Catholic Sistas Post

On Potholes, Pity Parties and Problematic Pants

“They’re just so ugly,” I told my sister-in-law last week. “They don’t fit, I did not order them and I do not want to wear them.”

“And they are so not in your color wheel,” she said sympathetically.

“I know, right?” I countered. “Obviously there was no consultation involved. I would like to return them.”

“But you can’t,” she said.

“I know,” I sighed.

The offending piece of attire we were bashing? My Big Girl Pants.

I was not in the mood to put them on. I knew I had to, but that did not stop me from whining about it.

The Big Girl Pants are never a welcome sight in my world, because they signify a looming cross that I will need to take up and carry. I had hoped that I had successfully avoided the need to don the Big Girl Pants for a short time, all the while dreaming that it was a permanent separation. Nope. They were back. They were insistent. And they were definitely accompanied by a cross.

We all have crosses to bear in this life. I often tell my seminar attendees that Jesus did not say, “Pick up your Ghirardelli chocolate bar and follow me.” Or, “Pick up your new car and follow me.” Or “Pick up your Lotto winnings and follow me.” No, sorry. He specifically said “Pick up your cross and follow me.”  And, because they are crosses and not feather pillows, they are uncomfortable. They are heavy. They can even hurt. We don’t want to pick them up at all, much less carry them around for any significant length of time.

But despite the oh-so-wise things I say in my presentations, when this new cross of mine was on the horizon, I spent some time prayer journaling, aka having a downright pity party about it. Try as I did to avoid the pothole of sadness and despair that is often associated with this cross, I ultimately flung myself headlong into said pothole. I implored. I complained. I got mad. I brazenly suggested other options to the Creator of the Universe: “Why couldn’t it be this way or that way instead, God?”

Read the rest of the post over at Catholic Sistas here.

Catholic Sistas Post

Book Review: The Kingdom of Happiness

Happiness—it seems so elusive in our everyday lives, doesn’t it? This is likely not because it doesn’t exist anymore, or because we humans are a hopelessly discontent lot or even that we are too lazy to pursue it. More likely it is that we aren’t pursuing the correct definition of happiness, and therefore we miss the mark.

This is the premise of Father Jeffrey Kirby’s book, Kingdom of Happiness—Living the Beatitudes in Everyday Life (Saint Benedict Press, 2018). Father Kirby asserts (rightly) that Jesus is and has the path to authentic happiness, and that Jesus did us the favor of laying out that path when he gave his Sermon on the Mount and presented the Eight Beatitudes.

The word beatitude means “blessed”; this is a foundational understanding that starts us down the path. Happiness then, Biblically speaking, is defined in the book as “receiving, accepting and seeking to live in a state of beatitude, a condition of being blessed.” “Happiness,” Fr. Kirby contends, “is the satisfaction that comes from beatitude and the awareness of this blessing, and its providence, power and purpose in our lives.”

Through personal stories, practical examples, Scripture-based study and reflection questions, Father Kirby reaches out and leads us through a methodical uncovering of the providence, power and purpose we are meant to experience. He dissects the beatitudes with careful attention and a tone of encouragement, drawing out the meaning of Jesus’ teaching and convincing the reader that she can leave behind despair and reach a more meaningful existence with the Beatitudes as a compass.

There is an abundance of spiritual gold in this book. In Chapter 1, Blessed are The Poor in Spirit, my yellow highlighter was especially busy. Fresh insights such as “In our lives and in our own choices, we have to approach the kingdom of happiness with a poverty of spirit,” and “Being poor in spirit means we choose not to command things of God, our world, our loved ones, or of ourselves. We truly surrender and seek to be open to receive all things as a gift from our heavenly Father and to generously give ourselves in service to our neighbors,” are now etched in my brain. Before reading this book, actually seeking to be poor in spirit was not on my radar as a consideration.

Read the rest of the review at Catholic Sistas here

OPEN BOOK--What I'm Reading Now

It is Better to Receive

Sometimes, especially when it comes to God’s love, it’s better to receive than give.

The seed of this *face palm* realization was planted when I read the beautiful book, Thirsting for Prayer by Jacques Philippe. In the chapter where he describes conditions that are necessary for prayer to be fruitful, these words struck me: In our subtle pride, we want to do beautiful things for God instead of trying to find out what God wants to do for us gratuitously.  *Gulp*.  I recognized myself in that sentence.  I am often so caught up in my intention to do something for God that I forget to focus on the prerequisite requirement of loving and being loved by Him fully. “Merit does not consist of doing or giving a lot, but rather of receiving and loving a lot,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. Tricky!

It’s about love, the Holy Spirit reminded me. Specifically, God’s love for me and how I need to let that, first and foremost, be the compelling force behind my relationship with him and behind any works that result. But I have to let Him love me first. Let it, I felt God saying to my heart one morning while prayer journaling about the Thirsting for Prayer book. Let love come in. Allow it. Receive it. Let LOVE enter, and let LOVE be the guide for my actions. I can’t go charging ahead without it.  It can be prideful to keep asking “what can I do for you?” Father Jacques pointed out. Instead, my phrasing should be a more humble, “Please open me so that you can love and work through me, with me and for me.” It’s a subtle difference, but one with great implication.

God is faith, hope, love. He is a generous giver. He wants to give me an abundance of faith, hope and love through prayer and the sacraments and scripture.

And receiving it is priority No. 1 for those of us Thirsting for Prayer!

Catholic Sistas Post

Getting Out of the Baby Pool

“The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

–Pope Benedict XVI

I have always loved this succinct quote from Pope Benedict. It’s a jolting statement that both convicts and motivates me.

And so does this particular, albeit more informal version: “Get out of the Catholic baby pool!”

This blunt directive is not a quote from a saint or a pope—it is something I wrote several years ago in the journal I use at Eucharistic Adoration. The words came to me quite suddenly, an unmistakable holy whisper to my heart, as I sat silently praying in the Adoration chapel and asking the Lord for guidance and direction. This was the answer I “heard” from him.

Well, Sistas, I don’t know if you’ve ever laughed out loud in an Adoration chapel, but let me warn you that if you do, you get some funny looks. I couldn’t help myself; it cracked me up. My Lord really knows how to speak to me on my level!

After I gathered myself a bit, I started to process this clever little inspiration. The truth hit me hard: As a Christian, I had been going through the motions and spiritually sleepwalking for a long time…

Read the rest of this post over at Catholic Sistas here

Tiny Revelations

Happy Homemaking

I’ve been a marketing director, a college professor, a physician recruiter and a Sunday morning disc jockey.  I’ve made presentations on Wall Street, conducted interviews on Capitol Hill and started my own business. I am a magazine editor, a family humor columnist and the author of two books.

But here’s the thing: None of these accomplishments or titles matter, and I know it.

What has mattered, really mattered, in my life are my titles of wife, mom and homemaker. After “Catholic Christian,” these titles are the most meaningful to me. They are my vocation.

It took me a while to figure that out.  When I was in college in the early 1980s I was influenced by the radical feminists of the era who chanted in the background of my life to break the glass ceiling and strive for success as an independent career woman. Family and marital life was not considered a priority, or worse, it was discouraged. I drank some of that Kool-Aid, even though I didn’t really like the taste. Something seemed off with this philosophy, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I put myself through college and scrabbled for a job opportunity when I graduated, eager to launch a high-flying career in the communications field.

But there was a catch. A 6-foot-3-inch catch, to be exact. My tall, dark and handsome boyfriend swept me off my feet and I found myself walking down the aisle of a beautiful Catholic church before I could say Helen Gurley Brown. I loved this man. And that love compelled me to have a family with him. And then love for that family compelled me to be a homemaker.

The term “domestic church” was unfamiliar to me back then, but somehow I felt its pull and tug anyway. (thanks, Holy Spirit!). I wanted our home to be a respite for my husband and my kids—a place of peace, love and stability, where God could dwell and make himself evident. Was this always the case over the 30 years I’ve been a wife and mom? Um, no. Often it was the complete opposite. The struggle is real! But that did not stop my intention to make it so. To home-make was one of the strongest inner desires I had ever felt. And I believe it to be a holy desire, inspired by the God who created us to live out this very role. Homemaking, I discovered, is an important part of my vocational commitment. Slowly but surely, I gave up the lure of the feminist propaganda given to me by the culture, for the surety of the pure feminine genius given to me by God. I became a homemaker. And I liked it.

My homemaking was not focused on cleaning and organizing. Instead, it included intentional decisions to create a serene and welcoming environment. We wanted lots of natural light pouring in from big windows. Our décor was informal and kick-your-shoes-off inviting—no white carpet and no fussy, off-limit areas. We had Mozart on the stereo, fluffy pillows and cozy blankets on the couches, fresh vegetables and bright flowers from the garden. We read books together and ate supper at the table almost every night, even if the fare was from a box or a can. We had multiple pets, we played outside often and we created a space in the basement for teenagers to hang out on the weekends. We laughed a lot, had joke-telling and story-telling challenges, and celebrated special events with gusto.   And there was a continual flow of guests into our home (over the years, I honed my introverted/underdeveloped hospitality skills and got over the concern of a supposed not-clean-enough-for-guests home). We also prayed together.

We didn’t get it right all the time. We still argued, got stressed and took out our frustrations on each other. There were slammed doors and tears and words of regret. But there was also forgiveness and mercy and compassion. And life lessons that could be taught nowhere else but in this domestic church.

I realized we did at least a little something right when my 27-year-old son recently mentioned to me how he always loved our home: being home and returning home. He wasn’t talking about the bricks and mortar of our house. He was talking about growing up in a home surrounded by a sense of being guided and nurtured and cared for. A home his parents designed and maintained with family life in mind. He physically, emotionally and spiritually benefited from intentional homemaking. We all do.

Far from my attitude 35 years ago, I now assert that we wives and mothers have a right and a responsibility to our families to home-make in ways that have eternal value and influence. It’s a gift particularly endowed on us women and we should not deny or suppress it.  We are made for this!

So when the time comes to write my obituary, I will set aside all my worldly accomplishments. I will say instead that I was most thankful for the gift of being a Child of God.  And most honored and fulfilled by my vocation as a wife, mother… and happy homemaker.

What about you—are you a happy homemaker? What do you do to create your own domestic church?