Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chairs

A few years ago some friends of mine had a baby. They recently moved to a new home several hundred miles from my house, so it wasn’t easy for me to visit them. So instead, I sent them a gift: Sweet Surroundings Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chair. (Yes, it was a bouncy chair shaped like a monkey.)

I wanted this gift to be unique, something special, something that would let them know that I was so very happy for them.

I placed my order, selected my delivery method, and off it went. And then I waited.

And I waited. No call. No email. No text. No thank you note. Nothing.

I wondered if they received the gift. Could there have been a problem with shipping? Maybe it was sent to the wrong address?

A few weeks passed, and I started to get concerned, as I still had not heard from my friends. That evening,  I went onto Facebook and I stumbled upon some newly posted family photos. The baby was adorable, and Mom and Dad were beaming with pride. But then I looked closer at one of the shots in the living room.  There, in the back of the room, against the wall, was my Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chair.

They simply forgot to say “thanks for the gift.”

This experience made me think. How many gifts has God given me in my life? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Have I always remembered to say thank you? Have I always been grateful for everything that God has given me?

This month, theROCK is focused on Being Ready. A big part of being ready is always being ready to say thank you.

There is nothing better in life than sincere gratitude.

God has given me lots of Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chairs in my life. I think it’s time that I sit down and write him some serious thank you notes.

 

Dan Herda is a member of St. Dominic Catholic Parish Marketing Committee, and one of the editors of theROCK.

 

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The Blessing Box

For the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my family. This tradition includes both sides of the family and results in about 24 people. While this sounds like a big deal, it really isn’t, as I only cook the turkey and other family members contribute to the feast.

When I began hosting, I initiated a family practice called the Blessing Box. The “blessing box” is placed in a central location with strips of paper and markers. Throughout the afternoon, everyone is to write a blessing they are feeling onto a slip of paper and place it in the “blessing box.”

Just before dinner, I take the collected strips and distribute them randomly among the guests. We circle around in anticipation of the sharing. I call the group together, thanking them for coming and joining us before announcing, “May the blessings of one be the blessings of all.” We then take turns reading what is on the slip as we go around the circle. When the circle of sharing is complete, we say the meal prayer.

When the children were smaller, we were blessed in gratitude for Elmo, blankies, potty training, and school. Now that we are 15 years older, our blessings are becoming more profound and sentimental. I have collected these blessings in scrapbooks. The scrapbooks have become part of the Thanksgiving tradition as well. It is fun to look back on pictures of dearly departed family members and their blessings written in their handwriting.

These little nuggets of history begin “remember when” conversations that knit our family tighter together. When we do have guests join us, they become part of the story. While I ponder what I will share as my blessing this year, I can’t help but think of the community and story I have found myself woven into here at St. Dominic.

Five years ago, I knew the Lord sent me here for a purpose. While I pray for the wisdom, courage, knowledge, and understanding to fully execute that purpose, I do know that it was Divine Providence. I have gained so much from being a part of
St. Dominic that I can’t help but feel blessed. I am blessed to come to work and not ever really feel like this is work. I am blessed to engage with people who appreciate their Catholic faith and common purpose.

I am blessed to be surrounded by the most genuine, hard-working teachers and staff members, who are dedicated to the well-being of the children. I am blessed to feel the love and joy of 433 children every day. God is good! All the time!

As I gather with my family in gratitude, please know that you are counted among my many blessings.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Peace!

 

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic Parish

Guiding Principles

The other day I met with Barry, a former co-worker of mine. He wanted to pick my brain on some computer technical issues. He is building a training website for his sales team, and wanted some advice on how to get the project started.

“The first thing you must do,” I said, “is write down the goal for the site. Don’t assume everyone knows what it is. Decide on a very specific goal, then write it down. What do you want this site to be?”

I watched Barry scribble this in his notebook. He then looked up at me waiting for more. That’s when I stopped and smiled.

“Do you know what the problem is with most internal training websites? They have too much stuff on it. People get confused and they don’t know where to find anything. They can’t determine what’s important.”

That’s when I explained guiding principles. “Choose four or five guiding principles or rules for the site. Every video, every training guide, every document must follow one of your guiding principles.”

Barry looked at me with a confused look on his face. “How do I know what my guiding principles are?”

I smiled. “That, my friend, is the important question. That’s for you to decide.”

I knew Barry wanted an easy answer, but it wasn’t that simple.

Later that night while I was driving home from work, I thought about our conversation and how it related to faith in my life.

Am I sometimes too busy reacting to everything in life instead of being proactive in my approach to each day? Do I have too much stuff in my life? Can I always determine what’s important?

What is my ultimate goal?

What are my guiding principles?

What are yours?

The only way to truly grow closer to God is to live intentionally. Take out your notebook and jot down your goal and guiding principles.

This month theROCK is focused on Being Ready.

Are You Ready?

Do you consider yourself a proactive or reactive person? Do you find yourself simply trying to keep up with life? At the end of the day when your head hits the pillow, do you still have items on your to-do list?

The reality is that too many of us go through our days letting the circumstances of life dictate what we do and ultimately, who we are. We become reactive.

What would happen if we became a bit more proactive? What if we made plans to truly focus on things that really matter most?

This month, theROCK focuses on Being Ready. We will look at how to set up a plan to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. We’ll hear from an expert on what you can do to live in the moment. And we’ll discover how to make the most of every minute of every day.

Let’s start right now.

Think of one thing that can help you grow in your faith. It may be praying more, reading more, putting your words into actions. It can be anything that helps bring you closer to God. Make it simple.

Now…choose a day on the calendar, and put that item as a “to-do.” Schedule it for a specific time, much like an outside appointment. When that day comes, make sure you treat that “to-do” with the respect it deserves.

Then schedule it again. And again. Until it starts to become a habit.

It’s that simple.

So, what can you do today to Be Ready for tomorrow?

Share your thoughts with us.

Children Are Watching

I was recently reminded of how impressionable our children are. With the current pace of our world, one can forget to take the time to shield them, or at least teach them, about what they see and hear in light of our Catholic faith.

A few weeks back, an event happened at recess that put me in a situation to look our culture square in the eye as it played out on our baseball diamonds.

I am sure you are all too aware of the NFL controversies around the National Anthem, player’s rights, the role of the president, and all of those components that personally, make me shake my head.

 

Regardless of your opinions and mine, one can’t deny the impression this is making on our young people when in a moment of playing an innocent game of kickball, the players in the field stop to take a knee.

What? Yes, a group of children playing kickball took it upon themselves to just stop and take a knee. I saw it and was a bit dumbfounded. I waited to see what would happen next – some shouting to get on with the game, some exasperated looks of “What is going on?”, and then eventually the game resumed. Interested, I continued to watch. The fielding team went in to take their turn at bat. As anticipated, the now fielding team took a stab at pausing the game to take a knee as retaliation played out.

The teachable moment was upon me. I called “Time Out” and brought everyone to the pitcher’s mound. I asked the group in as innocent a way as possible, “What are you doing by kneeling down?” The initiator said he was protesting. I asked, “What are you protesting?” No one really knew how to answer. I asked if they knew what it meant to protest. They didn’t know. I explained.

After explaining, I then asked what they would be protesting about this recess. They didn’t have any clue, as nothing was wrong. Clearly, they just saw individuals that they idolize doing this, thought it was cool, and followed suit. That bothered me. What bothered me more was the way the children followed the leader not knowing what the leader was doing. That is really scary. I furthered the teachable moment along this vein – children do not have to simply do what others do. If you don’t understand or don’t agree, don’t follow.

Conscience formation is a critical component of what we do at school. We have opportunities to catch impressionable minds in social situations that parents may not always get.

Parents as primary educators are the first teachers of right and wrong. How parents “teach” when reacting to television, radio, movies, or media in anyway is teaching the children and forming a conscience.

Children are watching. Children are listening. Children are emulating what they see. Let’s be vigilant together.

 

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

Words Matter

Words matter.

In my role, I am all too often reminded how the well-chosen word, or the incorrect word choice, can make the difference in the message being sent.

Words matter.

I admire how Jesus always meant what He said and said what He meant. If you read the gospels carefully, Jesus always knew who He was talking to and knew exactly what needed to be said each time. This is something to strive for. I pray for that wisdom every day. I pray for that courage every day.

Words matter.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

The Power of Love

I had lunch with my friend Jennifer yesterday. While we were eating our sandwiches, she was filling me in on everything that’s been going on in her life over the past year. While the words all made sense, the way she was saying them indicated that something wasn’t quite right.

I finally asked her what was wrong.

“It’s Katie,” she said sadly. Katie is her seventeen year daughter. “She’s been a bit of a challenge lately.”

Jennifer told me about Katie getting her driver’s license, then immediately getting three speeding tickets. She had her license suspended. She told me about the friends she’s been hanging out with—not exactly good influences. And she told me about Katie’s drinking.

“I’m at my wit’s end. We are constantly fighting. The other day she screamed at me and threw her math book at me. The more I discipline her, the tougher things get.”

I could hear the sadness in her voice and see the desperation in her eyes. Then Jennifer looked up at me and smiled.

“But I love her. She’s my daughter. I would do anything for her.”

I knew, at that moment, that Jennifer loved Katie without limits. That is not an easy thing to do, especially when a text book is flying toward your face.

As I drove home from lunch, I thought about Jennifer and Katie. And then, I thought about God.

We all have Katie moments in our lives. We all do things that our Father would not necessarily approve of. We all do things that God might just look at us and say, “Come on, really? You’re better than that.”

But God loves us. Without limits. He wants to protect us and guide us, and he wants us to live a life full of passion. He allows us to keep coming back to him, even after we make a mess of things.

Jennifer will continue to struggle, but as long as she has love and God on her side, she will find a way to break through to Katie.

As for me, this lunch made me think:

Why would I ever want to betray God’s trust? Why would I ever want to disappoint my Father?

It’s Personal

True love is experienced at a personal level. We understand the love we receive and  the love we give, to our spouses, our children, our families and even our friends.

For many Catholics, the love of God is also personal as we strive to answer his unique call to each of us. Answering God’s call challenges us to extend love outward as far as we possibly can; beyond the people and cause we know.

Many people make regular and significant sacrifices for those they love, such as deferring “things” to save for a child’s education or leaving a career to care for an aging parent. Others spread love outward through mission trips and community service.

Through all of these acts, and many more, Catholics are answering God’s commandment to “Love one another.”

As we continue our focus on Loving without Limits, think about what you bring to your parish and to the world around you. What are you doing to impact your faith community?

Think about who you love and why. How can you extend this love to others in your life? 

Think about your place in the world and how you can make a difference…through love.

Share your thoughts with us.

Lord, What is it I Need to Hear Today?

This last weekend, I had the opportunity to take a two hour journey by car, all by myself. A blessed two hours of solitude to enjoy the sun, the burgeoning autumn colors, and the radio.

Once the radio station I was listening to started filling with static, I switched to Relevant Radio. I am so glad I did because I stumbled upon Matthew Kelly! If you have never had the pleasure of listening to or reading anything by Matthew Kelly, you’ve been missing out. Dare I say he is a modern day prophet?

I caught a portion of his presentation on the seven pillars of Catholicism. He shared a beautiful story that allows our human minds the opportunity to comprehend the significance of the Mass from God’s perspective. It was a really cool story. What I liked even more was how he encouraged the audience, myself included, to go into Mass asking God this question, “Lord, what is it that I need to hear today in order to be the best version of myself this week?” Since I had not yet been to Mass, I thought to myself that I would give it a try.

I entered Mass thinking the Matthew Kelly question and allowed myself to be open to every word said and sung. Low and behold, there it was! The nugget that hit me right where God needed me to pay attention – the second reading from Philippians 4: 6-9:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

God knew what was on my heart and in my head. He knows I always worry about whether or not I am being the best mother, wife, teacher, leader, and servant He has created me to be. Now you can see how glorious this moment was for me. If you are going to Mass passively, try going in with the Matthew Kelly question. I’d love to learn if it worked for you the way it worked for me.

 

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

Preparing Your “Home” for Jesus

The Eucharist is the source and summit of all that we do and all that we are as Catholics. Proper reverence for and reception of the Eucharist are essential to our formation from little on. Eucharist completes Christian initiation.

It is important to remember that “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsists. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ,“(CCC#1377) hence, the significant role we play in the Body of Christ.

Upon reception of the Eucharist, Christ is truly with us and never leaves. Reception of the Eucharist should then be done without, in my own words, internal complication. As I explain to the students, when we are expecting company, we make our homes cleaner than usual and prepare an environment that is out of the ordinary to make our guests feel special. Preparation for the Eucharist should be just like that, making our “homes” cleaner than usual and preparing an environment to make Jesus feel special. Fasting allows for that to happen. Reconciliation allows for that to happen. It puts Eucharist in its proper perspective – “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) gives us clear directions for how to prepare our “homes” for Jesus in the Eucharist.

To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” (#1387).

There is something to be said about mindfulness and intentionality here. The common practice for the fast is one hour prior to Holy Communion.

 

 

Jill Fischer in the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.