Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Prayer Seeds: A Gathering of Blessings, Reflections, and Poems for Spiritual Growth by Joyce Rupp

I have yet to come across a book by Joyce Rupp that I didn’t enjoy and find spiritually nourishing.  Prayer Seeds: A Gathering of Blessings, Reflections, and Poems for Spiritual Growth is more of the same great writing that leads to meaningful contemplation that I have come to expect from one of my favorite authors.  As someone who writes prose, poetry, and prayers, I appreciate the depth of her insights crafted into poignant words others can easily use in their own intercessions, Scripture studies, and retreats.

In the introduction, Joyce Rupp explains that “[e]ach resource in this book is a type of spiritual seed.  The selections hold the possibility of yielding a harvest of personal reflection and communal prayer.  Some are in the germination stage and will require watering from additional ideas and resources in order to fully activate the potential they hold.  Others are partially grown and will only need minor tending.  A handful…are fully grown and ready for use, supplying all that is needed for harvesting a prayerful experience.” (p. IX)

Tasked with leading the first prayer time of a women’s retreat this fall, I grabbed Prayer Seeds certain I would find the perfect jumping off point for our weekend.  I decided upon a meditation that is best when read slowly to a group who has their eyes closed and can contemplate the words and people who come to mind.  All Saints and All Souls’ days were leading up to our weekend away, so “A Blessing of the Saints” fit perfectly. 

Everything in the book is organized by season, topic, and/or life event, so you can quickly find a short piece to share that is perfect for reflection as an individual or as a group.  There are blessings for a variety of occasions, including: bringing in the harvest, entering a fresh day of life, spring equinox rejoicing, moving to a nursing home, as well as the closing of a casket.   

My drawing of a seed with colored pencils.
The image of a seed appeals to me for many reasons, not the least of which, it holds so much life and potential inside such a small space.  Prayer can be equally as powerful and fruitful. 

I pray that this book and the reflection it leads to will help you as you are harvesting God’s abundance

For more information or to order your own copy of Prayer Seeds, click here.

To learn more about Joyce Rupp and her other books, click here

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Weekend Retreat in Gloucester and an Introduction to Our Lady of Walsingham

We had a delicious meal at Sal's by Victor in Williamsburg.
Back row: Nora and Nancy
Front row: Susan, Eileen, Kami, and me
I’m so glad I went!  After having an accident at work on the previous Thursday, I considered staying home from the retreat.  Once I went to the chiropractor to adjust my seriously sore tailbone and had a Patient First doctor tell me that I don’t have a concussion and that my finger is badly sprained, but not broken, I was still unsure of what to do.  It had been a long, trying day, and I didn’t feel like packing when I got home.

Fortunately, after a rest, some dinner, and some reassurance from my husband that I would benefit from being with my Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) sisters for a weekend, I got my things together.  I worried I wouldn’t be able fit all that I was bringing into my friend’s vehicle since four of us would be riding out there together with the usual overnight stuff, plus supplies, and lots of food. 

What I should have worried about is getting there.  We inadvertently took a roundabout tour of several Richmond ghettos on our way back to 64 East, and that was while using a GPS and with a navigator.  I’ve been down streets I hadn’t even been lost on before, and that’s quite a feat!

The beautiful farmhouse we rented in Gloucester had four king-size beds and several sofas to sleep on.  There were two bathrooms in the house, both of them downstairs.  It was nicely decorated, very clean, and walking distance from the water.  We had access to the longer of the two piers, which had a few wooden benches on it. 

On Saturday, we sat there to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary.  The weather was nice enough when we got there on Friday to have the house windows open.  Kami and Eileen had arrived first and dinner was on the stove when we finally pulled in. 

We had an abundance of food, which is often the case when we all get together for a potluck, and certainly for a retreat.  The homemade meals and snacks were all delicious, and we had plenty of leftovers.  As per usual, we ate our way through the weekend. 

I’ve only ever been on one outside of church retreat with my CRHP sisters.  I treasure that experience of prayer, community, fellowship, and discussion centered on the Blessed Mother and inspired by a book I recommended for the occasion called Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross by Edward Sri.

I’m encouraged God is still able to work through me each time someone reminds me that I was the one to introduce them to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  One of the leaders of the Divine Mercy Cenacle that has formed at our parish was serving on team with me when I suggested we sing/pray the Chaplet on our upcoming weekend.  She and many others on the team had never heard of it before.  Some had, but many were still reluctant to add it to the weekend’s schedule.  We did end up including it, and I’m told that they’ve prayed it on every single CRHP weekend, men’s and women’s, since then.  What an awesome Holy Spirit incident!

The week before we gathered, one of our CRHP sisters who had intended to join us for the retreat passed away suddenly and under uncertain circumstances.  Lately, I have gotten into the habit of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the peaceful repose of a person’s soul when we have found out someone we know has passed away.  We shared what we knew of our friend’s death, prayed together for the peaceful repose of her soul, and determined that even if the family doesn’t do something at St. Michael to remember her, we will.

When the leader of the Divine Mercy Cenacle was looking into nearby shrines we could visit as part of our retreat, she came across the only national shrine in our Diocese, Our Lady of Walsingham.  I’d never heard of the place or of that title for the Blessed Mother.  There is a replica of the statue in Walsingham, England, at The College of William and Mary.  On Sunday morning, we packed up and went to the shrine in Williamsburg for 11am Mass. 

I was drawn to the statue of the Blessed Mother holding Baby Jesus, but equally as compelling was the chapel filled with people.  There were a number of college-age musicians and singers, altar servers, and lectors.  After attending a university (Hollins) with a very small Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) and sharing a campus minister with another bigger school down the road (Roanoke College), I was ecstatic to see so many college students gathered for a Sunday morning Mass on campus. 

I recognized their priest, Fr. Glass, because I’d met him when Kevin and I had gone to visit our seminarian brother in Christ John when he was doing his summer assignment at St. Bede’s.  I was incredibly jealous when I picked up a bulletin and saw all of the CCM activities they had planned. Not only did they have plenty of opportunities for daily Mass, Adoration, and prayer, but they also had a number of wholesome social gatherings on the calendar. 

Saturday night my CRHP sisters and I played a game called The Game of Things.  “Things you should not do at a funeral” was one of the writing prompts.  I’d never played the game before.  I’m pretty sure I ended up with the lowest score since everyone could usually guess which list was mine. After all I’m a writer, the youngest one there by at least 15, maybe 20 years, and I like to use my active imagination to make others laugh.   

After Mass on Sunday, which included an inordinate amount of incense for a Mass in ordinary time, we went to a wonderful Italian restaurant called Sal’s by Victor.  The food was scrumptious!  Following our last meal together for the weekend, we made it from 64 East to my doorstep with very little fanfare.  I am so glad I went on the weekend!  I had no idea how desperately I’d needed some time away with ladies who know me and still love me.  I felt refreshed and rejuvenated.  It was the right amount of prayer, faith discussion, relaxation, catching up, and downtime for me.  

Lord, thank you for the gift of these women, for allowing us to come together with the purpose of growing closer to You in all areas of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Julia’s Gifts Great War –Great Love Series Book 1 by Ellen Gable

In her latest historical fiction novel, Ellen Gable tells the story of a 21-year-old woman who volunteers for the Red Cross during World War I.  She is sent overseas with one of her closest friends.  Most of the book takes place in France during the war.  At first, Julia is woefully unprepared for the realities of war, though she quickly adapts to getting her hands dirty taking care of injured soldiers in a field hospital in Soissons, France. 

A romance blossoms as the gifts Julia made and/or purchased for her future “beloved,” she gives away to help soldiers in need.  The novel is told mainly from two points-of-view, which adds to the intrigue and interest while also giving us two very different experiences of the war.  A number of detailed descriptions set the mood and the scene for this romance.  Some of the things that happened felt predictable but in a way that felt satisfying, in a Hallmark movie sort of way.    

As someone who prayed for my future husband before I'd met him and even after, before I was sure we would get married, I can identify with the hope and longing of having someone to love.  Like the author, I experienced many years of waiting for a guy I liked to notice me and be interested.  

I love that the author’s husband wrote all of the sonnets that appear in the correspondence between Julia and her beloved.  I also like the notions that prayers will be answered and love will inspire hope in darkest hours.  Both themes strengthen this war-time novel’s appeal. 

I have enjoyed Ellen Gable’s other historical fiction novels.  Among my favorites are: A Subtle Grace and In Name Only.

I’m interested in reading Charlotte’s Honor, Book 2 in the Great War – Great Love Series when it comes out in late 2018.   

Author Links

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links for Julia’s Gifts
November 1 (Open Book) Plot Line and Sinker
November 2 Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith
November 4 Karen Kelly Boyce
November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
November 7 Jean M. Heimann, Catholic Fire
November 9 Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You
November 10 Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom
November 11 Plot Line and Sinker Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post
November 12 Spiritual Woman Patrice Fagnant MacArthur
November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists
November 17 Barb Szyszkiewicz Catholic Mom
November 18 Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media
November 19 Erin McCole Cupp
November 20 Virginia Lieto
November 21 Elena Maria Vidal Tea at Trianon
November 22 Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller, The Divine Gift of Motherhood
November 23 Leslie Lynch, author
Others: Catholic Reads, Alyssa Watson

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Truly Present: Diocese of Richmond Fall Middle School Rally in Charlottesville

Sue, Laura, and I were Truly Present at the Middle School Rally.
Truly Present was the theme of the Fall Middle School Rally put on by our awesome Office of Evangelization.  We gathered in Charlottesville for a day of fun festivities, crafts, talks, and most importantly: prayer.  A large group of high schoolers gave up their Saturday to host the event.  They served as craft monitors, game hosts, and inflatable fun facilitators.  The guest speaker did a wonderful job of relating to both youth and adults.  He was actually the RA for a member of the Evangelization team.  She didn't realize it until she called him to come and speak to us.

My favorite part of the day was when we all gathered in the gym for a period of Eucharistic Adoration.  There’s something special about seeing so many middle schoolers and adults kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Fr. Miguel Melendez, who was just ordained last June, came and presided at Adoration and the Mass.  It was nice to hear him say Mass finally.  I’d heard his brother priests ordained in June with him, Fr. John Christian and Fr. Mark Kowalski say Mass, but it was my first time being at one of his Masses.  In his homily, he talked about his passion for playing soccer and how some of the characteristics of a good goalie are also things good Christians practice.

I was excited to see people from many of the parishes I’ve attended over the years, especially the ones who came all the way from Roanoke for the event.  I recognize a number of the youth ministers and volunteers, which always makes the experience more fun. 

What does it mean to be Truly Present?  Well, it means being willing to sit still, listen carefully, participate fully, and live in the moment.  I got the chance to practice all of these aspects of mindfulness that Saturday while hanging out with some of my favorite people.  It was a great day!

My Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping us be Truly Present to You and to one another.  We are so easily distracted by the media as well as our own opinions and agendas.  Please continue to draw us closer to You through times of much-needed, silent prayer. Amen.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Enjoy Your Day at Busch Gardens, Catholic Youth Day, and Making New Friends

In October, I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg for Catholic Youth Day.  That Saturday, I envisioned spending the day with high schoolers and a few adult chaperones mostly taking lots of photos with my camera, riding several rides, and, after dark, avoiding spooky spots and creepy people that would make me inclined to howl or scream.  The day didn’t go at all how I’d thought it would.

It turned out there were just enough seats on the bus for three adult chaperones and the high school teens who had signed up.  I was asked to ride out to the amusement park in a minivan with a sixth grader and his mom.  We had a lovely conversation about faith, EDGE (our middle school religious education program), Cursillo, being from upstate New York, and our families. 

After pulling into a parking space, I happened to check my camera.  The battery was down to one bar.  I’d forgotten to turn it off after deleting the photos on the memory card before leaving Richmond.  There was no longer any reason to lug my camera around all day if it didn’t have that much of a charge left.  Oh well to lots of picture taking.

We ended up beating the bus to Busch Gardens and easily found the booth marked Catholic Diocese of Richmond where we picked up our park tickets and blue wristbands.  At that point, I didn’t know that my new friend and her sixth grade son don’t really do rides.  I knew he was apprehensive about riding roller coasters, but I figured we could find some common ground. 

The only ride he felt like going on was the bumper cars.  He wasn’t much into going to shows, either, but since I was hungry for lunch, we ended up at Das Festhaus ® in Octoberfest Village while the Night Beats: Revamped show was in progress.  They insisted they were fine watching me go on rides, so I went on a few in Italy and Germany, hoping they’d change their minds and join me.  No such luck, but we were all still having fun.

Mass in Ireland

The highlight of the day was going to Mass in Ireland.  We all met up in line heading into the auditorium where the Celtic Fyre show takes place during the summer.  An altar had been set up center-stage.  Most groups were sitting together by parish.  People from all over the Richmond Diocese were there. 

Fr. Boehling presided at Mass with the help of two seminarians, Ben and Anthony, who are both serving their pastoral year in the Richmond area.  Director of the Office of Evangelization, Michael School was there with his hard-working crew to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

The last time I’d been in that space was to watch the Celtic Fyre show with a friend.  The set had been that of a pub in Ireland the day of a couple’s wedding.  Some decorations had been hung for Howl-O-Scream, but in front of what looked to be the gates of hell was a banner of Christ on the Cross.   The irony of such juxtaposition wasn’t lost on me. 

I realize there are different things that scare people.  For example, I’ll go on any roller coaster there.  I find them exhilarating.  What I don’t like is to be chased with a chainsaw or purposely scared out of my mind by some random guy, so I avoided those aspects of the after-dark park as much as I was able.  

There was one year when in college when I had an inordinate amount of fun scaring people as the hidden distraction at the end of the haunted warehouse tour, but that doesn’t mean I like to be on the receiving end of such attention. 

Of course, there are other people would rather not ride anything, even the carousel, but they are fine going into haunted houses, forests, or whatever and having people chase after them.  Go figure!

Roller Coaster Withdrawal

I was feeling strange not having ridden a single roller coaster, yet.  I thought after dinner I’d go off with the teens and adult chaperones, someone from our group who would wait in a long line and ride a roller coaster with me.  That was not meant to be. 

I was going to try and reconnect with another adult chaperone willing to go on a roller coaster and as adamant as I am about avoiding creepy dolls and possessed clowns.  I figured it would be too hard to find her, but, after discovering I’d left my keys in the minivan, I decided I should just ride back to the church with my new friend and her son instead of taking the bus. 

I couldn’t bear the thought of spending an entire day at Busch Gardens without riding a single roller coaster, so I handed my camera and purse to the mom, and headed to the long line for Verbolten.  I hoped I wouldn’t feel too awkward standing in line by myself for a long time alone, without my phone or camera.

An Unexpected Conversation and Ride Buddy

In under two minutes of being in line, I heard a woman behind me say, “Who am I going to ride with?”  I looked at her and noticed the group she was with had an odd number of people in it.  Everyone else had paired off, but her husband had decided not to ride. 

“I’ll ride with you,” I said.  “I don’t have anyone to ride with, either.” 

She linked arms with me, grateful to have a ride buddy.  Thus began a conversation that lasted the length of the line, which was over an hour.  Stella told me much of her life story, particularly the parts about how she never thought she’d get married or have children, and how she ended up doing both once she met the right person.  The two teenage girls in the group happened to be her daughters.  She asked me if I have kids.  Of course, it made me think of my Top Six Things Never to Say to Couples, Parents, or Caregivers post. 

We talked about religion.  She admires that I’m Catholic and asked about my relationship with Mary.  She told me she’s Baptist, but not the snake-handling, Jerry Falwell kind.  Her two teens kept rolling their eyes and were clearly embarrassed their outgoing mother had latched on to a complete stranger she’d just met.  I was grateful to have someone to talk with, but I could remember those years of distancing myself from my mom in public.  I was tempted to assure the two horrified daughters that they’d be over such sentiments about their mom probably within the next ten years, but I resisted.

Stella and I warned each other that we both scream really loud on roller coasters.  When we finally were in the station, we got in a line that had us shooting out of the station and returning before her daughters and their boyfriends even stepped onto the ride. 

When we got off, my friend since that morning and her son were waiting by the photo kiosks to see what our picture looked like.  Neither Stella nor I had any business cards with us, so she gave me one more hug (she felt there were several occasions for them during our rather personal conversation in line) and we parted ways. 

She’d told me where she worked, so the next day I looked them up online and sent an e-mail asking if the contact person named Stella is the same person who served as my line and ride buddy last Saturday at Busch Gardens.  I haven’t heard anything back, yet.  Maybe our friendship was only meant to last the length of a line to ride Verbolten.  I’d be fine with that.

Lord, thank you for unexpected connections and quick friendships that are centered on You.  Please help me to be a welcoming, easy to talk with companion for those who are feeling alone or in need of someone to listen. Amen. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Photos from Our Saturday Date to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

A Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) sister of mine gave Kevin and me a card and two passes to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for our 13th wedding anniversary.  She suggested we go see the butterfly exhibit.  I’d seen it before, and, of course, had taken photos, but Kevin had never been. 

As always, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  I took hundreds of photos while we were there, and Kevin talked to one of the gentlemen who works in the butterfly exhibit about the different types of butterflies and moths they have, where they came from, and what animals eat them.

At one point, Kevin had a winged-wonder land on his collar.  He stood as still as possible while it was there.  After hanging out mainly in the greenhouse where the butterfly exhibit and the orchids are kept, we had lunch in the cafĂ©.  We split a slice of their heavenly pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream on it for dessert.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Another Beautiful Baab Baptism

This past Saturday morning, we celebrated seven babies being Baptized.  I’ve been looking forward to this for months!  The silly sisters are now a foursome.  

A little more than two weeks after her rather quick birth, Daphne was Baptized by her uncle (Deacon) John in a beautiful ceremony that was much bigger than I’d envisioned.  Deacon Andy Ferguson led the service and John assisted. 

It was wonderful to see so many family members and friends gathered for the blessed occasion. We didn't get a chance to take all that many photos, afterwards, since Daphne was hungry, but I managed to get a few cute ones.

Our celebration continued at a nearby pizza place called Vinny's.  The food was delicious, and Daphne was fine with all of us taking turns to hold her.  She's so tiny!

Jeff, Carl, Jess, Laura, and John are the adults. Daphne,
Livie, Vivi, and Sophie are the kids.
It brought back fond memories of when the twins were Baptized, and Kevin and I were asked to be their Godparents.  We share that responsibility with two of Carl's siblings: Amy and Luke.

Their father Carl told us this past Saturday that if you become a Godparent to one of their children, then you’re eligible to become one to a child of equal or lesser value in the future for the cost of a penny.  Yes, he’s quite a character!

Our good friends Laura and Jeff Stapleton are the Godparents to the latest Baab girl.  Laura and I attempted to recreate the photo taken when the twins were Baptized, but it didn't turn out quite as we'd hoped.  As you can imagine, five-year-olds aren't typically into cooperating for photos any more than newborns are. 

Laura and I holding the twins on the day of their Baptism:
August 19, 2012.

Laura and I with the twins after Daphne's Baptism:
September 16, 2017.
Lord, thank you for the blessing of Daphne and all of the children who were  Baptized last Saturday.  Please help those of us who love and care about them to be good role models of the Catholic faith, so that throughout their lives they are led closer to Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Best Childcare/Teaching Training I've Ever Had Is Also a Book I Highly Recommend: Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D

The best two days of training I've ever had about working with children occurred during our teacher work week in August.  I’ve been to numerous lectures, read countless books, and gone to several conferences and workshops through the years to learn more about how to take care of and teach children.  I’ve gleaned information and tips from each, but this has been the most revolutionary approach I’ve come across for parents, teachers, and caregivers to use when dealing with toddlers through teenagers. 

Before we had the two-day training at the school where I work, I read the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen.  I love books, so that part was easy and very enjoyable for me.  The only regret I had when I got the end of the book and finished the training was that I wish I’d read this book twenty-six years ago when I first began providing childcare and tutoring.  Ah well.  Better late than never. 

The concept of treating children with respect and dignity isn’t new to me by any means.  I first learned it as part of my faith.  It has been reinforced ten-fold while I’ve been working at a Montessori school.  These principles for how to encourage and empower children to become independent have been time-tested and parent-approved. 

Our school had Positive Discipline trainer, father of four, and Head of School Chip DeLorenzo, M.Ed., CPDT come and conduct a two-day workshop onsite called "Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom."  I got so much out of it!   

After reading the book, I guessed that the training would be a lot more than two days of someone talking at us.  It was!  We got to experience and practice using the tools.  There was ample time to role-play as child/teacher some of the most familiar discipline challenges that arise in the classroom. 

Instead of having someone come and preach from on high the best way to do things, we had a teacher/father who is very much still in the trenches share with us how he has had to work hard to implement these suggestions both at home, in the classroom, and in his role as Head of School.  Chip was humble enough to tell us about his successes as well as his failures. 

I realized that one of the main things about my childhood that shaped my view of myself, others, and the world was how I thought of mistakes.  I felt that mistakes were embarrassing, humiliating, and major failures.  This program invites both adults and children to see mistakes as opportunities for learning.  What a brilliant idea!  Instead of berating ourselves for not getting it right the first time, we can offer the gentle reminder that we’re not perfect and neither is anyone else. 

Studies show that children want and need to feel the same two things that adults do: belonging and significance.  Most of their behavior, whether naughty or not, is an attempt to be recognized, accepted, and included.  There are four mistaken goals of children that are identified and described in an easy-to-use chart, so you can determine what a child is trying to get through his or her behavior.

I've already been employing some of the techniques with the kids, and they really do work.

I highly recommend reading the revised edition of the best-selling classic Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D.  During the nap/rest shift I work at school I've been reading Positive Discipline A Teacher's A-Z Guide.

If you're ready to take your teaching or parenting to the next level, this book and training are for you!  You can find out more about the trainer, Chip DeLorenzo, M.Ed., CPDT, we had conduct our two-day onsite workshop at his website: Developing Capable Children.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Feeding Your Family's Soul DVD by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

Back to school means back to schedules, homework, quicker mealtimes, and often less family time.  The Feeding Your Family’s Soul DVD will help give you some great ideas for how to make mealtime the ideal time for sharing the Catholic faith with your children while enriching your own prayer life.  

I know some parents who take their children to Mass every weekend, say prayers together with them every night as well as grace before meals.  Establishing these practices early on teaches children to think about God and other people while making them feel like an important member of the family. 

Just as Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle includes recipes, lessons, and prayers in her book Feeding Your Family’s Soul, she gives some additional tips for creative ways to teach kids in elementary school through high school about the Catholic Christian faith, prayer, and how to serve their family, friends, and community. 

It’s so easy to get stuck in the same routine when there is so much to fit in each day.  These short episodes provide family-friendly ways to make sharing a meal and spreading the tenets of the faith go together. 

Whether you sit down and watch the DVD with your spouse or you digest one episode at a time and try to implement the suggestions that inspire you, this DVD along with the book will give you a number of meaningful ways to grow closer to Christ.  It's also a phenomenal resource for children's catechists!

Watch the DVD trailer here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Lovely Luncheon with My Christ Renews His Parish Sisters

  Top row: Christine, Gina, Susan, Kami
Bottom row: Nancy Colette, Eileen, Me
For weeks I'd been looking forward to the gathering held on Saturday.  One of the women I'd made my Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) weekend with back in February 2009 invited all of us over to her house for a potluck lunch. Due to my previous health issues and the fact that Kevin and I have been roaming Catholics lately, I hadn't seen or gotten a chance to have a conversation with most of the ladies in our group for several months.

I'd received some prayer requests and the occasional update via e-mail, but that's not the same as sharing a meal or catching up over a cup of tea.

Though there is often a plan for our get-togethers, (a book study, a video to watch, a carefully-planned retreat), our hostess correctly assumed we'd most like a chance to find out what's going on in each other's lives since it had been so long in between gatherings in recent months.

After some one-on-one conversations and smaller groups convening in the kitchen, we all moved to the dining room table with our platefuls of food.  We discussed current local and world events, then we made our way around the table hearing an update from each person about how she and her family are doing.

We rejoiced in hearing the good news and promised to pray for those who are still in the midst of some difficult situations.  Those who could not join us that day were in our thoughts and prayers.  It was wonderful to receive so many hugs in such a short period of time.  That alone would have made the time special.

We all left feeling spiritually refreshed and that our friendships had been rekindled.  There was more than one person who expressed a desire to meet again soon.  Mention of a fall retreat at a certain special spot was made.

 My Prayer: Lord, thank You for this loving group of women who encourage me to grow closer to You. Amen.
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