New Beginnings – Finding Peace & Holiness in a New Normal

Life. Like any other living thing, people grow. We change, we adapt. Whether tip-toeing or running, we move forward. Friends come and go. Life circumstances change, whether we like it or not.

I’m finding that, while I can’t stop the change, I can change how I react to it. And it hasn’t always been a smooth road.

When I was in college, I went to Mass almost daily. Mass was the cornerstone of my spiritual life! I prayed the rosary privately much more often, I went to Bible studies, spent hours in Adoration… But with two small people in my life now, holiness doesn’t look like that anymore. And it’s left me feeling pretty dry, and searching for a new way to connect with God that complements my family’s needs and doesn’t take me away when I’m needed at home. I know some moms are the super-disciplined type who make the sacrifice to get up before their kiddos and have a quiet “God time” in the morning. I’ve never been one to spring out of bed in the morning, so sometimes getting up with the kids are calling for me is still hard.

I’ve bugged God more than once about this, and His answers are always interrupted by a cry for “MAMA!” issuing from a tiny human Ben and I made. So, disgruntled, I mentally put God on hold, and see to what is needed.

Need. I seem to be using that word a lot. My husband has needs. My daughters have needs. My house has needs. There is laundry, diapers, picking up, planning, organizing, more laundry, more diapers…. And for some strange reason, in the midst of ALL OF THAT, people still expect three meals a day! (Any other moms feel like they live in the kitchen?) And, as I keep reminding myself, I only have TWO littles! Many moms I admire have five, seven, eight, eleven children. So many needs…

The other night, I was walking my 6.5 month old to sleep. She loves the dark, so I threw a blanket over her, turned off all the lights, and started the nightly pacing back and forth and back and forth until she sleeps. As I started the sojourn across the living room, I had a funny feeling that it would take three “laps” and she’d be asleep. Oh cool! I thought. Maybe that’s God telling me! We’ll see… and off we went. Nope, three laps later she was still wiggling. It took well over a dozen laps before she was peacefully slumbering. Oh well. Must have been my imagination. I dismissed the thought as silliness. The next night at the same time the thought returned, and I pondered the seemingly inconsequential idea as I paced the room. When E was finally asleep 14 laps later, it occurred to me that three is a Holy number. Three Persons in the Blessed Trinity. Three days Christ spent in the tomb. Three is often used in Scripture to point to the Divine.

I believe God put that little thought in my head to show me where to find Him. While it’s true I can’t get to daily Mass as often as I’d like (and have two precious interruptions with me when I do go!), or spend the time in Adoration I used to, He is still providing access to Himself. My holiness is now in my family. I’m worshiping God as I walk my baby to sleep.

(Of course I don’t mean this to say I don’t need to make time for personal prayer or Mass isn’t a priority anymore! Only that the ways I’d looked for God before have grown, and my own understanding of my Vocation as wife and mother is maturing.)

There’s a line from a musical that always tugs at my heartstrings – “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I’m blessed to see the Face of God in little grins, slobbery kisses, grubby fingers, childish interests… and what’s more, I get to BE the Face of God to my girls. As their mother, I am the very first experience of love they have. Through me and Ben, they’ll have their first experiences with love, affection, trust, and security. They’ll learn what it means to be a part of a family. Through that, they’ll meet God, and learn of His love. I get to be a conduit for God to touch my child. And THAT is pretty stinkin’ sweet.

I think I like my new normal. It’s sure different than my college days, or even my days of teaching fulltime. But there is Peace here. Peace that God is here with me, and that I’m doing alright. Holiness may look different, but it’s still awesome.

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Since it’s been a while since I last posted, here follows a brief life update for those interested.

I got married to a wonderful man August 15, 2015 (Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven – Yes, on purpose!) by the name of Benjamin. God took us on a roller coaster of a journey to get to the Altar, and I’ll type up a post on that some day to post on here. I feel a picture is called for so here you are:

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Ahh, he’s so handsome.

We got pregnant on our honeymoon and our daughter was born at a planned home birth May 13, 2016. I will type up her birth story eventually! Picture:

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Zélie – 8 lbs. 2oz., 21 inches long

We love having babies and didn’t waste any time in giving Z a little sister. Our second daughter was also a planned home birth on August 29, 2017. Her birth story is also forthcoming. She and Z are 15 months apart. Picture:

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Ellie – 9lbs. 2 oz., 21 inches long – Those cheeks though!

My family and I still live in the town where I grew up in East Texas.

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My girls and I <3

 

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Hail Mary Series (Part 9 of 10) – Now, And At The Hour Of Our Death

    At what point during a good football or basketball game is every viewer inseparable from the TV? When do the runners in a race push the hardest to get to the finish line first?

    At the end.

    Some men and women strive to live lives of faith only to fall into despair at the end… and other have lived lives of great sin and then, right at the end, run to the Lord. (Repentant thief crucified with Jesus much?)

    St. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 9 that we “run so as to win” and that he himself would “drive [his] body and train it, that lest after having preached to others, [he himself] would be disqualified.”

    So, obviously, the end of our life is a big deal. It can, literally, make or break eternity. While it is of great importance to live a holy and pleasing life, our sweet mother Mary knows that right there at the end – the vital moment – is when the Devil jumps in to try one last time to snatch a soul out of heaven. That is why in each and every “Hail Mary” we offer to our mother, we beg for her prayers in those last minutes of our earthly lives. We all know that someday we will breathe our last, our soul will continue on without the body, and our mother will be there to take us by the hand and lead us into the arms of her Son.

    The Devil is afraid of Mother Mary because she loves the Lord so much, because she is so humble, and because her prayers steal so many souls out of the very jaws of Hell.

    Remember this plea you make each time you hail your mother, and be confidant that she will answer it with such abundant prayer, love, and all of her mother’s heart.

 

 

 

 

          Mater Dei, ora pro nobis!!! 

Planted & Blooming

“Bloom where you’re planted” is a piece of advice I follow fairly well. I’m pretty good at being content, peaceful, and reasonably happy with where I am in life – at least when I take a step back and look at the big picture. I realized the other day though that I need work in the daily application department.

I was on my way home from daily Mass and ran into a wretched patch of traffic along a road that is usually very clear. The street was backed up nearly a mile, and as I hit the brakes and came to a stop, the mental grumbling began. I tried to see around the car ahead of me to find out WHY the road had spontaneously become a parking lot, but no reason could be seen. I leaned back into my seat and let out a very long sigh… I was in for a delay, and overly-punctual me was not happy.

    As I sat stewing in my mental grump, I looked around in an effort to find something for my brain to chew on while I waited, and noticed the median to my left was covered with wild flowers. I started examining an especially curious-looking bloom. Shortly, I noticed the car ahead of me had moved up. Disappointed I couldn’t remain to admire the pretty little flower, I moved up. Once stopped again, I noticed another flower, slightly different than the first, but just as pretty. No sooner had I settled in to enjoy its beauty, the traffic started up again, and I was obliged to proceed out of sight. This scenario repeated itself a few times, and before I knew it, I was at the intersection to turn off of this mightily congested road.

As I drove the rest of the way home, I thought about the life lesson that had just played out before my eyes. Every second I was focused on getting to the next thing as fast as possible, the more antsy and ill-tempered I became. When I took my focus off the waiting and enjoyed the beauty right before me, not only was my heart much more peaceful, but the wait itself became negligible.

    As I wait for the Lord to bring to me the next phase of life, I beg Him for the grace to find and enjoy the sweet little wild flowers He has placed along my path.

Stay Calm and Be Still

Silence.

It can very intimidating, unnerving, and even downright scary.

Why?

We need and desire to be close to Christ, especially during Lent, correct? Where is Christ found? Scripture tell us He can be heard in the “gentle movement of the wind.” So basically, in silence.

The devil does not want us to be close to Christ AT ALL, so what does he do? Noise. Activity. Constant motion. Never slowing, always racing, always something to keep us busy. He tries to block out that Gentle Wind carrying the Voice we need so badly to hear.

Because we are bombarded with commotion constantly, and are in fact quite used to it, it is difficult to adapt to silence. If you don’t believe me, just go sit in Eucharistic Adoration for 10 minutes, and just see how distracted you get!

We must soldier a war on constant noise, stimulation, and activity. None of these things are bad in themselves, but like anything else, without carefully imposed moderation, it can rage out of control and cause more harm than good.

Is noise really THAT harmful? Not being able to hear the Voice of God is harmful, yes.

During this Lent, set aside time each day to be silent and listen to God. If it’s a struggle, ask His Blessed Mother to help you make more room in your heart for silence so you can hear the Voice of her Son. Once your heart is quiet, calm, and open, the Voice your soul longs to hear can be heard.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Lent, Suffering, and Sunglasses

It’s that time of year again. Half of the Catholic world is off Facebook (I’m not), offering up creamer in their coffee (I’m not), and avoiding chocolate like the plague (I’m trying to!).

But why?

I recall several Lents ago, I was struggling with simply offering up sweets, and being tempted by things I’m NOT usually tempted by, like over-priced peanut M&Ms in a vending machine in the cafeteria at my junior college.

Why is this even a big deal?! I’d mentally ask myself as I sulked away without my treat. Chocolate is not evil!!!

No, chocolate is not evil. Neither is coffee creamer or Facebook. But what I began to understand that day is that the point of giving up something is not because the thing is bad, but because it IS good. Any woman will testify to the positive qualities of chocolate, but the positive qualities of GOD far outweigh anything chocolate can offer. By detaching from a lesser good, it allows me to refocus myself, my wants, and my purpose on THE Good.

This process takes a while though, I’ve noticed, and I always have to deal with a lot of incidents like my vending machine story. The harder I try to forsake an attachment to something, the more I see it, and the more I want it!

It is in THOSE moments that the true purpose of Lent is made manifest. That struggle to say no (or say yes, if you took on extras for Lent instead of giving something up) is what wins ground in your soul for Christ. It is a battle, and the struggles I’m facing to keep up my Lenten resolutions are the weapons in my hands. It takes strength to fight, and it’s often unpleasant. That’s ok. The suffering will pale in comparison to the glory.

My mom used to share a quote by William Penn when I was down in the Lenten Dumps: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”

Christ lived it; so must I.

I was driving home from work one day, and as is typical of 5pm that time of year, the sun was right in my eyes. Annoyed, I felt around for my sunglasses, trying to keep my eyes on the road. The thought occurred to me (from my guardian angel no doubt, I don’t have such pious thoughts on my own) “why don’t you offer the discomfort of the sun in your eyes for the Poor Souls in Purgatory?”

I knew about those Poor Souls; the aching, yearning, pleading for Heaven. They’re so close they can almost taste it, but must remain outside until their souls are fit for Paradise. My heart always goes out to them when I think of them, and this blinding drive home from work was no exception. Just as I steeled my will to offer my minor suffering for my friends in limbo, my fumbling hand located the delinquent sunglasses. After thinking for a second, I left them were they were, and stared into the glare of my windshield as I drove home. All of a sudden, my suffering had a purpose. There was MEANING in it. I didn’t just accept suffering, I wanted to suffer; not for me, for them, so they could go Home.

Then it clicked: The Cross. THAT is how Jesus was able to suffer. He was thinking about me. That gave Him the strength to press on, to bleed, to languish, and to die. For me. So I could go Home.

Remember the cross when the chocolate cravings come rushing in, and Jesus did it for YOU. Find a purpose for your suffering, and love like Christ.

Have a Blessed Lent!

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

The Lonely Rosary

We’ve all seen it.

It hangs there, day and night, so patient and so faithful.

Maybe one day… it will think.

Maybe one day, she will pick me up and pray with me.

Yep, it’s that rosary you have hung on your rearview mirror.

While I’m quite aware the a rosary is an inanimate object devoid of feelings, thoughts, and emotion, the Mother you connect with when you pray her rosary is anything but. I’m just as guilty as the rest: I get in my car every day, and almost always I look right past my Mother’s roses to see what this world has for me, and what I’ll need to dodge to get to work in one piece.

But really, how hard would it be to reach that short distance between the steering wheel and the mirror and offer your mother a decade as you work your way through rush hour traffic? If you’re like me, you likely reach up there anyway to last-minute adjust the view before you take off. And if you make it a habit, maybe you’ll even become a kinder, less aggressive driver!

No one can calm you and protect you like a mother, and Mother Mary is the best of the best.

See you on the road!

Shine Like the Son!

Every summer I’ve worked at The Pines Catholic Camp I have come away with an amazing experience, deepened Faith, and abundant personal growth. This summer though brought more of each of these than each of the three previous summers I’ve served there. One of my favorite things I was blessed to do was speak to the middle school campers about the Blessed Mother, not just once, but three times! Each time, I received amazing feedback from the counselors about what their campers learned. It was most humbling!

Summing the entire summer is impossible, but my top 5 things (in no particular order) are:

1. The SWAT Team! I had the honor of directing a team of young adults, and I learned so much from them! They worked so hard, so faithfully, and so humbly the whole summer… It was so humbling to serve with them! I found great inspiration in each of their unique gifts, talents, and personalities. And beyond all that, I love them to pieces! Several are beginning college this fall, and I’m so proud of them, and excited to see how God will continue to grow and mold them into Himself. I miss them all so much!

2. My sister coming to camp! My 15 year old ‘little sister’ came Teen Week, and I watched as she grew, learned, had SO much fun, made new friends, and best of all, deepened her already-strong Faith! God is so faithful, and so generous! I’m so proud of my little melody!

 

3. Seeing a few of my old campers! It was SO wonderful to see some of my girls from last summer! To see how seeds had taken root and begun to grow was amazing, humbling, inspiring, and so beautiful. Especially to recall that ‘one camper’ from whom I’d learned so much return, and teach me (and others) so much more! Amazing.

4. Speaking to the middle school campers about Mary! The Branch Village (aka middle school age group) coordinator asked me to speak to Branch about Mary a few times, and each was amazing!! I was able to share my own story with Mary, as well as answer questions about if we worship Mary (spoiler alert: we don’t!), why we pray to her, and who she is to us as believers is Christ. The feedback I got from each talk was amazing, and so humbling. The third time I spoke, I was so blessed to be introduced by #5 on this list.

5. (Meeting) Tori Harris! Tori is a Catholic singer and song writer, and an amazing young woman! She stayed in my house with me and my other housemates, and I was so honored to get to know her on a personal level. She’s awesome! And her music is gorgeous! (It’s also on iTunes! Look it up!!!) She spoke to me, to the rest of staff, and to the campers about Faith, fear, and following God’s will for your life. (A post will be forthcoming before long detailed all she spoke about… it was life-altering for me!)

6. (I know I said 5, but I forgot one…) Maria Walther! I met her last summer, and was so happy to get to see her again, and visit. To share my heart with such a lovely Catholic mother was encouraging, inspiring, and so uplifting! I wanna be like her when I grow up! She’s so much like Mother Mary. :)

As always, I built amazing friendships, learned to love Our Lord in a new way, and grew a lot! Jesus is still revealing to me the purpose and design He had for me at camp, and I am learning to love Him for it! He is so good to me! It was a joy to work at The Pines again, and even more, to take the mission of the summer home to “Shine like the Son in the kingdom of my Father!”

AMDG!

Of Keys, Boots, and Vocations

“It’s not that you’re perfect for your vocation; it’s more that your vocation is perfect for you.”

My good friend Megan told me that a few weeks ago. It took a lot of thinking on my part to really process the depth of what it meant. Thoughts were still rolling around in my mind when, last Sunday, I was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. I’m working at The Pines Catholic Camp for the summer, and one of my favorite things here is the outdoor Mass that is offered every Sunday evening for the campers. Because Mass was outside, when there was a lot of the Blessed Sacrament left over, Father asked me to take it back to the Chapel. Another staff member and I had a mini Eucharistic procession to the Chapel, and I set Our Lord on the altar to grab the key to put Him inside the Tabernacle.

I hunted high and low in the Sacristy for that key! I saw a key right away by the extra candles that looked like a normal house key and tried that one first. It didn’t even fit into the keyhole. I searched around more, and then tried the first key again, to make sure I hadn’t just put it in upside down or something. Nope, it still didn’t fit, so I jogged back up to ask Father where the key was. Father said the top shelf, so I went back and looked there. Nothing. I jogged back a second time to ask the camp director where the key was. He told me a particular drawer to look in, so I checked there. There were a few drawers where he’d said, and in the first one, I found another house-key looking key, which, as with the first, did not fit. I checked the next drawer, and the next drawer. When I opened the last drawer, I was amazed. There, sitting, waiting for me, was THE key. I knew it was IT, the one I’d been searching for, before I even picked it up. It was old-fashioned-looking; the same metal as the Tabernacle, and had a chain tassel hanging from it. It was a perfect fit, and opened that Sacred Space with gracious ease.

A day later, I was telling the camp nurse about how I’d wound up at my school, and in the major I was in, and it was a similar story: I saw something good that I thought would work, tried it, and it just didn’t fit. When I found where I was meant to be, I just knew. It was a perfect fit, like that Tabernacle key.

Two weekends ago, I made a big investment: I bought a real pair of boots!

Take a look:

Aren’t they pretty?! I’m so proud of them, and wear them every chance I get.

My new boots got me thinking about boots in general, and how they are the footwear of choice for soldiers. They are sturdy, protect the feet well, and whenever I put my boots on, it makes me feel like I’m about to do something big. Ever heard that old soldier saying “I want to get caught with my boots on!”? (Meaning not caught in bed or relaxing, but when he was ready for it.) I got to thinking that I want my vocation to find me with my ‘boots’ on, working whole-heartedly in the vineyard where I was planted by the hand of God! I love the story of Isaac and Rebecca: Rebecca was just going about her daily duties, and was attentive to the needs around her. The generosity which poured from her heart made her a perfect fit for Isaac. She was caught with her boots on!

I’m excited to find my vocation someday. Like that key to the Tabernacle, I know I’ll know it when I see it. But in the meantime, I’m going to be like Rebecca and keep my boots on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…the Lord, in Whose presence I have always walked, will send His messenger with you, and make your errand successful…” – Genesis 24:40

Chosen & Called

Well here I am, back at my favorite summer home – The Pines Catholic Camp! I’m a staff supervisor this summer, and I already love my team so much! They’re such a great group of men and women!

I’m finding that, as with any position in ministry, the devil is always close at hand trying to discourage, harm, and destroy the good that comes from God working through willing vessels. I experienced some strong feelings of discouragement and being overwhelmed with all that had to be done and everything I was responsible for. I began to realize though that God had called and chosen ME. He could have chosen anyone in the entire world, but He didn’t. He chose me. He called me here, and He chose me for this position, for this work, and for this team.

I found a quote the other day that amazed me. “Jesus is going to do great things with you if you let Him, and if you don’t try to interfere with Him.” (The general consensus in the office here is that it is a Mother Teresa quote, but we’re not sure…)

It’s so humbling to see the good that God has used me to work, and to know that He will continue to do more of the same, as long as I stay open to His calling. God is teaching me a lot of trust in His provision this summer, and showing me how much I really rely on Him. I love it.

Please pray for me and my team as this summer starts in earnest on June 2, with the first group of camper’s arrival. We have been called and chosen by God Himself, and may His work be done through our lives!


“He called those whom He desired” – Mark 3:13

My Offering

Here we go!!! Summer Camp 2013 has officially begun for this lady, as I moved in here Wednesday to begin Senior Staff Training. It is becoming real!

As the leadership team out here prepares for the summer, I realized all the weaknesses I bring here with me, and all of the ‘stuff’ going on back home that I am laying at the foot of the Cross to serve God for the next three months.

The team had Adoration the other night, and as I adored Our Lord Truly Present, the following prayer developed in my mind:

Lord, here are my hands. They’re fragile, they’re small, and they’re empty. I give them to You. Use them to do Your Will.

Lord, here are my feet. They’re blistered, they’re sore, and they wander. I give them to You. Use them to do Your Will.

Lord, here is my mind. It’s ignorant, it’s dim, and it’s prideful. I give it to You. Use it to do Your Will.

Lord, here is my will. It’s stubborn, it’s selfish, and it’s weak. I give it to You. Use it to do Your Will

Lord, here is my heart. It’s insecure, it’s broken, and it’s bleeding. I give it to You. Use it to do You Will.

This is my offering, Jesus. It’s nothing, but it’s what I have. I give it entirely to You to be used to Know, Love, and Serve. Take me, and make me into Your own Image. Make me less of myself and more of You, Lord, and when I’m the most like You, I am the most like me. Create me more and more in Your Image, and guide my hands, feet, mind, will, and heart to You.

Amen.

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