Praying with a Pen

Mom’s Lemonade

A number of years ago, my nephew was putting together a scrapbook for my mom (his grandma) as part of a school assignment. He requested my siblings and I write letters for him to include in the collection, offering up some memories or funny stories of Mom. Below was my submission. I recently had the opportunity–sad though it was–to unearth this particular essay and read it as part of my mom’s eulogy. I hope you enjoy it. If you knew my mom, you will recognize her in this dedication. If you didn’t know my mom, you will wish you would have.

December, 2016

This was a tough assignment! I could write an entire book about my mom and her influence, her sense of humor, her love of life and her love of others. But since I only have a page or two, I will summarize this way:

My mom makes lemonade.

And not just a little bit. She makes pitchers-full, bathtubs-full, tankers-full of it. She has never stopped making it her entire life. She mixes it up and serves it up constantly, even now, when her memory is failing her. And it is my favorite thing about her.

Everyone knows the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” But not everyone knows how to do it. My mom is a master at it.

When the dreary days of winter dragged on, she would offer a nickel to the first one of us kids to spot a robin in early spring.

When there weren’t “two nickels to rub together,” she would smile and produce such things as tomato bread for our supper, or two super-thin (but delicious) pizzas made from a one-crust mix. And then she would box up whatever leftovers we might have had and drive it across town to a poor widow, so she too could have some tomato bread or extra-thin-crust pizza.

Mom’s sense of humor is legendary, and has helped her cope with some tough times too. When tornado winds rocked her small car (with her inside it!) in June of 2012 and she was forced to take quick shelter at a farm off the highway, she told me she prayed that if the barn collapsed on her and she was going to meet Jesus, that she would first have time to touch up her lipstick.

She kept right on making lemonade, even through some devastating losses in her life.

When she lost babies mid-pregnancy, she never lost hope. That helped me cope when I lost a baby.

When she lost her husband and our dad in a sudden, dramatic way, she never lost faith. Her strength helped me then as well.

And most definitely, through the trials and tribulations of being a mom to the five of us, her lemonade-making skills came in very handy. Even with all our faults, and our radically different personalities, she loves each of us kids deeply and individually, much like Jesus loves us all deeply and individually. The same is true of how she loves our spouses. But I think the grandchildren get first prize on her list and in her heart. She prays for all of you daily. I hope you also learn the importance of making lemonade in this life.

Lemonade is refreshing. It is sunshine yellow. It’s the color of faith, joy, perseverance, hope. It is all those things that my mom embodies. It represents how we should approach this life that God has given us. The lemonade of joy, humor, and lightheartedness lifts her up every day of her life. And thus she lifts up those around her.

I know there are downtrodden prisoners in Lima and destitute children in Guatemala and lonely folks in the nursing home down the street who directly benefit from mom’s brand of lemonade.

But it’s the lemonade she made at home that will have a lasting effect on me personally.

Thanks for the lemonade, mom! I love you! MB

****In loving memory of Martha Ann Berheide, 9/28/32-11/28/22

Praying with a Pen

An Incongruous Interview

I was invited to do a radio show interview last week with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever worked with–the staff at Real Presence Radio. They are based in Fargo, N.D., but they have many radio stations across four states. If you happen to know anything about what the weather was like in that area last week, you know they were hit with a massive snowstorm. The heavy snowstorm prevented their regular hosts from making it to the studio, so our show was cancelled. But then someone else stepped up in a different studio and we were back on! I had messed up the time for the interview due to the two different time zones, but fortunately that mistake was caught. We started the interview live over the internet and then 2 minutes into the show, the weather issues caused a total drop-off of our connection. The producer and I scrambled to re-connect via cell phone and we were back on once again! Add this to the chaos at my house (grandkids running around, dogs chasing cats, giant tanker trucks hauling manure to the field across the road every 10 minutes, which set off the front porch security camera and made my phone ping, etc. etc.) and we had us a hot mess. But the Holy Spirit beat back all the attempts to derail this interview and we ultimately made it to the end of the program. Whew! Have a listen if you wish. It’s a good reminder for all of us to persevere and keep on prayer journaling–the rewards are amazing.

Praying with a Pen

QUARANTINE WHITE SPACE: Fill it or still it?

What a strange time we live in. Could any one of us have predicted on January 1, 2020 that terms like “quarantine,”  “social distancing” and “shelter-in-place” would be part of our regular vocabulary by April 1, 2020?

I, for one, have abandoned all my well-intentioned 2020 New Year’s resolutions under these circumstances.

But no matter how we feel about the stay-at-home orders imposed, there’s one thing we all have to admit: Our collective pace of life has slowed to a crawl. Most of our extra-curricular commitments have evaporated from our hyper-scheduled schedules. My April monthly calendar looks like someone played a manic game of tic tac toe on it, with the O’s being a no-show and the X’s winning by a massive margin. And now that crisis homeschooling is coming to an end for most parents, the calendar gets even more spacious.

Whether we wanted it or not, if we are not front-line workers, we probably have newfound white space.

Are you familiar with the term white space? Check this out from my book, Praying with a Pen:  [White space is a concept I learned during my marketing and advertising career. It means advertisers shouldn’t cram a print ad with all kinds of pictures and information. They need to leave room for the readers’ eyes to move freely so they can absorb the information more readily. Our brains don’t respond well when the content is too dense and too complex. Ad designers need to intentionally create “white space” in the ad where no content exists in order for the advertising to be most effective.

We human beings need white space too—spiritual white space. Intentional breaks and gaps and pauses in our day, every day, to turn to heaven and talk to our God in order to grow in our spiritual life. Our lives need white space. Our brains need white space. Our souls need white space. ]

How long has it been since you’ve given your soul some white space? Now may be the perfect opportunity. Resist the culture’s cry to completely fill your quarantine down time with projects, puzzles, or pedicures!  There’s nothing wrong with any of those, of course—they are on my list too (the Good Lord knows what shape my winter feet and super-washed nails are in!).

But, epically funny memes aside, we now we have an unprecedented opportunity to carve out more time for prayer. To be still with our God.   

We did not choose this situation. It has been thrust upon us. It’s unsettling, disorienting, and for some, seriously hazardous.  What better time to increase our prayer life? And then years from now, when you look back on this era of quarantine, you can say you used the unexpected time given to you in the best way possible: To draw nearer to God.

Quarantine white space can be a blessing in disguise. Don’t fill it. Still it.  

Praying with a Pen

“Among Women” Podcast with Pat Gohn

I had the honor and privilege a few months ago to be interviewed by the wonderful Pat Gohn, author of “All In–Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” and host of the popular “Among Women” podcast.  Her superb interviewing and editing skills helped me sound coherent on this broadcast and for that I am very grateful!

Tune in HERE to find out more about the wonders and rewards of establishing a persistent prayer journaling habit. My segment begins around the 18-minute mark, but be sure to listen to her fascinating presentation on Saint Olympia too!

Praying with a Pen

Get Away From Your Crowds

You already know this: It’s important to get quiet and be quiet—to set aside a silent, focused time to pray. We must get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and go on a mini-retreat with God on a regular basis. Even Jesus had to get away! The Bible cites a number of times during Jesus’s ministry on earth when he left the crowds and went off to pray and talk with his Father. If Jesus Christ himself needed alone time with his Father, we mere mortals certainly need it even more! It’s crucial to our faith lives. But it’s not easy.

Jesus knows it isn’t easy. Often when he was by himself praying, his disciples would come looking for him or the crowds seeking more miracle healings would discover where he was and press in on him. You may not have crowds of people pressing in on you and begging for miracles, but I know you likely have a crowd of family members around who each want a piece of you. Plus, you have to get your day started. And let me guess—your mind is already racing before your eyes are even open in the morning. Thoughts of meetings, projects and deadlines at work can crowd in too. And then there’s the housework and the groceries and all the appointments. Yea, that can all add up and make it feel like the walls are closing in. Who has time to be still?

The answer, of course, is all of us. We all have time to be still and spend time with God. Our new friend St. Francis de Sales says it best: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Nailed it once again, St. Francis!

The problem? Being still is not a practice that is honored in our culture. We are taught to worship the gods of technology and multi-tasking. We are told that being constantly busy equals being productive and successful. We are bombarded with noise from every angle, practically all day long. But if we continually find ourselves in the middle of all that chaos, we can easily be drawn further away from God and our faith. I know this; I used to be hooked on all that stimulation too. And it was definitely not conducive to a strong spiritual life.

When life is busy and messy and chaotic and loud (which can be most of the time), we need all the more to be still. That’s the ideal time for us to stop and pray. To get away. To be quiet. To be alone with God so we can learn to recognize when it’s his voice telling us what choices to make and which path to take. You can’t get to know someone’s voice or have a good conversation with them when there’s too much noise in the background.

(Excerpted from Praying with a Pen–A Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling. Get the book here!)