Light After the Dark

Earlier this week, we celebrated our daughter’s 1st heavenly birthday.

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My son decided that Seraphina needed “balloons & hearts for her birthday”

On May 2, 2016, our 2nd baby went directly to heaven, a miscarriage that yanked the rug out from under me and sent me into a tailspin for the following year.  You can read all about our loss of Seraphina here.  (And, our first loss, Gale, here.)

The time following pregnancy loss, specifically when you had seen your baby on an ultrasound, who’s heartbeat you heard and cherished, and who’s presence you shared with loves ones aren’t easy.  And, you don’t move on from the physical pain and emotional & spiritual suffering, as quickly many people think or assume you do or should.

Your entire world is now operating from this point of reference.  You’re carrying this burden around with you that is unseen by the world at large.  You think about it daily, especially during the time when your body is recovering from the trauma it has been through.  It’s a daily reminder that your child is now gone.

I have a friend who’s baby was born about 10 days before my miscarriage.  I was due to bring them a meal and meet the baby (and was planning to tell them about our pregnancy).  That was the first big hurdle that was in front of me.  The thought of seeing that newborn and having to tell them of my own loss was too much for me at that time.

And, that was just the beginning of a very dark year for me. Read More

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Lenten Requirements

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.

Lent-pixBut, 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.
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The Converted Person

A small excerpt from the book Show me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri J.M. Nouwen that really spoke to me.  Emphasis added.  I hope you enjoy.

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“The converted person does not say that nothing matters any more, but that everything that IS happens in God and that God is the dwelling place where we come to know the true order of things.  Instead of saying: ‘Nothing matters any more, since I know that God exists,’ the converted person says: ‘All is now clothed in divine light and therefore nothing can be unimportant.’  Converted persons see, hear, and understand with a divine eye, a divine ear, a divine heart.  Converted persons know themselves and all the world in God.  Converted persons are where God is, and from that place everything matters: giving water, clothing the naked, working for a new world order, saying a prayer, smiling at a child, reading a book, and sleeping in peace.

All has become different while all remains the same.”

Being Present

I wrote this blog about how volunteering at our local warming shelter opened up my eyes to much more than just the plight of the homeless.

The unexpected happened. Something none of my mission trips, immersion retreats, or service outings had prepared me for. This was the first time I had served the homeless community in my own town, and I was not prepared to know some of the guests. I was not prepared to see former teens and the parents of teens come in from the cold with everything the owned in a backpack on their back.

At first, I felt helpless. I felt so inadequate, certain that futzing with the finicky washing machine for my shift couldn’t do anything for these individuals. I felt like all I could do was to be there, and that being there wasn’t enough.

Read the whole thing

While I focused on how this experience challenged me to be a better youth minister, the reality is that it challenged me to be a better – well, everything.  A better wife, a better mother, a better friend, a better Christian.

The thing is, it’s REALLY hard to be present – there are so many little things that require immediate attention – all at once.

On Saturday, I found myself trying to convince the not-yet-potty-trained-because-apparently-we-don’t-have-this-parenting-thing-figured-out-yet 3 year old not to pull down his dirty diaper in the living room and playing a game of Uno while at the same time showing my husband how to open the vacuum cleaner (which promptly dumped out all over the couch, the kids, me, and the Uno game).  In trying to be present to the dirty diaper, the Uno game, and my husband’s battle with the vacuum, I ended up being present to none of them.

So, I’ve made a commitment to re-read this blog every morning during Lent and to try to focus on just one person or situation I can be fully and totally present to that day – no distractions.  We’ll see how it goes.

How can you be fully present today?

50 > 40

Ham

50 slices of ham > 40 slices of ham.

Jesus Christ is Risen today, Alleluia! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Easter is awesome, and easily my favorite time of year for my faith.  Spring has usually sprung, flowers are starting to bloom, and I feel new too.  After a long, and this year it felt extra long, Lent, we cap off our 40 days of sacrifice with the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Saturday – best liturgies of the year) and then Easter Mass.  Can’t get any better than that.

Here is the great thing about being Catholic – 50 is greater than 40.  Lent lasts 40 days. It feels like forever because we can’t drink diet coke or put sugar in our coffee or eat meat or whatever we offered up. But then we get to Easter, and instead of just one day to party; we get 50 full days to party.  Easter lasts from Easter Sunday through Pentecost a full 50 days away.  So as you read this, it is Easter! (Unless you are reading this in like August, then you missed it.)

Everyone has little traditions they do in their house to celebrate Easter.  At my house, we are pretty traditional.  We dye eggs. We roast a ham (like forever till it smells and tastes like bacon).  We eat a lot of unnecessary candy.  We pass out from a sugar comma.  Good times.  Read More

Jesus Beat the Devil with a Big Ugly Stick

This middle part of Lent is always the hardest for me.  The strong convictions with which I started on Ash Wednesday have begun to wane.  The new routine of prayer that I’ve tried to establish has been interrupted and intruded upon by my family, my work and my life; I’ve slipped up at least once in my fasting.  I start to wonder if it’s worth it—whether or not I should stick with the resolutions I made at the beginning of the season.  I feel guilty for the ways in which I’ve failed to answer the call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and I try to convince myself that it’s okay.  After all, I’m a good person, I’m loving to my family (most of the time), I give what I can when I remember to, and I’ve already prayed more than most other people have.

The Scripture reading for today (Thursday for the 3rd Week of Lent) seems perfectly tailored for my Lenten halftime slump.  It’s a reminder of an uncomfortable reality—one that is disturbing for many of us today.

We are often not comfortable with talk about demons or the devil.  Many Catholics believe that the devil is a sort of cosmic balancing power or a theoretical being.  The devil has the advantage over us in that he is an invisible powerful spirit.  One of his greatest tricks is convincing so many of us that he doesn’t even exist, a truly clever tactic. The incident with the demon in today’s gospel prompts a debate between Jesus and the crowd that discusses the forces of evil with disturbing levels of detail: naming demons and even discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the devil’s plan of attack against humanity.

Today’s gospel reading helps me acknowledge where my fading desire and conviction at this point in the Lenten season come from.  Jesus’ reminder that the devil and his demons are very real beings that pose a very real threat help me to recognize my temptations to laziness, de-motivation, and lowering of standards for what they are: attacks from evil against the strides toward holiness that my Lenten resolutions are gaining.  The devil is real—and he certainly does not want me to unite myself with the passion and suffering of the Cross, to improve my relationship with God through increased prayer, to weed out my tendencies toward sin through fasting, or to magnify God’s Love in almsgiving.

I know who is going to win this fight...but what about when Jesus tags me in?

The gospel for today also brings me comfort with Jesus’ reminder that he is stronger than the devil and that if I stand with him, I can overcome any attack.  So, instead of lowering my standards and accepting less, I’m going to try to step up my prayer an extra notch during this time of weakness and ask Christ who still has power over demons (and his angels) to help me be strong in the face of temptation so that I can continue to grow in holiness this Lent.

How well have you been living your Lenten commitment?  In what ways have you been tempted to abandon or modify the challenges you set at the beginning of Lent?  How do you recognize the attack of demons, the devil, or evil in your journey to holiness?

The Lenten Police

I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling...

We all made it through the exciting first day of Lent (and there’s no possible way you could’ve missed it what with all the Facebook reminders to “Attend Ash Wednesday!” and blogs with suggestions on what to do for Lent or explanations of what I am or am not giving up, etc.).

On Thursday, we faced the reality of what we gave up for the next 40 days when we realized how challenging this or that things might be to do or not to do.

And, now we’re sitting here on our first Meatless Friday – perhaps having forgotten and had a bite of meat to eat and then face-palming upon remembering the Lenten season.

Hopefully, we are finally firmly planted in Lent. With our sacrifices imbedded in our brain, we’re suddenly noticing what others are doing or seeing it unfold as we spend time with our friends and family and someone orders water instead of coke or is reading a book when they would normally be watching TV.

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Why I’m Not Giving Up Facebook or Twitter for Lent

When I started out on Twitter a little over a year ago, I had one goal – to be witty. Just about everything I posted was hoping for a re-tweet, a reply, or at least a laugh.

Facebook was different because I’m a youth minister, and Facebook is my primary mode of communication with teens.  I have lots of teens and former teens who are friends on Facebook, so I am always careful to watch what I say and how I say it.

But Twitter, well, Twitter was my “adult” world.  I could be a little more snarky and sarcastic and push the envelope a little more because all my followers (at that time) were adults.  I didn’t even tell my teens that I had Twitter because I didn’t want them to follow me – I didn’t want to have to watch what I said all the time.  I wanted to be witty and funny and flirt with the line of appropriateness.

Tweets that make me laugh. Now, when you're done reading this blog, go read a book...

Last March, someone I look up to and admire greatly said to me, “I love following you on Twitter – you’re always so funny!” The euphoric pride I felt was quickly (and thankfully) smashed by a spiritual director who asked me how the Twitter persona I had so carefully crafted was leading me closer to God.

So, when Lent rolled around last year, I decided to give up Twitter and spend some time re-evaluating how I was using this particular social media tool. I was back full force after Easter (hopefully) still witty, but also much more conscious about how I was using this technology to bring glory to God rather than to myself.  It wasn’t hard to do, and the Lenten fast served it’s purpose – with unexpected benefits.  I found myself being much more open about my personal faith on both Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately, the change also had some unexpected drawbacks.  I don’t get re-tweeted as much any more or get very many funny replies to my tweets – though those are relatively minor consequences and have become less important to me.  No, the biggest and most unexpected drawback has been the rejection I’ve experienced.

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Are you getting in God’s way?

Are you shielding God from working?

Last night, as I was tucking in my three year old, and singing (if I can generously call it that) Ba-Ba-Black Sheep to her like I do every night, I was interrupted by her.  She was very upset all of a sudden, and I had to stop singing to hear what was going on.  “We forgot to pray tonight! We forgot to pray tonight!”  Here I was, not being particularly patient, trying to put my kid to bed so that I coud just go eat some cookies and milk and veg out downstairs a bit.  But my haste, my lack of patience, and my desire to just shut off my brain pushed me to forget probably the most important 8 minutes with my family of every day…

Us adults think we’re so smart.  We’ve got it all figured out, and we’ve got our busy lives with our busy schedules, and our grand plans.  And quite often,those grand plans get in God’s way – even if our goal is to teach our faith in Christ to other people. Read More

LENT: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

When we sacrifice many things

And forgo the chicken wings

And maybe give up beeeeeer!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!



The majority of Catholics don’t exactly share my sentiments about Lent.  We generally have childhood memories of cheese pizzas and mac & cheese on Friday nights (or, as with our house, orange roughey or tuna).  We remember somber days, going to Stations of the Cross, venerating the Cross and extra long Palm Sunday Masses.

My most vivid Lent memory from childhood was the hardcore parental move of NO TV for all 6 weeks of Lent.  Yup, all of it, including Sundays.  I don’t know how my parents didn’t go nuts with us 5 kids and all our “boredom.”
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