Nothing New Under the Sun

When I was a young student bright-eyed and optimistic, naively reading my bible on the quad at the Baptist university I attended Ecclesiastes never did much for me. It was too cynical a view of the world for my nineteen year old taste. But as I’ve aged and gathered a more full experience of life (particularly this year), the famous words of Ecclesiastes are an absolute vibe.

All things are wearisome, too wearisome for words. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:8

What my younger self deemed too depressing a sentiment, my mid-thirties self reads and thinks, “That’ll preach!”

All things are wearisome, too wearisome for words. Amen and amen. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor has the ear enough of hearing. Like, did they have smartphones in the Old Testament? Because I swear this speaks directly to our plugged in culture.

Obsessive scrolling, consumption of media, furiously worrying thoughts, search bars, Twitter feeds, deep dives into subreddits. It’s never enough to quench our thirst for more information, more proof that we’re right, more evidence condemning the other side, more statistics, more people agreeing with us, more proof of approval, proof that acquits us of being in the wrong and places responsibility on others. We are weary, but we won’t stop. We are worn out and worn down, but we will not rest. An unceasing quest for justice is necessary, but I wonder if our collective search is actually for justice or for more compelling proof to throw in each other’s faces.

What has been, that will be; what has ben done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us. There is no remembrance of past generations; nor will future generations be remembered by those who come after them.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

Immaturity or lack of experience leaves us surprised when we repeat the sins of our fathers, whether those our forefathers or the fathers of our faith. It’s depressing to think that we’ve made so little progress as humans that we’re still struggling with the same garbage that they were wrestling with in the Old Testament. Though our world has changed and morphed through history, human nature remains unchanged. We have always struggled with jealousy, greed, pride, and envy. The powerful have always exploited the powerless. The Man has always kept the little ones down, there have always been struggling minorities, the least of these crying out for someone to step in and change things.

There is nothing new under the sun.

In the midst of these reflections, my house is being worked on. The basement walls in our hundred year old house are crumbling from water damage, the slow movement of time and water taking its toll on the structure holding us all up. So there’s a guy named Pee-wee down there scraping away the old and reinforcing it, cleaning away the debris and strengthening our walls. It’s all very metaphorical I’m sure, but for a guy who goes by Pee-wee, he’s seriously lacking a sense of humor and in its place is the most Ecclesiastical attitude I’ve ever seen. Upon meeting him, you can just tell that Pee-wee has seen some shit. There’s nothing new under the sun and literally nothing could surprise him.

I feel so heavy under all my observations about the world, that there’s nothing new, humanity and original sin will be wrapped up together embracing and struggling until the end of time. Plus, it’s hard to get excited about teaching children math facts and grammar rules in a house full of extra noise and chemical fumes.

And yet, I found out this morning that Pee-wee is a poet of all things. He wrote a book of poetry for his children in the 90’s, self published it, and signed over the rights to his sister who used all the profits to go to medical school.

Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations. Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God.

Psalm 90:2-1

To be fair, Pee-wee’s story has undeniably cynical undertones. He is a poet…and also he is apparently a former Army ranger who was shot by the drug cartel in Columbia and then discharged under strict command to never speak of what he saw (but that was over thirty years ago, so Pee-wee says what he wants). Pee-wee is estranged from most of his family, it seems, and he curses like a sailor, but not around the kids. I really like him.

And Tom, who is working on the upstairs bathroom, poked his head in to ask if the kids and I wanted to place the first tiles in the shower. He gave us his pencil and had us write our names on the backs of the tiles, each of us leaving our little invisible mark that I’m sure will go completely unseen when someone new rips it all out in the future.

There is nothing new under the sun. Humanity is still grappling, frustrated and angry that there is still injustice, still abuse of power, still hurt, and lies, and abuse.

There is nothing new under the sun. People are complicated and complex. Their stories still surprise us, there is still beauty in the most unexpected of people and the most unlikely of places. There is still kindness, still goodness, still the gentleness of men giving of their time and talent in microscopic ways that give us a glimmer of hope when everything else feels awful.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Pride Comes Before the Fractions

We’re deep into the weeds of homeschool around here. I mean, we’ve been at this for a week and a half, and it feels like a lifetime. Now obviously I’m a newbie and I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert, but…like, at what point in this homeschooling gig will suggestions and gentle corrections not be met with eye rolling and/or aggression from the pupils??

Asking for a friend.

J/k, it’s me.

I’m the friend.

I’m trying real hard lately to pay attention to my strong emotions and trace them back to their roots. It’s this new thing I’m doing called self-awareness. I highly suggest it, but also it sucks.

The situations that get my blood boiling most these days (aside from medical atrocities being investigated at the border and general worldwide awfulness) stem from semi-regular moments in instruction with the kids. (I’m not naming names here because the team is getting older and I think they deserve their privacy.)

It feels like there are moments when literally everything I say is dumb and every gentle correction is a personal attack. It also doesn’t help that their father can do no wrong. Dad is brilliant! Dad is funny! Dad is cool! Dad explains so much better! Dad buys us fruit roll ups!

Dad teaches them the exact same math lesson that Mom attempted (but cut short due to tears and theatrics) using the exact same examples that Mom used and they listen to him as though his words drip honey and claim they’re hearing them for the very first time.

If I sound like I’m jealous, it’s because I am.

I admit it, I am horribly jealous of the camaraderie the kids have with their father, especially when it comes to school. If I’m not careful I start believing the lies my jealousy is telling me so the jealousy grows into anger, then resentment.

It hurts that they don’t listen to me the way I think they ought to. It hurts to feel misunderstood and second rate. It hurts when the message I’m receiving from the kids is that what I’m offering is garbage.

I recognize that this sort of thing is a completely normal facet of the mother/child relationship. I grated against my own mother when I was their age. Shoot, I still do it if she offers me a suggestion! It’s growing pains and tough transitions and I get that. The kids are stuck in a house with me all dang day. Of course a different voice is easier to listen to; it’s literally the only diversity in teaching they’re getting so it makes perfect sense. Of course they resent my criticisms. No one likes to be told they’re wrong, especially by their mother.

But I’m still resentful. I’m still jealous.

When I dig even deeper, I see that there’s a part of me that struggles with what I can only identify as the “moms are dumb” vibe. Culturally, it seems like moms are always the butt of the joke. Moms are the overlooked, overworked ones and it feels like dads get to sweep in and have the fun and be exciting. Dad is novel and Mom is humdrum and I resent that a lot. I want to be fun. I want to be exciting. I want to be the one that everyone is thrilled to see. I want to be special, and listened to, and loved.


Just writing that out and stepping back is so helpful. Again I’m tracing these feelings back to their root and remembering what’s true. Upon further reflection, it’s easy to see how hollow that “moms are dumb” argument is. It’s just as culturally acceptable to present dads as the useless, bumbling ones. I mean, watch any sitcom dad ever, right?

I also have to recognize the other side of the coin, to give weight to the fact that my husband sacrifices time at home to provide for us, purely so that I can stay home and have the opportunity to teach our children. He is a novelty to them precisely because he’s not able to be here all the time like he’d rather be.

And honestly there are plenty of times that the kids do prefer me. My sweet husband has endured literal years of babies refusing to be comforted except by me, fed by me, cuddled by me. They come to me with their emotional wounds and worries while they connect with him in different ways. It’s completely fair and right that there are times when I’m not the best person for the job.

He can have math and video games, I guess, and I’ll take my heart to heart bedtime chats and book reading snuggles.

The truth is, these children need both of us. I am not enough on my own because I was not designed to do this alone. I have been gifted a partner who loves us all and who shows up daily to do this soul wearying work alongside me without complaint. What an absolute gift he is.

So the problem is not the children or the husband, but my own disordered desires for control and approval. This thing that’s causing me grief, these little moments in my day that cause me to boil over in frustration are mirrors into my soul, opportunities for me to examine my motives.

Am I teaching my children so that I will be liked or so that they grow in intellect and holiness? Am I allowing myself to believe a lie that pits me against my children and my husband? Or am I noticing the places in my heart that lack holiness and taking these as opportunities to do better? Am I quick to anger when my children push back, or am I leaning in to learn a new way to connect with them? Do I receive their contrary attitudes with my own eye rolls and impatience or do I view their pushback as a barometer of where they themselves are feeing inadequate and vulnerable? Am I praying for my family as I ought to be?

I’m not going to nail it every time. I think the desire to be approved of and appreciated will always be a struggle for me. Yet, motherhood is sanctifying. My ultimate goal and deepest desire is to get my kids, my spouse, and myself to heaven. If that requires less of me, more of my spouse, sharing the spotlight, deeply appreciating the souls in my care, and heaping lesson upon lesson of humility, then so be it.

Yes, this vocation is sanctifying me, but only if I let it.


When I’m particularly struggling with the sin of pride, I like to go over the Litany of Humility. It is hard to pray and even harder to pray with true sincerity. I often find it necessary to add, “Lord, help my unbelief,” to the end. You can find the prayer here. You are so loved my friends, even in your pride and your jealousy, even in your less than pretty moments, you are indescribably loved.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide you a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Reentry

We recently got home from a week of camping. We were completely off the grid, no cell reception, limited chargers. We spent our days taking long hikes and our nights eating too many s’mores and trying to scare the kids by pretending to be the Wood Booger (my husband’s new favorite term for Sasquatch).

We watched meteors and consulted our nature guide to identify plants and critters, lost two footballs and almost one frisbee to the poison ivy infested border of the campground, and ventured out once to get soft serve from a place that had 25 flavors that all sort of tasted like banana. Bummer for the kid who ordered peppermint. It was heaven.

Coming home from camping is always so hard for me. There’s the depressing tasks of cleaning and putting away all the gear, tackling the laundry, bathing the filthy children, and getting back in touch with the “real world.” It’s really kind of awful any time we do it, but this year I’ve been particularly tender. 2020 on brand, for sure.

As we exited the winding, hilly roads and headed back toward the highway, one of the kids got carsick. He just felt so gross and got sick a couple of times, poor buddy. I felt that way emotionally. The farther we got from camp and closer to civilization, the more icky I felt. Plugging back in after spending a week away from social media and news headlines hurt my heart, but not in a way I’d have expected.

Two years ago we spent a week in Shenandoah National Park and I cried when we left because my heart was just broken for love of the place and I hated leaving such beauty. This time, I could literally feel my heart tighten up as the text messages and Instagram notifications started rolling in. My heart hardened into bitterness, comparison, judgement, anxiety, fear, and despair as I registered each new bit of communication that came at me: a friend’s mother-in-law passed away, pals in a group text tried to make sense of the requirements for returning to our Catholic school, a close friend updated me about an awesome estate sale that I missed. I was tagged in a ton of homeschool giveaways, targeted for ads selling books all the good homeschool mamas have to read. There was more rioting in Portland and Seattle, my sister is moving, my mom has feelings about that. I was inundated with examples of how everyone is setting up their homeschool rooms. My kids’ scout leaders need to know asap if we’re going to be part of the troops this year, some are in-person while some are virtual, so I need to sort through that, and also plasma might help fight the pandemic, and politics still suck.

It just all rolled in at once and I immediately curled inward like an angry, spiteful hermit crab who just found a bigger, stronger shell to haul all the negativity around in. Y’all, I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to be hardened by the world, spending my time feeling defensive, worried that I’m not measuring up, that I’m not doing enough, and withdrawing into harshness and judgement as a defense mechanism when I feel threatened and overwhelmed by the world. That’s no way to operate and that’s certainly not what God has planned for me, for us.

Because the truth is, when I allow myself to become hardened like that, I’m choosing sin over grace. Every time I let myself settle into the comforting embrace of quick anger, harsh language, judgement of the other, dehumanization, and despair, I’m choosing my humanity over the mercy of a Savior who died for it all. I’m choosing to put my eggs into the basket of fear, to spend my time compulsively checking to see if I’m measuring up to the standards set forth by a broken system, and offering my life on the altar of social norms rather than allowing Christ to sustain me.

Behold, you desire true sincerity; and secretly you teach me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice.

Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my iniquities.

A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your Holy Spirit.

Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:8-14

A friend asked me how our trip went and I confided in her how overwhelmed and tender I felt upon coming home. She immediately reminded me to ease in, not to do too much too fast. I think that’s so wise.

We need to give ourselves and each other the benefit of gentle time. There is so much to care about, so much hurt in our world, so many atrocities and injustices demanding our attention. All of those things are indescribably important. We’re called to care, to speak up, to pray, and to work for justice, but we’re not going to do anyone any good if the change we’re working for comes from a place of bitter, hard-heartedness.

My prayers today were for the Lord to soften my heart, that He would give me a heart of flesh in place of my heart of stone.

Lord, work great transformation in us, Break us, crush our bones, and build us ups again to glorify you. Break our hearts for what breaks yours. Open our eyes to your truth, to the beauty we squander when we forsake you. Reveal yourself to us and make us new creations through the living sacrifice of your Son.

When I went out to replenish groceries after our trip, I randomly visited the Adoration chapel. It was the first time I’ve been there since March. I was completely alone. The Tabernacle was closed so that the Precious Body wasn’t exposed before an empty room and I stood at the back of the chapel for a split second before I practically ran to open the doors to see Jesus. I knelt before Him and just sobbed for everything and nothing, offering my broken heart to Him and reveling in the experience of being with Jesus after such a long time. I honestly struggle to find the words to describe it. It was a real “water in the desert” experience, a feeling that I’ve never encountered before, a profound sensation of coming home and having permission to just be held by the One who knows me and loves me anyway.

So, I’m back home. I’m home and broken by the beauty we left behind, broken for the world we’re living in, and broken by gratitude for the God who breaks my humanity in order to build a stronger foundation in Him. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.

I’m an Addict and So Are You

So, addictions are fun, huh? It’s so interesting to me how things that seem innocuous can somehow sneak into our hearts and set up shop. Whether it’s alcohol, shopping or, in my case, social media and food, these things walk right in and start selling their wares.

I’ve been struggling with my consumption a lot lately. I can’t stop myself from taking in garbage, compulsively filling my body and mind with substances that don’t nourish and ultimately leave me feeling dissatisfied and emptier than before.

They really sell it, though. My addictions are so compelling when they tell me that they hold the secrets to finding peace and comfort. The dopamine hit that I get from scrolling Reddit and Instagram combine with the hit I get from secretly eating three pieces of cold pizza after everyone else is in bed and it is comforting…for a moment.

And then the moment passes.

What my addictions hide in the fine print is the immediate shame, regret, and hunger for more that comes like tsunami completely wiping out the comfort. But then the cycle repeats because it’s just so easy. I know feeding my addictions won’t ultimately satisfy my needs, but gosh they’re so tangible and approachable. Scrolling for hours or stuffing my face with garbage candy are tangible things I can do and those things are so much easier to approach than taking time to wrestle with my confusing emotions.

I’m such a slave to the quick fix. I want results now. I want answers now. I want conflict resolution now rather than waiting and giving myself time to accept my reality, take stock of my emotions, trace them back to their roots, and consciously identify next steps. That crap takes forever and I don’t have time for it (read: I won’t take time for it), so I scroll and fill my mind with unhappy news, angry comment boxes, and fuel myself with comparison. And when that makes me feel like crap (because it always does), I root through my son’s leftover birthday candy or eat a half a jar of olives and hope it does the trick. Spoiler alert: it does not do the trick. Ever.

And y’all, I don’t know the answer to all of this. Lots of people have studied addictions and written amazing books and I’m working on reading some of them. I think the answer is as individual as the addict and I think that for me it’s a combination of prayer, self-awareness, doing hard emotional work, therapy, grace, conversations with people I love and trust, and lots of do-overs. Also taking part in the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation help, too.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

I was journaling and praying about all this this morning and I remembered an old quote. It’s the one that gets used a lot with school kids usually in reference to thinking before you speak. There are lots of versions, but the one that came to my mind goes like this:

Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?”

Sai Baba

It occurred to me that this list of questions isn’t just a good model to follow regarding our speech, but also in how we conduct ourselves, how we treat our bodies, how we use our time, how we treat our earth, etc. So let’s take for example my struggle with food addiction.

Is it Kind? Is this thing I’m about to put into my body kind? Is it going to support my performance, help me grow in the ways I want to grow? Is this food/drink chemically supportive of my body or will it hurt me? Is this a treat that will genuinely hit the spot or is it a treat that will cause me to feel shame later? Just like I learned in college, any relationship you have to keep a secret is probably not a good one…and that goes for food, too.

Is it Necessary? Am I really hungry right now or am I eating for another reason? If so, it is more necessary for me to take care of the real root of my hunger than to numb it with food. Is this food necessary for my body to work properly, or is it an unnecessary snack that will hurt me? Is it really necessary for me to eat the appetizer/birthday cake/have the second helping or is this an opportunity for me to find a different way to celebrate or find contentment and peace elsewhere? Conversely, am I waiting to eat for a good reason? Am I pushing my body into deep hunger because I’m “busy” or punishing myself for yesterday’s choices? Would it be wiser to take the time to fuel my body now rather than pushing on and potentially making poor choices later?

Is it True? Is this food what it claims to be? Is it secretly full of junk or hiding stuff in it that doesn’t align with my goals? Is this food telling me that I’ll feel better after I eat it, even when I know that that’s false? Have I made this food into a false god or am I consuming it for what it is, just a food that exists. If it causes me to fall into a place where I am harming my body/mind and putting my confidence/comfort into that food, it’s not true to my morals, so best to skip it.

Does it Improve Upon the Silence? Will eating this food or at this particular moment improve my life? Will I truly benefit from consuming it or will it cause me to stray into a place that I don’t want to go? Is this desire to fill myself up with something come from a place of physical hunger or do I need to check in with myself or someone I trust to deal with the real hunger I’m feeling?

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

This is all easier said than done, obviously. But, guys, we’re all addicted to something. We’re all guilty of using something to numb the pain or uncomfortable feelings that inevitably come from life. These things usually aren’t dangerous in and of themselves (But sometimes they are…I mean, porn and drugs are pretty much never going to be helpful). However, it’s our relationship to these things that makes them dangerous. It’s so easy for us to fool ourselves and pretend that the thing we’re abusing isn’t as bad as all that. But if we’re dependent upon something other than God for comfort or coping, we need to be very honest with ourselves about what that says about the state of our hearts.

Maybe you think I’m overly sensitive or projecting my own stuff onto you and you’re welcome to think that. That may be the case…but I kind of doubt it.

If the only thing you post on social media is “funny” memes about how much you’re drinking or how much alcohol you need to “survive” your regular life, maybe you need to take a look at whether or not those jokes are actually funny or if you’re using humor to deflect a real problem.

If you’re buying yourself an extra treat at the grocery store and scarfing it down in the car so your family doesn’t know you ate it, you need to examine why that’s a behavior your engaging in.

If you’re spending too much money on Amazon and blaming it on the pandemic, you need to ask yourself what it is you’re trying to cover up with all those boxes on your porch.

If you’re secretly surfing porn at night and can’t stop yourself, you need to figure out what’s at the root of that void you’re trying to fill.

If you’re spending hours and hours staring at your phone, closing and reopening the same apps over and over, maybe it’s a good idea to examine your heart and see what it is that you’re trying to escape from.

This work is hard. It’s a long road and it’s lonely at times. Confronting our addictions forces us to confront ugliness in our hearts and that’s never pleasant. I’m no expert and I certainly don’t have my own addictions whipped, but I do know that being open and honest about who I am and where I’m at takes away the power that shame tries to wield over me.

At the end of the day, I struggle with food and social media addiction. That’s just the truth of it. But the other more important truth that I cling to is that I am beloved by my Lord. My addictions and struggles are an opportunity to grow in holiness. They can sanctify me if I let them. My addictions are actually crosses that can lead me to Christ if I allow them to transform me rather than control me.

One day at a time, my friends. You are loved exactly as you are exactly where you are.

A Light Read: Sobriety, Codependence, and Coming Back From the Edge

The fifth of July is a really special day for our family, but not one that usually get’s a lot of pub. This is mainly because July 5th conjures up some pretty painful memories and not all of it is my story to tell.

However, it’s a story that’s worth telling because it is an example of perseverance, answered prayer, and an incredibly faithful God. July 5th is my husband Vinnie’s sobriety anniversary. This year marks two years sober for him and I could not be more proud or grateful.

I checked with Vin before I wrote this post because I really wanted to make sure that he was okay with me sharing and that he read it all before I pressed the publish button. It’s really important for me to make this distinction because being vulnerable about alcohol dependence – or dependence upon any substance, for that matter – is hard. Really, really, hard. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband is okay with me sharing publicly. Because, here’s the thing: I know we’re not the only ones and it would be such a gift if we could be an encouragement to someone in a similar spot.

I’ve learned so much in our two years of sobriety. I could probably write and type and talk all day about the things I’ve learned and am continuing to learn on this side of alcoholism. But I’m going to try to reflect a little here and see where we get.

Vinnie is probably the smartest person I know. He is so clever and quick. He’s one of those guys who can figure out how to fix just about anything and we always joke that he knows just enough about enough things to bullshit his way through the rest and come out on top. I’ve never seen someone who’s able to turn nothing into something like Vinnie can.

When we moved to Cleveland from Florida, we were pregnant with our second baby, jobless, with few prospects. It was a low point to be sure, but Vinnie managed to find a job as a deli clerk at a grocery store and worked his way up from there. He became a journeyman meat cutter, then snagged a spot on the opening team of a new upscale grocery chain, then became the head butcher at a high-end steak house in town. Eventually, he worked his way up to sous chef at the restaurant and has since moved on to become one of the most highly trained butchers in the area. He’s really great at what he does and I’m so proud of him.

But what most people don’t know is how deeply dangerous the food industry can be, especially for people who are predisposed to depression and/or substance abuse. Vinnie checks both of those boxes off, so while he was succeeding and growing and advancing at work, it was in a toxic environment.

Restaurant life is brutal. The hours are abysmal. Employees arrive early and leave late. The pace is hectic and stressful. Good restaurant crews are able to create amazing food for countless tables, simultaneously balancing special requests, cook times, miscommunications, and endless complaints from obnoxious customers. The pay is low, the thanks are nonexistent, the hours are shit, requiring employees to work holidays and weekends, and success or failure is just one bad Yelp review away.

If you’re scheduled for late service “late” means 2 am some nights. And after you’re finally done with service, the party culture restaurants are famous for leads the crew out to drink either celebrate a good night or drown their sorrows. It’s common for staffs to leave work, party hard, then stagger back the next day hungover just in time to do it all again.

I only understand a shred of it because I’ve never personally lived it, but I have seen what it does to people and I know I’d never make it. No chance.

The restaurant industry chews people up and spits them out only after making sure they’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stripped bare and broken. It’s no surprise that the people who making the industry tick struggle mightily with mental health and turn to numbing behaviors to get by. It’s no way to live. We’ve seen friends deep in the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and have lost some, too. People are dying, literally dying, and yet the industry gets no breaks. (If you want more information on this, check out this article that references some interesting studies and work being done to support people working in the food industry.)

Our story unfolded somewhere in the middle of all of that. When I look back at what we got through, what Vinnie survived, I am just floored by how lucky we are. We dodged the bullet in a lot of ways and all by the grace of God.

Man can fly from everything in nature, but he cannot fly from himself.

Venerable Matt Talbot

We’ve been married 11 years now and a lot of that time was spent in denial. We both knew there was a problem, but neither of us wanted to address the elephant in the room. Add to that the fact that we had four babies in five years, lots of stress and job changes, and the grinding culture of restaurant and retail work, and you can see how we became more and more dependent upon our addictions. His was alcohol, mine was food.

During the worst of it, I was deeply struggling with codependency, something I’m only now fully realizing and continuing to work through. It was really easy for me, the non-alcoholic, to feel smug and self-righteous because I wasn’t doing anything “wrong.” But the more things spun out of control for Vinnie, the tighter I tried to control it. I micromanaged and nagged and obsessed and stalked. I compulsively checked his text messages and looked for any excuse to catch him doing something wrong. I obsessively talked about it with my best friend in Texas, rehashing arguments and airing a laundry list of worries, complaints, and fears. Weirdly, this behavior made my husband pull away from me.

The one thing I got right in all this was that I prayed. My prayers may have stemmed from a place of fear and control, but the deep desire of him being stripped of dependence on alcohol and falling into dependence on God was real and pure. I became good friends with St. Joseph and St. Monica. I prayed novenas and rosaries, offered masses, and begged the Lord to deliver us, to heal our relationship, and to save Vinnie’s life. While I frequently feared for his physical safety, I was desperately afraid for his soul and my deepest desire was for Vinnie to see his own worth, to be known and held by the Father.

I need to let you know, though, that my prayer life wasn’t perfect. There were plenty of times when I let my resentment, pride, and anger stop me from praying for him as I should have been. My heart has been hardened and broken too many times to count. While this is a story of Vinnie overcoming an alcohol addiction, it is also a story of me being humbled over and over and over again, learning to listen and to surrender it all to the Lord.

Eventually, I started going to therapy. Y’all, every damn person needs to go to therapy. Yes, that means you, too. If you haven’t tried it, you are seriously missing out. Self awareness can be harsh and hard, but it is so healing. We can’t expect to effect change in our relationships until we identify and take responsibility for our own negative behaviors.

In the darkest part of this journey, I was so worried about controlling my children and husband so that we could check off the boxes to show we were doing things “right” that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I became a person who was only as happy as others were with me. I blamed myself for everything. It was my fault that the children didn’t behave. It was my fault that he had to work such long hours. It was my fault that he was drinking so much. If I were a better wife, he wouldn’t do that. If I were a better mother, they would act the way they were supposed to. I was caught in a cycle of self loathing and self pity, and it wasn’t pretty. I was desperate to control everything and furious that it wasn’t working. I was murdering myself to make everyone else happy and then completely filled with resentment when they weren’t miraculously joyful.

My therapist taught me the mind-blowing truth that I’m not in control. Then she took it to the next level and told me that I’m not responsible for anyone else’s emotions. And then she told me that I can only control the way I choose to react to situations and that maybe, just maybe, not everyone else processes things as quickly as I do. It was revolutionary.

I did a lot of hard work to stay in my lane and to take responsibility for myself. Allowing others to make their own choices and letting them experience the repercussions of those choices has been the number one game changer in how I approach parenting and my marriage. I will struggle with this for the rest of my life, just like I struggle with my own numbing behaviors and unhealthy relationship with food (a post for another day), but just being able to name the thing has been life altering. It’s hard to fight a battle when you can’t articulate the thing you’re fighting.

And that was when we had the breakthrough. It was the ugliest, most depressing July 4th of all time and I won’t go into a lot of detail on the particulars, but at the end of that day I put it all down and told him he got to choose. And he chose us. On July 5, 2018 my husband signed up to receive emails from Alcoholics Anonymous and started the process of getting help.

And then we lived happily ever after…in an alcohol saturated culture where it’s almost impossible to go against that stream. Vinnie decided to get sober while he worked in a place that kept whiskey on hand for the sole purpose of staff drinking. He decided to get sober in a country where it’s culturally expected that you drink under all circumstances. Celebrating something? Have a drink! Having a tough time? Have a drink! Want to have fun? Have a drink! It’s more fun! Want to relax? Have a drink! You’ll be more chill! Want to be hip and masculine? Have a drink! This one has a beard on the can! Are you the mom of small children? Rosé all day, mamas!

During his first few months of sobriety, we had to navigate a lot. Birthday parties held in bars, holidays, explaining over and over again that he quit drinking and then dealing with the absolute weirdness that comes from saying that to another human. Fam, if someone tells you they don’t drink, please don’t feel awkward. Just say, “Cool!” and move on. They probably don’t care if you drink. They’re well aware that other people don’t have the same problem that they do and they don’t expect the entire world to stop drinking just because they did. Alcoholics live with this unfairness every day. You’re nothing new. If you do want to abstain around them, that’s incredibly kind and we thank you, but don’t make a big thing of it. Maybe just congratulate them and then talk about something else. It doesn’t have to be weird unless we make it weird.

In all of that, Vinnie just went cold turkey. We got better at communicating and giving each other permission to feel how we feel. I started fighting my own addiction demons, which kind of made us feel like we were more on the same team. We started making our faith more of a priority together and we have scraped and crawled and grown so much in the last two years.

Obviously the struggle is not over. There will always be days when Vinnie wishes he could drink. There is often a feeling of being left out of the club and sometimes the awkwardness takes us by surprise. But he will be the first one to tell you how awesome it feels to not be hungover on July 5th (or any other day, for that matter). We’re going to be working on this for the rest of our lives and that’s okay. We know what it looks like now to look our ugliness in the face and give it to the Lord. We’ve confronted a lot of demons and are living witness to the fact that God is faithful. He loves us, He hears us, He pursues us, and redeems anything.

Our story is not over. God is still healing and working on our hearts. I can only say it is such a privilege to have been chosen to be Vinnie’s wife. I have seen him look his demons in the face and fight for life. I have seen him grow into the husband and father I knew he could be when I first fell in love with him. I have seen him come back from the absolute brink and I have been generously given back the husband that I lost to alcohol. I pray that I may be made worthy of my vocation as his wife and the mother of our babies. I pray that we would both be given the grace to carry our crosses well for the greater glory of God and I am so thankful that God can use even this to reveal His love to us.

If you’re in the middle of a dark place, take heart. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert and I obviously realize that your story won’t necessarily play out like ours has, but regardless of how things are resolved, you’ll never regret pursuing God first or taking responsibility for yourself. If you’re struggling, keep going. Things won’t get better overnight, but healing does come. Fight for your spouse. Hold them accountable and hold yourself accountable, too. On this side of alcoholism and codependence, I can assure you that the benefits are worth every single minute of struggle.

Yes, in all my striving, He is both the rest and the restoration I seek.

Megan Hjelmstad for Blessed is She

Resources: If you’re a book person and want to dive into addiction and codependence I suggest starting with The Book of Waking Up by Seth Haines and Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Even if you think you don’t personally struggle with either, I’d be willing to bet that you’ll identify with some of what you find in these books.

You can also hear Seth Haines featured on the Fountains of Carrots podcast, which I highly recommend.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved. You are deserving of the goodness that comes from a life free from addiction.

For Such a Time as This

I had a really rattling experience the other day and I’ve been trying to decide if it’s worth sharing because it’s so layered and nuanced. I’m going to go ahead and share it with the caveat that I don’t have the answers, y’all. I don’t usually share too much political or potentially political stuff on this platform but I want to share this story because it’s important. I need to start by saying that I don’t expect you to agree with all of my feelings about this situation, but I ask that you disagree with charity. Also, this is going to be a real long post, so hang on to your butts.


So the other day I was driving my eldest to piano lessons and I had all the kids in the car. We were traveling down a street and I looked over and noticed that there was a man kneeling on the ground about a block ahead of me. As I got closer I saw that he was a large black man on his knees on the sidewalk just sobbing. Like, absolutely wrecked, entire body shaking, full on sobbing.

Y’all, it was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. And I couldn’t just leave him there. But also, I had all my children in the car which always makes me nervous any time I’m tempted to interact with strangers on the road because you just never know. So I wasn’t 100% comfortable with stopping, but I was 1000% not comfortable leaving him.

So I turned around and tried to get back to him, but the streets in that area are all wacko and weird about where you can turn so it took me a minute and I ended up only being able to turn left and approach him from the turn lane. I rolled down my window and called to him, “Sir, are you ok? Do you need help?” and he just looked up at me and didn’t reply. I was pretty certain that he had been drinking since he was swaying a lot and was uncommunicative. I couldn’t stay in the turn lane much longer so I tried to turn around again all the while desperately wracking my brain to figure out who to call.

Normally, I’d just call the police, but that felt all wrong. (This is where you might disagree with me and that’s ok.) As far as I could tell, this man was committing no criminal activity (aside from possible public intoxication), he wasn’t causing a disturbance, hurting anything or anyone, and I just really feel like if you’re in a place in your life when you’re drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk, the last thing you need is a ticket for being drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk.

And honestly, I think that the police in that part of town would probably have been incredibly helpful. However with the current climate in our country, I just didn’t really want to risk things escalating when this situation didn’t necessarily warrant police assistance. I have never felt so stuck, so unable to find a solution, or so helpless. I was crying and praying and circling back to pull over again when I saw that someone else beat me to it.

I pulled up to a stop sign and looked over to see that there was now an older white man holding the black man in a deep, deep hug.

While I was turning around, this older white couple (who could’ve been poster models for the “Boomer” generation) got out of their car and approached this wounded black man on the sidewalk, picked him up, and held him. And it was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time.

To be clear I’m not sharing this to say, “hooray for white people coming in and saving the day for this poor black man.” This isn’t one of those situations where you get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do in the first place. However, in a world where a lot of what we see is the ugly and the nasty, it was really wonderful to see humanity show up in a positive way. It was such a blessing to me to see such opposite sorts of people be so vulnerable with each other and it showed me a new layer of my own privilege and prejudices.

The entire thing left me feeling shaken and upset that I felt unable to help this man. That morning before all this happened I had made an Instagram post about how everyone at home was crabby and I was girding my loins by wearing a shirt that says “Perhaps you were made for such a time as this,” and my Stella Maris medal. If you’re not familiar, the shirt references the book of Esther and Our Lady Stella Maris is the Star of the Sea, symbolically guiding and pointing our ships to Christ through the storms of life.

Later, after piano lessons, I got a message from my friend, Meredith, who wanted to share with me a piece that she wrote for her church newsletter. In it she talks about the very scripture in Esther that my shirt references. I’m going to just go ahead and share Meredith’s piece with you because it is just so good and I can’t bear to choose just one quote.

So, here’s Meredith:

Esther was living in tumultuous times – the Jews were in danger, rulers were corrupt, everything felt risky, and she, a single individual who felt very unqualified, chose to be brave and stand on the foundation of her faith.  I’m sure in that moment, when she went to stand before the king, she felt like I often do – stomach in knots, shaking hands, and that nagging feeling that none of her efforts would make a difference, anyway.  But for those of us who are sitting here in the summer of 2020, we look back and we know: it made all the difference in the world.

“For such a time as this.”  What relevant words!  Throughout the ages, the saints of God have been standing on his promises, declaring the truth, standing up for justice and mercy, and proclaiming the gospel to the next generation.  They did it in the book Acts, as the early church spread like wildfire.  They did it during the early years of this country, as they helped each other to freedom on the Underground Railroad and did not give up hope.  They did it during World War II, hiding Jewish families in their homes and risking their lives for what was right rather than what was easy.  They did it in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, as they cared for the sick despite the sacrifices involved.  And they did it in all the times between, in the uneventful years, when wars were ceased and times were calm, as they pointed to Jesus in the everyday living.  

It has struck me recently that we are the saints chosen for “such a time as this.”  We are part of this enduring story that started with those early Christians and has passed along down generations of families.  We’ve had our faults and our failures, but the truth of the gospel has remained steadfast, and throughout wars, famines, disease, and unrest, the saints of God have stood firm on his Word and proclaimed the truth that we have hope and that all will one day be made new.

And here we are. We are living in a time of sickness, political unrest, and racial disparity. We are holding the torch – we are carrying the baton in this moment of history.  How will we, like Esther, stand firm, despite our shaking hands and nagging doubts?  For me, I will tell my children about the good God that I serve.  I will encourage others.  I will not stop standing on the truth that I know brings healing.  

One day, my great-great grandchildren will look back at this time, and it will seem like vague history – that’s ok. But I hope that these great-great grandchildren will be carrying the torch of faith with them as they face whatever trials they are facing.  I hope that my choice to stand firm on the promises of God will be the link in the chain that makes all the difference.

Meredith Priset

Guys, I don’t know the right answer to heal our broken country. I have a hunch that it’s a billion little answers that are nuanced and complicated but equally rooted in the Truth of love. I am never going to be a political mover and shaker. I will never be a lobbyist or a pundit. Just like Esther, Meredith, and so many before me, I most certainly am going to be unsure and hesitant about my role and will most likely feel ineffective and helpless again and again just like I did the other day.

But I am clinging close to the truth that we are building a cathedral. Each small act of justice, every whispered prayer, all of the tough conversations with children, the letters written to law makers, each and every interaction of love between strangers is more brick and mortar building us all up to heaven.

We were made for such a time as this, to bear witness to the Light. And when we see Light shining in the darkness, it is our responsibility to illuminate it further and to keep laying more foundation like all those who have come before us, one brick at a time.


“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household fo God, built upon the foundations fo the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:19-22

Healing

In light of current events, I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve often felt frightened, anxious, ashamed, convicted, angry, resentful, and confused. I’ve had a hard time making sense of things and have prayed for cunning eyes and the grace to see Truth amidst the many voices and headlines that seem to assault me every time I glance at my phone…which is basically every spare second of my time because I’m an addict. Working on it.

In response to that, I’ve been trying to be more disciplined about reading Scripture. Every day I try to start my morning by reading the day’s readings and devotions I subscribe to. I’ve been opening up my bible to read the scriptures in deeper context and to take time to really meditate on them instead of just reading them on my phone. It has been a life-giving practice.

I rarely have a hard time finding a way to connect with the day’s readings, but today the readings just gutted me. It was like they were written specifically for this very moment in history.

My eyes are spent with tears, my stomach churns; my bile is poured out on the ground at the brokenness of the daughter of my people, as children and infants collapse in the streets of the town.

They cry out to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out in their mothers’ arms.

To what can I compare you – to what can I liken you – O daughter Jerusalem? What example can I give in order to comfort you, virgin daughter Zion? For your breach is vast as the sea; who could heal you?

Your prophets provided you visions of whitewashed illusion; they did not lay bare your guilt, in order to restore your fortunes; they saw for you only oracles of empty deceit.

Lamentations 2:11-14 NAB

Gracious, if that isn’t relevant. I’ve never really spent much time in Lamentations, because honestly it’s not very pleasant. I’m definitely guilty of seeking out scriptures of hope and promise and avoiding the uncomfortable ones. The introduction to Lamentations in my bible says, “…the reader is not so much engaged by the Book of Lamentations as assaulted by it.” I feel the same way about the news every dang day. “But with its unsparing focus on destruction, pain, and suffering the book serves an invaluable function as part of Scripture, witnessing to a biblical faith determined to express honestly the harsh realities of a violent world and providing contemporary readers the language to do the same (emphasis mine).

I think that’s where we are, friends. Or at least that’s where I am. I feel assaulted by the pain, horror, injustice, and evil in my country and overwhelmed by the fact that it comes from all sides. But I’m learning that I have to lean into the uncomfortable parts of life in order to grow. I have to examine my own heart, to identify my personal responsibility, look my sin in the face, and make it right. I’m heading to confession today.

I don’t understand the world. I don’t have all the answers and I have failed so many times. I feel pinned and inadequate, ill-equipped to grapple with the things going on in my country and paralyzed by the fear that whatever it is I do, it will never be “right” or “good enough.”

But here’s what I do know. Racism is a horror, an unequivocal sin, and a blight on our culture.

I also know that there’s a difference between justice and vengeance.

I know that we are all sinners and we are all deserving of mercy. Everyone.

I know that nothing will heal us but God, and that we’re not all called to fight injustice the same ways. But just as with the book of Lamentations, I am called to look sorrow and pain in the face and to listen. Everyone is allowed to feel their feelings, even if those feelings aren’t easy for me to understand or agree with. The only way forward for me is to push into the pain and to pray.

Cry out to the Lord from your heart, wall of daughter Zion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; give yourself no rest, no relief for your eyes.

Rise up! Wail in the night, at the start of every watch; pour out your heart like water before the Lord: lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who collapse from hunger at the corner of every street.

Lamentations 2:18-19

Right now my heart feels like the Centurion in today’s gospel (Matthew 8:5-17): “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” I know that I am unable to heal anything on my own, unable to affect change without first being healed myself, without being radically transformed by Christ.

Healing is the central theme of the gospel and healing is what our world so desperately needs. Today in Matthew, Jesus heals the Centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many more:

When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

‘He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.’

Matthew 8:16-17

He’s here to heal us, friends. We’re never going to conquer evil or injustice or pandemics without looking into our hearts with humility and honesty, taking responsibility for our place in the world, and opening ourselves to the healing light of Christ.

We have to boldly seek truth, realizing that political leaders and organizers of movements may not be completely rooted in gospel truth, regardless of whichever cause they serve. We have to develop open hearts and cunning eyes, constantly checking in with Jesus. He must be the only one we serve, not politics, parties, or movements. To be clear, I’m not advocating that we take no action but rather that we carefully discern which organizations and individuals we support rather than being swept away by every social media post we see that has an eloquent quote (something I am guilty of). We have to do our research before we align ourselves with anything or anyone.

Healing starts with recognizing the belovedness and inherent dignity in each and every person, even those who seem the most evil and ugly to us. We are called to serve justice with mercy and reconciliation. We are required to take responsibility for our actions, even if that means admitting we were wrong. We have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, leaning into the discomfort and hiding ourselves in the wounds of Jesus.

Here is the prayer of my heart:

Lord Jesus, you know our hearts, where they are aching, consumed by anxiety, gripped with fear, where they are hurt, wounded, and hardened. You know all the places we store up little hopes. You know our wants and needs and all the false gods we turn to. Give us the grace to turn to you today. Lord, bolster us where we feel weak, weary, and worried.

Jesus, heal our hearts. Bind up those things in us that rebel against you. Purify us and give us hearts of flesh in place of our hearts of stone.

Father, give us eyes to see you at work in our lives, hearts that break over what breaks yours. Give us ears to hear you speaking directly to us and the humility and obedience to serve you.

Reveal yourself to us, Lord, in every person we meet. Remove our blinders that we might see belovedness all around us.

Jesus, this world is broken. We are broken. Draw us to you and comfort us at your breast. Help us to recognize you offering yourself to us and give us the grace and fortitude to offer ourselves back to you.

Amen

Rest and Rise

I recently reached the point in the ‘ole pandemic in which I was crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I mean…if you’re not crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, are you even coronavirus-ing?? The tl:dr version is that I hit a wall.

The long version is that it was the first day of our weekend. My husband had worked yet another 60+ hour work week, and while I am eternally, eternally grateful that he’s still got a job, his working so much means I’m home alone with the kids. Again, I am so grateful but it’s hard. (Yet another of life’s strange truths: you can be indescribably thankful for something and also be completely over it.)

I started the day tender, emotional, and testy. I eventually set out to do my once a week apocalyptic Wal-Mart run, which was awful because Wal-Mart and also extra awful because pandemic. Ugh. The register was possessed and either wouldn’t scan things or inexplicably scanned things that weren’t even near it. Not kidding, a package of graham crackers was ghost scanned like ten times, so the poor cashier had to void that out and then move on to peppers that wouldn’t scan at all. The whole experience was trying, made extra frustrating by the fact that I got home and realized I had left two bags at the store.

I took it really well. (Please see: lying liar who lies.)

After I finished teaching the kids new curse words (let’s be honest, reviewing the word’s we’ve been working on for the last few weeks), I set in to fight with my husband who was being nice to me. He foolishly offered to help me, perhaps forgetting that I am a native Texan born and bred and also the clone of my mother and don’t nobody try to help me when I need it thankyouverymuch. It was one of those moments when I knew I was completely in the wrong and I needed to shut up and be humble enough to accept help, but I just couldn’t get my dumb self to do it. Lawd.

So I found myself crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot, texting a dear friend who replied, “I feel like that so often. Cry it out is my theory. Don’t block the feeling because this f*$%&@! sucks.” And ain’t that just the perfect truth? So I cried at Wal-Mart and went in to get my stuff and kept on moving forward, which is just kinda where we’re all at these days. (As an aside, can I just say that masks work real well to hide the fact that you’ve been crying in the parking lot, a perk I wasn’t expecting when this whole mask thing began. So there’s a little silver lining.)

I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then. Trying to piece together why I’m wound so tight, finding it so hard to cope some days. Even my (completely patient and not stubborn like me) mother told me yesterday that she, a retired person, feels inordinately stressed, rushed, and busy. She’s been making masks for folks, perfecting her pattern and sending them off to friends and family who need them, but other than that her daily life hasn’t changed all that much. She lives in a rural area in Texas that sort of forces her to isolate just due to geography. Mom and I agreed that, regardless of our life situation, there’s a pervading sense of urgency to everything we’re doing these days that seeps into our consciousness. The fact that we’re always at home doesn’t affect this pressure at all. We’re collectively operating under a sustained high level of stress, like some sort of twisted carpe diem that urges us to hustle and do “enough” while we’re effectively forced to tread water. What a time to be alive.

Separated from the Sacraments, unable to do my weekly holy hour in Adoration, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more prickly. I’ve allowed myself to settle into the mindset that I have to do things myself, my wellbeing is dependent upon my actions, I’ve got to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and it is through my own power that I will forge on ahead into the new normal, as they say.

I realize that this is clearly not due to separation on God’s part, for He is nothing if not constant. This change in attitude is due to my own weakness and sin. I’ve allowed my grief to build up walls in my heart. We’ve lost so much and I think it’s normal for our defense mechanisms to spring up. Perhaps you’re finding that, like me, you’ve become critical, prickly, and judgmental when you desperately desire to be gentle, open, loving, and free.

While this response is normal, it’s never satisfying, at least for me. The walls I put up on my heart always end up being constricting and the “control” I create is stifling and suffocating, certainly not freeing like I intend. I find that my version of “in control” often ends up looking more like paranoia and a vice grip on the steering wheel rather than the confidence and peace I’m really searching for.

The truth is, of course, that nothing I manufacture for myself will ever satisfy. The deeper truth is in the resurrection, the truth that every death I experience is a new beginning and Jesus is deeply present in both. Right now we’re in an ongoing new beginning that seems to stretch on in an eternity of unknowns. We have laid so much down, been required to offer up, sacrifice, let go, and take away. It hurts, this death of our previous lives. It hurts deeply. But after death there is always resurrection. Christ is present in it all consistently redeeming it with His endless mercy and grace. In a reflection over at Blessed is She, Kelsey Dassance says, “Let us rest and rise in His invitation to grace. Let’s live for eternal life.”

Rest and rise. I love that.

Guys, we can rest in grief. We can let ourselves be sad and cry in the Wal-Mart parking lot. We can take a moment and feel the weariness and acknowledge the fear. But we are an Easter people, are we not? We get to live the truth of the resurrection every single day. It is only in claiming that truth that we can make peace with where we’re at.

Claim the truth of the resurrection every moment of every day. That which has been killed, the places we’re laid low, the dead ends, the broken backs, the space where we’re just done…that’s where He is. Christ is right there waiting to hold space with us, be near us in our woundedness and redeem it all. Each ending, however large or inconsequential it may seem, is an opportunity to receive Him. The key, I think, is in laying down our will and taking up His. Christ specifically said,

“…I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”

John 6:37-40

Guys, whether we’re grouchy, afraid, crying at the Wal-Mart, or lashing out when others offer us help, now is the time to rest and to rise. Now is the time to live the truth of the resurrection over and over and over again, as many times a day as we need. Jesus is constantly working, constantly moving, always redeeming and raising us up in every single dead space we experience. But we have to claim it. We have to open our prickly, grouchy, fear filled hearts, rest in Him and rise in His truth.

And as a caveat, let me remind you that we’re not required to rise and seize the day and come out of all this like perfectly transformed butterflies with new business ideas, angelic children, and the recipe for world peace. Shit, we don’t even have to have mastered foamy coffee or sourdough. We’re simply called to rest and rise in Christ. And when we rise, let us rise in the deep truth of our identity: that we were created from love and created to love. Let that be our transformation, to love others and ourselves through the gentle, redeeming eyes of a Savior who’s been there.

Rest and rise today, my friends. You are indescribably precious and loved.

Weekly Mish-Mash

Hay, friends. Back in the day when blogging was kewl, people would do like a weekly wrap up and I’ve always thought it was fun. However devoted I am to blogging like it’s 2014, the truth remains that I’m not real good at following a schedule. Thus, this may be the only time I ever do this…only time will tell, I suppose. But anyway here’s a random conglomeration of stuff that happened around here this week. Enjoy!


I got a little crafty this week and managed to make this rosary hanger!

Obv you all need a tutorial to make this bad boy:

Step One: Raid your murdery basement for an attractively distressed piece of wood.

Step Two: Use a janky saw and the assistance of your children to cut the board to a random length. Don’t measure, just follow your heart.

Step Three: Buy some screw hooks and attache them all willy nilly. You can kinda measure, but when it gets to be too mathy, just eyeball it.

Step Four: Have your husband hang it up for you.

Optional Step Five: Go ahead and have your kids fiddle with it a lot because it’s too temptingly close to the heat register where they’re spending all their time because life is unfair and it’s snowing. Anyway, they’re going to need to fiddle with it quite a bit, until it falls and then you have to restring/rehang it. But it’ll be just fine and only one rosary bead should be lost. If you lose more, you’re doing it wrong, duh.


While I’m on the subject of tutorials, check out the amazing clean dish sculpture I made yesterday!!

I consider myself a bit of an expert on the creation of the clean dish sculpture. Since I’m so good at telling everyone how to do things properly, here are some pointers for the novice: It’s really important to include a full mix of dishes. You need to have a solid base of bowls and pots, but not too solid or it takes the element of danger out of it and if you’re not at least a little worried about that bowl you got as a wedding gift, are you even sculpturing?? I also like to mix in some colored kid’s plates and a smattering of cutlery to really showcase the flow of the piece. Upon completing one of these masterpieces, I like to time it so I can pat myself on the back and then turn around to see that a child has left a dirty plate on the counter. It really speaks to the impermanent nature of art and life, don’t you think?


Now for the fashion portion of our blog! The kids (and grown ups) received hand made masks from Granny in Texas. Pandemic, but make it fashion!

The smiles on these little faces were a sight to behold…I think.

Truly, the kids were so excited to get these masks and Granny is so cool she even had Star Wars fabric for everyone, so it was a hit. Obviously, I wish we didn’t need them, but I’m so grateful to have them!

Some of the chums received new Eastery jammies from their Nana and there was some seriously adorable modeling happening last night, if I do say so myself.


Speaking of yesterday, man was that a long ride on the struggle bus. Lawd. I feel like everyone’s emotions have been very cyclical. We’re fine until we’re not and then we’re sobbing hysterically because we can’t remember the number forty. Not kidding, that was a serious source of consternation for one of our guys yesterday. Gracious.

Thankfully, his daddy, who is his number one best friend forever for life these days, came home from work and then life was good again. I’m always just broken down with thankfulness when the hubz comes home from work (for a multitude of reasons) and I’m not the only one. The guy can’t get in the door without being mobbed by every person in the house desperately needing to be held and tell him all of the important things that happened. He just scoops them all up and listens and loves on them like the saint he is. We hit the jackpot with that one, y’all.

Yesterday he also brought home packages from Nana that included hot cocoa mix AND Spaghettio’s ABCs and 123s, so I’m predicting that morale will be much improved today. Fingers crossed and all that.


A fun activity! Our wonderful, wonderful preschool shared a fun link to a Covid-19 Time Capsule. It’s such a fun idea and it’s got free printable journal pages for kids to record how they’re feeling, what activities they’ve done to fill their time, books they’ve read, etc.

It’s a really cute idea and I looooove time capsules. Of course when we tried to do it, people ended up throwing pencils because they weren’t doing it “right” whatever that means, so perhaps we’ll revisit it at a later date. Lord give me grace, etc, etc.


And last, I was joined this morning by a gal who lost a tooth last night…and by ‘lost’ I mean she pulled it out with a bloody vengeance that is surprising coming from one so sweet and gentle. She takes great joy in ripping teeth from her head, which makes me absolutely shudder and gag in horror. It’s the quite ones you have to watch, I’m told…

This would’ve been a picturesque morning of bible study, journaling, and hanging with my girl, but alas the noises of a child slurping hot chocolate make me rather stabby. Not gonna lie, y’all, I’m struggling with the constant noise and neediness that comes from social distancing with four kids. I’m trying real hard to offer it up and remember that God can be found in the most mundane of tasks and frustrating of moments. So, even if my morning prayer time is less than peaceful and I’m currently running on a constant level of annoyance, I’m praying that I’ll view the kids as less of an interruption and more through the lens of vocation.

And, as I’ve been interrupted in writing this about four gajillion times now, I’ll end the rambling. You are loved, my friends!

Mary Susan

Much Will Be Required

I read the following scripture passage yesterday, one that I’ve probably read or heard a bajillion times. It’s the story of Peter and John curing a crippled man and I can’t get it out of my head. It goes as follows:

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed a the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:1-10 NAB

As I read and reread this passage, I’m struck by the crippled man being healed and the idea that, even though he experienced a miraculous healing and his life was obviously immensely improved, much would now be required of him. Being healed took away the impediments holding him back, but I wonder if this new development also took away a certain level of comfort. I can’t presume to know what the crippled man was thinking or feeling as his life began to unfold in such a new and dramatic way, but when I put myself in the situation I’m left with a lot of fear, if I’m honest.

This healing meant that he would no longer have to beg for alms at the temple. But now he’d have to find work, reintegrate himself into society, essentially come to terms with an entirely new identity. Let me be clear: these things are not bad. Working, contributing to a community, embracing an identity based on Christ, these are all deeply good and holy things. Yet I can’t help but imagine how difficult it would be to navigate these life changes after the miracle. When I put myself in the place of the crippled beggar, of course I am delighted to be healed, yet so wary of everything that is sure to come after.

As I dig deeper into the feelings that this story draws up in me, I’m forced to ask myself, where am I crippled? Where am I in need of healing? Where do I cling to my pain or my crutches, or the mat that I’ve laid on so long that it conforms to my body?

Am I hesitant to claim healing because of what it will require of me, of what I will be asked to give up? Am I letting my fear of the unknown drag me every day to the Beautiful Gate of the internet, the pantry, the world to beg for acceptance that won’t sustain me?

Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

Luke 12:48 NAB

Have I become so comfortable in my infirmities, so dependent up on what I know now, that I’m unwilling to trade in my paralysis for the opportunity to run and jump and praise? I wonder.

I think part of my fear is rooted in the idea that maybe I won’t be strong enough to rise to the challenges of adapting to life after healing. That I’m not strong enough to fully give up the things I cling to: the likes, the sugar, the idea that I’m in control and if I do the right things, I’ll be whole.

It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to step out in faith even when I know that the One beckoning me forward is only concerned with my ultimate good. And the truth is, I will never be “enough.” I will never be equipped to do battle with my addictions, dependencies, worldly alliances, or to reconcile my humanity with my call to holiness, at least not on my own. And that’s the point, right?

The crippled man doesn’t get a happily ever after tied up with a bow. He is arrested, along with Peter and John, and put to trial before the Sanhedrin where Peter boldly proclaims the truth of Christ. However, it is on his account that they are all released, as the community knew him and his story well: “…they released them, finding no way to punish them, on account of the people who were all praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been done was over forty years old.” (Acts 4:21 NAB)

Being healed, knowing Christ, being transformed in Him is not a one time event. The crippled man wasn’t healed and then allowed to walk off into the sunset. Much was given him and much was required. The path to holiness is one that we have to keep choosing over and over and over again, knowing full well that more will be asked of us than we think we can give. We aren’t called to a happily ever after, but rather to work out our salvation with fear and trembling even and especially in moments of doubt and fear, trusting that He who tells us to get up and walk will be guiding us on every step of the way.

If you’re like me and can identify with this struggle and the difficulty to trade the battle for control for an alliance with the Holy Spirit, I guess I just want you to know that this is all normal. You’re not alone and, while I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do have faith despite my doubt. I realize my struggle is not due to any failing on the part of God, but due to my fallen nature and my humanity. And that’s okay. God blesses the struggle. There is holiness in admitting that we don’t have it all together and still struggling on toward Him. We don’t always have to get it right and I truly believe that any forward movement toward holiness is honored by Christ, whether that’s a full on run, a stumble, or a crawl. Jesus meets us where we are, as we are, no matter what.

If you’ve never prayed the following prayer, I highly suggest it. I usually follow it up with, “Lord, help my unbelief.”

LITANY OF TRUST

From the belief that I have to earn Your love
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security
that I have what it takes
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You
will leave me more destitute

Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of
Your words and promises

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against
childlike dependency on You

Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances
in accepting Your will

Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future
Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past
Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking
in the present moment

Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked
to give more than I have

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life
has no meaning or worth

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement

Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me
Jesus, I trust in You.


That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings and transforms me Jesus, I trust in You.

That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You Jesus, I trust in You.
That You are with me in my suffering Jesus, I trust in You.

That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next Jesus, I trust in You.


That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church Jesus, I trust in You.

That Your plan is better than anything else
Jesus, I trust in You.


That You always hear me and in Your goodness always respond to me Jesus, I trust in You.

That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others Jesus, I trust in You.


That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked Jesus, I trust in You.

That my life is a gift Jesus, I trust in You.

That You will teach me to trust You

SISTERS OF LIFE
Annunciation Motherhouse 38 Montebello Road Suffern, NY 10901 845.357.3547
sistersoflife.org
Written by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, SV