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Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Six months ago, in March 2016, I wrote about feeling stuck. I knew I wanted some different things in my life, but I couldn't make myself do anything to bring about change. I was stuck and unhappy as a result.

About 4 months ago, something -- I honestly don't know what -- made me move. I got up one morning and took a different direction. It helped that I had someone to take that step with me. It helped that God gave me a very clear sign that I was indeed in the right place. And you know what? Today, I don't feel stuck anymore.

What I did to unstick myself

I've come to understand that the single biggest thing keeping me in that "stuck" place was the belief that I -- and I alone -- was the only one who could move me.

"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," is what I said in March.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

On that first day that I woke up and dared to think differently, I had someone who was willing to think differently with me. I had people I didn't know but for a brief exchange of introductions reach out to me. I've had people on the periphery cheering for me and people in the trenches pulling me along when I felt like I couldn't go another step. I have God.

When I became willing to lose the stubborn toddler "I can do it myself!," I found the grace to see the possibilities in life, not just the obstacles.

Keeping on

The road has not been particularly easy -- changing my way of thinking seldom is, but it has been do-able. It turns out that when I start to look at one thing differently, I start to look at lots of things differently. I start to step out of the shadow of the fearful "Oh, but what ifs" and into the light of the adventurous "OH, but what IFs!"

I have not arrived. In fact, I'm not entirely sure where I am going. But I am moving and it feels so good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guest post: Letter from a black police officer's wife

I'm yielding the floor -- ok, the cloud space -- of my blog to a colleague who has bravely taken the time to write about her experiences as the wife of a black law enforcement officer (LEO). As the Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter movements rage on in our country, I've wondered what it is that I, a white middle-class woman, can do? So part of what I can do is provide space for Victoria to share a piece of her heart. -- Amy, The 4th Frog

Dear Indianapolis and other big American cities-

I hear you. I feel for you. I have been toying with the idea of writing you for days, but feared my letter would go unnoticed, lost between recent headlines. You see, I am a part of the very slim minority of being the wife of a Black Law Enforcement Officer and my heart is doubly breaking these days. I can only tell you my story, America. I can only say that these are my thoughts and my feelings and I am not trying to persuade you to think one way or another. This is just my story, but for such a time as this, this is my platform.

 photo 30fbc9f8-2ccf-4673-893e-2600f406f8ac_zpsqitany3r.jpgMy husband wears two uniforms, one he willingly and bravely wears each day, representing this city. It’s crisp, clean, and blue, and it’s adorned with pins and stripes and a badge with a three-digit number that identifies him.

Then there is another uniform he wears daily.

This uniform is who he is, it’s smooth, dark brown, a little weathered from the forty something years he has been on this Earth; he loves this uniform. I love this uniform of skin that he is in, but I also realize this uniform requires a great amount of responsibility and intentionality.

As I heard of the news of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, my heart was put in that place again. That place that was never meant for our hearts to feel but because of the brokenness of this world I feel it. Jesus once felt it --so much so that He wept, and here I was trying to make sense of something that will never make sense. Camera angles, what they did or didn’t do, what they should have or could have done differently -- each person involved, but the fact remains that two Black men are gone. Life has been lost and it is so very tragic. When I see Alton, when I see Philandro, I see my husband. I see his daily uniform. I see the vulnerability of black skin.

As I stared blankly at the television screen watching the violence of Dallas unfold I was in that place again. That place that makes me cry out each day, “Come home, honey” -- each day as he heads out to face who knows what, in who knows where parts of the city, to who knows what kind of circumstance. I hear the headlines change from 3 to 4, to 5 lives lost and I am broken. A peaceful protest interrupted by the unimaginable, changing lives forevermore, taking lives too soon. When I see Sgt. Michael Smith and Officer Patrick Zamarripa I see my husband. I see his uniform. I see the vulnerability of blue skin.

So many of you are asking all over social media, is it really possible to have a deep concern for Black lives, to feel that injustice is still occurring, to believe that discrimination still exists solely because of the color of one’s skin and not at all based on the content of their character, while still realizing the true sacrifice of a law enforcement officer to uphold the law, protect its citizens, and run toward danger in every instance, the answer is yes.

Yes, you can.

You can love both, you can pray for both. You don’t have to be all or nothing or one side and not the other. I love my all-American, strong, caring, funny, father to my children, endearing husband, Black man and I love the law enforcement officer that he is. I love both parts of him.

Can we address our fears? Can we be honest that sometimes our uniforms both the outward ones, the inward ones, the ones that are mandatory and the ones that we live in, can we be honest that sometimes we are fearful of our uniforms?

Drive out the fear by bringing it to light.

My mother use to tell me after nightmares to talk about it. She would tell me to bring those awful fears to light. These last few weeks feel like nightmares and I am in that place again hearing about Baton Rouge. 

So I am left here to talk about it, “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” -- MLK, Jr.
Who is listening?

-LEO wife, 
Victoria Wilburn

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."

 photo bruce-almighty-aaa_zpsbsc5w4ui.jpg

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
  • 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.

Andrewsmith photo andrewsmith_zpsawyyafxh.jpg

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