Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Heal the Broken Hearted...

Here is part of today's devotional from the "40 Days for Life" campaign.
Let's pray, today, for those around us who may have unseen broken hearts.
We may not ever know the people in our lives who have been injured by an abortion.

Beyond the unborn children are the moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, and the human family that will never be touched by their gifts.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has
anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has
sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim
liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

-- Luke 4:18-19

People participating in the 40 Days for Life vigil
watched as a young man who appeared to be in tears
walked into Planned Parenthood with his girlfriend
and her mother.

When they left some time later, he was most certainly
crying -- and obviously quite upset.

I'll let one of the prayer vigil participants pick up
the story...

"I watched him head down the street, alternating
between wiping the tears from his face and punching
the buildings in anger and frustration as he passed
them. Eventually he headed back toward the parking
lot. As he approached, I went to him first. All I
could think to say was that I was so very sorry for
his loss. He began to cry again.

Then a truck pulled up leaving the parking lot with
his girlfriend and her mother inside. The girl's
mother yelled at him to get in and cursed him as he
opened the door. He had one foot inside, then
stepped back out and closed the door. As she drove
away he promptly sat down on the curb and cried
like a baby. Three of us sat down beside him -- all
men -- and cried with him.

Eventually, he began to talk. He was probably in
his very early twenties. He told us that his
girlfriend did not want to keep the child because
she feared they would not be able to provide for
him. He asked her how she could destroy a life
based on a hunch. He told her this child had a
heartbeat and a soul and deserved to live. He even
tried to convince her to, at the very least, put
the child up for adoption.

I was struck by the fact that this young man knew
all this simply because his heart told him it was
true. He was wise well beyond his years and he was
hurting terribly.

I was struck by the clear reality that fathers have
so little to do with whether their own children
live or die. I also couldn't help but notice that
despite the high volume of Planned Parenthood
volunteers around, none of them approached him.

Before I left him, he stood up to hug me. All I
could tell him was what I truly believed -- that
today, his child knows that his/her father fought
for it. That to his child, he is a hero and that
someday he would know that also."

Please pray for this young man and others like him.
The tragedy of abortion is real and happening every
day. No one knows that better than he.

I sincerely hope this young man comes to embrace the
exceptional advice he was given; but that will most
certainly take time. I cannot even begin to imagine
the anguish.

This is a first-person account of what abortion does
to fathers. Who knows how many others have walked in
his shoes, as there are more than a million abortions
every year -- and more than 50 million since the 1973
Roe v. Wade decision that opened the floodgates to
abortion on demand.

Let's pray even harder!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Please Pray ...

Barbara at "Mommy Life" made me aware of this today. Mike Farris has been a true Blessing to the homeschooling community.

Please pray for his wife and their family.

Mike and Vickie Farris need our prayers

vickie farris.jpeg Mike and Vickie Farris, who for years have given so tirelessly of themselves to minster to and advocate for homeschooling - and all freedom-loving - families, not to mention raising 10 beautiful children of their own - are facing a great challenge as Vickie's health has taken an unexpected turn.

Mike writes to their church family and has given me permission to share here:

Dear Blue Ridge family,

Vickie went the Johns Hopkins on Tuesday and was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis--a disease that has no known cause and no known cure. It is in the family of auto-immune diseases. The main symptom is pain. It can be severe. Vickie says that her pain has been similar to the last hour or two of labor for several days in a row. Serious pain killers do little to help.

However, it is not life-threatening--at all. It is also episodic--meaning that the flare-ups come and go. Although we didn't know what this was previously, she has apparently had this for several years in a milder form. But this has been the worst flare-up by a long shot. Home cures like cranberry juice, etc. that work for ordinary urinary tract infections actually make the pain worse for interstitial cystitis.

As of now, Vickie is not really functional--she can't homeschool, she can't manage the house, etc. Just about anything she eats causes pain reactions. She has lost a lot of weight. But, we are hoping that this will turn around in a week or two--but it could last longer.

She has had some good days and bad days this past week. But, after a few good days, she had some very bad days that caused me to return early from the national homeschool convention. We would really appreciate your prayers for Vickie on an ongoing basis. And a note from Vickie -- "I really appreciate all the prayers, calls, and cards. I am deeply moved by the obvious love you all have shown to me."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eldersburg Apple Festival

Yesterday, we braved the rain and headed over to Laura's neck of the woods to take in the Apple Festival in Eldersburg.

It was a bit drizzly, but the rain didn't end up amounting to much, and it was actually very enjoyable weather.

We met up with Laura, Lucy and Molly at Piney Run Park.

It is a beautiful park back in the woods in Sykesville.

Lucy had herself all decked out in apple facepaint,

and Molly borrowed Lydia's hat to make her fashion statement.

The food was great and the local craftsfolk were out in force.

The local color was...interesting...

The boys had a great time on a climbing wall that has been put up in the park.

It was a great time.

Today we were home after Mass and had time to work on our various projects.

I finished Molly's quilt!!! Pictures of that project tomorrow!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Grandkids Day!

Yes, it was!
Laura came over with Lucy and Molly, and Lilly was here while Nina was in school, so we had a houseful of fun with all of them.
The boys each had a couple of tests and piano lessons, but after that we packed up and went to the park with lunch. The weather was so gorgeous!! I got lots of pictures!

After the kids had a chance to play, we went over to Aberdeen to run a few errands. The girls were good as gold, even in the grocery store. They play together so well now!
John went to work for a couple of hours, doing yard work for a friend. He is enjoying the extra money!
Laura and the girls made a batch of Pumpkin bread and I think making it was as much fun as eating it!When Lucy got ready to leave, she got into her new jammies and showed us "Elmo".

I went back over to Aberdeen for pizza and picked John up on the way home. Then Paul and I had a date to go to the high school football game. The Warriors trounced them! 40 to nothing! Paul has been wanting to go watch football, and the other two boys were quite content to stay home with a movie!

Tomorrow is Saturday and we are going to head over to Eldersburg, to the Apple Festival. Gotta be a pie there somewhere...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

40 Days for Life Starts September 23!

Tomorrow is the beginning of another 40 Days for Life! This is such a perfect way to serve the cause of Life!
It is making tremendous progress in the effort to bring awareness and the power of prayer to the battle against abortion.

Please check this out and consider joining the effort...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The King and I and Lilly's birthday...

Two great events yesterday and I got to be part of both of them!

Lilly had her birthday party at "That Bouncy Place" and BOY did she have fun! She started screaming and running as soon as she got there! It was a perfect Lilly day!!!

Yesterday was also that last performance of "The King and I".

This show was so much fun for the kids... there were so many neat moments and they all got to be very good friends.
Paul's "mom" in the show gave him a card and a little gift, and it meant so much to him...He was getting kind of weepy backstage and I think this may have been part of it. He really liked Miss Jen. That's the tough thing about these shows, you really have to say goodbye to a lot of people that you feel very close to, and you don't know when you will see them again. Poor little Samantha was having a terrible time after the show...She had made so many good friends. She played Paul's "sister", and she is such a sweet girl.

I was very proud of my young "Prince". I'm proud of all my princes!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Just In....

From Creative Minority Report:

Save the Sheep!

Alright. This is my new favorite story ever. I know I say that like once a month but this time I really mean it. Reuters reports that a class of school children in England have been rearing this lamb since birth. They fed the creature by hand. Bonded with it. Named it Marcus for goodness sake. And that's all good.

But then the lamb got to be something like six months old and the children made a decision that's freaking lots of adults out. Come on. Guess what it is. That's right. These awesome kids are voting to send the animal to slaughter. Why? So they can profit and buy a pig. Yeaaaaaahhhhhh!

Marcus the six-month-old lamb has now been culled, the head teacher of the primary school in Kent confirmed on Monday, after the school's council -- a 14-member group of children aged 6 to 11 -- voted 13-1 to have him killed.

The decision has provoked fury among animal-loving celebrities, animal and human rights campaigners and the parents of some of the children, and led to threats against Lydd primary school and its teachers, according to a member of staff.

Around 250 children at the school take part in a program designed to teach them about rearing and breeding animals.

The educational farm was started this year, with Marcus being hand-fed by the children. The children also look after ducks, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs.

The intention had been to buy pigs with the money raised from slaughtering Marcus, but those plans have been put on hold following the furor created by the lamb's culling. The school said the program may now have to be stopped.

"It's all up in the air," said a member of staff. "There's been so much pressure on us as a result of all this."

Despite that, the school said there had been overwhelming support among the children, the staff and most of the parents to have Marcus -- a castrated male who could not have been used for breeding -- sent to the slaughterhouse.

But opponents branded it heartless and cruel, with animal rights campaigners asking why Marcus could not have been used to teach the children about wool, and human rights campaigners worried about the emotional impact of Marcus's death on the children.

A popular talkshow host offered to buy the lamb and give it sanctuary and Facebook groups sprung up to rally support to keep Marcus alive. But the children had the final say. The school defended the children's decision, calling it educational.

"When we started the farm in spring 2009, the aim was to educate the children in all aspects of farming life and everything that implies," the school said in a statement.

"The children have had a range of opportunities to discuss this issue, both in terms of the food cycle and the ethical aspect... It is important for everyone to move on from this issue, so the children can focus on their education."
See. Here's the thing. You know the one kid who voted against slaughtering the animal. That would've been me. Hey, I was a suburban kid raised on cartoons where animals talked and sang for goodness sake.

But now I grew up and think these kids are absolutely awesome. Sad that they seem far more adult than the wimpy adults who've watched too many Disney movies.

So in honor of the kids, here's a little poem...Ahem.

Mary had a little lamb
Her father shot it dead
Now Mary brings the lamb to school
between two hunks of bread.

THIS leads me to an article that I read in THE ONION a couple of years ago:

Animal-Rights Activists Release 71,000 Cows Into Wild

This might be a fine place for Marcus...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paul's Talk

So Paul had to prepare a persuasive speech for English.

Lately he has been angling to play football next season. I have been trying to explain to him why I think he probably wouldn't like it very much, but he is just sure that this is what he needs to do.

So he decided that his persuasive speech should be directed toward getting me to pay for football.

He came up with this entirely on his own...

So, should I pay for it, or not?

Monday, September 14, 2009

"King and I" Weekend

Well, the "King and I" opened Friday night and, from what we heard from the various audiences, it is very well received.

The kids were just great. There are 15 of them in our room, and they are getting along, behaving very well backstage, and putting on great performances each time they appear onstage.

The principle actors are amazing as well.

Gail, Tiffany and Sarah have amazing vocal talent, and the guys, Doug and Joseph in particular, are awesome as well.

The ladies that play the wives are doing some pretty tough vocal gymnastics, and carrying it off in fine form.
Pretty Royal Wife Celeste.
This picture is from a dress rehearsal. A couple of costumes were in "the shop".

Paul is having such a good time! He is working hard and doing all he can to please the directors.

The highlight of his weekend was having Lucy come to see the show!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chilling Example of U.K. Healthcare Guidelines...

If there is any question as to who gets the short end of socialized medicine, this article should answer it. This is not an isolated incident, these are National Guidelines. Doctors have to follow them. Preemies in this country do survive at this age. It's not easy and it's not cheap. Some of these kids grow up needing lifelong medical intervention. In England, apparently, the books are kept first, then if you are healthy enough to fit into the budget, you get to live!

'Doctors told me it was against the rules to save my premature baby'

By Vanessa Allen and Andrew Levy
Last updated at 7:58 AM on 09th September 2009

Doctors left a premature baby to die because he was born two days too early, his devastated mother claimed yesterday.

Sarah Capewell begged them to save her tiny son, who was born just 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy - almost four months early.

They ignored her pleas and allegedly told her they were following national guidelines that babies born before 22 weeks should not be given medical treatment.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A-kayaking We Went...

It was quite a day for most of the Merkels today!

This morning we went downtown and I rented my kayak!
Tim had gotten me a gift card for two hours with a kayak for my birthday, and we finally had a weekend with a free day, so that we could use it.
The guys that own the place are great! They are so nice, and they have a huge selection of different types of watercraft. We chose a two-man sit-on-top kayak, so Tim and I could take turns going out and taking the boys. The guy at the shop loaded the boat and actually brought it to us at the launch.
The weather was great! Not too hot, but the water isn't cold yet. There was a bit of wind, but not enough to really stir things up.
There were lots of boats out on the river, so there were a few wakes to deal with here and there, but nothing serious.

I was really nervous at first, because I am really not comfortable around water, but this thing was amazingly stable and once I had been out, I was able to totally relax and enjoy the river.

We didn't go far from the launch, because we were all sharing and the boys kept wanting to switch.

Tim went out first, to get a feel for how it handled on the river. The Tim took Paul. Paul was LOVING it! Then Tim and John went out. I called Nina and she came and sat at the launch with the boys while Tim and I went out for awhile. That was nice.
Then, when we got back I went out by myself. It was awesome! I want to go again one of these days. The weather is going to get too cold soon though. It is just so nice out there on the water!
We saw an eagle looking for lunch.

The only one who didn't go out was Brendan. We were hoping that he would want to, but I think it just takes him awhile to warm up to new things. I think if we go out every so often he will decide to go and enjoy the water. He swims like a fish, and I think if we were going somewhere interesting, he would be all for it. Maybe we'll try to get up to the dam one of these days.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Last Weekend...

It's hard to watch the summer end.
It seemed like it flew by so fast!

This weekend we are trying to get the last bits of Summer fun in before Fall festivities begin.
Already we have had some chilly nights.

Here are a few pictures of the flowers before it gets cold and they wither:
John's Marigold just went crazy. It looks like a shrub! He must have done something right...
My wild and crazy petunias growing in the gravel...

Tim, John and Brendan decided to take one last opportunity to sleep out in the tent. This is the campsite:

Tim said it was incredibly loud out there last night. Between the cicadas, peepers, traffic and trains, it was like sleeping in Union Station!

Bosco doesn't notice the changing seasons much. He pretty much does the same things every day. You can't say he's just a dumb cat though. He knows that I never let him up in my chair when I am reading, because I can't stand his tail in my face, so he lays himself in the purrfect spot at my feet. He gets his head rubbed first, and then rolls over so I can do his tummy, vast expanse that it is.

Tomorrow we are trying out kayaking. If I don't drown, I'll have pictures to post...
We also will spend the later part of the day at the pool,

Barry Takes a Lesson from Mr. Webb...

H/T Creative Monority Report

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paul's New Look

Over the course of the last few days, Paul has changed his look from little guy to toothless wonder.
I told him that his next audition song should be "All I Want For Christmas...".
It really took these teeth a long time to fall out! He is seven and a half already! Can't wait to see how the "grown up" teeth look coming in. My bank account and I are waiting with some amount of nervousness....

"The King and I" opens this coming Friday. Paul and the other kids are ready and I think the whole show is going to be great! I will be a "backstage mom" this time around. I hope the kids just have a good time...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Christ For Us: The Year for Priests

By Rachel Watkins

The Year of St. Paul has come and gone and now we are just getting started with the Year for Priests. In announcing this year to the bishops, the Holy Father wrote, “Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special "Year for Priests" that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy CurĂ© d’Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ’s flock.”

He continues: “It will be the task of your Congregation, in agreement with the diocesan Ordinaries and with the superiors of religious institutes to promote and to coordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives that seem useful for making the importance of the priest’s role and mission in the Church and in contemporary society ever more clearly perceived.”

In love for priests — past, present and future — individual people and organized groups are taking up the challenge with great enthusiasm. There are campaigns to spiritually adopt priests through daily prayer and sacrifice. There are holy hours scheduled for an increase in vocations and more. But, honestly, I have seen a lack of enthusiasm with some friends and acquaintances for this year which I greeted with such joy.

I will readily admit that I love priests. Having a brother who is a diocesean priest, now serving as a military chaplain in the Army, and a son off to the seminary in the fall, my joy may be understood but I also remember it as a part of me from my youth.

Its early roots came from my mother, who is one of those Catholic moms who would invite the parish priest over for dinner regularly. My dad was active in the parish, making sure that the rectory was in working order and that the priest did not have to climb ladders to replace light bulbs in the Church. Both of them saw that priests needed some taking care of and they were there to do what they could.

Now, however, I am not sure that all current priests get such care. We might want to blame the recent scandals, but I think all of us realize that it was a very select few priests guilty of crimes. The majority of priests were and are good men of God doing their best to serve. But, in an increasingly secular society, it can be hard to relate to men willing to forsake all others for God.

This is not to say that all priests are perfect, but neither are we. Some priests are excellent homilists, others good in the confessional while others struggle even making eye contact

Regardless of your current pastor or memories of priests past, the personal qualities of a priest should fade into insignificance compared with the realization that, by the sacrament of Holy Orders, these men have become Christ here on earth for us.

This point came home to me recently when I went to daily Mass at the retirement home for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. As I sat participating in the Mass, I was overtaken by the profound thought of all that these 20 or so men have done. When the time for consecration came and they all raised their hands and joined their voices in the words of Christ from the Last Supper, I could not stop the tears from flowing. Despite their flaws, despite their age and infirmities, these men were still Christ for me.

On the drive home I began doing some mental math. If each of these men — let us say there were 20 — have been priests for 40 years (at the least) how many sacraments had they been a part of? The numbers staggered me. Consider this: If one priest serving the Church for 40 years performs one marriage a month they would have brought together 480 couples. And, if those same couples brought back even just two babies for baptisms there would be 960 of those. If this same priest occupies the confessional 1 hour a week they would have been offering real forgiveness for 2,080 hours.

The numbers really get amazing when you think of offering Mass. My own pastor shares Mass duties in our parish with both an associate pastor and one or two of the retired Oblates so his commitment to public Mass is on average 6 times a week. So, when he reaches his 40th anniversary he will have brought Christ 12,480 times! How many children received Christ for the first time from these men and how many were brought home to God?

We must all, despite our personal feelings and struggles, admit the gift of the priesthood is astonishing. And, none of these numbers include what they do in those committee meetings, personal counseling, visits to the homebound, comfort and Sacraments in hospitals and prisons – the list goes on and on.

So, without any words of complaint about the old priest you knew who yelled at you in the confessional or the priest who insisted on shaking hands with his sweaty palms, let us find a way to truly celebrate this awesome gift that the priesthood is to the Church as a whole and to us as individuals.

In spite of those who faltered in their faith, we must admit that our own admission to heaven will be the result of some very good priests who lived and died with their vows intact, bringing Christ to us despite the loneliness and lack of understanding. They stood at the altar every weekend; they have faced our wrath on a bad day and our tears on even worse days. They strive to be Christ to us; cannot we try to be Christ to them?

One small way you might want to celebrate this year as a family would be to download the free activity sheet for “The Year of the Priest” from Ecce Homo Press . It was developed for families to find concrete ways to both support priests, encourage vocations and develop a deeper appreciation for the Sacrament of Holy Orders in their homes.

The Year of Priest may not seem as accessible as the Year of St. Paul, but it will have a direct affect on the priests you pray and sacrifice for and on you and your family. For if this year is, in part, celebrating priests yet to come, how better to introduce the priesthood to some young boy in your life than by actively participating in it.

Rachel Watkins is wife of Matthew, mom to 11 kids, creator of the Little Flower's Girls Program (www.eccehomopress.com), and a weekly contributor to Heart, Mind and Strength Radio with Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak and a frequent blogger at their site, www.exceptionalmarriages.com.