Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Doing God's Work Isn't for the Faint of Heart

From the Gospel of Mark :

And Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned,  all she had to live on.”

Doing God’s work is not for the faint of heart. Look at the outcome for Jesus’ apostles. All but one were martyred.

James was killed by the sword of Herod; Peter, Andrew, and Bartholomew were all crucified; Philip was tortured and then crucified; Thomas was speared and then burned alive; Matthew was beheaded.

When we registered at our parishes and chose to engage in the ministry offered by our Catholic schools, as employees and/or parents, we signed up for a life of self-sacrifice through stewardship, and that looks different for each one of us.  We do not worry about being crucified, burned alive, or beheaded because we are advancing God's Kingdom on earth. We are fortunate to live in a country that allows us to express our faith without fear of death, so let’s count our blessings that we live in the time that we do and recognize that it is hard work.

Much like the analogy of holding a glass of water—if we hold it for just a short time, it is not a problem. If we hold it for an hour, it causes an ache; if we hold it for a day, it is extremely painful. Living a life of self-sacrifice and stewardship is hard because it never ends. At the end of our journey here on earth, we will be judged by God. In Jean Ross’ wisdom she said, “When God measures a person, He puts the tape around his heart, not his head or purse.” As the Gospel reading explained, it isn’t about the amount as much as it is the attitude and personal sacrifice.

I bring this all up because I have been involved in a number of conversations revolving around the demands stewardship puts on parents.  Stewardship fundraising is tough—we need ongoing donations for projects, food, gifts of time preparing, serving, cleaning, and tear down…we ask for time and energy organizing, planning, and leading...we ask you to sell and deliver items...we ask you to reach out to your family members for support...not to mention the money we spend to support the events. The outcome of all of this is much greater than the dollar figure by which we often measure it. 

We build our school and faith community through the fellowship of our school events. We invite guests into our building and through this hospitality we evangelize and spread our faith. We create experiences for our children that provide positive and happy memories of their elementary school experience. We support the mission of our school to educate children in their faith to be "Christ to One Another," and we provide an exceptional academic program. As a school built on stewardship we do not have to charge the $4500 per student per year in tuition. By all of us coming together as stewards we make the ministry of our Catholic school an option regardless of the financial means of the students and their families.

Stewardship is not easy, but we believe it is better. We could go to a tuition model, but that is not the direction we want to go. We lose out on the fellowship of stewards in our community of faith.
As a parishioner, parent, staff member, and administrator, I get it! We are tapped out by the time we get finished with the big fundraising events and at the end of the school year, and all the steps leading up to it, but when I look at what I get as a parent for my efforts—my kids’ faith-based outstanding education—it is worth the effort. It is a lot easier than paying $450 per child per month for 10 months. It should also be noted that this cost is minimized because of your gifts of time and talent. Those gifts help us keep the cost of education down. Do not underestimate those gifts of time and talent organizing and serving day in and day out.

I want you to all know how much I appreciate your efforts—parents and staff alike. If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times since I came to Holy Family in 2012, our parents and staff are second to none, and I mean that with all sincerity. You all truly believe in the mission that we are trying to accomplish at Holy Family, and with all of us working together, we can’t fail. Your efforts are much greater than the sum of the individual parts. We often judge the success of our efforts by the bottom line, the dollar amount—whether it is more or less than the previous year.

Each year our goals are set a little higher than previous years and they are harder to attain, especially when our economy is unstable. As an administrator, it is my job to see the bigger picture. I listen to many of you share your concerns, ideas, and suggestions, and I have to look at the picture as a whole. What often looks like a simple fix in one area has a ripple effect to other areas that others are not aware. I often describe this as keeping ‘all the plates spinning.’

I so appreciate all the passion to meet the goal established by the budget line items. We are not like a normal school--the fundraising is not surplus for extra projects. This is how we make ends meet. Here is the bottom line, if we do not make the established goals, it is my problem to deal with along with all of my trusted advisers—my leadership team, school advisory council, finance and development council, and school pastor. Because we are a stewardship school, I believe wholeheartedly in God’s Divine Providence for our school He bestows blessings on us daily through all of staff, parents and supporters! If we are short in one area, it will be made up somewhere else. This doesn’t mean that I just sit back and wait, I actively work toward it, but all will come in God’s good timing.

As one can see, doing God’s work is not for the faint of heart. It requires ongoing self-sacrifice and absolute faith and trust in God’s Will for our school. These are not qualities that are highly revered in our culture of control and self-centeredness. It goes against everything that we are bombarded with each day. In the end, we are advancing His kingdom through our efforts, and there is no greater reason for what we do. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for the gifts of time, talent, and treasure offered by all our school supporters throughout the school year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Father's Love

The past two days, at daily mass, the readings were from the first chapters of Genesis and the story of creation. While it is the story of creation, with a second look it can be interpreted as a love story from a Father to His children.


The story begins the Father looking at an abyss and turning it into a home that provides everything for His children to live. Water and land, darkness and light, moon and sun, plants and animals, and then humans in his own likeness. This does not differ much from today's parents. When a mother learns that she is expecting and growing a new life, does she not start to make better and healthier choices to give the child growing in her womb the best home possible? Does the father not begin the preparations of the physical home to receive this new being into a warm and welcoming room equipped with every necessity? Do the parents not begin to think about finances and how they will be able to provide necessary care and food?

Fast forward 5 or 6 years and mom or dad have lovingly prepared a nutrious and delicious meal that they thought would be welcomed by the hungry child, only to be disappointed with, "What's this?! That's yucky!" Or the gift, so thoughtfully picked, is met with confusion or lack of appreciation. Think how disappointed we, as parents, feel in those or similar situations. Fast forward another 10 or 12 years when mom and dad are "boring" and "dumb" and they "don't understand." Does the love for our children wane in the disappointment? Do we use this as an opportunity to teach valuable lessons? Our Heavenly Father is no different.

The deep love of our Heavenly Father is a mystery to us, and we are unable to fully undestand. Think about the love you have for your own children. The loss of a child is among the most painful experiences a parent could ever endure, whether it is death or a strained relationship in adulthood.  Imagine the pain and anguish of our Heavenly Father when He loses one of His own. He loves us so deeply, more deeply than we can fathom. Imagine the disappointment and anguish when we turn away from him in the same way our children turn away from us. He gently calls us back and welcomes us with open arms just was we would to our own children.

I invite you to revisit the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15: 11-32 to hear about a Father's unconditional love for his child.

God gave us the perfect example of a loving family when Jesus came to earth through Mary's womb--Joseph, the obedient protector of the family, Mary, the obedient and loving mother and Jesus, God incarnate to demonstrate what holiness on earth looks like. Pray for the intercession of Joseph and Mary for your own family. Pray to Jesus to help continue in your personal spiritual journey of holiness and to be a model to your own children.

The Holy Family Prayer

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Am I Bringing up a Tea Cup or Rubber Band?

"I am glad I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes."           ~Gene Fowler

I find that I identify with Gene Fowler....to a certain degree. Please keep that in mind as I go on about resilience and it's importance in our children and adolescents. (I do believe an important life skill is knowing when to take good advice and when to forge your own trail.)

We have all heard the stories of our parents and grandparents...how they walked miles to school each day....in three feet of snow....uphill...both ways! Television was in black and white....with three channels...if you were lucky enough to get the rooftop antenna adjusted. Corporal punishment was tolerated, and expected. Yes, we have all heard those stories, and we are so grateful for the improvements in our society.

No doubt, these circumstances were challenging and bred resilience in our parents and grandparents. It is evident and rooted in our American history. Today's children grow up in a very different world.

The world is their own...

cafeteria.... smorgasbord...

however you woud like to describe it. Basically, they have anything and everything at their fingertips, and can pick and choose what they most desire...no matter how good, bad, or indulgent. And...if they don't like what they got the first time they can go back and get something else.

You are probably wondering where I am going with this...how are a tea cup, rubber band, cafeteria, smorgasbord, and buffet all related?

It all goes back to one of the most important attributes our children must develop before their adolescent years....



What is resilience? I wasn't introduced to this word until I had the esteemed privilege to hear from Dr. Robert Brooks himself at a school conference in Boston. He was a fantastic speaker and delivered such valuable information that it changed me as an educator and parent forever. So...what is it?

This is the definition Bing brought up for me...

Definition:  re·sil·ience  [ ri zíllyənss ]


1. speedy recovery from problems: the ability to recover quickly from setbacks
2. elasticity: the ability of matter to spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched, or deformed
Dr. Tim Elmore highly accomplished professor and writer, says we are bringing up a generation of Tea Cups.

Our children are fragile because their world is a buffet, children that never have to learn how to live with their choices can toss what is left and go back for something different or negotiate for something better. It is a beautiful concept, that we do not have to live with the bad and the ugly, there is always something better that can replace it, but it isn't always reality when we get into grown up life. As much as we hate to see our children grow up too fast....and they do...part of childhood is learning coping skills from experiences that are not life threatening.

An example might be choosing the hot dog for dinner, and then realizing that he/she probably would have really liked the hamburger; however, he/she must learn to live with the decision of the hot dog. Next time he or she will make a better thought out decision.

All too often, we as parents, in an effort to comfort our child, will do everything in our power to erase the bad decision and the disappointment that goes along with it. That is wonderful too...that we love our children so much that we do not want them to hurt. God loved Adam and Eve in the same way, He never wanted them to feel pain, but their disobedience resulted in a world and life full of hurtful, painful, sad, and disappointing experiences. Now, we, as parents and teachers, must arm our children with the skills to cope with life's difficulties and bad decisions.

We need to bring up rubberbands...

children that can bounce back into shape after painful, hurtful, sad, or disappointing experiences.

Surely, we want to equip our kids with all the best tools to grow up and be successful into adulthood. Our job as a parent is to put ourselves out of work, as parents. Train our kids to be good productive citizens that can support themselves and contribute positively to society without our help.

In the early elementary years children learn "small potato" (yes, another food reference) lessons whether they forgot their homework , chose the hot dog when they really wanted the hamburger, decided to go out for soccer and learned he didn't like it, but played the entire season anyway. They will evolve into disagreements between friends, being called names by a fellow student, not seeing eye-to-eye with a teacher, saying something mean to a parent out of anger, or being excluded from a group of classmates. While we do not like to see our child hurt, these are opportunities to teach them coping skills in times of hurt, disappointment, and painful or difficult consequences. They learn to bounce back from the down times and learn that life goes on. Ultimately, they learn to forgive.

If we do not take advantage of these opportunities when they are younger they will not experience and learn the coping skills for the inevitable "big potato" problems will emerge in adolesence. These big potato problems are broken hearts, being cut from a team, not achieving the score on a test to get into that desired college, giving into peer pressure of alcohol or drug use,  parents that tell them "no" they cannot drive to Colorado for an unsupervised ski trip (ok, that one might be  personal reference), not winning a prestigious award that she was in the running for, losing the state championship...which, in our adult world are still small potato problems, but not to a teenager. When the child is resilient he or she will be able to pull themselves out of the pit of despair and get onto the next thing. These coping skills are necessary for adulthood...and the real big potato problems...

I didn't get the job I applied for.
I lost my job and only source of income.
My parent passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack.
My sibling has cancer.
Miscarriage or infertility
My marriage isn't working out as I expected.
My children hate me because I have expectations!
And the list could go on and on and on....

That is a lot to digest, so let's wrap this up...

Life experiences, if we allow our children to truly experience them without us stepping in and saving them, will help our children learn the coping skills to bounce back--resilience--a rubber band. Of course, this is done with discussion, boundaries, and loving support--even when it is hard.

If we run interference for our children in all difficult circumstances they never learn how to deal with their own problems, become fragile, and will be crushed under the pressure of real world problems--a tea cup.

Ultimately, we all want our children to be successful, fulfilled, and happy in their adult life. As adults we know that there are difficult times. To set our children up for success as adults we need to teach them the skills as children. Do you want your child to be a rubber band or a tea cup--resilient or fragile? Ask yourself, what am I doing to set my child up for future of success without me? Is my child resilient? Hands down, this is one of the most important qualities to ensure success beyond childhood and adolescence, and we learn much more from our mistakes than doing everything right...so let your son or daughter learn from small potato problems so they are less likely to get crushed by the big potato problems of adulthood.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

Ask any parent what he or she wants for his or her child and a common response is, "I don' t care what he/she does, I just want him/her to be happy!" Isn't that what we all want? To be happy?

When I searched google images for happiness, this was the most common image. Doesn't it make you smile? How can you not smile??

When I searched google images for joy, this was the most common image I found...Does it bring you back to a moment when your heart leapt for joy? Can you feel the emotion all they way down in your gut?

Happiness is earthly, but Joy is heavenly.
Happiness is fleeting and can change in a moment.
 Joy is eternal and stays with us through the difficult times.
Happiness is internal.
Joy is radiant and can spread to others.
Happiness depends on the circumstances and events of our day.
 Joy depends on our relationship with Jesus.
Happiness is human.
Joy is God.
I go back to the original question, what do we want for our children? Do we want them to be happy or joyful? Certainly, they are related to each other. Those that are joyful often live a more happy life; however, joy and happiness are not equivalent. Even those in the most difficult circumstances can be very sad, but they can still radiate joy, even through their misery.
How do we become filled with Joy? We do this by living out God's will in our life, by having a close relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, by living out our vocation as dictated by God's plan for us, and by keeping our eye on the eternal prize. Often we allow earthly matters to obscure our view of eternity, and it is then that humanly desires tell us that we want the immediate gratification of happiness instead of keeping ourselves focused and working hard toward that eternal Joy.
Allow me to digress with an analogy for a few moments...
It is a Saturday, and your home is wreck from the busy week. While we would rather lounge on the sofa or recliner, we get up and put our home in order and clean it up. After it is completed, we look around and admire the work feel accomplished. There is a "joyful" feeling inside because we did what needed to be done to keep our life in order and on track. If we would have continued in our slovenly way, we might have felt comfort for a brief time, but the misery of the wreck that lingered in our house would return.
This is no different than what God wants for us. If we do what we can to keep our spiritual life in order and on track, our hearts will be filled with joy. This means following through on our stewardship obligations of time, talent, and treasure. By spending time in daily prayer, attending church, and stopping at the perpetual adoration chapel we keep our spiritual lives in order. Sharing our talents with others help us spread our joy to others. Giving back to those that grace us with so many blessings allows us to grow in graciousness and gratitude, which, in the end, brings us great joy.
As parents, we may interrupt our children's happiness for a time as we challenge them to excellence. This might mean that we tell them "no" to something that is not in their best interest, we do not give in to excessive indulgences because we know there is something better for them, or we remove a privilege for contemtuous words or expressions. We do this firmly with love so that children develop the discipline to choose the right thing, and they develop the skill set to deal with disappointment when real life problems become reality. By developing our spiritual and earthly discipline we set up a situation in which children can achieve the joy of living out God's will.
I encourage you to pray for your children, that they hear God's call for their vocation. When we openly live in God's good grace, we live a life of joy that is unsurpassed by any fleeting happiness that can be achieved on earth. Isn't that what we truly want for our children...not so much a happy life, but a joyful life?
My hope is that you and your children feel this throughout your life....regardless of the challenges that await you in the future. As long as you have God, you will have Joy.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Relying on God's Grace

I have heard so many over the years say that if they ever win the lottery they will donate a large portion of their millions to the Catholic Schools in Hays. Oh, how wonderful that would be! I was informed, though, that we would never happen. With, I'm sure, a quizzical look on my face, it was further explained that if we win the lottery we no longer will need to depend on God to take care of our schools.

In my very short time at Holy FamilyI have seen our school blessed in more ways than I could possibly count. In my 12 years at TMP I have been a beneficiary of so many great blessings. I have come to realize that God always takes care of all of my needs.

The trust fund of Leo J. and Albina Dreiling continues to reach out to our Catholic families more than they probably ever imagined. Not only does it continually support both of our schools' budgets financially, they set aside a specific amount of money to assist teachers with continued professional development. As a beneficiary of this generous program I have had the privilege to hear some of the greatest educational speakers. Dr. Robert Brooks enlightened my understanding of the quality of resiliency in children. Dr. Tim Elmore spoke about the characteristics of the next Generation of students and how to form leaders.

I will refer to these to leaders in the educational realm regularly. I think you will find that these two professors share with you many of the same desires you want for your own child...the ability to cope and bounce back when things do not go as planned, the ability to stand up for their beliefs with conviction, to be motivated, and in the end, to have the confidence to move on to the next stage of life.

Check out Dr. Brooks' monthly articles to read more about his topics that relate to you and your family. Click on Dr. Elmore's name for a 30 minute youtube video about how to nurture the leader in your own child. He also writes a blog that I think any educator or parent would be interested to read.

I am proud to say that the knowledge gained from the funds Dreiling Trust does not to stop with me. Those funds will now touch countless lives. Thank you to the late Leo J. and Albina Dreilng for having the foresight to see how they can continue to nurture the Catholic youth of the Heartland.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of education. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love this Martin Luther King, Jr. quote because it fits my educational philosophy perfectly. Of course, he does it so powerfully with few words and much more eloquently than I ever could have.
It matters not if they can memorize all of the states and captials, solve calculus equations in 6th grade, recite all the steps of mitosis, play an instrument with great proficiency, paint beautifully, or break the pull up gym record if they have not aquired the characteristics of integrity, responsibility, honesty, hard work, or ethical decision making we have failed them as teachers and parents.
To add to this we want them to grow up good Christian Catholic boys and girls, as Fr. Kevin said at our opening school mass. We truly want them to be "Christ to One Another" by honoring God, respecting one another, imitating Christ, and developing their talents to glorify God. That is why we recite this creed every morning after our school prayer and before the Pledge of Allegience. Let's join together to help our children grown up with all these attributes.
Each day we (faculty, staff, and parents) are closely scrutinized by our children. They see everything we do and they imitate it. Teaching and parenting is challenging, but I am always reminded, it is not always what we taught them, but how we made them feel. Do we make them feel loved and secure by setting boundaries and lovingly enforcing them? Do we make them feel uncomfortable when they have done something inapproriate or wrong? Do we make them feel challenged when they want to choose the easy route rather than the right route?  When we do all of these we give them the coping skills to work through what is right and wrong, disappointment in the wrong decision, and understanding that they won't always get their way.
As a fellow parent and educator I recognize we are in the tough business of producing viable citizens, but the rewards are priceless, and when we recognize our work as God's work and follow through with it our reward is eternity.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You Gotta Have Faith!

I didn't know if we would ever get here....school has started! From what I can tell, it was pretty split among parents and students as to whether they were ready for school to start or not, but everyone agreed that it was coming whether we were ready or not..that goes for me too. I'm not going to lie, the first 6 weeks as principal we very challenging for me. Of course this was further complicated by the illness and death of my grandfather just as I started the job. The truth is, anytime someone makes a job or position change, there is a learning curve until one is fully settled into the job.

My transition was no different; however, I think my learning curve is a little smaller since I was already familiar with much about our school. In these first few weeks many have shown me great mercy as most of the questions asked of me are replied with more questions rather than answers....and then sometimes a sigh....AND if it is really bad (embarassingly) a roll of the eyes (not intended toward anyone, just the situation!). I imagine this will be an ongoing thing for the next calendar year. I am thanking everyone in advance for their ongoing patience as I continue to figure things out.

Case in point.....two days before school started I had three people ask my about the school blessing on the first day. I had seen pictures of it on the school website, but never knew when it took place. So, I quickly had a conversation with Fr. Kevin and got everything lined out. We find the student papers, I email instructions, and we are underway. As I approach Fr. Kevin he says, "Oh, no bullhorn?" I say, "What bullhorn?" Yes, I have a sense that this type of conversation will happen more often than not for the next 10 months. My faculty and staff have been a wealth of help and information, but with new leadership, new office staff, and a new food program there are bound to be challenges.

My spirits have lifted significantly in the past week. Only a mere 10 days ago I was feeling incompetent and dumb since I had so few answers to the many, many, MANY questions. I gathered with my faculty and staff on Monday morning to share a message of TRUST in the Lord's plan for all of us. He has brought all of us together to share in His plan for our school, and we all have a special talent to share. I realized that I had to return to the reason why God brought me to Holy Family. Shortly thereafter, I was nurtured by the response from the rest of the staff.

Over our three daystogether we had a lot of fun comparing our generational values and looking at the characteristics of the generation of children we are currently teaching. I will share more about that with parents in future posts. I handed laptops out to all of the teachers. (I would love to take credit for getting them, but they were all waiting in the faculty room when I arrived in July.) The teachers shared what they learned at their summer workshops about the Common Core Standards. (You'll hear more about these as the year goes on.) We joined with the TMP faculty and staff for a morning retreat, liturgy, and lunch together to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. Finally, after the first day of school the faculty and staff gathered for lunch and then another presentation on the Common Core Standards. As you can see, it was a VERY full week, but it was a FULFILLING week.

Mr. Dumler, Mrs. Collins, and Mr. Sauer worked on their powerpoint presentation on the common core standards. Mr. Sauer wowed us with his own version of Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line" with "Common Core Standards in Time."

Mrs. Sechtem was "it" and was challenged to "Walk by Faith, Not by Sight" as her team members gave her mixed instructions. She was  a great sport!


I'm not gonna lie...there were moments...there were moments when I wondered:
"What I have gotten myself into? You are in over your head!"
"How in the world are you going to be responsible for so many children and families?"
"Am I ever going to have more answers than questions?"

Yes, they were all self-doubting, but after my time with the faculty and staff, the hugs and well-wishes from my TMP colleagues, and all the wonderfully kind words from parents at the Back to School Bash I am reminded that God brought me here and has equipped me with all that I need to serve the faculty, staff, and families of Holy Family Elementary. Thank you for reminding me to have faith in God's plan for our schools. When we abandon ourselves to HIS plan for us, we can't go wrong. It doesn't mean it will always be easy, but He is constant, and if I rely on Him I can't lose.