Trust in the Lord...and my kid

I am only slightly panicking...really.

Tallest Son is getting ready to embark on a life adventure: two months abroad. I'm so excited for him, and so proud of him. He's prepared for this trip meticulously, on his own (this from the ADHD-addled kid who could barely focus long enough to finish a sentence at the dinner table). It's going to be so good for him - a really great experience in learning new cultures, learning to trust himself, learning what he's capable of.

And I'm only slightly panicking...really.

Which is silly of course. In this day of instant communication, he's only a Skype session away. He'll be on Facebook. He'll be on the other side of the world, but right there at my fingertips as well.

He's leaving early next week, and while I had him in the car this morning, I wasn't sure I'd see him before he left, so I hurriedly told him all the things I thought he needed to know - the "don't take candy from strangers" speech, only updated for a young man about to venture out into the world.

And then he'll be gone.

And I'm only panicking a little. A little.

God's Angels guard and keep you
All the way that you must travel
Till earth's days are past
When blossoms fade and
Time is fleeting fast
In times of purest joy
Or pain and fear
God's Angels guard
And keep you safe. Amen.

Freakin' Friday Fun

In honor of back to school and all those poor high school freshmen...


Lies our culture tells us

From my work blog.

Okay, so here's what happened on my way to work yesterday...

Let's just start off with: yesterday was not a good day. Due to a scheduling nightmare, I had two doctor's appointments yesterday morning. My plan (and no, I didn't hear God laughing because I was too busy with my plan) was to hit doctor appointment A, go to work, get a bunch of stuff done, hit doctor appointment B, and then head back to work to finish off the day.

Here is what actually happened.

I got to doctor appointment A - the pain clinic - at the appointed "please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment," which was at 8 a.m. The nurse who called me back - the one who ALWAYS CALLS ME BACK, EVERY TIME I GO THERE - mispronounced my name AGAIN. EVERY FREAKIN' TIME!

I sat in the exam room for 40 minutes.

The doctor came in and decided I needed another spinal injection, which I was not prepared for. Usually, this means mild sedation and having someone drive me home. So, I did it with no sedation. Not recommended.

Meanwhile, as the techs were prepping me for the procedure, one of them discreetly pointed out that I had a tear in the back of my dress - right over my rear end. She kindly taped it together so I could at least walk out of the building with some semblance of dignity.

I had a bunch of clothes in my back seat that are on their way to Goodwill. I pulled out a dress, prayed it still fit, hustled back into the building, and threw it on in the lady's room.

Off to work.

When I got to work, it became immediately apparent that not having sedation causes A) a huge headache and B) feeling like I'd been punched hard between the shoulder blades. I did a flurry of work, told my boss I was going to doctor appointment B, and then going home.

At doctor appointment B, I had to wait only 20 minutes past my appointment time (progress!). This was my sleep doctor, who had put me on a CPAP 6 weeks ago.

"How's it going?" she asked.

I politely told her that I believe the CPAP is the spawn of Satan himself. It is like trying to sleep with an octopus strapped to your face via a horse halter. TRYING to sleep is the operative word, since I haven't had a decent night's sleep since I got the damn thing. But, being the recovering perfectionist that I am, I kept trying valiantly, night after night, to get a good night's sleep with this thing.

To which the doctor replied, "Oh, dear. You should have called me. I would have taken you off the CPAP weeks ago."

Then, I went home and slept for two hours.

And I offered it up - the whole stupid day.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From his 8-25 Angelus address:


Nowadays we pass many doors that invite us to enter, that promise a happiness that then we realise lasts but a moment, which is an end in itself and has no future. But I ask you: which gate do we want to enter? And who we want to through the gate of our lives? I want to say emphatically: don’t be afraid to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus, to let Him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others. Because Jesus illuminates our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a “flash”! No, it is a soft light that always endures and that gives us peace. That is the light that we meet if we enter through the gate of Jesus.
Certainly, it is a narrow gate, the gate of Jesus, not because it is a torture chamber. No, not because of that! But because it asks us to open our hearts to Him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of His salvation, His forgiveness, His love, needing the humility to accept His mercy and to be renewed by Him. Jesus in the Gospel tells us that being a Christian is not having a “label”! I ask you, are you Christians because of a label, or in truth? And for each one the answer is within. Not Christians, never Christians because of a label! Christians in truth, in the heart. To be Christian is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. For the narrow gate which is Christ must pass into our whole life.



Reaching Into the Ditches

We had a great family day yesterday: one of our great-nephews was baptized, so we had a chance to visit a local parish for Mass, and then enjoyed a picnic afterwards with family and friends.

The priest gave an excellent sermon, and one of the things he said resonated with me. Preaching on the Gospel about the narrow gate, he exhorted us to reach down into the ditches of the roadway to those who'd "fallen off". Ask them, he said, "How are you?" and then listen. Ask them, "How can I help?" and then listen. And when they are ready, ask them "What about Christ? Can He help?"

Telling us to notice those people around us who have maybe given up, are too burdened to carry on, who are sad and lonely: how important that is! Reminding us that listening is far more important than talking: how important that is! And finally, stating what should be obvious but often isn't: sharing Christ with someone - how important that is!

Look around you this day, this week. Who has fallen into the ditches in your life? Ask them how they are...and then just listen.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Maga's Daughter - Andrew Wyeth

Always Lent, Never Easter

section: "St. Francis in the Desert" - Giovanni Bellini
"She is a perfectly terrible person," said Lucy. "She calls herself the Queen of Narnia thought she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryands and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her. And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas. And she drives about on a sledge, drawn by reindeer, with her wand in her hand and a crown on her head." - C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

What if the ice we tread is just too thin?
What if we can't escape the squall we're in?
What if our hearts of stone are permanent?
- "Even in Winter", Audrey Assad

Living in Michigan, I know a thing or two about seemingly endless winters. We've been known to get snow in April and even May. In this same vein, it seems as if my soul and therefore my life are in a place where it is always Lent and never Easter.

I wake up far too early, and pray. I pray in the car, going to and from work. I look out my window at work, and see the homeless in the park across the street and I pray. I'm still on thin ice, surrounded by squall after squall. I fear having a heart of stone, of becoming stuck in a place where all is penance and fasting, but with no Resurrection and redemption in sight.

I wonder why I have been given the crosses I have to bear, when others seem to have little or no cross (and yes, I know this is not true, but it seems that way some days, doesn't it?). I think I've done everything I've been asked, everything I'm supposed to do, everything that's been asked of me, and I still have nothing but the taste of ashes in my mouth.

I know it is enough to be faithful, and not "successful" - at least in the world's estimation of success. I know it is enough to pray, and to expect nothing in return. I know this.

Yet I still wonder what it would be like to truly feel the honest and utter joy of Easter morning. In my heart, it is always Lent.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son's Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of "those who are in Christ". She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven. - Homily, Solemnity of the Assumption, 2013

Really?? Come try out an actual life, and let's see about "cool, calm, collected"

Jennifer Aniston's yoga coach is crediting yoga for Jen's (can I call you "Jen"?) ability to look so fabulous at the age of 40-something and for staying calm, cool and collected under the pressure's of her life.

Let's see. Jen's rich, makes movies that no one watches, has no husband, no children, oodles of time to work out, pay a trainer, a chef, etc. Hell, I'd be cool, calm and collected, too.

Jen, here's an offer: Let's switch for a month. You come deal with my five kids, one of whom is mentally ill and cognitively impaired, our house that needs every update imaginable, the monthly juggling of bills, the jobs, the endless calendar updating and who-needs-to-be-where-when, the pets, the elderly parent, the cars that are essentially mobile money pits, chronic pain, sleep apnea, heart arrhythmia, church and family commitments....well, you get the idea.

You can still do your yoga, but you'll have to do it sandwiched in between work, an evening meeting, while the dog licks your face and at least one kid interrupts you constantly, while you're thinking about what everyone can eat for dinner.

Calm, cool, collected. The offer stands.

10 Musings on weddings

We had the pleasure of attending the wedding this past weekend. (I will admit, it gave me a little bit of a panic as I realized the young woman getting married is the same age as our oldest children...meaning we could be doing this in the not-so-distance-future.)

Here are some thoughts about the wedding and all that surrounds weddings these days.

1. You CAN do a beautiful wedding on a budget. It takes some work, but it can be done. The wedding we attended had many handmade touches, making it very personal and less expensive. Those TV shows where brides try and out-do each other with glitz, glamor and shenanigans miss the mark on personalization.

2. There are perfectly beautiful bridal gowns and bridesmaids dresses out there that don't break the bank or bare all. I saw it with my own eyes!

3. If you're attending a wedding, don't wear cargo shorts. Unless it's on a beach, and the airport lost your luggage. Even then...

4. If you're a young lady attending a wedding, know what size dress you wear and wear it. If you are "spilling out" over the top, constantly tugging the skirt down, cannot move on the dance floor without danger of an unseemly "accident", it's not a dress you should be wearing. You look trashy, not classy. I fear most of the young women at this wedding had this problem.

5. Watching couples who've been married 50+ years on the dance floor with the newly married couple is awesome. Great moment!

6. If you have to give the toast, write something down! Be prepared! Chances are you'll be nervous, and it's not a good time to have a cringe-worthy moment.

7. Go dance! Have fun! No one cares.

8. If you're the bride and groom, be gracious about hosting your reception. (This couple was, by the way!) Greet people, say hello, thank them. They are there to celebrate with you, not watch you as if you're the star of a Broadway production.

9. Why do I still hate the dollar dance? Ugh. Feels like auctioning off the bride. Icky.

10. If you're getting married, put twice as much effort into planning for your marriage as for the wedding. The wedding, lest we forget, is only one day. We pray the marriage lasts far longer.

Oh, and one more...

Theme weddings - gag! You already have a theme: you're getting MARRIED! Husband and wife. That's the "theme".

Monday Morning Art Jam: The pain of abortion

"Memorial for Unborn Children
As an art student, Martin Hudáček of Slovakia was moved to create a sculpture to draw attention to the devastation abortion can bring to the woman, and to the fact that through the love and mercy of God, reconciliation and healing are possible.
The sculpture shows a woman in great sorrow grieving her abortion. The second figure in the work is the aborted child, presented as a young child, who in a very touching, healing way, comes to the mother, to offer forgiveness.
Martin, who named the work “Memorial for Unborn Children,” said the sculpture also “expresses hope which is given to believers by the One who died on the cross for us, and showed how much He cares about all of us.”

Monday Morning Art Jam

"New York Interior" - Edward Hopper

Freakin' Friday Fun

 
Well, maybe not so much fun, as I'm under the weather, and under a blanket.

I've had enough! Being a mom is not "opting out"!

The past few weeks, we've been inundated with stories about women who "opt out": that is, they "lean in" to our careers, stay put on the fast track, break that glass ceiling, show the boys who's boss.
choose to stay at home to raise their kids (and hey, feminists, isn't it all about women being able to make choices??) We're supposed to, instead,

I will not apologize: being a stay-at-home mom is NOT opting out. It's choosing. It's as valuable as anything any does at a "job" or in a "career", if not more valuable.

I spent 12 years at home with my kids. It was great, and it was hard. Certainly it was harder than the career I have now, but I sure wouldn't do anything differently. I wasn't opting out of anything. I was making the choice to put my kids first, to spend time with them all day, every day, to work at instilling faith and values in them, to help them overcome some of their disabilities and to get them off to the best start in life that Dear Husband and I could.

Being a mom full-time is not opting out. It opting FOR the child. Stop telling moms to feel guilty about it.

There is Faith, and then there's this...

So, this family in Arizona has had it with the US: too many problems here. Too much of the abortion-homosexuality culture. They were outta here.

Okay. You're free to leave. Especially if, as these folks did, you've prayed about it and believe God is calling you to change your lives.

But, hang on.

Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said she and her husband, Sean, 30, had "decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us" when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego in May.
But after storms damaged the boat and left them drifting for weeks they had to be rescued by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, and were then transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile.

I'm not sure how much sailing experience this family had, but "ill-fated" seems to be an understatement. Who drags two babies out on a boat with no real plans to end up anywhere? Yikes!

Did this couple make the right decision? After all, they believed God was calling them to do this. They seemed to rely on Faith, and that's a good thing, right?

Well. It is...and it isn't. I think this story points to the fact that we DO need to pray, we DO need to have faith in God, but we also need wise counsel. I wonder if this poor couple had any one in their life that said, "You know, I understand how concerned you are about the moral situation here in the US, but do you think this is the wisest plan? Could you be called to be making more concrete plans?"

It's easy to delude ourselves into thinking we know what God wants, when we keep those plans to ourselves. We can easily talk ourselves into just about anything, justifying our actions as "God's plan for me."

"God wants me to spend more time on myself - it makes me a better mother."

"God is calling me to this job that will keep me on the road 3 weeks out of the month. I know I'll lose out on family time, but it does pay well."

"God really wants me to sell all my belongings and head out on the road as a missionary, on my own."

We need wise people, good and holy people, people who will be honest with us when we are called to make such radical decisions. Faith is great and necessary, but so is wisdom.

The Feast of the Assumption, Fatima and my sister-in-law

These are a weird couple of days for my family. Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of my sister-in-law's death in a car accident, an accident where her youngest son was also left with permanent brain damage.

Yet, two of my nieces have birthdays around this time, and we also celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. Like I said, it's a weird mix of sadness, nostalgia, longing and celebration.

My sister-in-law taught me a great deal about how to live my Catholic faith, especially as a wife and mother. She truly encouraged my devotion to Mary. When I was 15, I was blessed to go to Fatima. When I returned, my first stop was my brother and sister-in-law's house. It was quite late, but my sister-in-law stayed up with me until the wee hours, to hear about every moment of my trip.

It never occurred to me until much later that she could have been very jealous of my trip. She had never had the opportunity to travel like that, much less to a place like Fatima, where I'm sure she would have loved to go. But she didn't have a jealous bone in her body; she was just truly happy for me.

Later that summer, she encouraged me to make my consecration to Mary through St. Louis de Montfort...on the Feast of the Assumption. That day is burned so deeply in my memory - kneeling in the tiny, cramped country church which was lined with beautiful stained glass paid for by the hard-earned dollars of Polish immigrants, ablaze with candles, and making that consecration. My trip to Fatima had made an indelible impression on my Faith as well, and I was so joyful.

When my sister-in-law died, I was in such shock for weeks afterwards that the only thing I could do was pray the Rosary over and over. I couldn't formulate any prayers of my own, but I clutched that Rosary. I have clutched that Rosary many, many times since then.

I still grieve the loss of my sister-in-law, and pray that we'll be reunited in Heaven...along side the Blessed Mother, who has prayed with us and for us all these years.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

2013 Message for World Mission Day:

We also live in a time of crisis that touches various sectors of existence, not only the economy, finance, food security, or the environment, but also those involving the deeper meaning of life and the fundamental values that animate it. Even human coexistence is marked by tensions and conflicts that cause insecurity and difficulty in finding the right path to a stable peace. In this complex situation, where the horizon of the present and future seems threatened by menacing clouds, it is necessary to proclaim courageously and in very situation, the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation, communion, a proclamation of God's closeness, his mercy, his salvation, and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. The men and women of our time needs the secure light that illuminates their path and that only the encounter with Christ can give. Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith! The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.

Mentally ill and ill: Do doctors treat you differently?

Brilliant piece from Juliann Garey in the NY Times about being sick and getting treated differently when a doctor discovers you are also mentally ill. I've seen this first-hand:

The first time it was an ear, nose and throat doctor. I had an emergency visit for an ear infection, which was causing a level of pain I hadn’t experienced since giving birth. He looked at the list of drugs I was taking for my bipolar disorder and closed my chart.

“I don’t feel comfortable prescribing anything,” he said. “Not with everything else you’re on.” He said it was probably safe to take Tylenol and politely but firmly indicated it was time for me to go. The next day my eardrum ruptured and I was left with minor but permanent hearing loss.

Another time I was lying on the examining table when a gastroenterologist I was seeing for the first time looked at my list of drugs and shook her finger in my face. “You better get yourself together psychologically,” she said, “or your stomach is never going to get any better.” 

If you met me, you’d never know I was mentally ill. In fact, I’ve gone through most of my adult life without anyone ever knowing — except when I’ve had to reveal it to a doctor. And that revelation changes everything. It wipes clean the rest of my résumé, my education, my accomplishments, reduces me to a diagnosis. 

I encourage you to read the entire piece. It's very telling of how the medical community often deals with the mentally ill.

"These are NOT the best years of your life"

I hated high school. Pure and simple. I felt ugly, never really had a date, didn't get asked to prom, was definitely not a "popular" kid. Never played sports, was much more into writing, reading, the drama club. Nerd. "Seventeen" magazine had glossy pictures of lovely girls who seemed to have nothing in common with me but that was the standard.

While I escaped those years relatively unscathed (but it took a lot of writing, listening to music, and weeping), I still remember how much it (my mom hates this word, but...) sucked. I felt stifled, overlooked, unimportant.

On the flip side, I knew I was smart. I knew there was stuff out there waiting for me to accomplish, people I could relate to. They just weren't in my small town. Not that I was completely friendless, but it was still a painful time.

Dear Husband and I were talking about Youngest Son this weekend. He's sixteen, growing so fast that his bones hurt (literally), and stuck somewhere between little boy and man. When we were visiting friends last weekend, Youngest Son cheerfully played Legos for hours with the 6 year old. He sweetly helped out with the party set-up for the family we were visiting. He was playful and great to be around.

Yet on Saturday, when he was asked to do a few chores, he was snarling and mean. Spitting like a cornered bobcat. He hid in his room, emerging only for food.

He has to switch schools this fall, through no fault of his own (budget cutbacks) and both Dear Husband and I know this is weighing heavily on his mind. He doesn't feel like he's particularly good at anything. He was told by our Pastoral Associate at church to leave (he was sitting in the narthex during Mass, and she said that wasn't good enough), and now we can't drag him back.

My mom used to tell me and my sisters constantly when we were teens, "These are NOT the best years of your life. People will tell you they are, but they are NOT. Don't get down about it. It gets better and easier and more pleasant." Thank God, she was right.

When dealing with teens, it can sometimes to be hard to remember that culture is telling them How Much Fun They Are Having As Teens, when in fact, they are usually struggling. Hard. Be gentle. Even 6'5" teen boys are still that - boys, trying to figure out how to grow up. These are NOT their best years. These are their hardest years.

Monday Morning Art Jam

Child with dove - Pablo Picasso

Feast of St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta

The sight of the world in which we live, the need and misery, and an abyss of human malice, again and again dampens jubilation over the victory of light. The world is still deluged by mire, and still but a small flock has escaped from it to the highest mountain peaks. The battle between Christ and the Antichrist is not yet over. The followers of Christ have their place in this battle, and their chief weapon is the cross.

Why I don't read "O Magazine"

I subscribe to a couple of magazines and read them on my iPad. One is a "geeky" mag, with trivia and history, one is a "woman's" magazine that has the usual mom stuff like recipes and how to save money decorating your home, and the other is a fashion magazine.

As I pulled one of the magazines up last night to peruse, I got an offer to try "O Magazine" for free for 60 days. No, thanks.

I used to get "O Magazine". It's really well put-together, edited well, great photos. It's substantial in size - you get a lot of stuff for the money. The writing is top-notch, and they use real women for models, which I like. But, no.

Why? It's the most self-centered magazine I've ever read. Everything in it is about "I". The focus is always on MY career, MY wardrobe, MY "best life", as O herself says. It's self-absorbed, self-centered, selfish.

Don't get me wrong: all of us need a bit of down-time to focus on ourselves. Moms especially need to remember that it's okay to take time to do some reading, have your nails done, go out with the girls for an evening. But all-me-all-the-time? Nope, don't need that.

I found myself, when I did get the magazine, thinking, "Is this what I want to be like? Putting myself ahead of everyone: my husband, my family, my co-workers even?"

That's why I don't read "O Magazine" anymore. I don't want to be that person. My "best self" is the self God made me to be: a saint, holy and righteous in His sight. That's who I want to be. Oprah wasn't making me that.

Freakin' Friday Fun


The joy of work is for everyone

I used to take a route to work that took me past a house where a group of special needs men lived. They would be out every morning as I passed by, waiting for the bus to come and pick them up and take them to work. It's a program we have in our area for special needs folks; they spend the day doing directed work and recreation.

One of the men was always coming his hair over and over, making sure it was just right. Another stood on the porch, rocking back and forth. One enthusiastically waved at trucks, and one sat in a chair, completely disengaged from his surroundings. It was clear that they had different levels of disability, even by a passer-by, but off to work they went, every day.

With a special needs child who turns 18 soon, Dear Husband and I are pondering (with her input) about her next steps. Does she remain at home for now? Does she want to look at group homes? What type of job training might work for her? If something happens to both me and my husband, who will be her guardian?

I work with a lot of really smart people, and one of them, Jordan Ballor, wrote this piece about disabilities and stewardship.  He said a lot of things I'd like to say but far more eloquently:

There’s a dangerous tendency in America today to view disabilities of various kinds as insuperable barriers to productive and loving service. There is often an implicit, and sometimes explicit, disrespect of a basic feature of human dignity in the treatment of those with disabilities as merely passive recipients of government aid, the objects of public pity. The reality is that each one of us, created in the image of God, has the capacity to be a productive steward of some kind, and this reality has the potential to reshape our personal perspectives as well as our public policy...

But what about those who cannot work? Perhaps it is because of some injury or disability that has developed that they can no longer work, or at least not in a way that they did previously. Part of the answer lies in expanding what our idea of “work” is. Work is, at its core, the service that we do to others. Commonly this service is remunerated; we are paid for our daily work on the job. But there are innumerable forms of service for which we are not paid. This too is work. So in this sense someone on the factory line works just as the parent who changes a diaper works. This is why careful discussions about work often distinguish between “waged” work and unpaid work, or work inside or outside the home.

DeKoster and Berghoef go on to observe that “the forms of work are countless, but the typical one is work with the hands.” This idea of the basic nature of such “hand” work comes through in terms like manufacturing, which has its roots in the Latin for “made by hand.” Indeed, we often still associate work of the hands with specialty goods, craftsmanship, and quality. But again, what about those who aren’t able to work with their hands? Is there a way for them to continue to serve others as good stewards through their work?

My daughter, just like those men who waited patiently every morning for their bus, has value. She doesn't have to "do" anything to make her valuable, but she does have something to contribute in the way Jordan speaks of here....she can work. She can add value to society with her skills, her knowledge, her talents...even if those are more limited than most others'. And that is a gift to all of us.

Noah, Rainbows, Vacations and A Moment

We were visiting friends in WI for a few days. Technically, it was a vacation, but it wasn't a "let's run around and do stuff" vacation. It was more a "let's read on the front porch and pet the dog" vacation.

Our friends have two boys, both of whom are Dear Husband's godsons. We don't see them nearly often enough and (as they say) they grow so fast. The younger boy, Noah, especially enjoyed spending time with our youngest. Now, Noah is six and our youngest is 6'5". They were a delightful pair, playing Legos together.

One evening, the boys went out to kick the soccer ball around the front yard, and Noah (befittingly) spotted a rainbow. It was such a lovely moment, a true vacation moment - just hanging out, enjoying each other's company and taking time to see God's glory. That's why vacations are important.


Downtime: Complete

Had a wonderful, relaxing time over in the state of WI, which I decided looks remarkably like MI. Anyhow, we enjoyed celebrating a friend's 50th birthday party, time with his family (which we sort of adopted as ours years ago!), and got in a few fun family things. Best of all, our two youngest kids did not kill each other in the car - hurray for small victories!

Here's what I did on my summer vacation:


Making a "mess" in our parishes

Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind - El Greco
Pope Francis told the folks at World Youth Day that he wants them to go out and make a "mess" in their dioceses, to spread the Faith and shake up the world.

Okay, so what now? How do we do that?

Here are some ideas:
  • If you know the Faith, share it. Teach in your parish religious ed program instead of just complaining about how bad it it.
  • Talk to your pastor about hosting a teaching event for adults, such as viewing and discussing Fr. Barron's series. Promise you'll do all the work.
  • Host a day or evening "mini-retreat. Again, tell your pastor and/or DRE you'll do all the work: setting up, taking down, arranging food, etc.
  • Volunteer in the youth ministry program, even if you don't have a kid that age.
  • Join the Knights of Columbus. Don't have one at your parish? Start one.
  • Join/start a Bible study. These are especially needed for folks who work during the day, as most parish Bible studies meet during the week, during daytime hours.
  • Pray for your priest, your bishop, your DRE, your youth minister. 
  • Ask your priest: "What can I do to help do what the Holy Father wants us to do here in our parish?"
  • Encourage young parents. Don't give that squirmy toddler next to you at Mass the stink eye; offer to hold him/her. Tell the parents after Mass what a great job they're doing bringing the kids to Mass.
  • Bring a friend or family member who's drifted away from the Church to Mass. Tell them, "No strings attached. Come with me once, and we'll have coffee afterwards. If you don't want to go again, no problem." Then, knock their socks off with kindness, gratitude and appreciation for making the effort.
  • Talk to people about your Faith. Be ready to share at the drop of a hat with your hairdresser, your dental assistant, your carpool buddy, your dog groomer, the kid who cuts your grass....
  • Carry an extra Rosary in your purse or pocket, along with a pamphlet on how to say it. I guarantee: you'll get the opportunity to pass it along to someone. Again and again.
  • Pray.
  • Pray.
  • Pray.

Always Faithful

We went to Mass last night, and had an older priest. In his homily, he exhorted us to "semper paratus:" Be prepared. The Gospel,...