First Communion in April. While Melissa reads daily to the kids, Mikayla has decided to pick up chapter books on her own, such as “Little Women.” Melissa recommends “Devotional Stories for Little Folks” to be read daily to your K-3rd graders. It is teaching our children valuable lessons in proper behavior in a delightful way. Stanley is still adjusting to being told what to do and how to do it, but he recently learned to write his name and is giving into the process. Sabrina joins in on family prayers, arts, music and the kids are including her in their lessons. Mikayla is such a helper, she’s taken on new chores and helps keep the little ones busy and in line. They all participated in the annual Catholic Day Camp, and Mikayla loves meeting her friends monthly at Schoenstatt Girls Club. Melissa decided to continue in her women’s book club, saying she’s never enjoyed reading so much. She recommends mothers read “Courageous Love” and “The Domestic Church: Room by Room.”

 

“What was I thinking?!” Melissa says that a lot, but adjusting to caring for a family of six hasn’t been easy. “What the heck?!” That would be Tom’s line, which has been reiterated by little Sabrina on several occasions. We are amazed at all we’ve been able to do, but we owe it all to God’s unending Graces! We could never do this on our own. While we browse through the 2000 photos we’ve taken this year, they can’t compare to the joy in our hearts and minds. These simple moments that we’ll remember forever. While a regular paycheck would be nice, the things we got this year we can take to heaven someday – and that’s the real payoff. For now, we’ll take our paychecks in Eskimo kisses and handmade cards.

 

Wishing you all a Grace-filled Christmas

Tom, Melissa, Mikayla, Stanley, Sabrina and Jonathan

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Joyful Mysteries for Homeschoolers

…as revealed to me during Adoration.

Christmas Holy Family2
 PresentationMaryGr

1. The Annunciation: Mary said yes to be the mother of God, whom she  homeschooled and raised the best she could with God's Grace. I too said "yes" to being a mother and homeschooling little soldiers for Christ. So if I said "yes" to His calling for me, how can I have any doubt of my choice? So again, I say "YES." I will teach your little children to know, love and serve you - as you have asked of me.
  
2. The Visitation: Even Mary needed womanlyVisitation1 companionship in her life. Someone to lift her up, and with Elizabeth pregnant also, they could share in those trials together. Homeschool and Stay at home mothers need companionship. It is in God's great design that we share our lives with each other. I am honored to have found beautiful friends who share many of my same joys and trials. Someone who lifts me up in my sad times, because she understands and prays for me - as I do for her. The visitation is about companionship, an essential part of happiness with homeschooling. 


Christmas Holy Family
3. The Birth of Jesus: God's gifts to us are plentiful. When the school day begins, I am called to bring my gifts to my children, just as the 3 wise men did. The gifts are my talents, my love and affection, my knowledge, my faith and so much more. I need to bring all that to the table each morning. Give of myself freely to my children to further enrich their lives as well as mine. What we do for them, we do for Jesus.
 Three Wise Men

4. The Presentation: As parents, we need to offer our children up to the Lord. We need to be sure that their lives are lived for Christ, not to fulfill our The Presentationown wants and shortcomings. We need to present ourselves to our children and be an open book to them. A living example of what they will someday become. Are we being that for them? Am I being a good example for my children? What materials are we presenting to our children - are they fully enriched in the teachings of the Church? When they are presented at the gates of Heaven, will God be pleased with the way we raised them and how they were taught and disciplined?


5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple: Our children will stray, it is just in Finding Jesus in Templetheir nature to do so. I need to accept that, and move on. I need to stay calm when they tune me out or have a day where they just would rather play. Isn't that what homeschooling is all about? Flexibility? Why am I having such a hard time being flexible, when that is a big part of the whole plan!? I need to be confident that the Lord has a big hand in all of this, and if I slip, if they slip, whether we mean to or not, God will bring us back on track when the time is right. And I need to remember that they are just children - and I need to refocus my attention on what is truly a necessity and what can wait for another day.


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our Advent Adventures


We’ve had a great start to December. We’re coloring with Holy Heroes’ Advent Adventures, opening the Advent Calendar each day, visited with St. Nicholas and opened our stockings, and all the decorations are complete – as of tonight.

Our Kids at Christmas
This is Jonathan’s first Christmas, and with all his siblings being so joyous – he’s very much entertained by it all. He is so alert at 5 months old, it really seems he’s participating in the excitement. He’s growing well on breast milk, and we look forward to his first solids meal on Christmas Eve! And once the new year has begun, we’re going to start potty training with Sabrina.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA           St. Nicholas Day 2009Polar Express Train Time

Even though I’ve had our photo cards ready since September, I just finished our Christmas Letter and am getting ready to send it out this week. It was fun to look back on last year’s letter and reminisce through all my photos to see what he had done this past year. Wow – what fun we’ve had.

God bless you all in your Advent Adventure!
The Michalek Family
Visiting St. Nick

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