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Question: Hello, I am feeling overwhelmed. My daughter and I are involved with horses, which we keep about ten minutes from our home. Every morning and evening we have to tend to them, and sometimes in between, to feed, ride or do chores. I would like to attend daily Mass, tend to the animals and begin our schooling, but it seems we don't get home to do that until around 10:30 am. I am always racing the clock and feel so overwhelmed. We are behind in my daughter's fifth grade work and should begin sixth grade in September. Today we worked on some math, but we are so behind it is gnawing at me all the time. The answer is probably to get up earlier, and I struggle with that so much. I would like the summer to be free of schoolwork, but it doesn't seem possible. I know home schooling is the best way for me to educate my daughter, I just need a shot in the arm so to speak. I sure would appreciate any help and support. Thank you. I am also considering changing programs and that is a little uncomfortable as my daughter is entering the middle school years. I hear comments from one or two people, saying that my daughter should get into a "real-life" situation and go to school. I resent these comments and then I question myself and my abilities. I have a 12th grade education - I could have gone to college, I just didn't.
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Let me begin to speak with you about your concerns with this observation from my own personal experience. It seems that when I am beginning to feel overwhelmed in my life it is actually my spirit that is overwhelmed. Our spirit is that part of our life that knows and desires the Lord's presence. We have a spirit that calls out to Him each and every moment of every day. There are those seasons in our lives when we find that we gently (I say gently because people of faith usually never purposely ignore the Lord) ignore the Lord. It begins quite simply at first and then slowly we find that we are traveling in overdrive for most of the day, our spirits are restless, and we are busy but not fruitful. Our spirits are working to slow us down and bring us back to the priority of prayer and quiet reflection that is centered upon the Lord's great love for us. There is in effect a conflict with our life. Our actions are going in one direction and our spirits are trying to pull us to the correct direction. That correct direction is toward the Lord.

Our days are full as well. Although we are engaged in different activities. We swim each morning. I enjoy my time in the water so much that I can easily let 1 hour become 2. As you might guess the girls are not reminding me that they need to get home and get busy with schoolwork. I find that I actually have more discipline when I discipline my will through morning prayer. The days that I am in a hurry to get to the pool (for whatever reason) and skip my quiet time of reflection and prayer are the days that we get the least amount accomplished. This is curious to me but true. It is as though the Tempter 'caught me' at the beginning of my day and seems to have his hold on my plans. The Tempter does not want us to be fruitful in our work.

The activity of a normal family (and we are all normal to a greater or lesser degree :) is full of plans, projects, and the happy work of following in the Lord's will. There are setbacks, challenges, and sorrows. There are joys and celebrations. Though we are all different in our families there is one constant. Interruptions. Yes every person I have met in life can speak to the days that plans were interrupted. In fact it is more normal to have interruptions than it is to have a day that is free of interruptions. It is for this reason that we must give ourselves over to the most important activity of our existence...Prayer.

Making prayer the first priority prioritizes the day according to the Lord's will. When we come before the Lord with our open hands to praise Him and to rest in His love for us, Jesus takes this sweet and tender gift and fills us with inspiration and empowerment to fill the day.

I would not be anxious over what you are not able to accomplish and instead change my mindset to see the work that is accomplished. Sometimes the Tempter loves to show us the negative that is in our life so as to overshadow the very real positive aspects. One of the great blessings of teaching a child is their complete need to know the information that you want to share. Think about it this way for a bit. Imagine that your daughter is preparing for a journey and your goal for the summer is to teach her some basic math principles that will help her in her travels. Remember that there is no time limit in your tutorial. Your only desire is that she learn the material. Can you recall a time from your childhood when a kind adult patiently and without hurry taught you a skill? I remember such a time. An elderly neighbor taught me how to knit when I was 13 years old. This skill has brought countless hours of pleasure.

Each day that is spent patiently and with focused attention doing the will of the Lord as you understand it is a day forward. With this centered approach there are no wasted days. Each day is a day to praise and worship the good Jesus through your human efforts. Caring for your horses, riding and all these pleasant activities are lovely and opportunities for you and your daughter to talk and share interesting thoughts. Math can be done in the afternoon or in the morning when the chores are finished. Remember that Jesus is the Giver of all Time. Go to Him for the extra time that is necessary. Set doable goals for the day and work with focus and patience to reach the goals. I promise you that your lovely daughter is going to look back on this lovely summer spent with her mom as a gift. It has been my experience that Math will wait but little girls do not. They grow up so fast and all the days that could have been spent in one another's company engaged in activities can not be regained. You know this as well. I suspect that you feel the same way, but the struggle is coming because the Tempter is trying to tell you that you are not accomplishing anything because there is so much yet to do. Shame on him.

Begin your day in prayer, whether this is daily Mass or the rosary or whatever suits your lifestyle and then go forward into the Lord's will for you and your family that day. Work to be fruitful. Better to do one thing well than to jab at several tasks and accomplish very little. When your spirit feels overwhelmed recognize this feeling for what it means. Your spirit is trying to tell you to take a deep breath, focus on the Lord, and rest in His embrace.

Thank you for your lovely letter. I admire you very much. Caring for animals is demanding and there are no vacations. My daughter's husband is a dairy farmer and I am only just beginning to understand the nature of this demanding work.

Let us pray together a Hail Mary for all the families that will find themselves in harm's way due to violence, especially those families in the Middle East.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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