Each Friday, I share a Friday Feature where I hope to bring a little light and encouragement from other Catholics living out the vocation to married and family life.
I love witnessing how others are following Christ and am constantly inspired by them. My goal with Friday Feature is to bring you a breath of fresh air and some community by sharing their stories.
Enjoy, laugh, be inspired, and pray for all those you see on here. We’re in this together!
Tim became a family friend of ours a few years ago when we met through common friends. Immediately, we were drawn to Tim and his wife Natalie (and their kids). There is something so powerful yet hidden in this family and you can sense the movement of the Holy Spirit whenever you’re with them. I’m so excited to share my interview with Tim, who’s a Veteran. He’s one of the most humble and holy guys we know and I pray his words draw you closer to Christ as he’s done for us so many times.
Angie (A): Share a bit about your current life statue and what you’re up to these days.
Tim (T): We are currently living in rural upstate NY. Natalie and our five children daily work on improving and building up our homestead/farm. Not only does Natalie conduct the majority of the homeschooling, she and the kids raise chickens and have a sizable garden. More animals (cows, pigs, goats) are in our 3-5 year plan, but for now, we are sticking with chickens. Our 14 acre plot is mostly wooded, so we cut and gather most of our own firewood. Natalie and the kids are always working on something, whether it is out in the yard, or improving the inside of the house. Almost everything in the kitchen is made from scratch, a product of our land, or bought from local farmers. I work full time in the ICU of one of our local hospitals. It’s a great job, and I work with great people, so I’m very happy where I am. I’m still trying to work out a plan to get grad school started, but that’s not priority now, and we’ll see if God gives us a window for that. For now, we want to raise the children simply, teaching them the core values of our Christian Faith, the value of good work and good mental discipline.
A: What is the biggest crisis you believe to be affecting families today?
T: Moral relativism and the manner in which it is pushed upon us. So much in fact, that if you happen to believe something different than the ‘moral relativists,’ you are labeled as intolerant. We are taught and encouraged to coexist and express ourselves, but if we encourage a traditional set of morals, it is hate speech and we are automatically condemned. I feel we are able to protect our children from a lot of this because of our decision to homeschool. However, these are discussions that we need to have with our kids, and we need to have them before they hear these issues from the outside. This is especially true with issues regarding human sexuality. Natalie and I try to incorporate JP2‘s Theology of the Body into our daily teachings and discussions with the kids. The simple, “love/respect everyone” is what we stress most of all. Nota Bene: Just because I teach this to my family, doesn’t mean that I am the master of this. This is a real struggle for me. I think this is mostly because I know these issues are so distorted, and the public opinion or understanding of the Church’s teaching is so far off base. Most of the time, I honestly want to flip a proverbial desk, point a finger and directly tell people they are wrong. This is something I pray about daily.
A: How do you remain humble as a man in a world of machoism and pride?
T: There’s a huge dichotomy between humility and pride. Humility is absolutely essential to leading a Christ-centered life. Humility is what keeps us grounded. Humility is that little kick in the back of the knees every now and then, just when we start to think, “I’ve got this.” God knocks you down a peg or two, just to remind you that He is in charge. This can be difficult to accept and challenging to work through. I think this rings true for most men. We like/need to be in control. When God lets us know that we are really not in control, we don’t like it, but ultimately have to accept it and work through it. Prayer for humility and acceptance is so important.
Pride, on the other hand, is both a crutch and tool. Pride keeps us from admitting that we need help. It keeps us from admitting that we are wrong. It can block good out of our lives because we are fixated on that one thing that we want and are not getting or have. That needs to be checked at the door. In a real leadership situations (military, business, life) an unchecked ego full of pride can be devastating to the team: in this case, the family. I have to consciously make an effort to listen to my wife and children more. So much communication is lost when the mind isn’t open.
However, does it not make sense that we should be proud of our work? Our accomplishments? What about those of our children and spouses? If all things are done for the glory of God, then it is almost encouraged to be prideful about them. God doesn’t want us to mope through daily tasks or difficulties, complete them, and then not have a sense of pride or accomplishment. Let’s face it, without God’s strength, His assistance, and His guidance, our daily tasks, our little missions throughout the day would not get done. Give it back to Him, and be thankful and grateful that He helped you get the job done.
A: Share some tips you have for husbands to stay pure in heart, mind, and body.
T: This is simple…but so difficult. I think that discipline of mind and body is the key to not only success in life, but also purity of heart. Temptation is everywhere. Sexual “freedom” is everywhere. I think as Catholic/Christian men, we are more drawn to sexual temptation than many of our peers. I think the reason for this is that we are so committed to be pure and faithful to our respective spouses. Different women look good. Younger women look desirable. They are fresh and exciting. I would be a phony and a liar if I said that I have never once been attracted to another woman. What I pray for is strength and perseverance to remain pure and faithful. I know I’m as human as the next guy…and if not for the grace of God… Back to pride for a second; I love Natalie more than anything. I’ve loved her since I was 5 years old, and romantically loved her for the last 15 years. She is mine. I have this sacred task, a mission, to protect her honor and keep her safe. I preach a lot about strength and overcoming hardships and physical sufferings for the sake of the mission. This comes from my time in the military, especially in command. There’s a mission to get done, and you get it done. You literally rally the troops to make them want to get it done. You have the walk the walk. Is there a better way to love and respect my wife than to remain faithful to her, no matter what? Is there a better example I can show our kids of what real love is than to proverbially gross them out when I hug Natalie in the kitchen when she’s making dinner? Is there a more fulfilling mission or a more satisfying victory than keeping oneself chaste for his or her spouse? I fight this battle each day. I don’t like losing. I have too much pride. I convinced the best girl in the world to marry me. I would be throwing away a treasure for a cheap thrill. It’s hard, no doubt. St. Joseph, Immaculate Heart of Mary, help me with purity and help me love my spouse.
A: What does your daily prayer routine look like working full time with crazy hours?
T: The best encouragement I could find over this past Lenten Season was, “Saints are sinners who keep trying.” I can’t even remember where I read this, or where I heard it. But it’s true; and it is very sobering. Natalie has been the driving force in our family with this. During Lent, we started reading 33 Days to Merciful Love. Not only was the nightly prayer with the kids starting to become a routine, but the simple meditations of St. Therese really placed things in perspective. In short, we try way too hard. The Little Way is just that… it’s little, and it’s simple. Love God. Just love Him. He is merciful. Ask for mercy. So, that is the mentality that we are stressing on our children and on our prayer time. Even if family prayer is an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, three honest heartfelt simple prayers are better than drudging (excuse the strong word, but it’s true many times) through a Rosary with a 3 year old who thinks he’s Ben-Hur and an almost 5 year old who thinks he’s a paratrooper. We will get there with the whole family eventually, but we are not there yet. There’s a fine line between forcing prayer and strongly encouraging prayer. I like to think we are encouraging it. We want the kids to want to pray. We don’t want them to moan and complain when we have to sit through a Rosary.
So, with that, we keep trying. Many times, I feel that it’s too late for prayer, and we should just get the kids to bed and make the day end. Those are the times when I really have to dig deep and ask myself, “What is really more important? The 15 minutes of extra quiet time that I might get, or staying calm and collected and letting the children see that I want to just sit with them, stop everything, and say some prayers? The answer is obvious, but it’s not so obvious when you find yourself in that battle. I talked about discipline earlier…it applies to me too. Discipline the mind to not grow impatient, to not blow up. Be stronger, but at the same time, gentler.
A: How do you make family time a priority?
T: This is humbling: I’m really bad at this. I love being home, and I love being with the family. However, I very often am “too busy” with chores, or work in the yard/garden/garage. There’s wood to be split, car repairs to complete, household maintenance to accomplish. I was actually just thinking to myself today, “I shouldn’t work so hard.” I’m saying this as I’m watching my three youngest boys with boxing gloves on all swinging at each other having a blast. Often when I’m out working in the garage, the kids will come out and just sit there to hang out. I feel like this is a signal that I maybe should take a break and spend some time with them. It’s hard, because there’s always “important” stuff to do.
A: What about your marriage, what are some things you do to nourish your relationship with your wife daily?
T: I know my wife is the recipient of this workaholic attitude also. I really need to make an effort to date her. Again, this is something that I am not great at, that needs improving. So, I can advise all those who are reading this, do as I say, not as I do! My wife needs attention and affirmation more than I realize or pay attention to. Many times I only notice because she is on her last straw and I can tell she’s stressed. This should be a red flag to me to make sure she does not get this tense/stressed again. Then I come to the realization that I take her for granted too many times. I ramp it up for a while, but it eventually slides. This is something I pray for often… to always pay her the attention she deserves. I understand that the issue lies entirely with me, and it is a deficiency that I need to correct. I’m grateful for her patience and her prayers also.
That being said, I have to include some good in this answer. We consistently pray together every night. We have been doing this since we were engaged, and the only times we have missed it is when we have been apart at night (deployments/work). Often the last thing we hear each other say at night is the end of a Memorare. We pray for each other’s souls, for strength to love better, for the grace to lead our children in the Faith, and for little issues and problems that we could use an extra shove to get us through. You know what’s a hard prayer to say? “Lord, nothing else matters in life, as long as we are with you in Heaven in the end. Nothing else matters to us other than our children growing up in and keeping their faith through their lives.” Surrender sounds great, until you commit to it. I think as a man, surrender is much harder. I need to be in control, I want to be in control. Guess what, Tim, you’re not.
A: Could you share a time when you felt the farthest from God? What was going on and how did you overcome it?
T: I’m not good at “absolutes”. I can remember plenty of times where I was tempted to sin gravely. Quite honestly, these times came when I was stressed, or at odds with my wife. I think just getting back to the basics is the key here. Check your pride, check your ego, and literally get to your knees and own up to it. What this boils down to is, “I am wrong and I’m sorry.” When I was deployed to Baghdad (probably the most stressful time of my life), ironically, that was part of my life when I felt closest to Him. Forgive the morbidity, but during that time in my life, I felt most prepared to die. I knew that at any time, I could be called home. There is much you can do in war to mitigate threats, but there is so much more that you simply cannot do anything about… and I knew this. Someone shoots at you, get behind some cover, make yourself small, keep moving, shoot back. But when rockets or mortars come in, if you’re out in the open, you’re in the open, and there’s nothing you can do about where the shell is going to land. I wonder how you could get through that without being close to God…? That was literal surrender. Maybe I’ll write down these thoughts someday, but for now here’s the bottom line: God is Love, God is Mercy. Ask for it.
A: Leave us with some wisdom … if you could give fathers and husbands advice on seeking holiness in just a few words, what would you say?
T: Decide to be holy. Practice it, and be disciplined to maintain it. When you fall, just check the ego, get back up, and get after it.