Late Night Rendezvous

The Easter Vigil Mass is one of the most beautiful liturgies in the Catholic Church.  It amplifies the sight, sound, smell, and touch of our faith tradition.  This year, the liturgy was even more touching to me, as my husband and I brought our little foster son to the Mass.  

“For this child we have prayed”  (and prayed, and prayed!)

1 Samuel 1:27

Upon entering the church, we received two tiny wreaths of bells strung on pipe cleaner and two unlit candles, surrounded by a plastic cylinder that would provide protection for the wax while illuminating the beams of light that dance when the candle is lit. Taking a seat in the “cry area”, we both hoped and prayed that this small baby would sleep throughout the Mass.  He was intrigued by the bells and my husband allowed him to grasp one of the tiny wreaths.  Soon, in the stillness of the liturgy that begins in darkness, he fell asleep with the wreath of bells wrapped around his arm. 

Our emotions were tenuous as we began the Vigil Mass.  We were recently told that our foster son would leave us and go to a family member, news that we were not expecting and both struggled to hear.  We each stole many moments of staring at the tiny boy in his carrier, sleeping so sweetly, holding the wreath of bells. 

When the Gloria was sung, the Church came to light, candles on fire, with bells ringing loudly to announce that Jesus is risen.  Our little son did not wake even at this arresting of his senses. 

He slept the entirety of the three-hour Mass.  NOTE:  He has not once slept through a regular Sunday Mass.  We marveled at how good he was, and how fortunate we were to be able to take in the fullness of the liturgy while he slept.  I believe during that liturgy, we both were begging God to change the trajectory of what would happen, wanting desperately to be able to continue to raise him in our home, while also telling God we trusted Him.

Once we got home, I realized that the blessing of his sleep was now about to be a challenge, as he was suddenly wide-awake as we were considering turning in for the night.  I told my husband to go to bed, and I would stay up with the not even 3 month old who now was bright eyed. 

It struck me that the hour was just after midnight, and the world would awake to celebrate Easter morning.  As many slept, I was up with this precious child, listening to him coo and witnessing him full of smiles.  At around 12:20, my 18-year-old son came home.  When he entered the living room to find me there with our baby, wide-awake, he was surprised.  So, he sat down and we had fun, unexpected conversation.  I silently thanked God for this rare opportunity.

We stayed chatting until after 1 am.  Baby boy was still cooing and entertaining us.  Now around 1:15am, my 21-year-old son, who was home from college for the Easter weekend, came in the house.  His look of surprise when he saw his Mom, her baby, and his brother all sitting in the living room chatting in the wee hours of the morning, was priceless.  He asked what we were doing, and we said we were just talking.  So, he took a spot on the couch and began chatting with us too. 

Though the conversation with all of us only lasted maybe 15 minutes, the importance of that treasured time was not lost on me.  Because my foster son slept through a long beautiful Mass, I was able to enjoy the liturgy with my husband.  And also because he slept through the Mass, he was awake late at night when he should have been sleeping.  This surprise midnight alertness allowed me to greet and enjoy the young men in my life who keep hours very different than mine.  I don’t think there will be quite such a treasured moment as the one with all four of us. 

When I finally put my baby down at 1:45am and crawled into bed, I had a broad smile across my face and warmth upon my heart.  Thank you God for the late night gathering with a 2 ½ month old, 18 year old, and 21 year old.  Those boys fill my heart with so much love and joy.  What a gift it is to be a mother to each of them.  Thank you for unexpected surprises.  May I remain alert and hopeful for more in my life! 

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!! 

Fostering Love

  • CPS

All of these and more are frequent terms you hear as a Foster Parent. Some cause your heart to wrench. Some bring hope and comfort. Each day is different and often unexpected curve balls are thrown into the mix to keep you unsettled and unknowing.

What I do know is that God is there in all of it. He created these little children. They were His divine plan even when they are born into circumstances that seem unfair. Foster parenting is a big opportunity to grow trust in Him. It’s also an opportunity to recognize the value in each day and the tremendous gift of life itself.

I recognize as I write these words, they are me ministering to myself as much as anyone. I get bound up in fear and have to release my grip on what I think is best and turn to God and ask Him to help me each day to trust and follow Him. If I stare at the crucifix, then I know that following Him has hardship and struggle. There’s no Easter Sunday without Good Friday they say. No resurrection without the cross.

May my Lenten journey be made more holy by the labor of love of foster parenting. When I stare into this little guys face – I see the face of God. Pure and good. Jesus help me serve you without counting the cost.

Fiats and Magnificats – What Are Yours?

Mother Mary, your space is growing within me.  As a child, I was annoyed that my birthday was a Holy Day…one where I had to go to church.  What kind of birthday gift is that?  As an adult, especially as a Mother, I have fallen in love with Marian feasts, particularly Immaculate Conception (the day of my birth), and the prayers dedicated to you.  You are like my great-aunt, the one whom we called “Sister Mildred”, who was a religious sister, and to whom whenever she visited I thought held holy insights beneath her veiled head, but kept them to herself unless asked.   She was mysterious, wise, patient, and loving.

Over the years, I have given my children to you, Mary, to watch over and to place your mantle of love and protection around.  You have heard my pleas.  You fill all the places and spaces I cannot, and you do it perfectly because you trust your Son and our Father without doubt. 

I have worn a miraculous medal daily for at least the last eleven years.  To me, it is my birthday medal.  You appeared to St Catherine Laboure to ask for this medal to be created and worn.  Then you later appeared to St Bernadette Soubirous to tell her you are the Immaculate Conception.    

So then what about Fiats & Magnificats?  Our magnificat is our glorious praise to God.  Every day we are given life on this Earth, we have a magnificat to raise.  In the words of Mary “He has looked with favor on his lowly servant” (Luke 1:48-49).  Her Magnificat comes right after the angel Gabriel’s incredulous announcement to her that she will bear a son and name him Emmanuel.  She is stunned and confused, and responds, “How can this be?”  (Luke 1:34) 

Now stop.

In our own lives, how often do we encounter something surprising, maybe even scary, and immediately think to praise God?  How many times do I say “Wait…what?”  “How can this be?” and then follow it with my own magnificat?   Sadly, not nearly as often as I could/should.  Each day we arise we should begin with praise to God for our very life.  The inclination is to see each day with its tasks and challenges, and not to praise God unless something truly magnificent happens.  I want to raise a magnificat every day to recognize the gift each day truly is. 

Mary also responded to God with her “fiat”; her “yes.”  What is MY fiat?  I may not have a large one like Mary.  But I still have a fiat. 

              Yes Lord, I will show your love to others today.

              Yes Lord, I will work on being a good wife. 

              Yes Lord, I will strive to lovingly parent my children.

Yes Lord, I am a daughter, a mother, a wife, a sister, a campus minister, and I will serve you through these roles you have lovingly called me to. 

And what a funny God you are that as I sit down to ponder my magnificat and my fiat, I would be on a silent retreat.  And upon going to confession, my penance would be a tiny prayer booklet handed to me by my confessor entitled “Magnificat with Mary”. 

              Yes Lord, I will write this blog.

Advent began Sunday.  The time in church for purple liturgical cloths and purple candles.  A time when we await the birth of Jesus again in our lives and our hearts.  For some, it’s a word that precedes “calendar” and goes with something you can buy with chocolate, socks, toys, or even alcohol for 24 days leading up to Christmas.  However secularized Advent has become, it truly is the 4 weeks leading up until Jesus’s birth.   If Mary had not had her “Fiat”, her “Yes” to God in response to the angel Gabriel, we would not have Advent or Christmas.  Though our fiats may seem small in comparison, they are no less important to God.  As are our magnificats.  Perhaps during this Advent, you can ask yourself each morning these two questions:

What is your daily Fiat?

What is your Magnificat?

Instead of opening a tiny door and retrieving a prize from an Advent calendar, why don’t we open the doors of our heart to say “Yes” to God a bit more intentionally each day leading up to Christmas.  Then, let us follow our “Yes” with praise and thanksgiving for the day ahead. 

“The almighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name” 

Luke 1:49


Thresholds and Self-Care

I haven’t written a blog in a while.  I have had the inkling to do so a time or two, but my desire for authenticity conflicted with my feelings of not having something positive and uplifting to say.  The world is full of Debbie downers (as I take my OWN name in vain!) so why would I want to contribute to those voices??  But in the past week, my thoughts have been brewing over our thresholds and our limitations as human beings.  And I finally decided I needed to put them out there to share with others. 

I have been reflecting about my own emotional, physical, and spiritual thresholds.  What are my limits?  Why do I feel like I hit the top of my threshold faster or easier than in the past?  Can I blame COVID?  After all it is the reason for ALL that has been bad since March of 2020. 

First, what does threshold even mean?  According to Merriam Webster dictionary, one of its definitions is:

“the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced”

That definition is perplexing.  I would propose that the physiological or psychological effects are produced as you approach your threshold, not merely when you arrive at that point.  For instance, if I have a high pain threshold, then I will experience physiological pain as I’m approaching my threshold but will only wave a white flag when I’ve hit my invisible limit or top threshold of pain.  The pain doesn’t begin then, it begins prior to the threshold being reached. 

Hmm, maybe I’ve had a misunderstanding of thresholds all along!  Additionally, there is the definition of threshold that pertains to the wood plank one crosses at a doorway that is on the floor.  This is the threshold that gains romantic imagery as a groom carries his bride across it.  In fact, this custom came from the belief that evil spirits hovered at the doorway of a newlywed couples’ home and a groom could protect his bride from them by carrying her over them, instead of she herself stepping upon such bad juju. 

So, we have thresholds we don’t want to arrive at, and ones we want to step over.  All of this leads me back to my contemplation…. what is going on with my emotional, physical, and spiritual thresholds?  How can I find peace with them?  I do feel like I must bring COVID up into this discussion, as I think it has altered our thresholds.  Prior to COVID, I believe I could mentally/emotionally handle things pretty well without reaching a breaking point.  I might cry, but that did not mean I wasn’t able to handle something.  I think when COVID came, we all were stretched to cope with things beyond our comprehension and beyond our ability to intellectually recognize when they might end.  We buckled down for battle and prepared for the worst.  Then a year went by, and we had vaccines, lessened mask restrictions, and the end of the tunnel looked like it might be in sight.  We could breathe a bit easier.  But then the next strain, the next natural disaster, the next political conflict, the next and next and next….and we are still in some kind of battlefield. 

For me, as a woman of faith, I try to look to Mother Mary.  After all, she knew when she would bear her son that he would be the Son of God and would suffer and die.  She knew her heart would be pierced.  How did she enjoy each day without living in fear of the future?  Fear of his persecution? Fear of a broken heart bigger than she could ever prepare herself to live through?  Fear of an anger and mistrust in the world that would crucify her son?  She had some intense level of faith that I can only pray to grow closer to having. 

I recognize that my thresholds have been pummeled down a bit.  Since March of 2020, besides COVID, I have had two parents diagnosed with cancer who are both going through chemo.  I have had a miscarriage.  I have had my oldest son move three hours away without a set job or admission into a school program he deeply desires.  There is spiritual & emotional triage at my work.  These invisible blows on my emotional threshold probably have reduced its height and strength. 

So why do I think I have to be superhero in my thresholds?  If authenticity is something I truly value, why not admit that I can’t handle what I used to?  That doesn’t mean I won’t one day again.  But if I believe what I profess, then I must acknowledge that even the Saints had days where they just weren’t the best versions of themselves.  St Paul himself eloquently says to the people of Corinth that his strength is made perfect in his weakness.  In fact, he begged God for his thorn to be removed and God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).

 I should then pray for endurance of my weakness, not strength to overcome it!

In my lessened thresholds, I have come to a greater realization of the importance of “self-care”.  I jokingly told a friend recently that my self-care was wine and chocolate.  That isn’t completely untrue.  But I have grown to truly appreciate the value of carefree timelessness with good people.  A cup of coffee or glass of wine with a friend with intentional conversation for an hour can boost my ability to handle life ten-fold.  It is as if they directly pour into my threshold limits.  Going with my son to a musical is also self-care.  Sitting outside WITHOUT my phone, looking at the stars, or the sunset, or the sunrise…. those are important refuels for me.  Holding a baby, listening to 80’s music, watching “This is Us” – all self-care. 

If your thresholds feel low, pour into them with self-care.  It may sound cliché or pop culture-esque, but it is how we will get through.  God is the gentleman who wants to carry us across our thresholds, but He first wants us to sit in the limits of them and recognize our need for Him, and for all He is surrounding us with if we just pay attention.  Jot down a list of healthy self-care things and add them to your calendar.  Make time in your week for Him, and for yourself.  Self-care is not SELFISH!  It is what God desires of us to be able to reboot and then be able to better follow His will in our lives.  One day my thresholds may increase.  But whether they do or do not, I can still find peace with my limits and the grace that comes with them. 


I know it is only day one of 2021, and I am a person who neither makes nor believes in New Year’s Resolutions.  I am of the mind that if you want to make a change in your life, start now.  There’s no guarantee you’ll have tomorrow, or next week, or next year.  Having said that, my husband is beginning the Exodus 90 journey on Monday, which comes with a lot of spiritual grace along with personal sacrifice.  One of those sacrifices is no television, movies, or televised sports.  While I am not a big TV watcher, we do have a few shows we enjoy watching together.  Since we will not be doing that for 90 days, I wanted to renew my passion for reading.  So, I decided that beginning today, New Year’s Day, I would pick up one of the mounting books I have been collecting and read a few pages.  Our church was giving out free copies of the book Do Something Beautiful for God: the Essential Teachings of Mother Teresa.  In the introduction, the author, Matthew Kelly, shares about the life of Saint Mother Teresa.  He talks about her conversion in the midst of her vocation, the “call within a call” as it has been coined.  He surmises that her intimate conversation with God included the phrase “How can I help?”  He then challenges the readers with this statement:

            “When was the last time you stepped into the classroom of silence, sat down with your God, and asked ‘How can I help?’” (pg 7)

I was shook by that statement.  I often start out my day by offering it to God and telling Him I want to cooperate with His will.  But that is before I set a foot onto the floor and encounter…well, life.  Sometimes before my first cup of coffee, those words I have offered to God become a forgotten mantra that is snuffed out by circumstances that can really stretch my patience and drown my grace.  My desire to cooperate with His will is sadly conditional. 

As I said, I don’t watch much T.V.  However, I have a few shows that I watch with some regularity.  I don’t binge watch.  I just can’t sit still that long.  Most series take me forever to get through.  There is one that I enjoy called “New Amsterdam” that I am actually caught up on.  This hospital drama has only had two seasons so far,  One of the reasons this show captivates me is the non-conventional medical director of the hospital, Dr Max Goodwin (played by Ryan Eggold).  His mantra at all times is literally the phrase “How can I help?”  He doesn’t tell his doctors about the obstacles that are rather evident.  He doesn’t share negativity.  Instead, despite many odds and his own cancer, he starts nearly every conversation with an uplifting outlook and an attitude of genuine care and concern for how HE can be a part of a solution, part of making life easier, not another challenge to the doctors. 

So a fictional T.V. show and Saint Mother Teresa both invite me to consider the query…How can I help?  I may be tired.  I may be irritated.  I may be hurt.  I may be judgmental.  I may be busy.  I may be scared.  I may get rejected. I may be…well, you fill in the blank of what stops you from asking someone if you can help.  Let’s take it one step further – let’s go back to Matthew Kelly’s musing in the Mother Teresa book…. have you sat in silence with God and asked Him how you can help Him His need for us to be His helpers is enormous.  He needs simple acts of kindness which can actually be quite radical. Mother Teresa was 40 when she changed the trajectory of her vocation to exceptionally help God with His people.   You aren’t too old, or too young.  You aren’t too busy or too ill prepared.  You aren’t too incapable or too valuable.  You are equipped to help Him, right now.  I AM equipped to help Him right now. 

I definitely think God was trying to talk to me today.  Well, lets be real.  He is trying to talk to us every day!  I just think today I was in some way more open to listen.  After reading the excerpt from the Mother Teresa book, I attended Mass.  In Mass we often tune out the prayers the priest prays that are scattered throughout the liturgy.  Today, the closing prayer shook me too.  It said “May He give you integrity in the faith, endurance in hope, and perseverance in charity, with Holy patience.”  I heard “Debbie persevere in helping me out, and don’t lose patience or grow frustrated.”  Yes God, I hear you. 

Maybe 2021 could begin by picking up a spiritual reading.  For me, I often find inspiration and strength to listen harder to God when I take in a good spiritual read.  Not a reader?  How about trying a podcast?  There are SO MANY inspirational ones!  Like movies?  Why not watch one about the life of a saint.  St Ignatius of Loyola’s movie from 2016 is both a thrilling movie and a thought-provoking story. 

What would happen if tomorrow morning when you wake up, you don’t instantly look at your phone for the weather, or to see what was posted in Instagram since last night, or check your Snapchat, or what your favorite sports team is doing.  What if instead, you sit in the classroom of silence, and ask God:

“How can I help you today?”

Wouldn’t that change 2021 for you and for everyone around you? 

Dear OT Job – I hear you

Mother Mary, you are full of grace.  Oh, how I was NOT this morning.  Upon being woken up by my husband’s alarm (that he let snooze one too many times for my liking), I awoke with a list of dreads occupying space in my mind.  I would not say that I am a morning person in general. My mind, once turned on, begins racing.  I enjoy the fog of consciousness that precedes this, and do NOT like being taken from my fog.   I truly prefer a cup of strong hot coffee and quiet time in prayer reading the daily scriptures before I have to interact with any human or furry being.  That is quite opposite of the life of a Mom, wife, and pet owner.  Now I am an eternal optimist, but recently my overflowing cup has been spilled on the floor, where I have slipped and fallen in the sticky sweet liquid, only to want to scream or cry. 

Let me vent my laundry list of “papercuts” as my wise Dad likes to call them:

  • I’ve been quarantined for the past 11 days.  A year ago, we didn’t know anyone quarantined and those words sounded quite dramatic and frightening.  Today, they are common vernacular in our English language.  However, my quarantine had to be labeled as “unique”, for the county health department couldn’t decide if the contact I had with someone truly qualified as “close” contact.  I had to wait for a supervisor to finally declare that I was quarantined.  As a Campus Minister with no other full-time staff, my quarantine also meant that our ministry center had to be closed which makes me feel terrible for my students who go to our center for refuge from their stressful day.
  • We found out that we had termites in our house.  Now that is no easy or cheap battle.  After consulting two companies and settling on a treatment plan that includes drilling holes around the foundation of our house, these pesky wood eating bugs are hopefully heading to their eternal rest.
  • Along with termites we found out we had carpenter ants!  I guess they heard there was wood to be chewed!
  • Our yard looks like it has had a recent terrible aeration job, as the armadillos have chosen to dig and play in it at night!  I wish that they ate carpenter ants or termites, but alas that isn’t the case. 

(Note – the previous three things make me wonder if the locusts are next……)

  • Three times in the past 3 months someone has hacked into my bank account and attempted (and to some success been able) to take money from me as well as steal my identity.  (I filed a report with the FBI just this morning) 
  • My son totaled his car (thanks be to God no one was hurt)
  • My cat, who has chronic undiagnosed diarrhea, has decided that my closet is his new litterbox.

So back to this morning…. once I was up, I trailed through the dark house to get my dog from his kennel and take him for a walk.  But before doing so, I vented to my husband about how he was rude to wake me up and about all of the above injustices in my life.  Again, there was no grace to be found in me.   As I stepped out into the windstorm we were having, I muttered to Carter (my dog) and truly to God.  The “Why me?” mentality had set in. 

Then I was reminded of the book of Job in the Bible.  Poor Job.  He got in the middle of a battle between Satan and God.  Job was a good man who did good things, and yet so much horribleness came to him.  His oxen and donkeys got obliterated.  Then his sheep and shepherds.  Finally, a terrible windstorm tore down the house where his children were basically partying, and they were all crushed.  All of this horror (makes my papercuts look puny), and still Job says,

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Job 1:21b

His buddies come to give him comfort, but they were overwhelmed by his suffering.  After seven days of no talking, Job says to them “I have no peace nor ease; I have no rest, for trouble comes!” (Job 3:26) They are good men, for they try to give him a bit of tough love.  One says “Your words have upheld the stumbler; you have strengthened his faltering knees.  But now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches yourself, you are dismayed.” (Job 4:4-5) 

Ouch.  When I read that, it hits me.  I work in ministry.  I spend much time patiently listening to students who bear big and small crosses.  I offer them genuine words of comfort, encouragement, and hope.  But here I am, sniveling about my own crosses, as if I shouldn’t have to bear them!  After Job and his friends have a dialogue that goes back and forth for some time, God has a “come to Jesus” talk with him (insert smile, as Jesus IS God).  Multiple times the Scripture says, “The Lord addressed Job out of the storm”.  Does the Lord address me out of my storm?  Of course.  Do I listen?  Only sometimes. 

As I finished my windy walk with my dog, I realize that while these things I am dealing with I truly would rather not have to, He has equipped me with all that I need to handle themWITH GRACE.  My list of things to be grateful for is longer than my papercut list.  And my little pity party of “it’s not fair” is just me having an immature, but very human, temper tantrum.  Life is NOT fair.  Our abilities to deal with life seem finite.  But God’s abundant mercy, love, and grace are infinite.  Job ends up realizing that while there is much he does not understand, God also provides things far too wonderful for us to comprehend.  Job is restored in faith and life.  I too am given the chance to be restored in spirit.  But it’s my choice to receive it. 

Heavenly Father, I am sorry for my weak spirit, for my whining, for my lack of grace.  Help me to be more like Job.  To bear the trials I am given, with courage, faith, and grace.  Let me recognize Your voice in the storm and listen to your words.  Thank you for your infinite love and pursuit of me! 

A letter to Coronavirus

Dear Coronavirus,

While I have not personally met you, you have come in contact with some of those closest to me.  You are quite presumptuous in your arrival, and to be honest, you are rude.  You come without invitation.  You displace families.  You wreak havoc in schools, gyms, places of worship, work, entertainment, and more.  You cause people to be sub-human, wearing masks that greatly reduce facial expression and comprehension of conversation.  You cause us to stand at odd distances, while still striving to “connect” with each other.  You make every movement we as humans have something we must second guess.  Should I go here?  Should I touch this?  Is he/she sick?  Oh, I need to sneeze but if I do someone will think I have “IT”!  You cause hypochondria.  Feeling warm used to be something that might be chalked up to living in Texas in the summer.  Now it throws us into finding the nearest thermometer and isolating into a far away room.  You create division, not unity.  You create excessive jobs at Purell, yet eliminate jobs in many other sectors of society.  You cause us to judge others even harsher than before this came into our lives.  If I were reading C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, you would surely be Wormwood’s greatest minion.

For catharsis, I need to make a list of all that you have taken from me:

  • The wedding we had planned
  • Our honeymoon
  • Our reception
  • The ability to visit my brother and sister in law and sweet niece this summer
  • A musical I could not wait to watch my son perform in
  • Family gatherings
  • Seeing my husband light up at the sight of his Godson and hearing both their laughter
  • Being able to see my in-laws (you have held them hostage for 5 weeks and counting)
  • Adoration at church
  • Mission trip to Guatemala
  • Pool parties
  • Gathering with my Cinq Chic Chics

However, dear virus, you will NOT take me down.  Like David slayed the giant with a mere slingshot and a LOT of faith, my God is so much bigger than you and your spread.  Through prayer and trust from us, He will defeat you.

Here is a list of what I have gained because of you:

  • A small, intimate wedding with those closest to us
  • Many more home-cooked meals
  • Dates with my husband in the backyard
  • Miles of walks with my dog
  • Lots of pool time
  • Zoom 1 on 1’s with college students that often end in intercessory prayer
  • A face mask made in Guatemala that lets me tell others about that beautiful country
  • An increased desire to attend Mass despite the low numbers of people, face masks, and social distancing
  • An answered prayer for my campus ministry next year
  • Creative ways to still do ministry, feeding the hungry physically and spiritually
  • Seeing some pretty artistic and creative people post their talents online
  • Attending virtual conferences with national speakers from my own living room for free
  • A greater recognition of my lack of control and God’s greatness
  • A new group of Catholic couple friends who share faith, food, and laughter with us
  • Time….to ponder, read, pray, and just be
  • A greater appreciation for meaningful time with people in person

I am very ready to bid you farewell and appreciate humanity up close and personal.  Perhaps God knows we, as a society, still have a bit to learn, and that is why you still are raging here in the U.S.  Or perhaps this is a group opportunity to be molded and shaped.  God knows we ALL need some refining.  Whatever the case, I will lean into God, and recognize each time I bend towards fear and worry, that I am moving towards the wrong team.  I will pray for those who are suffering deeply and let the little moments like watching my dog smile (it sure seems like he is!) when I splash him with pool water soothe me.  I want to spread light in this world.  I am done with the masked darkness that wants to take over.

              “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5


Hindsight is 2020

I won’t sugar coat it. This has been a tough week. It began with the painful realization that I should have been in Guatemala. Our annual immersion trip was scheduled for this very week, and it has been a difficult reality to face that the virus that has changed the face of our world took away the opportunity to go to a place that I find more peaceful than any other on Earth. I know that it doesn’t mean we can’t ever go, and I know that it is for the protection of the beautiful people we encounter there that we do not go right now. But all those things do not take away my heartache or longing to be there. Since we go around the same time each year, my Facebook has been haunting me with “memories” from years past filled with photos and videos of Guatemala.

In addition to this (or because of?) I have had strife with loved ones. I have cried more than I care to. I have been angry, disappointed, and hurt. I miss terribly my weekly hour of adoration in our tiny chapel at Sacred Heart….yet another thing that the virus has taken away. In the past, I have taken all of my worries and hurts (and joys and gratitude!) to Jesus in that sacred space and left feeling comfort. Now, I cannot go there, and try as I might to make new places for adoration, they do not have the same feeling. It’s like I keep trying to crawl up into God’s lap and let Him hold me, but as soon as I do, He gets up or disappears. Now, I know with my intellect and my faith that God NEVER disappears. He never ever leaves us. It’s us who leave Him. Which then spins me into guilt. I must be the one getting out of His lap of love, comfort, security, and reassurance.

A moment of clarity came to me when mowing earlier this week. Mowing is often my spiritual re-boot. I was listening to a Catholic podcast, and of course THE VIRUS came up in the conversation. They were speaking about how bizarre 2020 has been. It suddenly made me think of the phrase “Hindsight is 2020”. Hmmm, here we are, in the year 2020, and it has surely been one of the most unexpected years in most of our lives. Each of us has a story of how this year has affected and changed us. And it is not even half over! Whereas some things come in ripples and affect pockets of people, I would say that the COVID-19 crisis has widespread affect on the entire world. It is like one giant ocean-crashing wave. And we don’t yet have the hindsight. Our vision is far from perfect as to what to make of it all. It has had economic, spiritual, mental health, and physical health impact. It has drawn some families closer. It has torn others apart. It has created bad habits of binge watching and being stuck to a screen for work and pleasure. It has created good habits of taking walks outside, learning new skills, home cooked meals, creativity, and slowing down. But we do not have hindsight yet. 2020 is still fully upon us. Will that hindsight and understanding of why all of this occurred wait until 2021?

Saint Paul speaks such wisdom of hindsight being 2020 to the people of Corinth. He says:

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12

It isn’t just in the year 2020 that people want to know and understand now. Over two thousand years ago, the first Christians wanted to know. Paul was reminding them that in the moment, we rarely have clarity. We don’t know why this virus came, or what it can teach us. But I do know that God uses every single moment in our life for His good, if we lean into Him.

Personally, I still don’t understand why I had to have a tiny, masked wedding where I could not hug those who were able to be there and I could not stand immediately beside the women who have literally stood beside me through thick and thin, my bride tribe. We had to be socially distanced and masks conceal so much of someone’s expression. But, I do know that God was perfectly there and that I am incredibly blessed to have been married, despite the virus. It did not take away the sacrament from us.

I also do not know why I cannot take a most incredible team of young adults to a country where sickness and poverty are abundant, yet God’s love surpasses all that lacks. But, perhaps it’s a not now, but later scenario. I want to know when, I want to have a specific date to look forward to.   That is my human selfish want. I can wait. There is NO reason I cannot wait.

We long for 2020 vision right now, in this 2020 year. Yet even the most educated scientists cannot give us that. It is as if God is reminding the world, “Be patient. You cannot see distinctly. But I have perfect vision, and I see you. I see your trials, your disappointments, your hopes, your desires. You know partially, but I know fully. Wait my love. And know I am here right beside you in the waiting.”

Heavenly Father, please help me to wait. Help me to know that understanding will come, slowly, and later. I shall not want for later, but instead live in the day that I am given. I will love better, with your help and your Son’s amazing example. I will be grateful for today, instead of longing for a different tomorrow. I will recognize that there is a lesson to be learned, and a story to be shared. I will listen to You, and to those whom you put in my presence. Thank you for your patience with me.

Faith, Hope, and Charity…especially in pandemic pandemonium

Last week was Holy Week, and despite our current restraints of physical space, I desperately wanted to be present to Christ and draw nearer to Him in one of the most holy times of our Church year.  On the morning of Good Friday, my fiancé invited me to pray the rosary with him outside.  After all the virtual liturgies, I was thankful for an in-person prayer encounter.  As we began, before the first three Hail Mary’s, we prayed “for the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.”  I feel like those are words that tumble out of our mouths without much thought in our Christian journey. Faith and love are so overused that they fall on deaf ears.  However, for some reason, those words stunned me in that moment.    Instantly, my sweet seven-year old Goddaughter came to mind.  She attends Catholic school, and they have a virtue of the week that they study.  She often tells me about the virtue.  Her younger sister also likes to taunt her about her not displaying a particular virtue.  They are adorable!  I deeply contemplated what those virtues we were praying for meant.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that these three virtues are “theological virtues” (CCC 1813). “The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character.”  (CCC 1813)

To animate is to move or bring to life (according to the dictionary of Debbie). So, faith, hope, and charity make alive our moral activity…in other words, they help us make right choices. Would therefore a lack of these virtues cause wrong choices?

In our COVID-19 reality, we might not embrace our theological virtues so well. Day in and day out, we are quarantined inside our homes, and often grow tired of our mundane reality. Our virtues may not animate, but rather become stagnate. I deeply love my sons, but we are all tired of the “Groundhog Day” (sorry for the 90’s movie reference) saga…it’s the same thing every day, except for the multiplying laundry and dishes. We desperately need faith, hope, and charity now more than ever, but are they animating us?

FAITH – this is our belief in God Himself. In terms of a pandemic, it is also the belief that this will end, and that our God is bigger than COVID-19, even when the media tries to tell us otherwise. It is not falling into despair, or desolation, because that is turning away from Him. I can tell you that I myself have had moments of desolation throughout this. I have cried. I have felt huge doubt. I have fallen into fear. I have lost faith. Thankfully, my glass is half-full attitude wakes me up anew each day and reminds me to look up, start in prayer, and be thankful for one more day to try to follow God’s will. It is also important to not dismiss that others may lose faith and not bounce back so quickly. I need to have faith for them when they have lost theirs and remind them they are loved.

HOPE – to me hope is about our attitude – having a positive attitude and knowing that things will get better. However, the theological virtue of hope is Heaven focused. It is the desire for Heaven and “eternal life as our happiness” (CCC 1817). If I am to animate hope into my life during COVID-19, then I should be recognizing that Christ’s journey to Heaven was mixed with joy and persecution, disciples and mudslingers, and ultimately dragging a heavy cross. So, this journey we are all on that is filled with angst is also shaping us into the more perfect version of ourselves, readying us for eternal happiness with Him.

CHARITY – this word is difficult for me. Somehow, I have charity tied up with “pity” and I get a negative vibe when I hear it. I have a student who is from another country, and he talks about doing charity instead of going on a mission trip, and it always causes me pause. Yet the Catechism defines charity as the theological virtue by which we “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”  (CCC 1822) Well my student is right! When we go to Guatemala, it is for charity!  We love others for God and with God’s love in us. So during COVID-19, where is the charity?  It’s easy to point out where it is not. It is NOT in the people who are hoarding toilet paper, elastic, flour, etc. However, it IS in so many people in so many other ways. I have seen many groceries given away, many people singing or performing in lawns of nursing homes for the residents, many children drawing inspirational messages in chalk on sidewalks, many random acts of kindness.

When we pray for the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, those are BIG asks. They come with big responsibility. But if we trust God and know that He wants to fill us with these virtues so we can bring them to life in His world, then we know He will equip us to grow them in our daily lives. Tomorrow when I wake up, we will still be in quarantine. I will still be trying to figure out what is left in the freezer to cook for dinner, and what positive words I can give my teenagers to inspire them for another day being shut in. But with faith, hope, and charity animated in this very house, we will not just survive, but possibly thrive in pandemonium. I hope you take a moment to really consider these theological virtues, and how God is calling you to grow them in your own quarantined life.

He is our Shelter in Place

Life has been admittedly weird since Friday the 13th. On that day, the college students in my campus community were informed that their Spring Break may be extended because of the coronavirus. The President issued a social distancing order, and as we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I wondered if we were too close in our tiny chapel. Since that time, things have grown even more strange, with mandates of ten people or less in gatherings, and recently Shelter in Place orders being issued by cities and counties nearby.

All of it has struck me nearly silent. I do not know what to make of each day’s newsfeed, and I struggle with remaining the eternal optimist that I normally am blessed to be. All of our normal daily lives have been altered….across the entire world. I cannot wrap my brain around something that has altered life across the globe. I also feel I cannot complain, as everyone is affected by the lovely COVID-19 term. I am extremely blessed to have a job that I positively love. For the past 19 years, I look forward to going to work. The college students I minister to grow my heart and touch my soul. While some people may be happy to not have to report in to their office daily, I am absolutely missing my job greatly. The new landscape of trying to do ministry virtually is so hard. My favorite thing is ministry of presence. Despite what everyone tells me, presence is NOT virtual to me. Virtual reality does not satisfy the human soul.

I am also supposed to be getting married in a little over a month. The plans for a beautiful wedding, sacramentally celebrated with family and friends, have been hijacked. The reception postponed. The dreams I have been dreaming for the past year dramatically altered. Now my fiancé and I struggle to determine if we can include our parents in the 10 people or less rule, and I face the truth that my children will not be able to be there with me. Yes I know that what is most important is that God is with us, and I do not want to dishonor that fact. Still, I am allowed to grieve the loss of all who I thought would surround us on that special day.

Other consequences of COVID-19 around me: Forced homeschooling for high school. Online only learning for college. Mission trips rescheduled (yes our Guatemala trip). Senior proms, UIL competitions, even graduation ceremonies – ALL CANCELLED or postponed indefinitely.

Quarantine. Isolate. Social Distance. Desolate.

Yet, there is a silver lining. Probably multiple. As we hear terms like “Shelter in Place” I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, On Eagle’s Wings…”you who dwell in the shelter of the Lord.” The word shelter has taken on a very negative and fearful connotation in the past few weeks. However shelter is a positive term. To have shelter is to not be out in the elements. To be given shelter is to be cared for. God is always our Shelter in Place. Throughout my life, I have felt the shelter of God. It is almost like imagining myself crawling up into His lap and curling up in safety there. In these very traumatic times, God is opening His arms wide and inviting us to take shelter in Him. He is bigger than this pandemic. He wants us to lean into Him, and bring others along with us.

When I do choose to get on social media, I have noticed so many beautiful outcomes of this crisis….

  • Music artists writing inspiring new songs from their living room or kitchen and sharing it with the world (check out JJ Heller or Jeremy Camp, just to name a couple)
  • Celebrating Mass practically anywhere with anyone (my fiancé and I “attended” Mass at our home parish this morning, and then joined Bishop Robert Barron for Mass and finally Father Mike Schmitz)
  • Praying in Eucharistic Adoration with the Pope from my kitchen table
  • Zoom meetings with people I have never met (recently with campus ministers from across the country)
  • Google hangouts over lunch
  • So many sharing their performing art talents freely with the word

In addition, in my own family I have found that we:

    • Eat more meals together
    • Find time to have game nights often
    • Talk without the constraint of having to hurry to be somewhere
    • Bake, build, create, imagine

I hope to continue to be stretched during this time. I know God is using every bit of this mess to grow us, if we let Him. He does not waste one ounce of what we endure to teach and mold us. Please God, keep molding me.

“Our word describes reality. God’s word creates reality.”

Bishop Barron said these words in his homily today. Think of the words you use to describe your current reality. If you are like me, they are not complimentary or positive. Yet God’s word creates reality. What reality are we allowing Him to create? He is our Shelter in this place. We have 8 days left until the Easter Triduum. Lent has been sacrificial for us all, even if we didn’t choose the sacrifice. May we embrace our scratchy cross filled with slivers, and walk with faith towards our Resurrection.

Jesus, I trust in You.