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Sunday, May 22, 2016

God, Jim Carrey, and me

Often, I will scroll through my Facebook feed and amidst the funny memes, the lunch updates, and the humble-brags, there will be prayer requests. Some of the requests are small, such as "pray that I can find my keys so I can get to work on time." Others are giant, mammoth requests -- prayers for healing from devastating diagnoses of cancer or other life-altering situations.

It's one of the things I like most about social media, its ability to bring together a community of believers for common good. These requests are non-denominational. No one posts "If you're Catholic, please pray..." And often the poster will ask for prayers or positive thoughts, acknowledging that not everyone subscribes to the same belief system. 

I try to respond to most of these requests in some way. For the "lost keys" category, I might just click the "like" button. For others, I respond "JMJ+" which is my own shorthand for "Jesus, Mary & Joseph, pray for us." The particularly heartbreaking requests will often elicit a unique response, letting the poster know that I will be keeping them in my prayers. 

That's the easy part. 

The hard part is actually praying. Between the requests that are posted via social media, the prayer intentions that are delivered daily via my parish's email prayer tree, and those personal encounters I have with people who share need for prayer, sometimes I feel like Jim Carrey in the movie "Bruce Almighty."

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Jim Carrey is a frustrated news reporter turned God. In one scene, he is overwhelmed at the volume of prayers being sent to him. They crowd his thoughts and when he tries to organize them onto post-it notes, his entire apartment is blanketed in tiny slips of yellow paper. Sometimes the need for prayer in my world is overwhelming.

I don't have a formal system by which I handle prayer requests that come to me, but lately I've become more conscious of the commitment I'm making when I tell someone that I will keep them in my prayers. One woman I know kept a journal with lists of people she was praying for written down. Her family found it after she had passed away. 

Though the idea sounds like a good one, I'm not a great journal keeper. What I'm finding works for me is silently saying a prayer immediately after I'm asked for it, praying it as I'm typing my assurance of prayer. For some requests, that's all that I feel drawn to give. Sometimes the people in need of prayer will float to the top of my mind during the day and, again, I silently lift them and their concern up in a quick prayer. Other needs for prayer weigh heavily and I find myself spending more time in dedicated prayer for these needs, often during weekly Mass. 

As Jim Carrey learned in "Bruce Almighty," a blanket YES is not the appropriate answer to all prayer. I don't expect magical or even miraculous resolutions just because I prayed. But as overwhelming as the needs may be, I try to be thankful for those people asking for prayer because when I agree to pray for their need, I am gaining another opportunity in my day to be in contact with God. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

She always shows up


I've spent a good part of today thinking about how I should honor my mom for Mother's Day. I mean, I already mailed her a card (which will, of course, arrive late) and wished her a HMD over the phone. But that doesn't seem like enough.

She's not a mom that flowery superlatives fit. What she is, really, is a mom who shows up. 

Birthday parties. First Communions. Of course she shows up at the big things. But she also shows up to help hang wallpaper, to watch ordinary soccer games, to keep an eye on grandkids when their parents need a break. 

She shows up by texting pictures of the Coke Rewards codes from her afternoon Diet Coke. And by firing up the sewing machine to hem a pair of too-long pants that traveled from Indiana. 

She shows up when she answers the phone at 10:30pm and I'm on the other end asking "Do you think I could give Charlie more ibuprofen?" 

She shows up when she remembers you asked for prayer for a friend, prays, and then calls back to see how the friend is doing.

She shows up even though her 5 kids tease her about bladder control, laughing to the point of passing out, and her Christmas shopping trip fanny pack. 

She shows up when she sits up late at night leafing through the newspaper, eating cereal, and just visiting with an adult child in town for a short while.

Showing up is not just punching the motherhood clock. It's delivering a message to her children and grandchildren that says "you're important and you're loved." 

Thanks, Mom, for showing up. I hope you know that when you need me, I'll show up, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My 40-something flat tire

I'm stuck and I'm not sure which way to go or if not moving at all is the right answer. I'm not sad or depressed or anxious. Well, maybe a little bit anxious. But I've got these things that I wish were different, things that pretty much only I can make different, but I can't seem to make any movement toward any of them. I'm just stuck.

I think it goes back to my existence as a messy perfectionist. Or it might have to do with the fact that I'm a great idea person, but am not so swift at the details.

 photo Flat tire_zps2jub7plf.jpgI would call this state of standstill a midlife crisis but a.) it doesn't feel like an actual crisis (thank God!) and 2.) midlife crisis sounds so cliche.

It's more like a 40-something flat tire. Annoying. Inconvenient. Fixable.

There are two things I can think to do in my current stuck-ed-ness.

First, pray. It's always the right answer and should always be my first answer, but it isn't. But I'm thankful that when I think about where I am and where I want to be and how I have no idea how to connect the two, the thought of prayer rises to my consciousness.

Second, write. Writing here, yes. But also, I know that if I sit down to just right about where I am stuck, why I feel stuck and what I could do differently, writing it all out just for myself, that some clarity will rise to the surface.

Pray. Write. Move. Maybe once I spend some solid time doing the first two things, the third will come along as a natural consequence.

What do you do when you're stuck?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's the most important word in a marriage?

 photo heart pizza_zpscj3laot9.jpgApparently, it's not love. Does that shock you? It's kind of surprising to me.

Our church is hosting a marriage workshop soon. We are bringing in author and well-known speaker Dr. Allan Hunt to lead the half-day event. The promo materials lead with the question: What is the most important word in a marriage...and it's not love?

I guess I won't know for sure what the answer is until January 30 when Allan Hunt tells us, but I have a few guesses:

Toilet paper: Ok, so technically that is two words. But TP is a pretty darn important word in a marriage. It can be rough or soft. It absorbs stuff and cleans up messes. When it's missing, that's real bad.

So, you're not sold on toilet paper as the key word in marriage? Try this one:

Pizza: Don't you just breathe a sigh of relief when you ask "what do you want for dinner?" and your spouse says "Let's just order pizza." I think that's Mike's way of saying "you do so much, why don't you take it easy tonight." Or he could be saying "you're a really bad cook and I'm not up to pretending to like your latest creation." Plus, pizza is versatile. It can be spicy, chock full of things that are good for you, or decadent and rich. And, it even tastes good cold.

Still not quite right? I've got one more guess.

Sleep: Of all my guesses, this one has the best chance of being right. Who doesn't love sleep? Except for a toddler and when they don't take naps and don't sleep at night, you wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea to get married and have kids in the first place. Sleep recharges you and helps you be ready to take on the day. When your spouse let's you sleep in or doesn't interrupt your nap, that's love.

What do you think the most important word in a marriage is? If you want to know for sure, I invite you to join us for Passion & Purpose for Marriage on January 30, 2016 from 9am-1:30pm at St. Luke Catholic Church (which is not my church. We are still rebuilding from the big fire last September). Tickets are $25 per person.

In addition to unlocking the mystery of marriage's most important word you can expect:
  • 5 things women need to know about men
  • 5 things men need to know about women
  • 5 love languages
  • NO GROUP SHARING
  • A "swag bag" of books and resources valued at $30
To learn more and purchase your tickets, click here


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

When Cinderella got cancer

I don't cry often or easily. But tonight, as I was watching my 12-year-old's basketball practice, I found myself blinking back tears. It had nothing to do with my baby growing up too fast. It wasn't the scent of sweaty sixth grade boys filling a warm gym. Instead, I stood there, profoundly sad about the death of a man I've never met.

Andrew Smith was a Butler basketball player who played on the two Bulldog basketball teams that went to back-to-back Final Fours in the NCAA tournament just a few years ago. This morning he died after a two-year fight against cancer. He was 25.


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I never met Andrew or his young wife Samantha. My only real connection to him is the fact we went to the same college -- 20 years apart. So why, I wonder, did I stand in a gym tonight and will my tears not to fall? I think it has something to do with Cinderella.

When Butler made its first NCAA run to the Final Four in 2010, they were tagged as a "Cinderella" team. No one expected them to make it to the big dance. But they didn't listen to everyone else's expectations. They kept their heads up, their hopes high, and their determination solid.

Andrew was a Cinderella cancer patient, of sorts, invited to a cruel dance. No one expected him to be there, in the role of patient with a hospital as his ballroom. Just before his diagnosis, he had been playing professional basketball in Europe. In their approach to cancer, Andrew and Samantha Smith kept their hands folded, their faith high, and their trust in God solid.

Cinderella had a fairy godmother who waved a wand and turned dirty, raggedy clothes into a radiant gown. She transformed mice into footmen and a pumpkin into a glittering carriage.

I think somewhere along the way, I let myself believe that Andrew Smith would have a godmother who would work unimaginable miracles, that Andrew's story would become a hopeful fairy tale told to generations.

I kept up with Andrew's cancer journey through blog posts from his wife. I could hear the urgency in the voice she used to tell their story. I could also hear the fierceness with which the Smiths believed that Andrew would be healed. Samantha Smith did not paint a rosy picture -- she painted an honest one.

She wrote about the ugly stepsisters of cancer -- pain, nausea, frustration, desperation. She wrote about Prince Charming -- the stranger who swept in to donate the bone marrow that held the potential for a cure. In the past few weeks, Samantha wrote about the desperate search for the glass slipper -- a clinical trial -- that would give she and Andrew a chance to live happily ever after.

Sadly, this story does not have a fairy tale ending, at least not as this world would define it.  But the faith that Andrew and Samantha so unabashedly shared with all those who lifted their hearts for Andrew's healing tells us that this tale does have an eternal happy ending.

I don't cry often or easily. But I did cry when the Butler Bulldogs lost the 2010 National Championship to Duke. So I guess it's ok for me to cry at the loss of a 6-foot, 11-inch Cinderella named Andrew.

#AndrewSmithStrong #OnceaBulldogAlwaysaBulldog

Saturday, January 2, 2016

I failed at my 2015 goal but I have no regrets

About this time last year, I made a very public declaration that by January 2016, I would have my house ready to sell. My New Year’s goal (not a resolution, mind you), was to spend 2015 methodically purging and sprucing our house so we could move.  And how did I do? Failed miserably.

As I sat at home on New Year’s Eve enjoying deep dish pizza, Treehouse Masters on the DVR, and a few rounds of Killer Uno, it occurred to me that all the things I could have worked on, improved, done better last year are all still there waiting for me. My weight, organizational habits, the number of books that I didn’t read, money management…I could go on.  That realization could have been a recipe for disaster, or at least regret.

But I didn’t let it be. I changed some in 2015. I learned not to sweat the small stuff. I got comfortable with the idea of not being in control of everything all the time. I ventured into the land of “no,” and found that the world did not fall apart because I declined to do something.

Trust me, I’m still a work in progress.  Just ask my kids. I still get stressed out over stupid stuff.   I utter “yes” to too many things. I still own my people pleaser badge. But I do it all less than I used to, so I’m counting it as a win. 

For 2016, I’m seeking balance.

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How do I let things go, while at the same time holding myself accountable to goals and standards that I consider important.  I can say “Life is short; eat dessert first,” but then be toppled by a heart attack or stroke or even a ballooning weight because the reality is that donuts for breakfast and Snickers for lunch really is not a great idea.

I don’t know what balance looks like for me in 2016, but I honestly feel a call to it. I know it includes slowing down and really considering my needs and opportunities, not rushing in, being comfortable with – or at least tolerant of – uncertainty. 

2015 was a good year. A year of subtle, but significant change.

I am looking forward to the balance that 2016 can bring.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rules for using coloring books for grown ups

 photo 8DCF51B6-51D8-4A19-BE96-8EAD733B3319_zpsc0wr9n2g.jpgAdult coloring books are all the rage and something I'd mentally put on my Christmas wish list. I've always like to color; crayons are my artistic tool of choice.

A few weeks ago, I was offered a chance to snag a review copy of an adult coloring book offered by Put Me in the Story. There were a couple of things that made saying "yes" to this opportunity easy.

  1. It was free. No brainer. 
  2. The PMS coloring book (unfortunate abbreviation) is personalized. So my copy came with my name printed on the front and inside.  
  3. Tucked in the designs are inspirational quotes, for instance "Do one thing every day that scares you." (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  4. I got to create the dedication myself. I chose a quote -- "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." (Joseph Chilton Pearce)
Which leads me to the Rules for Using an Adult Coloring Book

1. There are no rules. 

Well, that was quite the short list. But really, that's the beauty of this art form. There's no way to mess it up. Each person can approach each color encounter however they wish. There are a few things I've discovered that may or may not help you if you're interested in picking up a coloring book. 
  • There is no pressure to finish a page. I might color one section of a page and be finished for the night. Or I might color one portion of a page, then decide to move on to another page. 
  • Fine-tips seem to be best for the job. I've been using some regular Target colored pencils. I'd like to try some of the fancy fine point crayons. (Maybe Santa will put them in my stocking.) I'm a little scared to try markers because I worry that they might bleed to the next page, but the vibrancy of color might be worth it. 
  • Working on a relaxing coloring page with 3 boys and a football game on TV in the next room pretty much negates any relaxation that might have been had. 
  • It's been interesting to see what kinds of designs I'm drawn to. Circular designs are my favorite. Straight-line geometrics, not so much. 
  • Challenging myself to try questionable color combinations is kind of freeing.
  • I'm finding that getting to the relaxing part takes time. Despite my chosen dedication quote, it takes me a bit to let go of the need to color it right. I have to try to remind myself that mistakes are part of the creative process. 

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Since I received my copy of Keep Calm and Color On, Put Me in the Story has added another grown up coloring book to its line. Keep Calm and Color On: For Stress Relief.  Each book has 64 pages, good for hours of relaxing coloring. 

The price -- $19.99 for one -- is slightly higher than what I've seen in stores like Michael's. Now through December 13, you can order 2 for $30 with the promo code RELAX.

I don't get anything if you do buy, except the satisfaction that my friends will be enjoying their coloring books too.

Do you color? Do you find it relaxing?