In October of this year my wife, Liz, and I took a 10th anniversary trip to Florence and Paris. I’d been to both cities and was blessed to see many of the beautiful and remarkable pieces of art, faith, and architecture for a second time.
For the first time, we visited San Marco the home of the Italian renaissance painter and Dominican Friar – Fra Angelico. I had studied Fra Angelico’s work, and my favorite piece is his representation of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38). I had first encountered this piece of art nearly 20 years ago, but until this fall had never seen it in person.
When my wife and I climbed the stairs within San Marco and first laid eyes on the beautiful painting you see above, I was stunned. Though I had seen this work hundreds of times, I saw it as if for the first time again. And for the first time I saw the wings of the Archangel Gabriel sparkle. I’d always admired the colorful representation of the angel’s wings, but now I knew that these wings sparkled and shimmered in the light.
Saying yes to God, as Mary does in this moment, is always full of surprises. If you say yes to God, I guarantee that he has beautiful surprises in store for you. Even if you have studied and hoped for and anticipated your next move, if you make that move while saying yes and giving your life over to Christ, God will make it even more beautiful. If you have never said yes to God, I invite and encourage you to say yes, even in a small way, to God’s will for your life. If you do, he will make even a broken and painful life, beautiful.
On this the Solemnity of the Annunciation, I invite you to say one simple prayer – Yes. Say yes to God. Tell God yes. And let that yes be the beginning of a life of yes you give to God. I promise what he will do with that yes is greater, more beautiful than you can imagine
Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is such an interesting thing in this era of social media and technology.
Back when I was young, Ash Wednesday was a big deal to us because, well, we are Catholic AND we went to Catholic school. Other than McDonald’s offering fish sandwiches on the menu, the rest of the world didn’t seem too clued in to what we over in our Alabama 1% Catholic community were doing.
When we would show up places after school, we were looked at funny or asked what was on our head. I don’t even really remember there being a lot of Ash Wednesday services at all the Protestant churches like there seem to be today.
But, now, social media is exploding with reminders of the beginning of Lent and Ash Wednesday. The hashtag #AshTag is trending on Twitter. There’s blogs upon blogs upon blogs suggesting ways to make the most of your Lenten season. There’s Instagrams left and right of people’s ashy foreheads (guilty!). There are even a few new and very cool apps out there that are specifically for meditation and reminders to pray daily and not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent.
It’s an incredibly interesting time to live.
I am 23+ weeks into my pregnancy with our happy surprise Baby #3 (a little girl). When I say she is a “surprise”, I mean just that. We are people who use NFP regularly and though we are pro-life and thus always ready to accept a new little life as God sees fit to give it, we weren’t purposefully trying to get pregnant with this little one (as we were with our other two). So, when, that 2nd little line showed up on a pregnancy test last fall, surprised is the best word to describe my reaction.
When it took 14 months to get pregnant with my first child, I learned quickly that God alone is the author of Life and only HE knows when it is best for a person or family to have a baby. Sometimes our will and His will line up (we were trying for a 2nd child and God deemed it to be the right time and we got pregnant quickly). Other times, it’s challenging to understand why God is or isn’t allowing a pregnancy to happen.
I have never once take for granted the gift of this new little life within me when I know so many people who would give anything to get pregnant and I am so thrilled to be having another little girl. But, from my limited perspective, I wouldn’t have chosen right now to be pregnant again! Read More
“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)
A few days ago, my mother came upon a woman in a Facebook group who was collecting donated goods for some families with children who were in desperate need this holiday season. Upon looking at the list, she felt like she could help them out with a good number of items. She contacted me to see if I had anything on the list that I would be able to contribute.
Just like most of us, I have plenty of extra things sitting around that, in all honesty, I don’t really need to keep hanging on to. Not only did I have a few things, once I started really looking, I found that I had a lot of things that I could pass on to these other families.
Giving away the goods was not the challenge of this act of charity. No, no. Physically handing things over to another person, family, or organization doesn’t take a lot of effort. I found where I really need to learn a lesson in giving and that is in my attitude.
Because, what good are all those items given to another if they aren’t given, as St. Paul says, “cheerfully”?
It’s that day. THE DAY when we make our obligatory list of “Things I’m Thankful For” and prepare to present it in front of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table.
We all know how the list goes: air, family, friends, health, job, home, football, pumpkin pie (in whatever order is preferable to you), etc., etc. All great things to be thankful for and generally worth mentioning.
I’ve been meditating on the “what are you thankful for question” a bit more this year, though, because I feel like saying, “Duh” when all those general gifts are mentioned. OF COURSE I’m thankful for my family and children, the blessings we have in the form of good health and a job and home and all the extraneous things that make my life what it is. I try to daily live my life as a woman who is aware of my many, many blessings and who regularly tells God “thank you” for them.
But, why? Why do I try to live in this mindset (or, really, HEARTset)? What is it that I am truly the most thankful for that allows me to be a person of thanksgiving, of praise, with a grateful heart?
I don’t know when I started to realize that no matter how many and how often I made “plans” I made for my life, it would almost never go the way I envisioned it. When I look back, I can see how different things that happened in my life were dots that were going to connect me to another dot in a way that I hadn’t envisioned and never would’ve thought of.
The first place I can really remember it happening and changing the course of my “plans” was in high school. After two years of playing on the volleyball team (one of those years as varsity), I was unexpectedly cut altogether. I was devastated and had all my high school plans and dreams seemingly crushed.
But, that event led me to a new dot – going from running track in the spring to running track in the winter, too. Though I never really wanted to pursue track in college or try to make the Olympic team or anything like that, I ultimately had a much more successful career as a runner than I probably ever would’ve had as a volleyball player.
God knew what He was doing. Imagine that.
When I review my life thus far, I can now clearly see how things like that happened constantly, changing the course of my life and taking me in a new and better direction. Sometimes they were things I had no control over (like getting cut from a team), but often they were choices offered that I hadn’t considered, I ended up choosing, and that made all the difference. Read More
About a month ago I had a conversation with my 8 year old son that went something like this:
Son: Mom, I know what the most important thing in the world is.
Me: Yeah? What is it?
He didn’t say “duh,” but it was implied. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about my Catholic parenting skills.
Son: Do you know what the least important thing in the world is?
Son: I don’t know, I thought maybe you could tell me.
My, how quickly those good feelings are replaced with much more familiar feeling that I am blindly groping through this whole raising children thing.
Me: Ummm…well…what do you think it is?
Let’s be honest: This is a classic parenting technique that should be known as “I have no idea, but am hoping you will talk some more so I can have time to think up a good answer.”
Son: Maybe money? But…even if money shouldn’t be the most important, it still is kind of important because we need it to buy food and gas and our house and stuff.
At this point, still floundering for an answer, I’m just grateful he didn’t include video games or Legos on the list of things we need money for.
Son (continuing): For a while I thought maybe the Devil was the least important…
Wait?! He’s been thinking about this “for a while?”
Son: …but even if he’s bad, he’s still important. I mean, he shouldn’t be important – we should just be able to ignore him all the time. But, we can’t, and we have to watch out for him – so I guess that means he’s kind of important too.
At this point in the conversation, I’ve ceased trying to come up with a good answer and am just soaking up the kid’s theological wisdom (and wondering why I paid so much for a Master’s degree in Theology when I’m getting totally owned by my 8 year old in a theological debate I wasn’t prepared for). I really don’t want him to stop, so I make an intelligent response intended to encourage him to continue and affirm the thinking he’s done so far. Read More
This morning, I brought my two children to a large playground that is in a more urban setting than most of the playgrounds by our home. Okay, it’s not like it was in the middle of downtown, but it’s right next to a large, busy intersection bordered on one side by a very upscale neighborhood and on the other side by less-than-upscale apartments. It’s a playground that is frequented by families with children, people of various ages and races, runners and bikers, and…….the people who make you nervous.
You know what I mean when I say that. And, I don’t say it to be mean, rude, or unloving. It’s a reality that all of us are familiar with, especially if you have children. Sometimes in public areas, there are people who put you a little on edge, who cause you to watch your children a little closer, who’s movements you watch out of the corner of your eye.
It happened twice today.
I don’t presume to think I am “cool”.
Any type of “coolness” I may have possessed in my younger years has most certainly gone flying out the window with motherhood. I finally spoke this truth out loud to my still cool, unmarried, currently living in Nashville (the epitome of hipster/music/coolness) about to go to awesome music graduate school younger brother. “Yeah, there’s pretty much nothing we do as moms that will become an ‘in’ thing. In fact, if something becomes a trend for moms & kids, it is probably on it’s way out,” I said.
Good one, Catholic Memes.
The reality of my motherly uncoolness became even more pronounced today as I was sitting in Barnes & Noble visiting with my pregnant friend while her son and my two kids played around with a group of other children (most of whom were accompanied, also, by moms of various ages and stages of pregnancy). We chatted and laughed about potty training (yes, discussing poop), baby food, sleeping habits, toys & interests of our kids, pregnancy, and motherhood in general. Probably the most boring conversation ever for my girlfriend’s unmarried friend who was with us, too.
Yes, motherhood is unglamorous and totally uncool when it really comes down to the nitty gritty of it.
On the ride home, this realization got me thinking about the Blessed Mother. Our Most Holy Mother Mary, who is always depicted as beautiful, serene, demure, hair perfectly coiffed, the “coolest” woman who ever walked the face of the earth in all her holiness and Immaculate Conception-ness, was also a mom. Read More