Julia's Guardian Angel Fund

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Remembering John

Last night, we drove to Wisconsin to celebrate.  We were celebrating the short, but beautiful life of my brother-in-law, John, who passed away on April 6, 2011 at the age of 45 as a result of complications of Type 1 Diabetes.  Yesterday, my sister hosted a memorial walk/run to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes research.  It was a hot, but beautiful event.

Two of my kids are not present because they ran, instead of walking, and placed in their age category!

Here are the details of the race:
The family and friends of John Brunstad invite you to join them for the John Brunstad Memorial run  on Saturday, July 14th at 6:00 p.m.  along the beautiful Red Cedar State Trail in Menomonie, WI.   John was an avid runner whose runs often included part of the Red Cedar Trail.  He took up running in his twenties because he knew it would benefit him in many ways.  One of the most important was to better manage his Type 1 Diabetes.   John was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in 1980 at the age of 14.  He chose to control the disease and not let the it control him.  He took good care of himself managing his T1D very well for over 30 years.  This care included testing his blood glucose multiple times a day, using an insulin pump, eating well and exercising regularly.  However, it was this disease that caused his life here with us to be too short.  John passed away in his sleep on April 6, 2011 due to severe hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia is the sudden drop of glucose in a person’s blood because too much insulin is present in the body.  When glucose is too low for too long the brain cannot function.
John was a wonderful, loving husband to Beth and father to Rachel, Becca, Nick, Abbie and Phil, son to Loyd & Fern and brother to Barb, Debi, Sandi, Tammy, Jim & Laura.   He had a great sense of humor, loved running, gardening and spending time with family and friends.  He is dearly loved and deeply missed by many.  It is our hope this will be an annual event that will benefit worthy causes.  Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Stepping Stones of Dunn County and Friends of the Red Cedar Trail.   The John Brunstad Memorial Run fund has been established at the Community Foundation of Dunn County and is owned and managed by the Comunity Foundation of Dunn County.  All gifts to the fund will be distributed from the John Brunstad Memorial Run Fund in accordance with policies of the Community Foundation of Dunn County.
The Races

Starting at the head of the Red Cedar State Trail, you’ll enjoy  the flat, fast  crushed rock coarse.  The  rail parallels the Red Cedar River.  Participants enjoy some of the beautiful features of the trail including limestone rock formations, wildlife (possibly a bald eagle)  and lush woodlands. 
10K—This out and back race will take participants south to Irvington where they will go past the 3 mile marker, turn around and return. Enjoy the lush woods and interesting geological features.
2 Mile Walk/Run—This out and back walk/run will take you to the 1 Mile marker on the beautiful Red Cedar State trail.  Enjoy the views of  Gilbert Creek and the Red Cedar River as you enjoy this section of the trail.
Perhaps next year I will have the where-with-all to post this before the event in case you would like to attend.  It was a beautiful event.

Male Bonding

Today is the last day of the Air Expo.  Here are my boys enjoying some vintage aircraft in 90 degree weather.  Thankfully Dad is an Eagle Scout (Be Prepared) and they are well hydrated, well sunscreened and thoroughly happy.

Us girls?  We're working on potty training the littlest person in the house who has announced she is wearing diapers forever.  We'll just see about that!

Here are a few more "male bonding" pictures.

Friday, July 13, 2012

One last thing on your Calling...

I had place-marked several items in the Living Your Strengths - Catholic Edition  but missed one:

The last chapter in the book is Discovering a Calling.  The authors reflected on the call of Samuel from the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:15).  Samuel didn't recognize the voice of God at first.  He thought it was Eli.  Finally after the third call, Samuel heard, responded and went on to become one of Israel's greatest prophets.

We often don't hear God's call because we think it's someone else.  And remember, those calls are not just for the devout and holy.  God has called each one of us.  We just need to discover what He wants from us.  The voice usually isn't thundering from above, but in whispers deep from within ourselves.  God wants nothing more from us than to live the life for which we were created.  He wants us to be ourselves.

So, as we learn more about ourselves, and yes, Strengthfinders and other personality tests are helpful in doing that, we begin to discover our calling.  When we build and apply our strengths by making the most of the talents He gave us, we fulfill our calling.

And, remember, there is a 1 in 33 million chance that someone has the same strengths in the same order as you.  That's why people may misunderstand you (and you them.)

I just had a conversation with a good friend-of-the-heart about my social absence lately.  Actually, I've probably been socially absent for about five years.  Because "Achiever" is my top Signature Theme, I have been busy (when am I not?)  Busy doing things I feel my vocation is calling me to do.  However, that means that sometimes, I put everything else on the back burner, like doing things with friends.  I don't view my friendships as being at risk when I do this, because in my world, friendships, like God, are faithful even in absence.   I see my vocation having a higher priority.  If Connectedness or Relatedness were in my top five Signature Themes, I probably would make relationships a much higher priority. 

It took me several years to figure out why I felt guilty about leaving my vocation of being a wife, mom and home educator to go out and have "fun."  My drive to do my vocation is so strong (because of that Achiever theme), when I finally listened to the little voice whispering to me and did what I was called to do, I was blessed by many opportunities and was allowed to bless others in ways I had not planned.  About five years ago, I listened to that little voice and decided to make opportunities for my kids to have "social" education activities (like book clubs, in home classes, etc.) at my home.  I made that my priority.  This fits my needs because I get the opportunity to plan activities, write curriculum and share it with many kids.  This means my five Signature Themes, Achiever, Communicator, Ideator, Input and Strategic themes are ALL at work here.  I opted to put aside many play dates and outside activities so I could do that and homeschool my kids well.

I've gotten a lot of ribbing and some serious sideways glances for my choices.  One mom, who was also a mentor of mine from way, way back were talking at a mutual practice where her child and my kids were.  She told me I was making a serious mistake, and the reason we should be homeschooling is so we can do MORE outside activities.  I smiled and said, "Yes, but someone has to plan and execute them.  That's what I feel I'm called to do."  This friend, and many of my other friends are Sanguine (Read The Temperament God Gave You) and I am as about as Choleric as they get.  Get it done then have fun.  And, can I tell you, the amount of joy I derive out of the book clubs and classes I do is so great.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

Lastly, in this call, we need to recognize that we are all not called alike.  If themes like Arranger, Discipline, Consistency and Harmony were my strengths, this blog (and I) would be a lot different.  If Relateness, Connectedness or Woo were in my top five, this would be a very social blog.  If I had other signature themes, then my house would probably be cleaner and I would probably be more interested in organizing my homeschool supplies.  But those are not the gifts God gave me.  I also shouldn't feel badly He chose not to give those gifts to me.  I think it important for us to embrace the strengths we have been given and use them to give Glory to God while not coveting the strengths of others.  My dear friend Margaret gave a very good talk about keeping your eyes on your own work a couple of years ago at a homeschool conference and it applies here.  Many of us take a lifetime to figure that out (or at least 40 years or so).  Others figure it out later.  I hope you have already figured out your gifts.

Being Comfortable With your Calling

I'm a personality test junkie.  Since I took my first Myers-Briggs personality test back in 1989, I've been hooked.  I love learning about myself, helping to explain my idiosyncrasies, and learning more about others so that I can better understand how to relate to them.

By far, my favorite personality test is called Strengthfinders.  My husband introduced me to it when, as a manager at a corporate retail company, he was required to take the test along with reading the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.  Since then, I have read several books on using our strengths for success.

I found this book while doing a Google search.  It's Living Your Strengths - Catholic Edition.  It was just the book I needed to read this summer.

Now, let me tell you about how this whole Strengthfinders test works.  You answer a series of questions (so this is self-reported) in an on-line test.  What is revealed to you are your "Signature Themes."  Donald Clifton PH.d. , who created the test, had a very optimistic philosophy.  Instead of working really hard at correcting our weaknesses, we better serve God and humanity by using our strengths (or talents).  There are 34 signature themes.  Statistically, the chances of meeting someone with your exact themes is 1 in about 275,000.  The chances of meeting someone with your exact themes in exactly the same order is about 1 in 33,000,000.  So, while God made us in His likeness and image, He gave us a wide variety of strengths with which to work.

At a used book sale this summer, I also picked up another Strengths-based book, StrengthsQuest, which is for students.  It takes the 34 signature themes and shows how they apply to working in school and determining a career that would best match your strengths.  I bought this because I think our kids are failed by our schools (and us, too, sometimes) in career guidance.  Just because someone is interested in something does not mean it would be a good career for them.  As my eldest approaches high-school, I hope to use it to help him find his strengths and use them for the greater glory of God.

Here's a personal confession:  I am not always comfortable in my own skin.  Strangely enough, I am most uncomfortable with my strongest strength.  Actually, I think it might be fairer to say most people are uncomfortable with my strongest strength upon which I become uncomfortable.  People become uncomfortable with my busy-ness. 

So, I will just lay out my signature themes in rank order, just in case you want to understand me just a little better:
People especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

People especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

People especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

People especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

People especially talented in the Input theme have a need to collect and archive. They make collect information, ideas, history, or even relationships.

Perhaps, for me, one of the biggest realizations I had in learning these things about myself, was that discontent is the norm.  The other big ah-ha moment I had was realizing that because Achiever is my top theme, I put work before everything.  Things need to get done, in my book.  So much so, that I often add things to my to-do list that I have completed, that weren't there so I can cross them off, giving me a sense of "achieving."  Here's the wierd thing...that theme is my theme, not one I necessarily expect of my kids or husband.  Anyone who has seen my house can attest to the fact that I also do not apply "achiever" to my homemaking skills!

There are so many beautiful nuggets I could share with you from the Catholic Edition of Living Your Strengths but I just don't have the room or time.  But, I will leave you with two things.  If the statistics  gave you weren't enough, here's what St. Paul had to say about it in Romans 12:6-8 (from the USCCB website):
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 
 And second, the parable from Matthew 25:14-29 (which I won't quote here for brevity) that Jesus told his disciples before his passion, death and resurrection about the master who entrusted "talents" to his servants while he was away.  Of course the word "talents" here represents money, but because this is a parable, you can think talents.  The point of the parable, which some people find harsh, wasn't about investing huge sums of money but rather about using the talents God places within each one of us.  God expects us to develop those talents and use them wisely.  In the parable, not every slave was given the same amount of "talents"; each was given "according to his ability."  So, it is with God and the distribution of talents and gifts among individuals.  In the parable, the master was furious with the servant who did nothing with their talents.  The master wanted the servant to take a risk and grow their talents.

Developing our talents into strengths requires risk.  We must step out, try new things or take a chance by doing something we may fail at, at first.  But if we do not take some risks, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, we will never grow.  God expects no less from us.  So, get out there and serve the Lord.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


fides - Latin - faithful, loyal
I was sitting in church today, listening to our new priest, whom I like very much.  He spoke about faithfulness, which was the topic of today's readings and many things occurred to me and he pointed out some very obvious things that I had truly missed.

First of all, I had never thought about the priesthood being like an arranged marriage.  He, in his faithfulness to the Church, obediently moves to the parish assigned to him by the Archbishop.  He doesn't get to court the parish.  He doesn't get to choose or have a say.  It is arranged.  And yet, he is faithful.  How beautiful!

This had me musing during church.  I catch myself "apologizing" for not going to our "other Parish" very much.  You see, I have been a brat.  I would rather attend Mass up at the really beautiful church a couple of suburbs away where the music is more beautiful; the Mass more orthodox.   I always seem to be explaining to my "more Catholic" friends, "Well, we belong to both parishes.  We just don't make it up to the other one very often."  I have not been faithful to either Church.

Now, I know that that kind of obedience is not required.  We are not forbidden from attending Mass at another church.  In fact, the preference is to go more than not, and it doesn't seem to matter where.  The more we're at Mass, the better for us.

We ended up at this parish for several reasons, mostly proximity to our home. You can't beat being five minutes from church, especially when you have six kids.  The main reason we are there, though, is Boy Scouts.  My husband decided that the group most of my son's Cub Scout friends joined after crossing over from Cubs to Boy Scouts just wasn't the group for us.  It was too far away and honestly, they are in an extremely prestigious suburb and saw that they do things like go to the Caribbean and out West for troop activities.  We can't afford those kinds of activities.  Remember?  We have six kids.

So, we opted for the Boy Scout troop at the parish five minutes from our house.  And it was a good thing.   My Eagle Scout husband fit in with the group and filled the role as Outdoor committee chair and Assistant Scoutmaster for a couple of years.  The parents got to know him and so did the adult leadership.  Last year,  my husband was recruited to become the Scoutmaster.  My son wishes there were more homeschooled boys in the Troop, but he's at an age where we think it's really good for him to see a little more of the world and learn to get along with others not homeschooled, not the same orthodoxy, not the same world view.  It's all good.  He and his dad have had some really good conversations about music, movies, video games, life, school, athletics that have all resulted from experiences at Boy Scouts.

So what does this all have to do with fidelity?  Well, I have supported my men in the Scouts, without question.  However, until today, I have been underhandedly unfaithful to my parish.  Maybe it's the new priest.  Maybe it's the realization that my husband has been right all along.  And, finally, the talk from Dr. Ray Gaurendi, "Why Be Catholic?" has all finally settled into my big thick head.  It doesn't matter where I go to church.  I have the Church right here, five minutes from home.  And instead of longing for the other church, I can be content with it's faithfulness to me.  Just like God, my Church is right there, waiting for me to come.  It's not going anywhere.  It's there.  For me.

I won't be dropping the other parish.  I just won't be so discontented.  I like our new priest.  If I feel this inspired after every Mass, I may need to attend daily Mass more often!