Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On The Road Again...

For those of you who have known me for sometime you know that the new baby who is now a toddler has put quite a crimp into my normal nomadic lifestyle.  Prior to the birth of our newest addition I was on the road many times a year, at least once every other month.  I am excited to be on the road again and doing what I love - traveling for work, visiting family and friends, and best of all, listening to cornball music like this:

This is one of the earliest songs I learned - my parents being big fans of John Denver, Willie Nelson, Peter Paul and Mary, and just about anyone else with enough guts to get out there with a guitar and a handful of other instruments and make real music on them.  My earliest memories are of my parents singing together while my father played guitar and my mother the banjo as they sang in beautiful harmony. 

For the next few weeks, this blog will be "on the road".  I promise to try and remember to post all days but Sundays and Fridays. :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

A New Beginning

The time has come.  This Wednesday is the day to draw a line in the sand.  Lent is the time of sacrifice.  It is the time of giving of ourselves to others.  It is the time when you reflect on God's callings for you.

Are you willing to take up the cross, find your moral compass and stick to the plan once you commit?  Are you willing to fall on your sword and beg for the mercy only He can give?  Are you willing to put aside selfishness and old habits to form yourself into a better vision of who you can be for Christ?

There comes a time when God calls you to the front line and tells you "Look, you're messing all of this up and I am reaching My hand out to you.  Will you take it?"

Are you willing to let go of your pride and embrace modesty?  Can you move forward in hope to what He is calling you to be? Can you love with sacrificial love ***I NEED A LINK TOMORROW***?

This blog didn't begin by accident.  God had a plan in this.  He is calling you to one or more of these things during Lent.  Don't believe me?  How angry did one of these posts make you feel?  How much did you resist that information?

Confession moment:  I resisted writing ALL of them.  *I* didn't even want to hear what needed to be written.  I cringed at what your thoughts might be, at putting these thoughts out into the world and fearing the criticisms that would come.  I laid my heart out on a platter and prayed that you would hear what you needed to hear and find the strength to encourage yourself and each other. 

Let's face it, being a lady isn't for sissies - especially in this day and age.

I chose to let HIM lead.  I promise to always do so.

Are you up to the challenge as well?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Last Banana

I grew up in what was at the time quietly called "a broken home".  My parents separated two days before I turned 9 and were divorced within a year.  It was a difficult time of my life.  Through no fault of my own or anything I had done I was forced to give up everything I had ever known and depended on.  My entire world was tilted upside down in a single decision I was not given permission to submit my opinion on.

In the days between Point A and Point B I remember being angry.  I remember endless disappointments as my world was torn to tatters by the aftermath of a choice I did not make.

My mother, always wise, was sitting with me one night at her office as I cried my eyes out because my father had forgotten to pick me up for visitation....again.  I remember looking in her eyes and telling her, "I hate him.  I'm sorry Mom, but I HATE HIM."

I don't know where she found the strength after all that had happened but she stopped me in my tracks and said, "No.  No, honey, you don't hate him.  You can hate what he is doing and you can hate the choices he makes and you do not have to like him right now, but you still have to love him.  He is your father and you have to love him, even though you may not like him."

I gave her that sideways glance young girls are prone to when they don't really believe you but have been left with no choice in the matter.  Somewhat along the lines of Natalie Woods in Miracle on 34th Street driving home from the Christmas party on the new route.

The immense joy experienced by her seeing the home never came, but that was definitely the look on my face.

Mom was right, I didn't have to like him, but I did have to love him.  Only by her resolve my father and I now have a good relationship because she didn't allow me to let hate fester.  It would be 10 years before I had the courage to tell him he'd hurt me by his choices and to this day I still can't tell him the truth depths of the pain caused by negligence.  I offer that pain up as a sacrifice and as an act of reparation for divorce when it comes.

Love is not always pretty.  Love hurts as much as it heals.  Love creates pain as often as it creates joy.  Love is bittersweet and two sided.  Love, true love, is when you are willing to give of yourself for the sake of others.  Those "little moments" when you want to be selfish but you suck it up and do it anyway.

Love is saying yes when you want to say no.  It is giving of self.  Love is having the courage to face off against all odds and say "Here I stand" - even when you don't want to be there.  Love is running to the bathroom to cry so you don't hurt someone's feelings by showing your tears.  Love is showing your tears when they need to be seen the most despite everything in you screaming not to cry.. 

Love is saying a very public goodbye to someone you love to the depths of your soul in the middle of an airport knowing you may never see them again.  Love is letting that person go and do the work of God wherever He chooses to send him, even if it is to a battlefield in the middle of a war.  Love is hugging the child you have with that man so close every day because he is the unbreakable link between the two of you. 

Love is standing in a hospital ward at the door of the ICU seeing him again for the first time on crutches and covered in bandages and knowing that no matter how hard you have to fight, no matter what this new world will bring, you will endure in that love every day for the rest of your life.  Love is watching him grimace through physical therapy and fight his way back to health and cheering him on despite your own exhaustion and fear.  Love is seeing his dreams realized and then be taken away because people don't understand.  Twice.

And even after that, love is still picking it up, day after day, and fighting for him and you and your children.  Love is knowing that God will help you find a way.  Love is helping him find his dream once more, one that you pray will not be stolen again while still putting your own dreams aside because sometimes there is only room for one set of dreams at a time.  Love is knowing "God's got this" and relying on that faith each and every day, no matter how scary it may get.

There is more than one way to offer up sacrificial love.  It doesn't have to be this grand image. Love is falling asleep in exhaustion after a parents vs. kids talk that lasted until 2 AM trying to teach them right from wrong and why it is right.  Love is staying up another hour while banging your head against the wall that the conversation even needed to happen....again. Love is the toddler running through the house chanting "BACON!" because he knows it's Dad's favorite.  Love is Dad putting aside his work to let the toddler and/or his brother "help". Love is an older brother giving his toddler sibling the last banana.

Love is so much more than we think.  We should see it in every action, every movement.  Love of Christ and His Sacrifice at Calvary but also love of each other, even His children who we do not know. 

Friday, February 28, 2014


Make no mistake about it, being a lady takes sacrifice.  A lady is not obsessed with self but puts her focus on others.  Her focus, if she is a homemaker like me, is on her husband, children, and home.  If there is still room left her focus is her Faith.  If she is truly blessed she has time for even more in her life.

When is the last time you made a sacrifice, no matter how small for your husband?  What does that look like in your world? 

There is a movie from the 1990s called "Forget Paris".  Below is a clip from the movie that had significant impact on the shaping of how I would treat relationships and marriage.  Prior to this scene the two characters Mickey (Billy Crystal) and Ellen (Debra Winger) have an on again off again relationship that began when his father's remains were lost by the French airline where Ellen is employed.  This is the moment where they commit to remaining together.

"Nah, we've handled all the big issues.  The rest will work itself out."

How often do we forget about these little things, these little sacrifices that can mean so much to those we love?  How often do we brush it aside that he prefers this brand of mayonnaise (constant argument in the home I grew up in) or she likes him to write the item on the shopping list that he just emptied (preferably legibly - also a constant problem in the home where I grew up)? 

When someone commits the offense of not remembering our own preferences, how do we handle it?  Do we smile that little smile, shake our head, and shake it off?  Or do we turn it into WWIII?  If we turn it into WWIII was it worth it?

I have actually met people who got a divorce because she wouldn't put the car mirrors back where he liked them or he refused to help with the laundry.  I wish I were joking, but sadly I'm only keeping their names to protect the "innocent".

Is it worth throwing away all that history and love and life over toothpaste?!?!?!? 

When our eyes are on Christ the needs of our families are much easier to meet.  It is easier to give of the self when we aren't obsessed with hanging onto that self. 

Can you make that sacrifice of self today?  How?  In what little way can you make someone else's world light up a little bit?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the Cusp of Lent

Since I'm 1 week into this project I figured it's about time to outline what you should be able to expect of me and what I hope to be inspiring in you as well.

You may have noticed there was one day in the past week where there was no posts.  I will not be posting on Sundays because that is the Lord's day.  It is my time with my family and God.  We made a resolution back in January that we would not make others work on Sundays, including ourselves whenever possible.  We promised to remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy.  I don't like to think of this blog causing "work" so we'll just consider Sundays to be your "catch up day" for posts you may have missed.

With Lent around the corner I will also not be publishing on Fridays for religious reasons.  I will be spending the time I would have spent working on the blog post praying the Stations of the Cross and in other devotions as well as time with my family.  And trying very, very hard to stay away from the brownies...

Each year I try to spend my Lent doing four things - I try to make strides in my faith life in four new ways.  Often these become habits I continue long term so I consider them very carefully.  Prior examples of this would be praying the Rosary daily, giving up all beverages except water, and choosing an act of service I can perform to better my community.
This year I am committing myself to the following:

  1. Praying a Rosary, a Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary daily.
  2. Learn how to make wire wrap and corded rosaries, offering the former for sale and donating one of the latter for each sold to veteran's hospitals for Catholic Chaplains to distribute. 
  3. Limiting my Facebook time to no more than 2 hours per day. 
  4. Walk 1.5 miles per day so by the end of Lent I will have "walked a Rosary" - each bead representing 1 mile (59 beads per Rosary + crucifix + center), 
  5. Skirting Up for Lent!  Offering this up during Lent for the intentions of the group running Skirting Up an act of reparation.

I'm interested to know, what are your plans for Lent?  How are you going to use this time to increase your faith? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life Lessons from Tap Dancing

I swear I have not flipped my lid.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, many of you have probably seen someone tap dancing at some point in your life - either at a Broadway show, a local theater, or your own children's dance recital.  Getting up the speed necessary for "good tap" takes time, practice, and patience.

The heart of tap dance is balance.  If you cannot return back to the center and keep yourself upright you are not a tap dancer for very long.  You officially become a tap faller as you sprawl on the wooden floor looking up and wondering whatever possessed you to decide to nail 2 pieces of metal on each of your shoes and attempt movement.

Balance - the key to good tap dancing and the key to life.  When we fail to have balance in our spiritual life we end up sprawled on the floor, sometimes on purpose prostrate before Him, other times more accidental and haphazard. We fall on our own sword, repenting and pleading for His mercy.
Photo courtesy of Chastity Martin.  This was her Mass of Consecration during the Litany of the Saints.
The amazing thing to me is that He meets us there, in that deep, dark, unspeakable place and calls us forward.  We are not left abandoned in those moments of weakness and pain but compelled forward to healing and beauty.  He restores our balance in these moments with His Sacrifice on the Cross for us and for many.

The beauty is not in the falling, but in the restoration.  Can you recall a time when you fell from His Grace?  When you lost your balance and hold on the world and it tilted sideways and became obscured and even possibly unrecognizable?  Do you remember the Grace that came after as you found your footing again?  As you pulled yourself up off the floor with His help and began the journey again?  Can you recollect the little "everyday miracles" that happened as you found your way back to the path He placed you on?

As you dusted yourself off and set your eyes back on the goal of Heaven with purpose and determination you began your journey anew.  Reaching toward Him you renewed your promises of Baptism, Confirmation, and perhaps even your own vows of vocation as you found yourself propelled forward. We fear the fall, but we rejoice in the return.  Just like the Prodigal Son we are welcomed back with open arms and we move forward in purpose. 

Falling is necessary in our growth.  No Saint short of the Blessed Virgin Mary managed a path to heaven without pitfalls.  Not one of us is without sin and failure no matter how polished and perfect we may appear to be on the outside.  Just like the tap dancer beginning to learn toes, heels, shuffles, and stops, it may not always be pretty on the outside, but it is for the better glory of Him in the long haul.

A lady embraces these falls as they come.  She allows trials and tribulations to sanctify rather than destroy.  She brings herself closer to God at the precise moment that the world is pulling her away.  She rejoices in truth and hope as she sojourns on in her walk until she reaches the arms of the Father in fervent hope and prayer that she will be embraced by Him and hear the words, "Well Done".

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tale of Two Ladies

Today I want to paint you a portrait of two ladies in my life.  Both are no longer in this world but both directly shaped who I am and how I choose to live my life.  Both were in their elder years when I was in my youth and they were actually within a few years of each other in age.  They were the same religion, went to the same church, were in the same clubs, and were very good friends.

The first lady can be best described as "merry".  She was a delight to all who met her, young and old, male and female.  There wasn't a person who didn't genuinely like her because you just couldn't help yourself!  She engaged actively in the corporal works of mercy in her spare time but also lived them with her own family and friends.  I don't think I ever heard her speak an ill word about anyone in the 20+ years I was blessed to know her.  She had that unmistakeable quality that someone has that tells you that person is someone you can trust and be comfortable with.  She never put on airs of superiority or other "ugly" behavior.  She was humble because she knew how to love deep in her soul and happiness exuded out of her.

The other lady was her best friend.  They'd known each other since they were young mothers sharing the same street.  The other lady had come from a troubled childhood of abuse and neglect.  She married a man who was also violent and raised two children with him.  She was very good at "putting on a show" when out and about but if you really listened you could hear the timbre of her voice that did not quite ring true.  Always ready with the latest gossip of who, what, when, and where she was a lively conversationalist.  Privately and sometimes even publicly she criticized those she loved in "socially acceptable ways" with a little laugh after her comments.  Her son's new wife was "very young but doesn't have a brain in her head".  His son was "a well behaved boy but never well dressed".  She often hurt those she knew without even realizing she was causing them pain causing many to distance themselves from her including her own children and grandchildren.

At the second lady's 81st birthday the first lady wrote her a beautiful poem and presented it to her framed wishing her another wonderful 81 years on this earth.  Sadly that was not to come true and less than a year later the first lady mourned the death of her dear friend deeply.

I think we can all give examples of both the first and second lady in our lives without blinking an eye.  In fact I contend that the vast majority of us see pieces of both of them in our own souls, not that we ever want to admit being like the latter.  It's easy to embrace the qualities of the first lady, but harder to acknowledge and confess that we are like the latter.

We cannot always follow the path that is easy.  Having known both of these ladies fairly well I truly believe in my heart that the second could have lived more like the first.  I don't believe there is such a thing as "too damaged" or "too far gone".  If that were the case why do we have Confessionals?  If we can never run too far from Christ then we are all capable of being the first lady when we make the conscious choice.

How can we minimize being the latter lady?  When forced to confront our own demons in ourselves as well as cope with the family member/friend who acts this way how can we bring that to create improvement in our own soul rather than allow it to tear apart our hearts and lead us towards sin?  How can we learn from this tale of two ladies and find ways to bring out the former in all of us while allowing the latter to sanctify us?