Monday, August 24, 2015

5 Saints To Call On When Your Parent Needs Parenting


So . . . did I mention that I am starting to write for CatholicMom.com? I'm over at CatholicMom.com today talking about adjusting to life as my mom gets older. Don't get me wrong - my mom is not anywhere near an invalid, but there are some real struggles as aging and life start to take their toll. 

. . . As time has gone on and the effects of age and illness have left their mark, I admit that I struggle to connect with my mom at times. I remember the woman who was fearless and full of life. Now she is a woman who seems withdrawn, easily frightened, and forgetful that there is joy left in life. She is not the woman I remember and want her to be, and in some ways, our relationship has reversed. While she would never admit it, my mother needs the nurturing of a mother, not a daughter . . .











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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Five Favorites: What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

This summer was my Summer of Empty. By this I mean that while past summers I spent a lot of time making lists of what I wanted our family to do, this summer was about being open to just enjoy one another and whatever came our way. Admittedly, a lot came our way. Between an unplanned surgery for me before summer kicked off, and a planned surgery for my mom, things were a little more hectic than I would have liked (aka planned).

The kids sure did have a fun summer though, and even with all the hospital visits, I'd like to say it was a great summer overall. Here are five things I thoroughly enjoyed over the past couple of months:

{1}
Watching the kids enjoy summer.



Because they will never be this young and gleeful again.

{2}
Finishing Up Some Home Projects



We have been talking about painting our door for a long time, so this summer I decided to git 'er done. Also needed - a more stable bedframe for our darling daughter. I found an old bedframe at a garage sale that was in great shape, but not so perfect that I'd feel guilty sanding it down and giving it a facelift. Now all we need to do is actually set it up, but I figured I'd let it rest a week so the paint fumes don't follow it to her room. 

{3}
Gals' Weekends


I suppose calling Edel a "Weekend Getaway" isn't quite doing it justice. It has borne so much fruit even in the short month since going. I am transformed, and I owe it to my sisters. Well, Jesus in the hearts of my sisters. It was expensive to be sure, but it was absolutely the investment I hoped it would be. 

Following up from this amazing weekend away, we held a local Blessed Is She brunch at the beginning of August. If you haven't checked them out, you really should. With daily devotionals on the Mass readings, regional Facebook groups, beautiful images to download as prints or device wallpaper, and women from every walk of life, this ministry has filled a gaping need. It just all continues to demonstrate just how desperately we are in need of more outlets for faith-filled sisterhood. More on that in the coming months. I think.


{4}
Our Mid-Week Getaway



The last couple of years we have taken a short vacation to Grand Rapids on the opposite side of the mitten. It's just the perfect little getaway. This year, we went sans kiddos, and we took time to just walk around by the river and visit the Ford Presidential Museum like the couple of nerds we are. It was swell. Then, of course, we got to meet Fr. (now Bishop-Elect) Barron. That was swell too.

{5}
Soaking in Some Nature


Because . . . pretty!

That's all for this Five Favorites edition here. To soak up some more faves, head over to Jenna's place!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

7 Valuable Reasons I Allow My Children to Suffer



Yup. I'm that mom. I'm the one that you will see equally hovering over her child at the playground and telling them to shake it off when they fall or a kid won't play with them (minus a Taylor Swift impression). To some, I seem callous and unaffected. 

Truth? If it is a situation that has been magnified in a child's head to be the end of the world when there is little connection to the reality that surrounds her, I probably am less affected.  If it is a situation where there is immediate hurt, all I want to do is take it away. (I had to refrain here from differentiating between "real" and "perceived" hurt, because perceived hurts can feel very real.)

Don't get me wrong. Even in those situations where drama is a major player, I will of course talk with them after the fact about their feelings and allow them to talk it out. At the end of the day, though, what I refuse to do is to play into an idea that my children should never have to feel suffering or pain. Keeping my children from experiencing any suffering, or from a Christian perspective, keeping them from the experience of the cross and crucifixion, denies them the opportunity to grow in so many ways. 

It may make me feel better to not take them to the emergency room or to not see them cry. At the end of the day, though, I am only delaying the inevitable consequence. They will fall. They will fail. They will experience suffering. There are so many things I want to teach my children. If I hold them back from learning how to function in a world where we will have troubles, there are essential lessons they will never learn. Here are just a few.

1) There are natural consequences to our actions - if you jump off the play bridge when I ask you not to, you will likely hurt yourself. Better now, when it's a scraped knee or twisted ankle than later when the stakes are higher and it is your life. I have come across so many young people in my work at the collegiate level who simply don't understand the concept, "You reap what you sow." Your actions have natural reactions. Basic law of physics. (I hope Sheldon Cooper would be proud.) You cannot run forever, and there will not always be someone there to bail you out when those consequences come knocking on your door. You must think your actions through before you jump in head first. 

2) The world is not fair, and people are not treated equally. Just because mom and dad always made sure you and the siblings had equal portions, an equal number of toys, matching pajamas, and presents for everyone at every occasion, does not mean that is how the world works. There are days when the world is not celebrating you. It's okay. Life goes on. You are still special and important even if no one is greeting you with fanfare. Know who you are and cling tight to that. Jesus is fair, and at the end of time, that will be the only important thing. 

3) It's our job to speak up for those who have no voice. Because the world is not fair, we have to use what God has given us to work for the other, not just for ourselves. Because you have suffered, you know what it feels like. Don't inflict that suffering on anyone else, and when the world does pound the "other" down, be their cheering section. You know who you are as a child of God. Remind the downtrodden to Whom they belong also. 

4) You won't always be the best at everything and that is a marvelous thing. Guess what? You're going to fail, and that will be a great teacher. We don't expect you to do everything better than everyone else. We do expect that you will give your very best effort, not because you get an award at the end of the day, but because it is the right thing to do. We hope that you will discover through your successes AND failures what you are good at, what you are passionate about, and then live your life in pursuit of your purpose which is rooted in God and live it with passion. 

5) Failure brings with it the opportunity to lift up another's talents. It is precisely when we discover that we stink at something that the door opens for someone else to help us in that area. When we stop competing with one another about trivial things over some misplaced notion that we must be a one-man band, we can bring people onto our team who can help us complete our masterpiece. We are stronger together, especially in the midst of suffering.

6) Suffering produces endurance. Endurance will be essential in making it through life with any shred of joy or dignity. There is great satisfaction in beginning again when we fail, or in succeeding after great effort. If we give up any time we encounter resistance or hardship, we may as well stay in bed. (And that would be a bad thing. Really.) Plus, there is St. Paul's discourse from Romans (one of my favorite Scriptures) which shows us how suffering leads us to hope: 
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
7) Suffering unites us to Christ. At the end of the day, if we withhold suffering from our children, we deny them the experience of uniting themselves to Christ on the cross. Jesus tells us over and over that we must take up our cross and follow Him. This is no different for our children. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. I think it is important to allow children to feel that consolation after great heartache.  

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am in no way saying that we should inflict suffering upon our younglings. Not. One. Bit. Our every instinct leads us to want to minimize pain for them out of love, and that is as it should be. What I am asserting is that we should allow our children to experience the reality of the world, a natural part of which includes pain, suffering, failure, and loss. If we do not teach them to be gracious losers, resilient failures, and compassionate sufferers, we do them and the world no favors. How many more self-indulgent, entitled adults do we need? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say zero.

It's not just about ditching the participation trophies, though that's a good start. It is about something so much deeper that holds such greater importance. Follow Christ, my dears. You will fall. You will be pierced. You will suffer. I promise you . . . or rather Jesus promises you this in return: you will rise in His glory. So much better than a dusty, plastic trophy and no scars to show your kids when you're older. 

Until next time, let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus, even in the midst of suffering!








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Thursday, August 13, 2015

{SQT} Never Write Whilst Angry or It Could Look Like This




We are easing into the school year here at the Casa. The Hubs has sauntered back into the high school, and school picnics begin this weekend. School supplies and uniforms are being purchased, and I am staring head on at the daily routine with dread in my eyes. This girl . . . she is amazing, but she is S-L-O-W. My mother is getting her wish - I hope she is giddy with glee.

As we are gearing up for a new routine, things around us seem to be whirling about in a constant melee too. There are so many serious things hitting the news as of late, it seems I cannot keep up. While other writers are prolific in their coverage and responses to the multitude of crises and travesties, I find that my writing tends to be more erratic because all these issues just make me angry. I spout off, but little of it becomes more than an emotional rant. Knowing that I haven't the energy to do the amount of research I would find necessary to provide an erudite commentary, I simply write my drafts and then delete. 

Here is a glimpse into the posts that never were . . . If any of this strikes a nerve, I invite you to leave a comment to enter into conversation. If you disagree, I promise not to write you off if you promise not to do the same.



All Trumped Up and Nowhere to Go. Donald Trump as a frontrunner? Really? For serious? And don't you dare bring your "he's a breath of fresh air" malarky into these parts. It's more like a rancid, morning after a bender breath. He is not refreshing. He is not politically incorrect and calling it as it is. Rudeness and petulance is not presenting an unfettered truth. Don't tout his business experience. I haven't forgotten the orchestrated bankruptcies. Lincoln weeps. The party of emancipation is close to transforming itself into a caricature of a frat party. He is not saying what everyone is thinking . . . and if everyone is thinking THAT garbage - I am truly frightened for our future. (I know, I know, Jesus got this, but ... you know what I'm saying?) I keep having to pinch myself to be sure his candidacy isn't just a gag by The Onion. More than Trump, I am aghast at all the people giving him any credibility. A temper tantrum is not the way to reclaim our nation if you do believe it has been lost. Instead of droning on, I will link you to Matt Walsh who said it better.

If you support Trump, please share with me what of his actual policy positions impress you?


The Killing of Our Collective Conscience: Planned Parenthood. I mean come ON y'all. Seriously. How can you see any of that footage and not gag? You know what your gag reflex is for? It keeps you from keeping down things that are BAD FOR YOU. Stick your toothbrush too far down and you could choke . . . gag reflex. Eat something rancid that could give you food poisoning or worse? Gag reflex. Pretty much the same here. I cannot watch these videos because they make me want to vomit. I don't write much about hot button issues here because I want this space to be all about the love. You know what, though? The love has to be rooted in truth, and it seems we as a society have become as a horse with giant blinders on. You want to talk about preventative healthcare for women? Great - let's do it. It is atrocious the lack of care that is available for many of our citizens even after the Affordable Care Act. Deplorable. You know what won't fix that? Blindly adorning Planned Parenthood a savior's halo. Surely there is another way that affirms both mother and child. See? Angry venting. You want to read something good that will challenge and soothe you at the same time? Read Ann Voskamp. It's one of the best things I have read about this whole horrid episode.

If you still support Planned Parenthood, could you share with me why their services are vital to women's healthcare based on what they truthfully provide?


People are Not All Animals. No, this isn't going where you think. I'm not so much talking about Cecil. (Though . . . Beanie Babies sure knows how to make a no-brainer comeback, no?) Ok, maybe it has a little to do with the lion. For some who are fighting the fight on the right-to-life battlefront, everyone risks becoming an enemy. Either you are with me or against me. Having been in the "personally pro-life, politically pro-choice" camp for many years, I can tell you that we can exist in the realm between either side. Not everyone has the worst intentions when they disagree with your work. I know. It's horrific. What is being killed is a child. When you're not entrenched in pro-life work, though, notice how easy it is for us never to mention that. It's a choice. It's a woman's body. It's a right. It's healthcare. For those of us who believe abortion is wrong, but we cannot force decisions on other women, the presence of the many factors that influence a woman to choose abortion weigh heavy. Please don't assume that these women are all irresponsible. Please don't assume that those who advocate for her do so out of hatred for children or babies. As Jennifer Fulwiler wrote with such eloquence well before this latest scandal, many are misinformed, blinded, but acting out of love. Just misguided love as a friend taught me. I will never forget his words. "How many children have to die while we figure out how to save women from abuse, poverty, and neglect?" How many children indeed. 

For those who believe abortion is flippantly used as birth control, have you ever spoken to a woman who has had an abortion? Do you realize you probably know several - it's a silent reality. She may be sitting next to you in the pew every Sunday.


A Dread of Poly-Ticks. Can we stop? Can we? Just? Stop? I majored in political science. I loved it. This? This is not political science. It is a three-ring circus. What used to be an exchange of ideas amid varied ideologies has turned into an exercise of pompous, disingenuous pandering. No, I don't really believe you're "just like me." I don't. Frankly, I don't care. What are you ideas for fixing what is broken? What do you really even think is broken? What is going well regardless of what party implemented it? Can you even bring yourself to applaud a person of the opposite political persuasion? Also - no more ads. For the love of all my sanity and limited non-cable television time - stop the ads. It's not even November 2015! And surely for the good of all the land, let's stop giving crazy people free airtime by talking about their crazy. (See #1 above.) I half expect to see some corpulent man in a toga with a gold laurel leaf crown on his head eating grapes be carried onto stage soon. When is the intermission? Can I get a refund? Jed Bartlet 2016. End scene.

What do you think might restore integrity to our political process?


For the Love! (Sorry, Jen Hatmaker - you're not the only one who has used that phrase like a beloved blanket for many a year.) Seriously, though. Is there something about politics that makes us forget to Whom we belong? Could we be worse examples of Christ's love for one another? No, it isn't everyone. There are those that carry themselves with charity and dignity. There is something about big election years . . . or rather seasons because these things are now basically on-going . . . they bring out the cah-razy in people. We forget that we might actually like each other, that maybe we are all struggling toward the same goal, that maybe the "other" isn't a demon child sent from the bowels of hell to destroy us. I'll stop there, because I have a feeling this will turn into a full-fledged post if I continue.

Do you have friends with whom you vehemently disagree? How do you nurture your friendship?


'Mericuh! We Da Bomb! I have no issue with patriotism - real, true patriotism that recognizes the virtue of a nation while working to eradicate its vices to lift it up above the fray. This ain't that, friends. This is not allowing us to be lifted up on eagles' wings, but rather burying our heads into the eagles' nest and refusing to come out to play. With the rise of the international market, free trade, internet communication and commerce, and just increased ease of international travel, we exist in a global reality. The reality is that we have contributed to the suffering of others around the world. Our policies and practices have contributed to the condition of life at home and across the globe - good, bad, and ugly. There are no easy solutions. While we can have pride in our nationality, those "other" folks across the borders? They're no less human, no less deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than those nestled within our borders. Yes, there are real problems. We need to be able to have tough, educated conversations that are rooted in justice and a willingness to sacrifice instead of rooted in fear and exclusion. When we are ready to have the big grown up conversations that may just last over 140 characters and a 30 second soundbite, maybe we will begin to see some transformation in our  neighborhoods. What we do to the least of these, we do to ourselves. 

How do you show patriotism without burying your head in the flag?


Exploitation for the Sake of a Dollar. Harper Lee, anyone? I know, I know. I really want to give in and buy the book just so I can be part of the conversation about how Atticus isn't really Atticus. It is unsettling, though, to hear how the whole new book was orchestrated. Lee, who is of advanced age, never meant the book to be published. It wasn't a lost manuscript - it was a tossed manuscript. A rejected draft of what went on to be a timeless classic and one of my favorite books. Add to Lee's book a new, never before found manuscript from Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dr. Seuss, and it seems like these authors just hid their work willy nilly in the cracks and crevices of their homes, and feeble mindedly forgot to publish them. I know. I'm a skeptic now. Perhaps Pioneer Girl and the new Seuss book will be everything the heart desires. It may just be a tainted love now that the waters are muddied as to their discoverers possible intentions. 

Did you read Watchman or Pioneer Girl? Will you read the new Seuss? (Of all of the books, the Seuss one is the most tempting.)


See? It's just better to let off steam and delete sometimes. Sure, Jesus turned over tables and cracked that whip, but I'm guessing there wasn't steam coming out of His ears.

What do you think about all of this? Is there something that has you riled up that you don't have the energy to vent? Let me know! Just remember to keep it civil, please. At the end of the day, this place is still all about the love.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum!

And until next time, let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus, even if it means overturning a table (out of love) sometimes.










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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In Search of Myself: Digging Up Roots




Posting has been slow here, and the writing has not been flowing. I have been distracted between the responsibilities of life and dreaming about the future. Every time I sit down to write, it seems something gets in the way. 

Kids need feeding.

Cat needs attention.

Meals need to be prepared.

Emails need to be answered.

Minds apparently need to wander.

Social media creeps into my writing time.

It seems like the days just blend together and I am getting nowhere. Having gone this way before, I know it isn't true. I know it is a mirage that makes me want to stick my head in the sand. CS Lewis said it best when he said, 

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, 
but when you look back, everything is different..."

While each day seems the same, struggling against the clock, my journey over the last couple of years has been anything but stagnant. God has been connecting me with some wonderful women over this time and nudging me to open myself to some new adventures. 

One leg of that adventure includes speaking about my conversion and my journey to/with Christ with a larger audience. I have always felt that my story was nothing special. At best it was a very long-winded and winding road. This is why I have particular difficulties in keeping those conversion story posts coming! Just this weekend, after I shared my story at auctioneer speeds so I didn't bore the world, I joked that I was still working on coming up with an elevator moment that more concisely encapsulated my experience. One young woman raised her hand, and with a giant smile on her face told me not to change a thing, but rather just to push all the buttons on the elevator because every bit of the story was beautiful and captivating. I'm going to work on believing that . . . and only telling my story in giant skyscrapers.

Another new opportunity that presented itself recently was the possibility of writing a book. After a very preliminary conversation and meeting with Heidi in acquisitions, we agreed that the timing isn't right and the story isn't ready. While there is a story there, it is still brewing. Her main advice was to seek out MY story - what is it about my unique blend of experiences and identities that make my story powerful for the glory of God?

As I struggled to answer that question, I left that conversation (and a few others recently) feeling  as though I wasn't Hindu enough to tell a good conversion story, that I'm not Indian enough to present a compelling story of transformation into something new. I just felt not enough, though I knew that wasn't what was being said. 

During that portion of the conversation, I did have an epiphany about my struggles in telling my story. Heidi helped me to reach a conclusion that I have been avoiding for many-a-moon. It is not that I am not Hindu enough or Indian enough. It is simply that in seeking to belong to the world I grew up in, I rejected both without ever claiming them. They made me stick out like a sore thumb, so I ignored them, buried them, and walked away. 

While finding Christ has helped me to understand my deepest identity in a powerful way, I have been holding back part of myself from the light of His transformation. I used to recoil at the word convert. Why? I didn't want to admit I once did not belong. I shy away from the description of myself as Indian-American. Why? In my head, I am simply a red-blooded American because I was born and raised here just like everyone else. 

That's the thing, though, isn't it? We are none of us "just like everyone else." God did not arbitrarily create me with an Indian ancestry to be born in the United States. There is purpose in that. God did not arbitrarily have me raised in a Hindu household only to feel like none of it fit. There is purpose in that. To discover that purpose, I now recognize I have to go back to the beginning. While I have run away from my Hindu and Indian roots, I am coming to realize that if I do not understand them, if I do not embrace them as part of my story, then I am not allowing God to use all of me for His purpose.

I feel more strongly than ever that there is a story to be told. Now I just have to hit pause and rewind to see where to begin. I hope you will be patient and take this journey with me. 

If there are pieces of my life and story that particularly intrigue you, please - ask! Your interest, your questions, your prodding may be just what it takes for me to keep on this path. Thank you for getting me here, and I hope you will walk with me in this next chapter!








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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sunday Family Rosary {08.09.15}


Every Sunday, our family offers your prayer intentions during our family Rosary. I can't say that it is always (or ever) an evening of quiet, meditative prayer with our young children, but I can say that we lift up your prayers with sincere hearts. 

It has been humbling to unite with you in prayer, to see how God is working in your lives. 

Please let us know how we can continue to pray for you during our rosaries and through your week.


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Monday, August 3, 2015

One Big Lesson From Demanding Vultures Children



These kids.

They eat constantly. There are those days where I just can't come up with another snack, and yet they keep coming back. Breakfast, lunch, dinner - back. Morning, afternoon, and evening snacks - back. They don't come quietly either. These children of mine make sure I know they are hungry and demand their fill. If I'm being completely honest, their hunger is exponentially greater when they see food in my hand. I'm fairly certain they believe my meal is their meal. Vultures.

As I was driving home today thinking about what I could possibly feed the family for yet another meal, because as I said, they expect to be fed and just show up demanding food, this thought hit me. Jesus is the bread of life. He is the bread. The food. The nourishment. Of . . . LIFE. 

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:35

All this time I am trying to figure out how to get more out of life, and the answer is in front of my face all along. Jesus. The Bread of Life. 

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. John 6:33

Image from pixabay.com
There lies my renewal. There lies the sustenance I seek. The Bread of Life. The Eucharist. Literally, the Thanksgiving. Jesus offers Himself for us every day of the week, every week of the year, waiting to feed us. The Church exists to FEED us. It isn't there to affirm our righteousness. It isn't there to provide us programming or opportunities to make ourselves feel better. It exists to bring us Jesus in the flesh. The Church waits for us every day to come and be fed that we might be given life. Abundant life. THAT is what Jesus wants to give us if only we come to Him and receive. 

In the little part of the homily I heard this weekend, Father Sal was talking about how we tend to come to the Church with a consumer mentality. We look at her as a place to get what we want, when we want, how we want. Father urged us to remember that we are not consumers. We are the children of God, and we approach Him as a child approaches a parent. We do not come to buy, but we come to praise and give thanks. We come to the Eucharist. Thanksgiving. 

If we take a note from my kids, we will come to eat and come loudly. Instead of making excuses for not making it to dinner, we will be racing to the table demanding to be fed. Maybe we will sneak into the kitchen just to see what is being prepared. Maybe we won't sit still because we are just too excited. Maybe we will want to talk through the whole meal because we want to share our lives and hearts with one another. Maybe we will fight a little because we think the other is getting fed first. 

No matter how we slice it, our demanding "feed us now or reap the consequences" children teach us an important lesson. Come to Jesus hungry and expect to be fed. It will fill us with abundant life. I hope I remember this the next time my sweet little vultures are begging for food or sneaking morsels off my plate.

How often do you get to Mass to be fed? Do children or work responsibilities keep you away? Have you found a secret to fitting the Eucharist into your week amidst the other duties of life? Please let me know in the comments - I would love to know how you do it! After all, if we are gonna get out there and love 'em like Jesus, we need to become what we eat!









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Sunday, July 26, 2015

How God Found Me Lost in Thought



Let's start this segment with a few true confessions.

1) If we hadn't been meeting up with a friend who had come in from out of state, we would have likely split Masses today. It has been that kind of week. 

2) I hate throwing kid parties. For the most part, one of us is chasing kids and the other one is prepping food. If there were a way to not have kid parties and get away with it in our family, you can bet your sweet potato pie we would! Sadly, that is not an option for us. Le sigh. That's not to say we don't want to celebrate kid moments, or that we don't appreciate the friends and family who come to celebrate. It's just than three hours can fly by and we realize we haven't actually had any fun. Seems like a waste of a party to me. 

So there we are.

As if the kids knew we were down for the count, the newly minted threenager received a glowing F- for Mass from me. Ok, ok, I'll be generous. F+. The girl in comparison did remarkably well. I shall give her an A-, and only a minus because she has a predisposition to laughing when her brother does things that he shouldn't. You can imagine the boost this gives the threenager. I am raising a host of class clowns. Sorry, future teachers.

Even in the midst of weariness and circus tricks, as my mind meanders during the Deacon's homily, God has a way of sneaking up on me. Even as I keep an ear out for the boy and the dad who have had to step out due to theatrics, God is whispering to me. Even when the girl is inching closer and closer to crawl onto my lap, where she barely fits these days, God is tapping me on the shoulder.

Today, God found me lost in thought and wanted to remind me that He is a God of abundance. Where I always fear not having enough, not giving enough, not being enough, God tells me to stop seeing scarcity. He reminds me, through his faithfulness to Elisha, through His feeding of the thousands, that He is in the business of providing in a way that exceeds our expectations.

God reminds me that He takes what is small in us, given to Him in faithfulness, and makes it overflow in His grace. He can take all our gifts and make them flourish in His way and in His time. There is enough grace, enough blessing, enough love to go around. There is certainly enough work to be done. 

God uses all of us and all our gifts, no matter what another is doing, or how well or beautifully. He takes our baskets and our gifts, even (and especially) if they are filled with scraps. He asks us to give him all we have, even our torn and broken pieces. It is through that offering that God uses us, in all our smallness, to make Him present in the world. 

What seems broken in you that you can offer up to God this week? Place your broken pieces in the hands of our loving God of abundance and see what miracles come to be.








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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Loving Lavishly: How to Re-brand the Church of No


"Post-modern people are much more intrigued by our hope than our doctrine. Until our existential hope, our serenity, our wholeness, our love, our sanctity is visible, they won't listen to our propositions." ~ Sherry Weddell, Catherine of Siena Institute
I found this to be wholly true while working in young adult ministry. Whilst sitting in a coffee shop intentionally loitering, I once had a half hour conversation with a young woman I "loitered into" who said she had left the church because she never found Christ there. It is shocking to think that people can step into a Catholic Church and not find Jesus. What she found were people who were obsessed with getting out of Mass on time, rude to one another, unconcerned with their neighbors, and complaining about church altogether. 

Her question to me was direct. "Where is the joy?" If we believe the gospel message to be true, where is our joy? Where is our hope and enthusiasm? Where is our love for one another? Where is our thirst for more of Christ? Those were great questions for me to consider both as a minister and as a disciple. If we are not setting ourselves apart from the rest of the world in an attractive way (and by this I mean not just arguing about sexual morality), what draws and woos the nonbeliever toward the heart of Christ?


When I think of the faith I hope to pass on to my children, it doesn't involve a list of dos and don'ts. What I wish for them is a deep and abiding friendship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I hope that they take with them a intimate understanding of how beloved they are, how much their God loves them in and through anything, no matter how dark or dirty - that their Father in heaven waits for them always with arms outstretched ready to dust them off and pick them up when they turn to Him. Anywhere. Anytime. Forever. I hope that this understanding leads them to heed His word and commands, because they are made in love for their good.

Another friend once lamented that he wished that when people heard the word Catholic, they thought of compassion, mercy, and love instead of rules. I found that to be such an insightful and sad statement about my family. After all, we are a family in Christ. It cannot be denied that our family is known more for its rules and restrictions than the love we show the world. We have become the Church of No. It is heartbreaking, especially given that the Church is the largest provider of social and charitable services throughout the world. 

There are usually two responses when I bring this up. One is a disposition to put the blame on the seeker. "Christ is most fully in OUR church. They are just ignorant." Another is to blame the church. "Well if the Church would get with the times, this wouldn't be an issue. The Church needs to get over itself." Both leave gaping holes and fail to address the issue, in my humble opinion. Where do I think the problem lies? I think it lies with me. For that matter, I may also think it lies with you. Sorry. You're not off the hook. 

I don't love lavishly enough. We don't give abundantly enough. My God is a lavish Lover. He waits to pour out His mercy, His love, His joy, His hope into the hearts of every person on this earth. I'm too wrapped up in myself to help make that happen. I see limitations. I get embroiled in the struggles of daily life. I put up walls to protect myself and hold back. I make judgments on who I have time for and who I do not.

Gaudium et Spes, one of the many documents to come out of the Second Vatican Council, instructs us very clearly on this matter. In it, the Council fathers wrote, 
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. GS, 1
How do we then begin to shift public opinion about the Catholic Church? How do we make sure that when people think of the Church they experience Jesus? We take on the joys and sorrows of the world. We go about our Father's business. We lead with love. We reclaim the beatitudes. We approach one another with "Blessed are you. . ." instead of "woe to you. . ." We return to an active participation in the Works of Mercy, both spiritual and corporal. We never let ourselves to be so filled with sorrow that we forget the joy of the resurrection (thank you, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta!).

This is not to say that the Truth is not important. It is simply to say this: If we are so focused on the morality of the church that we forget to proclaim the person of Christ, we ourselves have missed the point. If we forget that we are not here to win people over to "our side" but to lead souls to the heart of Christ, we may accomplish neither. If we are so scandalized by the secular that we fail to engage it, we will never woo anyone to the Lover of every soul. 

How we live and what we say should help a person to come to know that the God of the universe, the Creator of every star in the sky and every drop in the ocean, who is magnanimous, omniscient, and omnipotent, took on human flesh in all its frailty, out of love for us, in the person of Jesus Christ, and offered it back up again in death so He could lead us back to eternal life with the Father.

What does all this mean? While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, here are a few suggestions based on my experiences and interactions with non-believers and non-Catholics (and having been one!):

1) Live with authentic joy. This doesn't mean a plastic cheeriness in all things. It means that at the end of the day, even in our greatest sorrow, we live with confidence and hope in a victory that has already been won.
2) Tame your tongue. Speak only words that lift up and encourage. Avoid the temptation to be judge, jury, and jailer. Lead people by example to the freedom that lies in following Christ.
3) Lead with love. Help people to fall in love with Jesus. Show them how much the Father loves them in and despite the condition of their lives. Serve them. Pray for and with them. Grieve with them. Suffer with them. See them when they feel invisible. Love them when they feel unlovable. Notice the little things and rejoice with them. Let others know they are not alone.
4) Engage others where they are. Find common ground and language to help them begin to see how God is working in their lives and through their experiences.
5) Seek after Jesus. Deepen your own life in Christ, and live it out loud. Pray before meals. Read the Bible in public. Walk away from gossip. Let your example create curiosity, and invite others to seek Christ with you.
Together, we can re-brand ourselves from a Church of No into what we truly are: a refuge for all of humanity to encounter transformative love in the person of Christ so we can all be reunited with our Creator in the eternal Kingdom. How do you introduce people to the person of Christ?

We've got some work to do. Let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus (all the way TO Jesus)!









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Monday, July 20, 2015

A Mid-Week Getaway & Meeting Father Robert Barron


This is my life this summer . . . or at least the last week. The wheels had barely touched down after jetting back from my weekend getaway to Charleston, and the wheels of our swaggerwagon hit the road for a couple days away. The unpack to repack was a dumping of the suitcase into the laundry and filling it back up with whatever clean I could find. Laundry be damned!


The husband and I had a quick getaway to Grand Rapids without the kids. Father Robert Barron, best knows for his Catholicism series and Word on Fire ministry was speaking at Baker Bookhouse there. Through his own Catholic Bibles Blog, the husband has made a variety of contacts and friends throughout the world. One particular gentleman, Louis, and the Hubs struck up a friendship when Louis was coming into the Church. Coming from a Baptist background, there were more than a few areas of Catholic teaching and theology that he wanted a better understanding of, and the husband was able to walk with him through that journey. It really is a beautiful thing, and Louis has been a generous friend.

It was Louis who organized this event with Fr. Barron and invited us to attend as his guests. There was a short question and answer (akin to an artist meet & greet) before the larger event which we were able to attend for a nominal cost. Fr. Barron impressed me by his easy manner, and proved himself to be a intellectual man to the core. He reiterated over and over how important it was to be able to speak of the faith with intelligence, how much religious education let us down when people assumed things were just too hard to digest and understand for the average person. All that with humor and ease.

Father Barron talked perceptively of a loss in this day and age of the moral argument. He explained how there has been a shift from operating under a philosophy of end, where this life is not all there is and understanding we will not be here forever, to a philosophy of rights, where we are entitled to everything because it is our right. We have lost a deep understanding of our interconnection. We have replaced our ability to debate intellectually and have replaced it with an inclination toward emotive expression. We feel the feels but don't always think the thinks.

There were many other questions and answers given, but admittedly some were over my head since I haven't taken a theology class in several years. I realized, though, how much I miss the intellectual stimulation and theological conversation, though I desperately also need to be able to see its fruition in applied action. I'm not sure what God is doing with that desire, but I place it before Him to see where it leads. 

This is not where the conversation ended, however. So generous is Louis, that he invited us along to a small dinner with Father Barron. We all piled in his car and headed over to Noto's for some Italian fare. On the ride over, I was able to ask a burning question of Father Barron that I didn't want to take up time to ask during the Q & A: Cubs or White Sox? (He's a Cubs man.) This actually led to a conversation about the Tigers (that I listened in on because . . . sports), which revealed that Father Barron had lived in the metro Detroit area for a portion of his childhood. 

I had mentioned to a friend that I was envisioning the wreckage of the future as this time approached. In my head I saw a tongue-tied, flustered me spitting food out at the magnanimous Father Barron. I am happy to report that did not happen. In fact, because the conversation took a more personal turn and provided a little more connection to him as a person and not as a famous priest, I was far more at ease. 

Dinner came and went, and with it discussion of hot topics like gay marriage and less hot topics like the revitalization of Detroit. One moment I appreciated most during dinner went unnoticed by everyone else, I think. I happened to make a quip, as they presented us with dessert options that we were too full to order, that I'd just Instagram it and call it good. I'm pretty sure I heard a stifled laugh come from his direction. He may be the only one who got it. 

Micaela commented on Facebook that I mentioned talking with Fr. Barron as if it is was no big deal. I had to think of it as such or you know - wreckage of the future. On the ride back to the event, I might have demonstrated just how much I wasn't thinking about the fact that Fr. Barron is kind of a big deal. As a final question, I asked him which of the places he has visited during his filming and travels he enjoyed most. One of his answers was India, and he happened to make a comment about not loving Calcutta. On instinct, as though we had been friends for decades, I blurted out, "Hey! Those are my people you're talking about! Watch it!" and then promptly froze in embarrassment. Praise God he has a sense of humor and also doesn't take himself too seriously. It led to a laugh and a discussion about India, my family, and the jolting reality of Calcutta's poverty (ohhhh, the smells!). 

So you see, Micaela - there was no way a tongue-tied introvert like me could have realized what a big deal it might be to be able to have that opportunity to talk with Father Barron (whose talk was wonderful as well). I would have sat there nauseous with my heart pounding out of my chest. Instead, we got to talk about baseball, about the shards of Christianity and redemption that exist all throughout our culture and the world, the need to reclaim our intellectual tradition, and a love for my people that no stink can overcome. 

Thank you to Louis for your generous invitation. You are so good to us, and we cannot thank you enough! Thank you, Father Barron, for putting us at ease. May God bless the important work you are doing.

Until next time, remember - everyone is a big deal to God! Let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus!







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