Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lent and The Thirsting

Throughout this Lent, I’ve often thought of and listened to a song by The Thirsting called “Come Hold My Son.”  It’s a beautiful ballad from Our Mother Mary’s perspective as she was present with and for Jesus throughout his life, from conception to his death on the cross beckoning us to come and hold her only son. 

Last Saturday, I sat on one of the benches out near the grotto facing a replica of Michaelangelo’s Pietà and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I looked up at Mary’s face as she gazed at her son, and I tried to imagine what it would be like for a mother who has always loved her child dearly to let other people talk to, criticize, hurt, and abuse him the way they did.  

Throughout Christ’s life, Mary encouraged people to “come hold her son,” knowing from very early on that some people wanted to do Him harm.  She continues making this same invitation.  She beckons us to receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. 

Musical God Incidents 



Lead singer of the band The Thirsting Daniel Oberreuter was traveling through Richmond on the way to meet up with his Catholic band.  He did a concert at our parish this past January.  I talked my husband Kevin into coming with me, and we’re both really glad that we went.  The youth advocate at our parish Mike found this out and invited him to come speak to the middle school and high school youth.  Daniel not only did that, but he also played guitar and sang at all of the weekend Masses at St. Michael Church.  

The Thirsting is what you’d get if you smashed together R.E.M., U2, and Green Day, and made them all Catholic,” Daniel Oberreuter said.  Click here to listen to some of their songs.

Their work is all very faith-filled, often thought-provoking.  The versions we heard were mellower than they would have been if the whole band had been there.  Just Daniel and his guitar made for a more intimate evening of music.  Professional lights, sound gear, and obvious charm added to musical talent kicked things up a notch. 
  
I really enjoyed the concert! I like good music, meaningful lyrics, and people who are brave enough to go around the country/world sharing their talents as well as their Catholic faith.

A Man of Faith and Prayer

Daniel spoke about his wife and two young sons.  Most of what he shared had to do with his personal relationship with Christ and the Blessed Mother, which was jumpstarted when he was sixteen and began praying the Rosary daily. 
  
Pretty soon, he found a quiet place to pray while his family was down watching Seinfeld on TV.  It occurred to him that he probably wasn’t going to grow any closer to God by watching TV, but he could see how his relationship was already becoming more intimate as he meditated on the mysteries of the Rosary. 
  
Between songs, he shared stories about his life, faith journey, and struggles.  He emphasized the importance of the Sacraments.  One of my favorite songs that he wrote came to him when he was in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration.  He felt that Mary was inviting him to come hold Jesus which inspired him to write “Come Hold my Son,” a beautiful ballad from Our Mother Mary’s perspective as she was present with and for Jesus throughout his life, from conception to his death on the cross.  This was one of the songs Daniel performed during Mass, so it already felt familiar. 

And the Award for Best Business Card Back EVER Goes to Daniel Oberreuter:

  
When speaking about the Rosary, Daniel took his out and showed it to us.  He gave a deeply moving reflection on each of The Sorrowful Mysteries, each time ending with the question: “Is ten Hail Marys really enough?” 

His story about beginning to pray the Rosary daily at 16 reminded me of when I used to wake up extra early, before everyone else in the house to pray the Rosary each morning when I was in high school.  It was very fruitful, amazing prayer time.  Many of the insights I received into the mysteries of Christ’s life as well as the grace from those quiet moments of meditation at the start of the day are still with me.

We purchased two of their CDs which Kevin and I listen to several times a week.  The Thirsting is most definitely another band on our list of faith-filled favorites.  
  
To get more info about The Thirsting, check out their website, videos on Youtube, like them on Facebook, and/or download their music, click here.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bergoglio's List

What lengths would you go to in order to protect people in danger of imprisonment, torture, and death? Bergoglio’s List by international reporter and legal journalist Nello Scavo shows us what a young Jesuit priest who has since become pope did long before he was in the limelight.

Horrifying things happened in Argentina in 1976 when their military overthrew the government and for nine years led a dictatorship hell-bent on annihilating any and all opposition.  Many knew and respected Jorge Mario Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—who was a young priest in Argentina at that time. 

Soon after he was elected to be the next pope on March 13, 2013, a number of allegations were brought up about his allegiance and actions during the junta.  Scavo set out to get the facts about Father Bergoglio’s role as a Jesuit leader during the so-called Dirty War.

This book is a result of Scavo’s investigation, research, interviews, and court case transcripts, and eyewitness accounts Fr. Bergoglio was then, as he is now, a humble man of God seeking to serve the suffering in whatever ways he can.  During the nine year period of atrocities, the Argentine military abducted, tortured, and/or murdered 30, 000 people. 

What could a relatively young Catholic priest do in the face of such carnage?  Protect as many as he could from the military’s grasp using his connections, courage, and the conviction that he had to act in the face of such evil.  And that’s precisely what he did.   

Some have accused Fr. Bergoglio of turning a blind eye to what was happening around him.  They’ve said he did nothing to stop the vicious attacks on fellow priests, friends, men, women, and children.  Bergoglio’s List has mostly been discovered in the years since the junta.  The young priest helped save over 100 people the military intended to torture and/or murder. 

Some he was able to warn in advance.  Others he risked his life to plea for their freedom and spare them from torture.  A person who is holy and respectable possesses these traits even in the most dyer circumstances. 

What would Jesus do?  Probably exactly what this well-known Jesuit did: save as many people as he could from the atrocities of his time. 


I highly recommend reading Bergoglio’s List.  A great film this made me think of, though a different priest, circumstances, and a different time of war is The The Scarlet and the Black.  It’s definitely worth seeing and will give you an idea of the danger and secrecy necessary to protect people when the military was running the horror shows.  I received a free copy of Bergoglio’sList in exchange for an honest review.  For more information, or to purchase your own copy, click here

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Will You Be a Good Neighbor and Help This Family?

A family needs your help.  Five people who are very caring, loving, and giving are in need of your prayers and, if possible, your financial support.  Please check out this link for more info: 

Save the Dinas from Foreclosure 

I don’t usually share requests of this nature over my blog, but this particular one has hit closer to home than most.  Since my husband Kevin and I have experienced the tremendous stress of having unexpected, really high medical bills, we have a great deal more compassion for others facing such hard times.  Though we regularly give to church, various charitable organizations, and help family and friends in need, there was a time when we found ourselves struggling to pay the bills.    

I am still absolutely amazed at how people came together and were there for us.  I’m not sure how we would have gotten through that tough time of surgeries, a parent’s funeral, unemployment, and illness if we had not had people of faith to lift us up in prayer and step in when we’d run out of physical, emotional, and/or spiritual resources.  Sometimes, we’re given a chance to give back to people who are always giving so much of themselves.  This is one of those times.   
 
How Big Is a Mother’s Heart?

Sara is a pro-life advocate, mother of three daughters, and has served as the Campaign Director for the 40 Days for Life in Alexandria for a number of years.  When Sara and her family found out about a mother and daughter seeking refuge from a foreign country where Christians are being persecuted, they welcomed them to stay and live with them for a few months.  On another occasion, an African mother who was pregnant found out that their family is pro-life.  This woman with no knowledge of English and no family or friends lived with the Dinas for a year.  

My mom, a pro-life advocate, mother of three daughters, has served as the Campaign Director for the 40 Days for Life in Richmond.  When women in crisis and their children have needed a safe place to stay, my mom has opened the doors to her home and invited them in.  Some people stayed for a matter of days, others for weeks, some for many months.   

Clearly some mothers have hearts that reach far beyond the love and relationships in her own household.  A nurturing wife, mother, volunteer, Respect Life leader, pro-life advocate, and friend is a tremendous blessing to her family as well as her community.  Let’s do what we can to support these remarkable mamas! 


What can you do to help the Dina’s?  They really need your prayer cover right now.  Your financial support could also make a huge difference.  For more info about the Dinas and their circumstances, and/or to donate, click here.  There are only six days left for us to pitch in!

God Nudges (My Nanny Diary)

A year ago December, God nudged me, again.  He told me it was time to move on. It didn’t make sense to me or to Kevin.  I was the one with a steady income when Kevin had been out of work for six months.  Why would I stop working for a family we love, and leave what I know how to do to risk not making ends meet?  Because God made it clear to me it was time. 

How did I know?  My husband and I both prayed about it and agreed that we were getting the same message from the Lord.  Also, as I said I was given strength, courage, and peace to do something I didn’t think I could go through with.  I gave the family five weeks’ notice, so they’d have ample time to look for another childcare provider.  I offered suggestions and said I’d be happy to help in the interviewing process of other potential candidates.  

My separation anxiety wasn’t nearly as severe this time, because we are good friends with the family and still spend time with them.  Kevin and I are each Godparents to one of the twins.  We’ve often been invited to the girls’ birthday parties, holidays, and big family gatherings. 

Once in a while, I’ll stop over and visit the girls.  We save them seats on the end of a row when we go to the same Sunday evening Mass as they do.  The girls are always excited to see us.  They come over, want to be picked up, sit on our laps, and snuggle up to us.  Most importantly: they know we still love them lots!  

Discernment Review (14 months later)

Recently, I have seen some more of the reasons why God nudged me to move on, ones I couldn’t possibly have foreseen.  The main and most obvious one: Kevin was out of work for over a year, always looking for a new job but not finding anything until last November.  We needed the income I make working at school to make ends meet during that time. 

I’ve felt encouraged and inspired by the creativity and ideas my coworkers have, the child education trainings I’ve taken, and the on-the-job experience I’ve gotten working in different classrooms, with a variety of age groups and teachers. 

I’ve been able to pick up some steady hours that allow me to make it to daily Mass, if I’m so inclined.  I haven’t been so exhausted in general for a number of reasons, in part due to some significant changes I’ve made to my diet.  I also had the time and energy to serve on the Women’s Cursillo team last April as well as begin our two year spiritual direction course. 

The moral of the story: When God says move on, just do it!  The reasons why might be clearer with time, and/or you're more likely to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit the next time you hear the Lord's still small voice calling you to trust and follow Him in all aspects of your life if you test what you discern in prayer, confirm it with others, and heed it.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Celebrations, Prayers, and Memories

Michele Morris gave me the hat I'm wearing in the opposite photo before she entered Carmel. She wasn't handing it over as a sign that she was giving up her sense of humor or enjoyment of the dramatic.  Fortunately, both are still intact.  

She bequeathed it to me, because I'd included a similar-looking one in a photo collage I once made her in honor of her initial visit to see the Carmelite Sisters by the Sea.  (I'll post the What Not to Wear Religious Vocation special edition I made for her another day).  

He's All Mine!

"The top o'the hill to ya!" Kevin said.  "Isn't that what the Irish say in the morning?"
"Um, you mean top o' the morning to ya?" I said.
"Oh, yeah." 

Kevin prepared a nice home-cooked dinner one St. Patrick’s day.  He brought my plate out to the table then quickly took it back into the kitchen. 
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“You’ll see.”  He soon came back and set the meat in front of me proudly: “It's corned beef!” He had put one kernel of corn on top of my steak.  Yup, that’s my husband!

Two Popular Posts on St. Patrick and Ireland:

St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer the popular prayer in its entirety

Our Pilgrimage to Ireland some stories from when my mom, sisters, and I made a pilgrimage to Our Lady Queen of Peace House of Prayer

A Wee Bit of Singing and Dancing (My Nanny Diary)


When I was taking care of “my two little guys,” I’d often play the Water from the Well CD by The Chieftains. We’d sing and dance around the kitchen to the lively music at a particular wee one’s house (who actually had red hair as a little lad).  

This morning, I was trying to think of the name of the group and could not for the life of me remember it.  Fortunately, Kevin did.  Here is the most fitting song from that album for my man of many talents (and tools):

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Raising Suicide Awareness and Promoting Prevention

A drawing by Brittany Niermeyer March 2015
Need an excellent resource on Depression & Suicide Prevention?  STOP here!
This info-packed website has tons of informative articles, links, lists, and resources.  They also have a great motto: 
Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business


Check out this info-packed website for the signs that someone might be suicidal and tips on how to help them.  Don’t ignore them.  Seek help and support for your loved one as well as yourself.  

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
 1-800-273-TALK (8255), provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 
7 days a week.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How and Why I Broke My Addiction to Sugar

To answer two questions I get a lot lately: yes, I have.  No, I didn’t.  Let me explain.  Yes, over the past six months I have lost a significant amount of weight.  No, my motivation wasn’t to get back into the single digit sizes I wore in my teens and 20s.  That seemed like a rather unreasonable, unnecessary, and unattainable goal.  I was pretty resigned to being a size ten or higher for the rest of my adult days, and most of the time I was fine with that

I'm not really into working out.  I figure if I walk around the playground  for 30+ minutes or dance with the kids at school (if we're stuck inside), then I'm doing well enough on that front.  I've never belonged to a gym or anything.  Walking, dancing, badminton, playing tag, and chasing after young children are basically the extent of my "exercise."

Then I found out two things from my doctor that really concerned me: 1.) I might need surgery, and 2.) I’m borderline for Type 2 diabetes.  It’s remarkable how quickly I’m willing to consider alternative, natural options when you threaten me with a knife, a laser, or a needle.     

I stared at the list of foods it was recommended I cut out of my diet.  I was more than just a little skeptical I could pull it off.  Sure, I could cut out one or two of the categories on the list.  Red meat and dairy, be gone!  But I couldn’t see myself sticking to any diet for the long haul that required I stop consuming so many of the things I’ve eaten all my life. 
I’ve always liked candy, cookies, ice cream, cake, and other sweets, so I was extremely incredulous that I would be able to remove almost all refined sugar from my diet.  For most of my life, I indulged my sweet tooth whenever possible.  Ice cream, frozen yogurt, candy, cookies, soda and such could usually be found in our fridge or the pantry, so I'd help myself.         

Back to Basics Bible Style

Last Spring, a friend of mine through Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) joined a group that would be reading about and attempting what is called The Daniel Fast.  I was intrigued by this idea.  My sister, her best friend, and a group of women at their church in Ohio did the Daniel Fast together last year as well.  

I’d researched it a little bit, but I figured I should give it a try once I compared the anti-inflammatory "what not to eat" list recommended by my doctor and the "what to cut out" foods listed for The Daniel Fast and realized that many of them overlapped.  

Of course, the spiritual element of prayer, Scripture study, and fasting appealed to me.  I knew that it would only be through the grace of God that I would be able to cut out basically all refined sugar. 

My mom and sister did The Daniel Fast together this past fall.  I decided I would start mine on October 1, 2014.  I had a CRHP retreat I was making and one for our two year spiritual direction (SDI) course in September, so I figured I should wait until after those to go on a strict diet. 

Curious to see if I could even pull off The Daniel Fast, I started a week or two early passing up almost all cake, cookies, sweets, and other treats.  I knew the true test would be the CRHP retreat when I was sleeping on a sofa ten steps away from the kitchen that was well-stocked with a variety of sugary delights.  I wondered if I’d be able to pass on cake and such during the day only to lie awake all night with constant cravings for candy, cake, cookies, chocolate.  

I made it. One of the most shocking things of all is that I didn’t have as hard a time greatly reducing my sugar and wheat intake as I thought I would.  I could participate in the prayer time, discussions, meals, and relaxation periods without feeling like at any moment, I would break down and rush into the kitchen to feast on any desserts and sweets in sight.       

Addiction and Grace

Another prominent reason for me to do The Daniel Fast is that one of the books I read for our Spiritual Direction Institute course talks about the nature and danger of addictions.  I’ve always figured that I’m doing pretty well by avoiding completely what often become people's big addictions.  I don't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, do drugs, gamble, or watch pornography.  I couldn't really have a serious addiction (aside from loving reading and books), right?!  

What I didn’t realize and wasn’t prepared for is that, we all have addictions.  There are elements in each of our lives that drive our thoughts, decisions, emotions, and behaviors a great deal more than we think they do.  Reading Addiction & Grace by Dr. Gerald May helped me realize some things about addiction in general, myself in particular. 

Addiction& Grace is an in-depth look at human nature, the way the mind, body, and spirit work, and how all are subject to God’s love through grace.  By weaving together an impressive variety of strands from psychology, neurology, and spirituality, May illustrates the complexity of each human being as well as each person’s simplicity.  

May defines addiction in a way that is much broader than some probably would be inclined to think of it, but he clarifies how we are affected by different types of addictions as well as what will likely be necessary in order to treat them.  He talks about not replacing addictions with other addictions, but allowing the space they once filled to remain.  The writing is easy to read and includes a number of perspectives from different world religions, though, he mostly focuses on Christianity.    

I find it fascinating to have come upon this book and felt compelled to read it now, as I have recently experienced the freedom of having broken my addiction to sugar.  As with most addictions, I didn’t think that it was too detrimental or pervasive as an attachment, but once I cut out almost all processed sugar from my diet, I learned otherwise.  For one thing, I honestly wasn’t sure if I could stop eating any candy, cookies, cakes, sweets, or desserts completely for any length of time.  This sort of thinking clearly points to an addictive behavior

Through a customized plan of prayer and fasting undertaken for 21 days, I discovered how serious and detrimental my addiction to sugar had become.  Doing The Daniel Fast really opened my eyes to what May writes about: the necessity of admitting we all have addictions, creating a plan of action, having a willingness to accept the grace God gives us, as well as the support of other people in order to make changes. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Grace and New Beginnings (My Nanny Diary)

My helping out with Sunshine started innocently enough.  I offered to pitch in and babysit since they only needed someone now and again.  Kevin and I were in a situation at that time which made it so I could even take care of her without charging them anything. 

I know God had changed my heart and my mind about nannying again when I found myself thinking and praying about offering to take care of Sunshine on a more regular basis when her dad got a new job.  

It was something that I prayed long and hard about.  I kept asking God to make clear what would be best for all involved.  Eventually it became clear to both Kevin and me that nannying for Sunshine is what God was asking of me.  With that reassurance, I offered to do what I thought I would never be able to do, again. 

After a couple years of taking care of one singular sensation, her twin sisters, who had previously been referred to as “babies in pants,” arrived on the scene.  Once their mom’s maternity leave was over, I was the busy nanny of a toddler and two infants three to four days a week.  Looking back, I sometimes wonder how I managed it even for ten hour increments.       

Here are some highlights of our many adventures:  





Saturday, March 7, 2015

Update on Our Favorite Cute Carmelite: She's Currently Uncloistered

I was overjoyed to hear her voice, again, but I knew immediately something had to be amiss if she was calling me. Though we used to talk, text, e-mail, and hang-out regularly, she hadn't spoken to me since August 6, 2013. I have kept a message saved on my phone which she left me back in the Spring of 2013 when she'd received some exciting news just so I can hear her voice once in a while. 

Our friend has been able to write and receive letters at Christmastime and Easter, so we've kept in touch that way.  I figured that's the only contact we'd have for the next six years.  Only immediate family members can visit.  They let her talk with her mom on the phone once in a while since they live on opposite sides of the country, but that was it.    

Two Fridays ago, I got a very unexpected call.  The number was one I didn't recognize, but it came up as Carmel.  I was confused but answered it right away.  I was stunned to hear Michele's voice after so long.  She called to tell me that the following Tuesday she would be leaving the Carmelite Sisters by the Sea.  She shared about her, at times, very arduous discernment process, and told me where she would be going next.  I can’t tell you how good to hear her voice on a real live phone call!    

The dear friend of ours who once initiated a round of Hokey Pokey in the St. Benedict's parking lot after Mass put her whole self into the Carmelite Sisters by the Sea.  After some significant prayer and discernment, she and two other wise spiritual advisers discerned it was time for her to take her whole self out.  I'll let her explain:
  
Michele Morris's message to the Cursillo family and beyond: “HELLO!  :)  I am doing well and after many wonderful, in-depth, conversations with Reverend Mother and my spiritual father (a priest who has been serving as  one of my primary spiritual and discernment guides), we came to a peaceful and grace-filled decision for me to leave the Monastery and follow God wherever He wishes me to be next.  Currently I am staying with Carmelite Hermits in Newport WA and am enjoying the solitude and rest.  I'm not sure how long I'll be here or where I will be going next.  I am truly living in the present and not knowing about what is to be is quite nice for once.  I love you all. Know that you are always in my prayers."

Well, there you have it.  I’ll write some more about this aspect of her discernment and some of her other hilarious, very Michele-like adventures in future posts.  Please keep her in your prayers as she continues following wherever the Lord leads her and serving in whatever ways He needs her.  

Feel free to contact me if you would like her new mailing address.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another Time to Move on When Unsure of What Was Next (My Nanny Diary)

I was devastated when I stopped taking care of my two little guys, because I knew I would miss them terribly.  I’d been there for so many of their joys and sorrows, triumphs, milestones, and evidence that even before they were nine months old they were already too clever for their own good.  I missed what I called “my daytime family.”  There was such tremendous sorrow in my heart, because I felt like my time of being as close to a mom as I may ever get had ended. 

In some ways, it felt like I was mourning the loss of two sons.  It hit me hard while I was at Mass the other day that part of the reason that I feel working with elementary school students is a good fit for me now is that’s how old “my two little guys” are currently. 

I can’t even imagine what it is like to lose a child.  That is one of the things I’m not sure I could make it through.  If my heart was ripped in two when two boys I knew would only be in my care for a period of time, I figured I couldn’t handle the full-fledged emotions that would come from being someone’s biological or legal parent.

The pain I felt then was so deep, I genuinely believed that I wouldn’t be able to do foster care or adoption, because of the possibility that the child could be sent back into a home that was not really safe or best for him or her.  I didn’t think (and sometimes still don’t believe) I could stand it.

I also never thought I’d nanny for anyone, again.  I was afraid to love any children so deeply and completely as I loved and love the boys, because eventually the time would come to say goodbye to them, too.  I didn’t think I’d have the strength for that, either. 

God, in His infinite wisdom, proved me wrong, again.  Thank goodness for the sunshine of a brand new beginning five years ago last month.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fed-Up with February

February, I’m through with you! 

I’ve had enough of your bad news,
Winter blues, and worn-out shoes.
I can’t wait until I can march on over
into something that resembles Spring. 

I’m ready to have a word
with this Punk named Phil. 
They say he’s so tawny,
but my sources say he’s scrawny.

Groundhog, get back into your hole.
It’s time to slow your roll.
I’ve had enough ice and snow.
This slush fund gotta go. 

Stop hibernating and listen.
Your latest ratings are fizzing
Out like a light, blow out a candle
I’m gonna guess this
Is more than you can handle.
You’re billed as the prediction to follow.
Too bad your meteorology’s hollow.

Even the movie about your day
Is nothing but a broken record
stuck on play.
If Bill Murray’s willing
to kill all the gophers
Without any reason,
Then you best be looking out
For even the slightest
scent of treason
instead of allowing
this lousy lingering season
to last even so long as
another month and a half.

No tunnels are deep enough to escape dynamite.
Dina might blow her horn,
put a stop to your whole operation,
Your systemized manipulation 
of adults who should have better sense
than to give recompense to a furry creature
clueless as to what’s happening
from sapping their long-time gimmick
too silly to fit in a concise limerick
about two pouncing cats,
street scrappers without any clappers

left standing at the end of the day. 

February, it is so over.
Go ahead and get gone. 
I'm ready to get my spring on!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Not the Mama (My Nanny Diary)

I’ve been thinking about how eleven years ago I was taking care of two little boys who I loved and cared for as if they were our own.  Most weeks, I took care of them for 50+ hours, so we became very close.  We were together so often that not a day or long weekend would go by that I wouldn’t be thinking, talking, or dreaming about them.  By Sunday evening, if not sooner, I always missed them and was grateful I would get to see them bright and early Monday morning.  

One weekend, Kevin and I took care of one of “my little guys” so his parents could get a much needed couple of nights away, just the two of them.  Their son was so used to me taking care of him and Kevin coming over to visit that he never once asked where his parents were. 

Not even when I was the one to come and get him when he woke up in the morning.  His only comments were about what I was wearing: “Glasses.” (He usually only saw me when I was wearing contacts.) and “Stripes” (The pattern on my pjs).  He didn’t spend the weekend sulking or pouting that his parents were gone.  Of course, he was incredibly excited to see them when they came home.   

That weekend was the annual Walk for Life held by our local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We made posters, and my family members took turns pushing his stroller during the walk which began at Immanuel Baptist that year.  Back then my dad was still able to join us for the Walk as well as Mass at Church of the Epiphany.  He was actually quite thrilled to have one of our family’s favorite little guys at church with us. 

Sometimes when I watch our nephew playing, I remember what my dad was like when he’d come to visit or meet up with me and “my two little guys.”  Dad always loved being around kids and came up with a seemingly endless array of ways to entertain them without any toys.  There are times when I feel as though my heart is being pierced because I don’t get to see our nephew and my dad playing together, at least not in person on this side of Heaven. 

Lord, thank You for the blessing of the children You have brought into our lives to care for, love hold, dry their tears, laugh with, sing, dance, and pray with over the years.  Please help us be open and loving to those children who remain in our lives or will come into them soon.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Birthday Party: Oldest of the Three Silly Sisters Turns Five

 They know how to throw a child’s birthday party.  Snacks, drinks, and birthday cake were offered.  Chairs were lined up around the room for optimum visiting opportunity.  One of the twins would let out a jubilant yell each time someone else would come in the front door.  The birthday girl would run to hug the latest guest.  Everyone was welcomed and free to be themselves. 

Her aunts and uncles enjoyed playing Tic/Tac/Toe and Hangman on the magnetic erase elephant they spotted.  In other words, there was an elephant in the room, and they made good use of it.  Balls of tissue paper kept flying across the room as certain (older) siblings couldn’t resist the temptation to pelt each other whenever possible.  New stuffed animals were passed or tossed around.  The fluffy sheep made the rounds of the family members who have the sound that particular animal makes in their last name. 

Both sets of grandparents were in attendance.  The birthday girl was enthusiastic and efficient about opening presents.  Once some of the more elaborate toys were unwrapped, batteries added, and such, a roomful of intelligent adults and three young children watched intently as a pink puppy dog and matching car motored around on the floor. 

I decided I wasn’t going to risk using my phone camera for this event.  Yes, my camera was probably the oldest one being used and likely has the lowest number of megapixels per square anything, but so what.  I feel I was able to capture the spirit of the party and the essence of what was happening all around. 


I’m grateful that these friends of ours do not feel it is necessary to come up with any party games or specific activities they want everyone to participate in.  They just let people come, love on their three adorable girls, and enjoy spending time together over cake, an assortment of old toys and some brand new ones.    

The event was scheduled to last (and did) a reasonable for young children when cake and presents are involved amount of time of two hours.  I imagine if Kevin and I had children of our own, that celebration is very much what their birthday parties would look like: laid back, fairly simple, enjoyable for adults as well as the under six age group, and fun. 

Lord, thank You for the gift of this family and this beautiful little girl in our lives.  She has brought so much joy, laughter, and blessings to us in such a short time.  May she always know how loved she is by You as well as her family and friends.  Amen.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let's Hear It for the Boys! (My Nanny Diary)

This week I received a photo card that brought a huge smile to my face.  Though it's still easier for me to envision the little blond cutie as an infant and toddler, he's a quite handsome young man now.  I've already been thinking about how eleven years ago I was taking care of two little boys who I loved and cared for as if they were our own.  

Most weeks, I took care of them for 50+ hours, so we became very close.  We were together so often that not a day or long weekend would go by that I wouldn’t be thinking, talking, or dreaming about them.  By Sunday evening, if not sooner, I always missed them and was grateful I would get to see them in the morning.    

One weekend, Kevin and I took care of one of “my little guys” so his parents could get a much needed couple of nights away, just the two of them.  Their son was so used to me taking care of him, and Kevin coming over to visit that he never once asked where his parents were. 

Not even when I was the one to come and get him when he woke up in the morning.  His only comments were about what I was wearing: “Glasses.” (He usually saw me wearing contacts.) and “Stripes” (The pattern on my pjs).  He didn’t spend the weekend sulking or pouting that his parents were gone.  Of course, he was incredibly excited to see them when they came home.   

That weekend was the annual Walk for Life held by our local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We made posters, and my family members took turns pushing his stroller during the walk.  Back then my dad was still able to join us for Mass at Church of the Epiphany.  He was actually quite thrilled to have one of our family’s favorite little guys at church with us. 

Sometimes when I watch our nephew playing, I remember what my dad was like when he’d come to visit or meet up with me and “my two little guys.”  Dad always loved being around kids and came up with a seemingly endless array of ways to entertain them without any actual toys.  There are times when I feel as though my heart is being pierced because I don’t get to see our nephew and my dad playing together, at least not in person on this side of Heaven. 

Lord, thank You for the blessing of the children You have brought into our lives to care for, love hold, dry their tears, laugh with, sing, dance, and pray with over the years.  Please help us be open and loving to those children who remain in our lives or will come into them soon.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Time to Grieve, the Need to Mourn

I had a heavy heart and felt that I was close to tears for most of that day, but I wasn’t sure all of the reasons why.  I could identify some of them.  It's been a rough month for our family in year's past. My grandma was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in February of my Freshman year of high school.  A loved one suffering from depression needed to be hospitalized for the first time that month to stay safe and remain alive.  Both of my grandmothers' funerals were in the beginning of February: one when I was 11 and the other just two years ago.  My grandmother who had cancer lived to the ripe old age of 89.     

Last year February was pretty miserable unfortunately. What's worse, three years ago, the sadness seeped into March with news that my cousin John Niermeyer had taken his life.  The last time I had seen John was at my dad's funeral in 2009.   

Tears didn't start streaming down my face until I read on Facebook that 13 years ago on February 8th was when a friend of ours lost his son to suicide. The message below and photo above are from Robert's dad, whose last name is also Potter.  (He and his wife are siblings in Christ to Kevin and me, but not blood relatives, as far as we know). 

"It was 13 years ago you chose to leave us. Miss you and love.
Thanks to the great people that I saw today at Church of the Sacred Heart and St. Edward's, though you may not have said anything today, seeing you reminded me of all the good in this world.
A special thanks to Chris D for the tears of joy he brought me this afternoon.
May God continue to bless all that have lost a loved one to suicide."
Daniel Calder

We are blessed that Galen and his wife Janet have shared their faith journey with us.  We know them through Cursillo, but we've gotten to know them even better as they are in our Spiritual Direction class with us.  The four of us are paired up as spiritual direction partners for this year. Seeing this Facebook post reminded me of the heart-to-heart we had during our Spiritual Direction retreat in September when Galen shared with me about what had happened with his son.

Last spring, I served on team with Julie, whose son Daniel took his life in 2013.  During our team overnight at Richmond Hill, I asked to speak with Julie after people had retired to their rooms.  I told her that I have experienced bouts of depression for years, including periods of wishing my life would just end.  I asked her to pray for me.  I know that she did and has been. 

I still don’t know what to say to someone who has lost a loved one due to suicide or some other tragic and unexpected death.  I’m sorry for your loss isn’t adequate.  I’ll hold you while you cry seems more appropriate.  I can do that.  I’ll pray for you is the best I can offer, so I do.  I know I don’t have the ability to take away someone’s pain, but I will be present and prayerful in the midst of their hurting.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

To Write is to Write is to Write

Last month, reading On Writing Well and The Writer Who Stayed by William Zinsser raised some interesting questions for me.  Am I writing predominantly for the sheer joy of it and/or more because it helps me process my ideas and record my thoughts in a place where they are safe for me to mull over without external interference? 

As I have been reading different columns and magazines, blogs, and online articles in addition to good old fashioned books, it’s occurred to me to wonder what my motivation is for writing.  I like to write and feel compelled to do so.  More recently, I have felt more aware that it is a talent I’m meant to use and need to be responsible for. 

When it comes to what I’m passionate about, sometimes I get lost in a sea of my own “coulds” and “shoulds.”  No matter where I look, it seems I’m reminded of another thing I could or should be doing: organizing, cleaning, decorating, paying bills, balancing checkbooks, doing laundry, writing thank you notes, composing another blogpost, reworking a piece and submitting it to a publisher of periodicals, reading and reviewing books, coming up with some dances to do to the new CDs we have at school which I’ve brought home to listen to during the break… 

I don’t like feeling uneasy, unable to concentrate on or be fully present in the moment.  I feel that I should always be doing something useful and beneficial to other people with my time.  I could be praying or reading something uplifting.  I could always be doing something, but then I’m reminded that I’m a human being addicted to doing.  Do I really believe way deep down in my soul that God, my family, and close friends would love me even if I was not frantically running about from one activity to the next?

Yes, I believe that about God and those closest to me, especially when I slow down long enough to listen and allow myself to be loved and accepted just the way I am.  

I’m brought right back to the theme of my Cursillo weekend in June 2006: “Be Still and Know.” That message and practice of being in God’s presence came at a time when I was pretty anxious and unsure of what was next.  Here's my favorite book on the theme by a local author and fellow Cursillista: Sabbath Presence.  

Can You Hear Me Now?

“This isn’t about me.  This is about a 4th Day obedience to prayer,” a gentleman said, holding up a stack of his journals.  I knew the man giving witness talk at last Friday’s Ultreya was talking to me.  Sometimes, I get away from writing even though I know it is good for my ongoing discernment, prayer, personal growth, and processing through the written (or typed) word.  I had never been to an Ultreya before last Friday at which the witness focused solely on journaling as an important and powerful form of prayer.  Yes, God, I’m listening.  Got the message loud and clear.  Just write! 

Someone asked if my journals are written in the form of letters to God.  I have both regular this is what I did today journals as well as those that are specifically prayer journals.  Often my journal entries in recent years have been a hybrid of the two.  Many times, processing events, thoughts, and feelings through writing leads me to prayer and contemplation.  I used to keep one report of the dailies sort of journal as well as a prayer journal. 

I also tend to write poetry, prose, and verse in some longer pieces of journal entries.  Some of it I share with others and others I don’t.  If only one person on the planet gets to read or hear it, usually that would be Kevin and/or occasionally a cloistered Carmelite.  

On Friday at Mass, the priest spoke about the importance of personal prayer time as well as sharing the riches from that with the community.  I have often thought that if I don't spend ample time in prayer and contemplation, spiritual reading and study, that I won't be grounded or well-read enough to have anything worthwhile saying.  I realize some saints weren't even literate.  I know what I'm lacking in holiness can never be made up or compensated for by how many books I've read.     

Lord, thank You for reminding us in a myriad of ways how we can pray, become closer to You, and live out all of the vocations to which You have called us.  Amen.  
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