Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#WorthRevisitWednesday :: Grandpas

Today, I thought it would be fun to participate in #WorthRevisitWednesday, co-hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb. It was kind of fun to look back in the archives and find a post I had completely forgotten about! I first wrote today's repost FIVE years ago this month. I had five of my six children at that time, and their ages were 7, 5, 4, 2 and 2 ... No wonder I say in the post that I don't get out much!


We haven't been out much lately. It's been a bit too cold to be bundling up kids and toddlers to run in and out of stores or other places. But last week was warmer—high 20s, low 30s, a real heat wave in this part of the USA. Especially for January. So, one day, we ran to SuperTarget, which gives out free cookies, and to the library.

Normally, when I go to the library with my twins, I go just to pick up the books I have on hold. In and out. I wait to bring the older girls there, to spend time browsing, when we can leave the two two-year-olds at home. But on this particular trip, we lingered just a bit, because we ran into a friend from church and her three daughters.

God's timing is always wonderful, I think. If I hadn't gone out that day or I hadn't run into my friend, I wouldn't have been blessed with two wonderful encounters with grandpas. Both within five minutes of one another.

My own grandpa died when I was only three years old. I have one memory of him, and I cherish it, along with several photos. I never had the opportunity to meet my other grandpa. Since I didn't have the opportunity to cultivate my own grandfather-granddaughter relationships, grandpas have always had a very special place in my heart. I am very fond of grandpas. Perhaps my notion of grandfathers is a bit idealistic, like a Hallmark movie. But maybe not, in light of my recent encounters with these two grandpas.

Encounter #1: For anyone who has several children, you've probably heard, and are tired of hearing, "Boy, do you have your hands full" spoken to you every time you go out in public. It's like stating the obvious, but not in a positive way. I've also had worse said to me, like "You're crazy" and "Why?" But every time the "hands full" statement is spoken to me by a complete stranger, I smile and try to respond in the most upbeat way possible. As far as the other two comments, I think I just smiled ... speechlessly.

Well, as we were walking out of the library, this grandpa was walking right behind us, smiling, as he watched me and my kids. I looked back at him and returned the smile. And then he said one of the sweetest comments about my family: "What a great collection of little people you have there." Wow! He completely won my heart! After I thanked him, he waited for me to pack everyone into my van and get them buckled in. Then, he asked if he could help me put my double stroller in the back of my van. I didn't really need help, but he was just so kind that I said, "Sure." I showed him that it folded up, and he was most impressed. He helped me lift it into the back. Then, I told him to have a good day, and we parted ways. He never stopped smiling.

Encounter #2: I still had one more child to buckle in and also had to pass books back to the kids to look at on our drive home, when another grandpa pulled up next to me. This time, as I was pulling out, he motioned for me to roll down my window. And he asked me for help. He was afraid he was going to fall, so he needed me to help him turn around and get to flat ground. You see, in the north where it snows a lot, the snow plows don't always get all the snow and ice off the streets and parking lots. Solid chunks of slippery, salty masses are left. They melt and refreeze over and over again. This grandpa had parked right by a very uneven piece of ground. So, he was rather stuck. I asked him exactly what he needed me to do, and he simply said, "If I could just hold on to you until I can get to the sidewalk." No problem. I was so honored to be available to him. I helped him turn around and walk away from the uneven terrain. As we were walking arm-in-arm, he held his cane and his library book to return in a Christmas gift bag in his other hand. And he told me that it gets hard when you get old. "And I'm only 94," he said cheerfully. His brother is 96 and his sister is 89, in case you were wondering =) Once he got to the dry, flat sidewalk, he thanked me, we parted, and I told him to have a wonderful day.

As I drove away, I couldn't help but think of my own grandpas. The one I barely knew and the one I never knew. And I thanked God for these little encounters that left me grateful on so many levels ... and that naturally increased my fondness for grandpas.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Embracing the Ordinary

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1—

The Christmas decorations are finally put away, and I admit, my house looks a little bare, a little ordinary. In the cloudy darkness of January, I definitely miss the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree and garlands.

I have never truly welcomed the season of Ordinary Time, the way I welcome Advent, Christmas and Easter. Even Lent has this very clear purpose of repentance necessary for Easter. As much as it is hard, I understand its importance. But Ordinary Time? How do I welcome and embrace something that is so ordinary?

Most of my life, I honestly haven't given Ordinary Time much thought.

But recently, I have started to reflect on the importance of Ordinary Time—the longest of the liturgical seasons—especially as we enter into it after the celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany.

After Christmas, I usually look forward to getting back into my regular routines. Time with my family, making memories and having fun is so enjoyable. However, after two full weeks off of school, after eating too many Christmas cookies and Dove chocolates, I feel the need for normal. As much as I miss the sparkle of Christmas, I do long for routine and order that tends to get lost in the celebration of the Christmas season.

So, if I long for a return to the ordinary routines of life, why have I dismissed the liturgical season of Ordinary Time for so many years? I am not sure, but somehow, Ordinary Time has never really been part of my desire for order or my annual goals. I have learned to integrate the seasons of Advent, Lent, Christmas and Easter into my personal prayer and family activities. But Ordinary Time? What is there to integrate with this season? Why do we have it? What is its significance?

This weekend, we had a visiting priest at my parish, because our pastor is leading a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. As part of Father's homily, he explained something about Ordinary Time that I had never heard before but that really changed my perspective on this ordinary season.

As I already knew, he explained that Epiphany is about the manifestation of Jesus to the entire world. Every year, during the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany, we get the chance to renew our belief in who Jesus is and why He came into this world as a tiny babe. In Father's explanation of the different liturgical seasons, what was new to me was how Ordinary Time relates to Christmas and Epiphany.

Ordinary Time comes from the Latin ordinalis, which means "showing order." Therefore, Ordinary Time is when we as Christians order our lives in relationship to the manifestation of God! So, if Christmas and Epiphany reveal to us who Jesus is, then Ordinary Time helps us discern what we are to do in light of this reality!

Perhaps this isn't news to you, but a lightbulb certainly went on for me! This explanation has given me new insight into this ordinary season that is all about "showing order."

During Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, I am always grateful for the renewed experience of Christ's birth in my heart and in my family. Through prayers and devotions, Christmas carols and stories, my faith in the Christ child coming to dwell among us is reignited. My love for Him grows, and I strive to make enough room in my heart for Him to have a place to rest His little head.

The celebration of His birth is so tangible and beautiful. I cannot help but cry tears of joy at the words of O Come All Ye Faithful on Christmas Eve, as if it was the Christmas Eve all over again.

In light of my new understanding of Ordinary Time, I now wonder: If the celebration of Christ's birth is made manifest to the world each and every Christmas, what am I to do with the very real encounter with Christ being born to save me, you and the entire world?

Well, according to the true purpose of Ordinary Time, I am to order my days in a way that lives that manifestation out! I am to look at my life, all the various aspects, and discern how to live a life that is as authentic, joyful, hopeful and loving as possible. Easy? No! But definitely worth the effort. Because the effort hopefully will bring me closer to God and His will for me.

Ordinary Time lines up perfectly with the tradition of New Year's goals, however, rather than doing what we want or what we think we should do, setting goals within Ordinary Time invites us to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our resolutions. We ask the Lord to show us how our desire to be healthier, to be more productive, to spend more time with our family can lead us to making a greater commitment to being God's handmaid. In light of the manifestation of Jesus at Christmas—that very real encounter with Him being born to us—how can we in turn say YES with more generosity, gratitude and joy?

Ordinary Time lasts a short time this year before Lent begins (Feb. 18) and Easter follows. But when Ordinary Time returns, after the Holy Spirit comes to ignite the flames of our hearts on Pentecost, it gives us a chance to hit the reset button again, as we hit the mid-way part of the year! Ordinary Time after Pentecost allows us to look at those goals we set in January, and recommit or readjust them accordingly. Then, we can carry on with the ordering of our days, until Advent begins again.

The Catholic Church gives us the liturgical seasons for very specific reasons. It might seem easy to understand the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. It is very important for us to have periods of fasting, repentance, celebration and prayer. Ordinary Time also is extremely important, more important than I ever realized. It allows us a pretty lengthy time to work on our goals, to-dos and routines. Not just any goals, though, but ones that are shaped by our faith and guided by the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

But all things should be done decently and in order.
—1 Corinthians 14:40—

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Meditation on the Last Day of Christmas

As we close out the Christmas season today with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, I remember the beginnings of my weekly Holy Hour, which I started in Advent. I was struck by the placement of the nativity scene under the true Presence of the Blessed Sacrament upon the altar and Christ Crucified above.

This infant Jesus, who the shepherds knelt down before in adoration and praise! This newborn babe, who the magi traveled to find, to honor and to present gifts fit for a King. There He was before me.

This tiny Jesus who I just wanted so much to pick up and hold in my arms, is the same Jesus that Our Blessed Mother and Sts. John and Mary Magdalan stood before at the foot of the cross with reverence, strength and gratitude. Would I be brave enough to stand with them? I sure hope so. Because Jesus on the Cross is the same Jesus in the manger. Could I embrace the cross as much as I could embrace the Babe?

Today, Jesus—the same Jesus yesterday, today and always—waits for me to be like the shepherds, wise men and saints, and to worship and adore Him. Present in the Holy Eucharist, He is in my Chapel just as much as He was in the manger and on the Cross. And He invites me to be with Him in His poverty and vulnerability; to be with Him in His glory and majesty. Just like He asked the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to stay and pray with Him for one hour, so He asks me to do the same.

I am growing to love my Holy Hour. To spend that time in adoration, unity and conversation with the Lord. It is quiet. I share. I try not to talk too much. I listen. I write something that comes to mind. I gaze at the One who gave His life for me.

Jesus. Jesus. Praise You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me.

As I pack up Christmas for another year, I am grateful for one aspect of my Advent and Christmas seasons that will not be put into a box. And that is my Eucharistic Holy Hour. Every week, I get to come and adore Him. Christ the Lord.


"The baby Jesus is ... a tremendous strength ... Out of the overflowing abundance of his love, Christ, the Son of God, chose to pass through a little infant's helplessness, the only state in which someone is totally given over into the hands of another ...

That is how our God first appeared, and he wants to be contemplated and adored in this state not only by the lowly but also by the great, for he accepted the adoration of both shepherds and wise men, and he even led them by a star into the presence of this little baby without grandeur or majesty ...

When I look at the crib and the little infant Jesus in the straw, and the shepherds and the Apostles and all those who started what was in fact something great, I think to myself that our poverty and our weakness are the very things the Lord desires, so that it can be he alone acting through us; we are only the instruments, which he can handle without putting up the least resistance.

In his immense love, Christ the Beloved willed to take the only form capable of reaching the hardest hearts, those hearts most closed in on themselves, most weighed down by guilt and pain, those who would have been broken by his cross or frightened by his majesty."

—Little Sister Madeleine of Jesus

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spiritual Exercises Offer Real Resolutions for 2015

“Try to leave here changed into someone else,” said Fr. Paul. “A change noticeable to others.”

Fr. Paul’s words spoke to me deeply; it was as if God was speaking directly to me. The words confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be: on my fourth retreat of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Even though the weeks and months prior to the retreat had been spiritually dry and desolate, God, in His merciful love, had invited me to spend some extended time with Him again.

The words about change also brought me back six years ago, when my husband Greg went on his first Spiritual Exercises retreat. Then, I was vaguely familiar with what “spiritual exercises” meant and who St. Ignatius was. But in reality, I didn’t really know much other than he was in silence for an entire weekend.

But I will never forget what happened after Greg’s retreat. You see, Fr. Paul’s words became reality for me, when Greg arrived home after his retreat. As he walked through the door, and I made eye contact with him, it was obvious.  Something was different about him. He hadn’t even said a word, but I could tell he had changed. Whatever happened to him during those silent spiritual exercises with God transformed him. He was a new creation.

As the next week unfolded, Greg shared with me how life changing the Spiritual Exercises had been for him. I learned more and more about the work God did in his life that weekend. I was in awe and amazed! I was grateful to God for bringing my husband even closer to Him. And as the weeks turned into months, Greg remained faithful to the transformation that God made in his heart by working on the “resolutions” he made on the retreat.

Greg encouraged me to attend a women’s retreat of the Spiritual Exercises, but I’ll admit, I was slightly apprehensive. I longed for the silence and the deeper intimacy with God, but I was a bit nervous about the “exercise” that took place on one of these retreats. Exercise in the form of meditation, reflection and prayer. Exercise in the form of contemplating sin and going to confession. And when my weekend finally arrived, I was downright nervous about what God had in store for me. Would it be hard? Would it be painful? Would it require a gardener’s shears to prune and prune some more?

To find out about my own experience on my Spiritual Exercises retreat and to find one in your area, please join me over at!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Daybook

Hello and Happy New Year! Welcome to my first blog post of 2015! I will begin this year with a simple daybook, a review of what's been going on in the day-to-day happenings of life ...

Decorating the Christmas tree

Outside my window ...
Our weather has gone from cold to colder! As I type this, it is -2 degrees. Brrr ... The hard part is that the kids can't go outside and play (at least for very long). It is probably a blessing that they return to school tomorrow, as everyone is going a little stir crazy!

"Bless the Lord, frosts and snows; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever."
—Daniel 3:70—

Christmas Eve with our guest, Casey the Dog

Thanking God for ...
* Jesus coming to us on Christmas
* The blessing of the Christmas season
* Being surprised by very thoughtful Christmas gifts
* The hope of the New Year

Thinking about ...
* My New Year's goals
* Breaking my goals down into monthly and weekly mini goals
* A fun new opportunity with a new ministry in our Archdiocese

Christmas cookies ... Can you find the gingerbread ninja?

 Wearing ...
* Jeans
* Black cowl-neck top
* Long silver necklace
* Fair-trade snowflake earrings
* Black socks
* Blanket around my shoulders

Reading ...
The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur. While this is a book for my Well-Read Mom book club, I know I will not finish it in time, so I am making it my spiritual reading until I finish it. It is a very beautiful book, and I highly recommend it, especially if you are a wife. She becomes a role-model and mentor. She lives the vocation of matrimony beautifully!

The Shift. This is a weight-loss success story. While I don't completely relate to the author, what I like is the message that I need to hear right now: how making a shift in our minds is the beginning of making a shift in what we are eating and how we are exercising.

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads: 15 books in 2015. I know it's not a lot, but I am working on small steps and being realistic in my real life. Are you on Goodreads? If so, let's connect!

Creating ...
* New Year's goals
* A new planner
* To-do lists

On the table ...
I made a really delicious breakfast casserole in the slow cooker for dinner last night, and we had enough left over for brunch today. I got the recipe from eMeals, which has been such a helpful tool for meal planning. You can try it free for two weeks! There are so many plans to try; I am sure one will work for your family's dietary preferences.

Building Lego creations on Christmas Day

Plans for the week ...
* Back to school
* Getting my house back in order after Christmas vacation
* Zumba
* Adoration
* Grocery shopping

Fun selfie of me and Greg on Christmas Eve

Praying for ...
* my husband
* my children
* family and friends
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