Monday, August 8, 2016

I Don't Want to be a Good Wife until You be a Good Husband!

I realized something life changing today... earth shattering.....

I don't actually want to be a good wife sometimes.


Sometimes I read meditative essays or books about being a holy woman and I'm like... That is sooo great.

I will never achieve that, so just give me wine and chocolate please -- in no particular order. 

More often than not, my days are spent running after everyone and cleaning up after them and then trying to make a schedule and then failing and then trying to feed everyone healthy food and then giving up and having popcorn and bananas for dinner in the same clothes I wore the day before. My days are about making rules which get broken within five minutes of making them and intentions to pray which end up turning into "LORD! HELP ME! I am so cranky right now!" They are about consequences that make total sense -- go stand in time-out for five minutes to.. mom has gone off the deep-end consequences where they are grounded for life and never allowed to have any fun ever ever ever.

Okay, so it isn't like this all the time. It's not a bad life, it's an amazing life.

We just have some "figuring out our life's chaos because we didn't get an instruction manual" moments of despair.

My husband, this morning, neglected to empty the dishwasher while I was at the store, and my level of anger was almost such as it would be if, say, he told me he needed a break and was going to Hawaii solo for three weeks.

The dishwasher.

I cried as I put the dishes away which literally took me five minutes, and did my whole mental speech of "I do everything around here and no one appreciates me and no one cares and everyone hates clean houses and happy mothers clearly because if they loved me they would help even without asking" etc etc.

Then I decided I would never help anyone with anything again and everyone was grounded for a month and I would give David the silent treatment until I was no longer angry which would probably mean silence for life because I couldn't see myself getting over it anytime soon.

This, my friends, is....

an overreaction.

But can you relate? Please say it isn't just me...!

In prayer today, once I finally had some time alone, I decided to honestly look at my role as a wife. I'm a pretty decent mom and I have certainly grown in the homemaking department, but in the wife department, it can be hit or miss.

When I am stressed, I want him to take care of me. I have no desire to take care of his emotional needs -- I just sit cranky, waiting for him to serve mine.

And in those moments, I realize my desire to be a good wife is contingent upon one thing:

Him meeting MY expectations and emotional needs.

I realize that in those moments of stress, I become very self-centered and actually, dare I say, harder to love, because I am not seeking to give, not seeking mutual affection, but rather seeking him to absorb my frustrations and stress and surprise me by cleaning the whole house and cooking and taking care of the kids!

Well, not cooking the kids...

I realize that in the same way that I need him to be there for me, he needs me to be there for him and neither of us can put a contingency upon that gift of love and service.

I heard an awesome homily once that said marriage is not 50/50. It is 100/100. But sometimes one person is only capable of 75 and the other person needs to give that extra 25 on top of the 100 percent. In marriage, we are called to give to one another totally, faithfully, fruitfully, and freely... we can't hold out even if we feel like the other person isn't giving us that 100! Otherwise, we both only put in a meager amount and keep the rest to ourselves. The more we end up keeping to ourselves, the less we give...

and the less we give....

the less we forgive...

and the less we love.

So, I do want to be a good wife, but above all, I want to be a holy wife who loves the Lord and asks for His help to love and forgive and have patience with my husband. I pray the Lord will give me the desire to have a sacrificial love for David that continues to give without contingencies and loves him for who he is and not for who he is not. I pray that our love for one another will truly be transformative -- not changing us into good housekeepers or cooks or whatever, but changing us into true servants of the Lord and each other.

Out of that selflessness, I believe.. is the path to sanctity. :)

God bless! And... pray for me:)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I Should Have Said Something

While I do not enjoy confrontation, I do prefer to speak my mind if something is on my heart.

This has been an evolution for me, really, because in my family, we try very hard to be careful not to hurt someone's feelings, but what often ends up happening is that someone will get upset and then tell everyone (except the perceived transgressor) and then stew about it and hold a grudge. It is just what we do and maybe that is because I grew up in a family of mostly girls- drama! Emotions! The plus side is, we are very sensitive to the ramifications of our actions and rather careful in choosing when to make a big deal out of something. Unless we run out of chocolate.

My husband's family is quite different. When they have a problem with one another, they get it all out in the open right away and everyone moves on. When I first met David, I thought he and his parents had a strained relationship, because they were so very frank with each other. I asked David about it and he said, "What? We aren't fighting. This is just how we solve the problems!"

I had a lot of respect for that approach, so I have tried to grow (painfully slow) in dealing with hurts right away instead of stewing about them and then once the issue is solved I work toward moving on. Still, I maintain my own history of really, really trying to discern whether or not it is worth making a big deal.

There are three times, however, that have stuck with me, where I would give anything to go back and have the courage or opportunity to SAY something.

1) When I was in 8th grade, I needed service hours for Confirmation. I chose to volunteer at the Jewish Community Center in Memphis at their camp for special needs kids and young adults. I was assigned to a nonverbal autistic girl, but there were many special needs represented from kids with cerebral palsy to more severe forms of autism. There was a girl, 18, who, for whatever reason, the employees did not seem to like. I can imagine it was hard for them to work with her in many ways. They had to change her clothes frequently and she had to wear an adult diaper. She wore a bib for drooling. But she was so sweet. She always said hi to everyone and while she could occasionally be argumentative or stubborn when asked to do something, I thought she was a sweetheart.

One day, the employees were arguing over who had to change this girl's diaper. They yelled at her to go to the changing room and they changed her pretty quickly, but not without a lot of yelling. To be clear, I never saw any signs of physical abuse whatsoever. Just a lot, a LOT, of yelling and frustration. When the girl's mom came to pick her up that day, the mom asked how her daughter did at camp. One of the employees who had been yelling earlier said, "She was terrible. She would not do anything we said and I do not know if we are going to be able to let her come if she continues this behavior." I remember looking at the mom and seeing her heartbroken expression as she took her daughter's hand and led her out of the building. I wanted to grab the mom and say, "Please, don't worry! Your daughter was very good! Some employees were just impatient, but she was good!!!"

But I didn't. I said to myself... you don't want to undermine the employees. Don't worry about it. You are just a kid volunteer.

2) When I was in college, I was student teaching in inner city Memphis. It was a TOUGH assignment, but I totally got control over that classroom by the end of my time there. My first week was spent not teaching at all - just breaking up fights. I read every inner city teacher memoir I could find those nights and started an affirmation board where I spent my lunch handwriting every kid a note every day, telling them something I appreciated or noticed about their actions that day. They loved them and then wanted to do well! It was amazing.

I had to speak with parents at parent teacher conferences and out of my 20 plus students, only one mom AND dad came. Only two other moms came besides that set of parents. This mom and dad loved their little girl and were clearly highly invested in her education. She outperformed all the other kids, was respectful, and was one of the few who showed up in clean clothes every day. My cooperating teacher, for some reason, did not seem to like this particular girl. She told her parents that this little girl was not paying attention in class, was causing fights with other kids, and being sassy. At first, I was so confused -- are we talking about the same girl?! Yes, she was. The parents looked a little stunned, too, and said they would definitely talk to their daughter. As they left, I wanted to go up to them and say that my cooperating teacher was mistaken -- their daughter was doing great, but would probably benefit with a different teacher or school.

But I didn't. I told myself that it was not my place.

3) Last year, David, the kids, and I were at a Target in Wichita. After shopping, David took two kids to the car and I took two kids to the family restroom. As I was coming out, I saw a man wearing sunglasses (odd, given we were inside) and a woman who very much looked like she stepped out of an adult film - gobs of makeup and platinum blonde hair and clothes that left very little to the imagination-- standing outside of the restroom. I put the kids in the cart and the couple stood there watching me. I felt uneasy and started to walk away, but then looked back and saw both of them go into the family restroom and shut the door.

I wanted to knock on the door and make sure the woman was okay.

But I didn't. I told myself, they are two adults and maybe they are in a relationship or maybe it wouldn't be safe for her or me to interrupt.

In each of these three cases, I neglected to say something where the purpose would have been GOOD. It would have been LOVING. It would have been out of CONCERN. It would have ACKNOWLEDGED THE DIGNITY of someone whose dignity was not respected.

Why is it that we are courageous in saying things out of anger or self-righteousness, but when it comes to saying something out of love, we are silent? Why is it we can point out what someone is doing wrong, but when it comes to verbally recognizing their gifts or defending someone being persecuted or bullied, we feel it is not our place?

In our silence, we allow hate to speak. To isolate. To destroy.

Our loving words and our loving courage could begin the healing that so many of us need who are isolated, or being condemned, or believing the lies that other people tell about us, or feel our dignity is directly tied to what others say/think.

Don't miss the opportunity to care or to tell someone they are good.

Be courageous.

"I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
I wish I would have said something.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

An Open Letter to the LGBTQ Community

Dear LGBTQ Community,

I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to you and your loved ones as you grieve the loss of loved ones and family and friends from the terror attack at Pulse in Orlando. I have heard it said love is love is love, but I would take it one step further. Life is life is life and all life is sacred. Love begets life.

I would also like to apologize if I or any of my fellow Catholic brothers and sisters may have made you feel like your life had less worth or dignity for any reason whatsoever. Your life, as all life, is sacred.

We have been at odds for many things and I don't see a need to rehash any of the ways we have disagreed with one another and how we choose to live our lives or run our businesses or practice our religions etc, etc. What I hope we can do is find common ground and combat hate. 

This is our mutual and strongest enemy.

You see, you were murdered in Orlando. But you and I also have brothers and sisters murdered in Nigeria for how we live and practice our faith. You and I have brothers and sisters who are murdered in Afghanistan. You and I have brothers and sisters who are murdered in Syria. You and I have brothers and sisters who live in constant fear. Our Catholic brothers and sisters are shot in the head, burned alive, raped, homes burned to the ground, sold into sex slavery, beheaded with their heads put on stakes, drowned, hacked to death by machetes, starved, children mutilated, publicly humiliated, modest religious sisters and priests paraded through the streets naked and tortured, etc. Muslim sympathizers have the same fate. Your brothers and sisters in the LGBT Community are thrown off buildings, gang raped, and murdered just as we are.

I hope that what can come from this horrific and terrible tragedy in Orlando is unity.

My faith didn't cause the mass murder in Orlando or the 25 men murdered for being gay in Syria just as your community didn't cause the murders of 300 children, women, and elderly in Syria.

What has caused these murders is hatred. Even Muslim sympathizers are annihilated by hate. Hate knows no religion, sex, race. Hatred does not discriminate. Hatred kills from the inside until it has to kill on the outside.  There are bad people, period, but any organized effort to kill in the name of hate must be stood up to and stopped. This persecution is not an American problem  - it is a global one and it has gone on for centuries. We just choose to ignore it until it hits home.

Hatred comes from choosing not to love someone. Hatred comes from choosing not to forgive someone. NO ONE is immune to hatred. This is the hardest teaching in Christianity... when the Lord says that it is easy to love our friends as even hypocrites can do that, but He instructs us to love our enemies.  Even if you do not believe in Christianity or God, even as a fellow human being, you can easily see the benefit and great difficulty of trying to love not only our neighbor, but our enemy as well.

Please, do not reject my condolences. I offer them in love in the midst of a tragedy that does not just affect you, but all of humanity.  I understand what you are going through, as I have wept for my murdered brothers and sisters around the globe and seen even here, in shootings, people asked if they believe in God and then subsequently executed. I fear it could be me or my children one day, too, that are killed for our faith. I hope your condolences for our persecuted brethren around the world, even here, are also offered in love. There is no other option but to unite against this destructive hatred, whether it breeds in the heart of a Muslim man who has pledged allegiance to ISIS or Boko Haram, whether it breeds in the heart of a pastor who condemns and sanctions violence in the name of the Lord, or whether it breeds in the heart of a member of the LGBT community who seeks to eradicate society of Christianity. You see,

hate is hate is hate is hate.

And death is death is death is death.

But the most powerful enabler of all is silence.

Again, I grieve with you. I love you, and I pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding, as we continue to swim upstream against the hatred that would wash us both away.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

You Have No Idea What Mothers Do

This post is not a Harambe post, but I do reference the situation due to my disgust reaching a breaking point with society feeling entitled to condemn mothers.

I don't use this word often because I'm afraid people won't be my friend, but I am seriously AGHAST at what I have seen from social media lambasting--no, destroying -- the mother of the child at the center of the Harambe controversy.

It's clear you who are so quick to judge and condemn and call for the head of this mother that you have no idea what mothers do. And what about the father? No one calls for his head.

So, I am tired of it and here to set a few things straight. First of all, there *is* a war on women but it's not what you think. The war is on wives and mothers. No other woman faces the abuse that we do. You are damned  if you do and damned if you don't.

If you work, you don't love your children. If you stay home, you're lazy and uneducated. If you send your kids to private school you're a snob. If you send your kids to public school you're a heathen. If you homeschool your kids you're a sheltered religious nut. If you let your kids play outside alone, you are negligent. If you actively monitor your kids' play, you are a helicopter parent.

This has to stop. 

You, whose children would *never* get away from them: Do you have your kids in the right car seat, rear-facing until 13? Are your children straight A students? Did you breastfeed until 5? Are you checking your food labels for Red Dye number 765? Do your kids have screen time less than five minutes a day?

If yes, move along. You are the perfect parent.

Do you know what it is like to lend your body to another human being out of love that grows deeper with every sleepless night, with each stretch mark, and pound gained? Do you know the guilt we feel when the doctor tells us something may not be quite right with the pregnancy or when your baby is rushed out of the delivery room for extra care? Do you know the pain and guilt mothers feel who have lost a child?  Do you know the fears we feel when our kids misbehave, that maybe we are doing something wrong and failing as a parent? Do you know the nights we stay awake praying when one of the kids is sick? Do you know the pressure to have a magazine picture perfect body, house, and marriage? Do you know the constant, constant anxiety we have making sure we give our children the freedom to grow but the boundaries necessary to guide them into decent human beings?

I don't know this mom. She could be a great mom or a terrible one. I don't know.

But neither do you.

If my entire motherhood was based on the one moment in time that something happened out of my immediate control, well, that thought is depressing and I may as well quit now.

Moms are the cooks, the maids, the teachers, the caretakers, the nurses, the police officers, the breadwinners, the nurturers, the chauffeurs, the entertainers, the planners, the organizers, the spiritual advocates, the researchers, the accountants, the reference books, the shoppers, the repairmen, the yard workers, the garbage men. We multitask and work even in our sleep!!

You, criticizing from the comfort of your social media page, have much less on your agenda evidently.

We don't deserve your condemnation in our failure or mistake or oversight or inability to see into the future, we deserve your support. You just have no idea what we do and the fact of the matter is if you are a productive member of society, chances are pretty good that you had a decent mom or mother figure that, while imperfect, helped you navigate this world and shape your virtue.

This mother's child was mischievous, no doubt, but he maybe he just wanted to get closer to this beautiful gorilla. (Thank you, Disney, for teaching children all animals are cuddly and just want to be our friends.) That this mother is being harangued and threatened is astounding to me and clearly shows the lack of value we place on moms.

Moms train on the job. If you've never been responsible for another human being you have no idea how your role changes overnight and how intimidating it is without the parent police in your face with their holier than thou judgment and "advice". You simply cannot be prepared for every possible action of another human being, and that is terrifying and amazing at the same time. Things I never thought I would ever have to say or rules I never thought would have to be in place have come into play due to the fact that I just could not have predicted the unique personality and actions of each of my kids. It's humbling to remember...You don't listen to your Perfect Father 100% of the time either!

In this day and age when people blur the lines on what it is to be a woman, it is absolutely clear that to society women are nothing more than a pair of breasts and high heels. The mystery of woman is solved, they say! Women are being sterilized all over the world, mutilated, sold, harassed, humiliated and if we speak up, more harassment. If we make one misstep, our entire career as a mom is over, tried and hung in the court of public opinion -- A public opinion that has thrown due process and innocent until proven guilty out the window.

I've been astounded at the way men have spoken to me in what I thought was civilized discussion. I've been astounded at the way women have attacked one another, dragging each other through the streets by their words, not stopping until that person is destroyed and then, maniacally laughing about it! No joke ! This goes on in your high schools and middle schools even! If you knew the way boys spoke to your daughters with such disrespect and the absolute terror girls put each other through... you would just cry, as I have, many times coming home from a ministry even where teens have poured their hearts out and mothers cry too.

Enough is enough. Put your Facebook gavels away and buy some diapers for a young mom. Put your Facebook gavel away and buy a young family dinner. Put your Facebook gavel away and offer to help put the groceries in the car. Put your Facebook gavel away and make family friendly employment policies. Put your Facebook gavel away and give a mom a day off. Put your Facebook gavel away and tell her thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for doing the best you can.

You're doing a good job.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How the Church Could Revolutionize the Workplace

David and I have spent the last ten years or so working for the Catholic Church. We have been in some extremely pro-family work environments, and some pretty strict business type environments, but as our family has grown, we have spent a lot of time discerning how to put our vocation first and live out the ministry through our vocations.

We are extremely blessed to live and work in Dodge City and we have been blessed along the way in the many other places we have traveled/been employed -- THIS IS NOT A VENT POST ABOUT THOSE EXPERIENCES!!! This is an encouragement to all Church employers and personnel to re-think how we approach employment policies to make them as family friendly as possible, to set the bar for all industry to promote LIFE & FAMILY!

Something that is very important to us:

We don't ever want our kids to think they are competing between our attention for them and our attention to those we minister to in the Church. 

We want our family to be a place where vocations to the priesthood and religious life can grow. We know that the witness of families in the Church can promote vocations not only in our own family, but in others as well! We believe that a parish supportive of its own working families will be a place that grows vocations!!!!!

We have been blessed to work and minister at many parishes around the country full-time, part-time, and in itinerant ministry. Some of the thoughts I share in this blog are rooted in those experiences, but many of the points I make are rooted in the larger conversation about how to be a light for the rest of the world in not just saying we are *pro-family* but setting up environments that ARE, in fact, *pro-family.*

People who work for the Church by and large do so at great financial and lifestyle sacrifice. There are long hours, weekends, nights, early mornings, weeklong trips, and retreats. There is never a *turning off* of the ministry, which in some ways is the same as having vocation to ministry. You are a witness. It is crucial to represent the Church not just at the office, but the grocery store, the home, among parishioners, among friends, among family, etc. You are a resource. You are the example of faith in action.

The salary, benefits, and living wage debate are not part of this blog. I don't believe we need to put a number on what is *just*! I think with a lot of creativity, a lot of hard work, a lot of prayer, a firm budget, God`s provision, the generosity of others, stewardship, etc.,  that we can get by! We do have an obligation to provide for our families, and anyone working for the Church understands and must appreciate and acknowledge that it is a struggle! That debate is for another time, but it is really almost an impossible debate since everyone who works for the Church, both religious, ordained, and laity, depends entirely upon the stewardship of parishioners! We have an obligation to support, financially, those who do ministry just as the early church helped support the material needs of the Apostles. David and I do not just see ourselves as recipients of that stewardship, but we, as we call on other pastoral ministers, do our best to be generous in time, talent, and treasure towards the Church and those in need.

What IS part of this blog, however, are some ideas that are outside the box, outside of the traditional business mentality, that could set the bar for workplaces to be pro-family everywhere. As I was doing research for this blog, I found the following list of companies considered the best places to work for families. The Church did not make the list!

Some of the policies include extended paid maternity leave, bringing kids to work, areas for nursing babies, onsite childcare, financial support for adoption, etc.

Why do you want families working for the Church? 

1. Promotes vocations
2. Ease of ability to minister to parishioners in all walks of life 
3. More bang for your buck! (The free stewardship of the spouse and family comes right along with the employed!)
4. Because GOD IS FAMILY! Triune, Son, Father, Spirit. 

I have seen parishes so rigidly conform to a secular business model that they have lost the ability to be pastoral. Without being pastoral, the Church is weak, doesn't attract new members-- much less vocations, and doesn't keep faithful, qualified workers in the vineyard. The reality is that no matter how committed we are to the Lord and working for the Church, and sacrificing for Him, when our Church home becomes just *the office* burnout not only in our ministry but in our faith occurs. When we cease to be shepherded and begin to be corralled, our light begins to dim. Sometimes I walk into parishes and encounter those walking wounded. It doesn't matter if they are ordained or married or single -- there is no person that burnout does not touch!

This is what I propose...

1) Coworkers Vs. Brothers and Sisters

“The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility. Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man. It risks being vain and sterile.” -- Pope Paul VI  

I remember a retreat I attended with fellow parish and school staff led by Sr. Ann Shields. Someone asked her how we know when we have achieved good staff relationships. She said,


This is one of the things we love about where my husband currently works -- everyone helps each other. No one says to the other: Sorry, but that is not my responsibility. They want for the good of the other.

Staffs and pastors should be mandated to have retreats at least once a year for at least a whole day, minimum. Once as a staff and once as individuals. This isn't something I came up with on my own! All throughout Scripture, Jesus took time away from ministry to pray alone. I think lack of retreat is why so often parishes get stuck in a rut, not reaching out to the growing needs of their changing parishioners, struggling to realize the same approaches and programs aren't as effective as they used to be. We all need quiet, dedicated time with the Lord and it is essential as a staff to build relationships BEYOND the coworker relationship. Retreats provide the experience of the Lord together and the opportunity to set aside distraction and grow in fellowship.

Another thing... share a meal together. Our faith is built around a meal in the Mass. Our families gather together around meals. At least once a month, gather together to share a meal!

We all have strengths and weaknesses and praise the Lord... they are not the same strengths and weaknesses. You are the pastor of the parish you pastor because God has chosen you and equipped you with whatever you need to be the shepherd of His people in that place for that time. Your staff should be chosen with the same mindset. Who do you need to help you pastor the flock? What gifts do you see in them and how can their strengths assist you in areas where you are weaker? Pastoral ministers, the same applies to you. How can you assemble teams that support you in areas where you are weaker and what strengths do you bring to the table? The goal isn't teamwork, remember... the goal is family.

What is the protocol if you have a disagreement with someone? It is right in Scripture!!!!! Matthew 18:15-18. Go to your brother and discuss it between the two of you, alone. Only if he doesn't listen do you involve others. Likewise in Matthew 5:23-24, if you are the one who sinned against your brother go to him! In each case, the responsibility lies with you to initiate reconciliation. This should be written in every parish handbook code of conduct !

What if someone needs to be let go? Are they destructive? Disobedient? Unwilling to grow? Unwilling to learn? Unable to enact the vision of the pastor? Ultimately the staff must surrender to the discernment of the pastor, and the pastor must surrender to the will of the Lord! In all things, charity must be exercised, but that doesn't mean that a destructive person should still be given responsibility in ministry. The most charitable thing for that person may be to let them go so they can focus on their relationship with the Lord and discern His will in their lives.

What if you have to leave? What if you are encountering destruction, disobedience, lack of adherence to Church teaching, inability to use your gifts? What if you are simply unwilling or unable to get on board with the vision of the pastor? You also must actively discern whether God is calling you to be the one to leave.

I highly recommend the books Strengths Based Leadership and Rebuilt for more thoughts on some of these topics!

2) Office vs. Home

It can be pretty amazing or pretty disillusioning to work at the place in which you know your life`s most important work is happening -- the place by which you hope to be nourished and drawn closer to the Lord... The place you hope and pray is the vehicle by which you one day enter those pearly gates! The Church shouldn't just be the office.. it is our home. Are we welcomed? Loved? Brought to the Truth? Shown mercy?

A lot of this is up to the pastor to set the tone of the workplace. Does he take the time to encourage others to work together? Does he share his vision? Does he make his expectations clear? Does he make prayer part of the staff work day? Does he encourage and provide constructive feedback?

And, in turn, does the staff take care of their pastor? Do they invite him to their homes? Do they let him know he is appreciated? Do they let him know what they are doing? Are they obedient to his instructions? Do they offer to help him with his needs and responsibilities? Do they help him take care of his home? Do they help him when he is ill?

Even if we are not on his staff, we can all do a much better job of taking care of our pastors. 

Who takes care of their boss in such a personal way in the secular world? What industry standard do we have by which we see the boss treat his employees as though he were not simply their boss, but the person charged with being their spiritual father? Have we sterilized our parish offices so much in order to conform to secular business practices that we don't even fully grasp the depth of what we are missing out on?! Have we forgotten our primary role and mission in this life is to help one another get to Heaven?

Or have we become so casual about our office and office relationships that we have turned in on ourselves and have an *us vs. them* mentality towards our parishioners? These are important questions to ask!

Again, we have and do work with some incredible priests, whom we truly have a deep love and admiration for - I think we have to not forget these incredible men who lay down their lives in service to us.

Deacon Ralph Poyo does an EXCELLENT parish evaluation in which he notes his experiences as a visitor. If you want more resources in this area, contact him and invest in bringing him to help you find ways to improve!

3) Balance of Vocation and Ministry 

“The family is the most ancient institution which God founded in Paradise, when He called the first pair of human beings into existence. The first blessing which God gave was for the wellbeing of the family. With family life, the history of the world commences.” -- St. John Vianney 

A priest has a unique role in that his vocation and ministry are married together. The priest marries the bride of Christ -- the Church. He is Father and shepherd to her members. His ministry is lived out in his familial care and concern for us! In the same way, when a man and woman marry and begin a family, they are on call to the needs of their family day and night, night and day. A priest tends to the physically and spiritually sick children in the same way that parents care for their children.

Pastoral staff balance their vocation and ministry differently, however, in the same way as priests, Christians and those who work for the Church cannot turn their ministry on or off. It is something ongoing, at the office or home. I remember attending the Institute for New Youth Ministers with Frank Mercadante. Jim Beckman was one of the speakers who gave a presentation on how important it is for us to strengthen our personal spiritual life before we even think about setting out to do ministry. He drew a chart of three concentric circles. In the center was GOD, the second ring was VOCATION, and the third was MINISTRY. The source of all is God, but ministry flows directly out of the two. Ministry through vocation. God first, then Vocation, then ministry.

Ministry requires unusual hours and an often chaotic schedule, if you're doing it right! You must go to the people, out on the water. You must walk with people like Jesus on the road to Emmaus. And you must also have your sermon at the Mount moments where you are available and create opportunities for people to come to the Lord. There are evenings and weekend hours. Sometimes overnights and weeklong trips. There are phone calls and messages and emails and finishing work at home because someone popped into the office unexpectedly. There is the ministry of presence, funerals, weddings, school events, etc. In the midst of the chaos, we must make time for family. There are a few ways that I think we can do that, and in this case I primarily speak from my experience.

A) Welcoming the family to ministry. 

I cannot tell you how grateful I was for my pastor in Fowler, Michigan. When I was expecting my second child, I was the Director of Music for the parish. The parish my husband worked at had a pretty strict policy about bringing children to work. My pastor knew we could not afford childcare but he valued what I had to offer the parish in my own gifts and talents. So what did he do? He helped me to find someone to hold my babies during the daily Masses I played. He offered to setup a playpen in my office for my child to be present while I completed my office work. On the occasions that I had to attend a staff meeting, he bought a small basket of toys so my kids could play while we met. I know this is an incredibly unique thoughtfulness and welcoming of my family on behalf of my pastor, but I will never forget this. He wasn't just my boss, but my spiritual father. He made it possible for me to help support my family, use my gifts for the Church, and not have to choose between the two. I realize, this is not always possible in every circumstance, and that is up to the discernment of the pastor and employees, but what a beautiful openness to life and testament to being pro-family!!!! Incidentally, this parish was featured in CNN`s Called to the Collar for the amount of vocations coming from that parish! That welcoming of families extends past the workplace and into the community!

When I travel for speaking and music engagements, I bring my youngest until they are about a year old. I have been so blessed, as the places I go provide someone to watch my baby during my time of speaking or leading music. They may not realize it, but their gift of holding my child is a ministry too!!

Our pastors have been over to our house for dinner and they have been here in times of crisis. Just as we want our Church workplaces to be more welcoming of our families, we also need to extend that same welcoming hand to them!

B) Allowing flexible hours in the case of family emergencies

Many parishes do this -- allow a staff member to care for a family emergency without having to take vacation days, but instead make up those hours or that time as needed. By the fruits of their ministry will you know them, not by their hours. I don't know a single person dedicated to ministry and their relationship with the Lord that refuses to work above and beyond the minimum required. They spend time in prayer, in study, in fellowship with other parishioners, and are available even at home. Most employees of the Church who work *part-time* laugh and describe the multiple job responsibilities that they have!

I do know people, though, who have burned out, because of being unable to balance the vocation and ministry. Ministry can easily consume us to the point that we neglect vocation. My husband and I spend a lot of time talking about ministry, sometimes every day!!! We have to say okay, right now, let us talk about something else! The point I am making here, is that should we count the hours? Or should we count the fruits? I believe we should count the fruits. A pastor/boss of mine is an example of this--- when I tried to submit a proposal for my hours, said he did not care to see it, rather, he trusted me to do the work he gave me to do. I worked well with that! I had grown so accustomed to writing out my hours to make sure I could prove that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing should anyone question the time I wasn't at my desk, that often once I hit 40, the temptation was to not finish the things I had started, even if it would not take very long. I even know someone who was told they were not allowed to work past 40 hours! If we are hours conscious, are we limiting the work God can do in us? Are we setting boundaries that cause us to be untrusting of one another and skeptical or resentful?

Ministry is not our vocation. We are not ordained priests and sometimes we do need to set boundaries and admit when we are overwhelmed or need some extra help. But this does mean that we see our work as building the Kingdom of God and not simply punching a timecard. The salary we receive as employees is not our bread and butter as money well earned -- it is help to support our families, to allow us to free up our pastors to focus on what God has asked them to do too, and to enable us to reach out in a concentrated full-time manner to create opportunities for others to encounter Christ. We shouldn't expect to get rich, ha !  We should continue to operate as generous stewards and contributors to those in need as well.

Our salary is meant to cover our needs for the purpose of dedicating our lives to mission. 

As parishioners, our monetary gifts are crucial to this cause and rooted in Scripture as the early Church cared for their ministers!

C) Allowing some work from home

Now, before you think I am advocating for a bunch of couch potato slackers, I am not. But, there are many things that parish staff members CAN do from home. I definitely think staff should be accessible to parishioners at the office or rehearsals or whatever the ministry is - that includes pastors. But there are some legitimate things that can be done from home. This includes study, planning, communications, program design, assembling presentations, phone calls, calendaring, research, social media, music practicing, etc. If a family member is ill or the other parent has to work and childcare cannot be afforded, sitting down with the pastor to come up with a concrete plan of action would be beneficial. Not all work can be done from home. It can take longer as sometimes there are more distractions! I think this work-from-home scenario can be achieved with a clear communication with the pastor, plan, details of what will be done or was done at home as needed, and establishing an understanding among fellow staff of how the employee is to be accessible from home and present at the office.

D) Maternity Leave

I never took a maternity leave because we could never afford it. With my second child, I was back at choir practice three days after having her. It was difficult. Even with my fourth, I only took one week off of music lessons, again because we could not afford more time off. You do what you have to do for your family. Americans complain all the time about the pathetic maternity leave most corporations have. However, we, as a Church, actively promote the welfare of families and the pro-life mentality and yet we too fall into that category of having crummy maternity leave. Women have to go on disability and receive 2/3 pay for 12 weeks, typically. How can we change this? How can we be the model by which secular institutions can conform and also support the financial well-being of mothers and family?

I propose an alternative maternity leave and again, this whole blog really is not my immovable opinion, it is just my offerings based on what I have seen and experienced and how I truly believe the Church could, by her own employment practices, set the standard for the secular business world and not the other way around. 

I propose that each parish set aside money for a maternity scenario or even medical emergency scenario, to be determined by each parish based on what money would be required to hire outside help or provide some bonuses for current staff to take over some of the work while the employee is gone. I propose the option for:

--- fully paid maternity leave for one month.
---2/3 maternity pay for the next month afterwards with the 1/3 going to hire outside help as needed.
---option for the employee work from home or bring baby to work as needed for the next four months, full pay reinstated. The baby will be six months at that point and I propose again, that for the next six months, mother and baby be able to stay together as much as possible, work from home, bringing baby along as needed, and job responsibility and pay continue as normal.

Perhaps parishioners could use their stewardship to care for the children during staff meetings or other times when it would be difficult to do the work with a baby on the hip!

For fathers, I propose full paid leave for first month, and after that, a flexible work schedule for the second and third months including working from home, but that could all be communicated and worked out with the pastor.

So what about Catholic families like us that have many babies in a short amount of time.... would they never work? Every model and philosophy of ministry adheres to the notion that your programs should not revolve around you because if you leave, the entire program falls apart. Every ministry should have a team of volunteers from people who have gifts in those areas and seek to use their time and talent to build the Kingdom of God! As pastoral ministers, we are called upon to equip those parishioners empowered by the Holy Spirit to be able to go out and spread the Good News! The procedure I am proposing for maternity leave would be this....

When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she would setup a meeting with the pastor to begin preparations for her absence. She would meet with the pastoral staff to discuss her plan to equip others to continue the ministry during the potential two months that she is away and honestly describe what the needs of the ministry will be to allow an opportunity for others to step forward and lend their gifts temporarily to allow their sister to recover from birth. The plan would be in writing and the pastor would appoint someone to be the point person for her programs while she is gone. This person would be in direct communication with her as she plans and trains this person to take over temporarily. The woman would necessarily put in some extra time during these nine months for this preparation and continue about her regular responsibilities.

The same applies for the father, in the month of his absence.

As the child grows older, if childcare is an impossible to afford commodity, I propose flexible scheduling or working with the stewardship of parishioners who would love to minister to their staff by assisting in childcare.

THAT SAID, honest communication and discernment should be had, that if the ministry is truly suffering or family is truly suffering, God may be calling us on to something different, and we should be open to that as well. Perhaps considering part-time or contractual employment for the time being.

This is not a novel idea --- Other secular companies are starting to do this so they can  attract and retain the best, most qualified people! 


This isn't a foolproof solution and if you are scoffing, I hope not. I hope, rather, that we can begin the discussions of allowing our pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage theology to transform our parish, beginning in the work place. I am hoping the Church who has always paved the way in human rights and social justice and worker`s rights can quit trying to model all of her practices based on the stringent norms of the secular business world, and instead be the model herself, allowing other businesses to take up the same practices, transforming our world into a place where families are supported and children are welcomed.

“There is nothing which edifies others so much as charity and kindness, by which, as by the oil in our lamp, the flame of good example is kept alive.” -- St. Francis de Sales

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Weightloss Update

I am so sorry to have taken so long, for those who are on the same journey or looking for inspiration... here we go:


Stats then: 185 lbs



Stats: 173.5

I am surprised that I did not gain more weight over the holidays, because I did not exercise, but I was at my inlaws: house where we did not eat hardly any processed foods. I am still sticking with that as the ticket. Nothing obsessive, just trying to cut out as much as I can the processed foods and actually take a little extra time to prepare meals that are good for me and the family!

I have continued with ChaLEAN Extreme with my good friends, 5am Monday through Friday. 

When I wake up to workout, it is absolutely brutal, especially because more often than not I stayed up too late (my five month old is still awake) and was up during the night, but then I tell myself two things....

1) This is a decision. You can sleep in or you can decide to be healthy. 
2) If you get it over with, you can go back to bed for an hour and you will be so glad you did this. 

And it is true! I feel so much better and have more energy when I workout. It is a vicious cycle of having no energy and thus not working out but not working out means lack of energy. 

I think it is important to just take a moment, right now and acknowledge that, to an extent at least, care for our bodies rests in our hands. We have to get to a point where we don't want to be sluggish anymore, or insecure, or tired, or with other lack of exercise and weight related issues. When we do that, we can begin to work on change. I made the decision in college and joined Weight Watchers and lost 60 pounds. I made this decision after my third child, and I am making it now. 

Please keep rooting for me! It helps motivate me and if you are on your own journey, I would love to root for you too!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Can Do All Things

When I first started homeschooling my kids last year, I was full of high hopes. I just knew my kids and I would learn and have fun and stay organized and they would love me even more every day due to all this extra quality time we would spend together, frolicking in the sun and learning to read by age 4 and I would quickly be able to brag that I am seriously the....

Best. Mom. Ever.

You are laughing aren't you?

Because you know!!!!

You know what I did not and that is that kids DO NOT CARE about our dreams of being the best moms ever.

One morning I joyfully exclaimed after breakfast, "Hey Guys!! It is almost time for school!! YAY!" To which my oldest son solemnly replied, "I do not want to do school. I just want to be happy."

Ahhhh! You and me both, kid.

Day after day of plugging away... I kept praying, God give me patience!

I remember one incident where my daughter had to draw a number one. Just one number one. A line. It is a line, people. She had to draw a LINE!!!!

"It is too hard."

"I can't do it."

"I hate school."

"My hand hurts."

"I don't like this pencil."

I maintained my calm, but decided that I need a room in my house with padded walls that I can retreat to in times like these.

My mother-in-law gave me some ideas to make writing more engaging and fun. She said, tell Lucia a story. Tell her, "Once upon a time, there was ONE bear. Lucia can you make the number 1?"

I tried it. She did it. She loved it. And I put my padded room on hold.

God, give me patience.

I started to reflect, through this daily struggle of keeping the house clean, lack of adult interaction during the day most days, maintaining the music ministry, homeschooling, teaching music lessons, raising kids, etc and I began to burn out.

God, give me patience PLEASE.

One day, I was having a conversation with someone about love being a decision. Love being an act of the will and not a feeling... and I started to wonder if this applied to other things in life. And if I mastered this act of the will, could I be, if not the best mom ever, at least a moderately holy mom?

You see, I think we can apply "love is a decision" to other areas of our lives.

When I beg the Lord to give me whatever virtue I am lacking... I wonder if it isn't just that I lack the virtue, but I lack the desire to act accordingly to that virtue.

When we "run out of patience" could it literally mean that we are tired of being patient and choose not to be?

When I ask the Lord to give me better health I realize that some of these prayers require action on my part. I cannot beg for better health and refuse to exercise and continue to eat from the tin of popcorn currently sitting in front of me. (Hey! I DID get up at 5 this morning to workout!)

When I beg for greater trust in the Lord, I actually do have to step out on to the water. I actually do have to act. To follow Him.

When I beg for greater faith, I actually do have pray regularly, read Scripture, do acts of service.

Faith requires action.

I share this revelation with you because it has been pretty life-changing for me. Particularly, at this point in my life, in the areas of patience. You know those cartoons where the character's little thermometer rises until it explodes? That is how it can be for me. I tend to keep things in until I explode. Now, day by day, I am trying something different.

I try to say the words in my head, "As an act of my will, I am going to choose patience in this moment." Or when I start to feel very angry, I say, "I can choose how I want to respond to this and I want to respond in love." Or when it is almost explosion time, "CHOOSE PATIENCE"!

It takes me down a few notches and I hope eventually changes my instinctual responses to default to love and patience, gentleness, mercy, and kindness.

I have also been actively trying to fight anxieties in the same way. Normal anxieties. Family stuff, money stuff, school stuff, etc. I have started saying, "No, I am not going to think about this right now." Or "There is no right or wrong decision... there may be a better or best decision, but let us decide and move on."

Sometimes these battles of trying to choose to NOT act out of impatience take their toll physically and I feel exhausted trying to keep myself from acting out of frustration. But when I don't succumb to those things... the more peaceful our household is, which becomes such a great incentive!

Now, this isn't to say that I believe I am doing this on my own. I pray for the grace I need to take the actions I must take in order to conform my will to His. I pray for the grace to start over every stinking time I fail. I pray for the grace to love more and forgive more. I pray that God will love through me and forgive through me when I just can't seem to find the motivation.

There is a Scripture passage that really anchors this whole blog tonight. It is one everyone knows...

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

I can DO. This requires action on OUR parts IN RESPONSE to Christ who STRENGTHENS us.

I can do all things. Maybe as I pray that I will add some specifics...

I can do homeschooling through Christ who strengthens me.
I can follow a budget through Christ who strengthens me.
I can get up to work out through Christ who strengthens me.
I can love this person through Christ who strengthens me.
I can forgive this person through Christ who strengthens me.

I hope all of this makes sense, and I write this with the humility of someone who fails and tries again and who seeks to share as I learn and strive to grow in my desire for holiness, better mom-hood, better wife-hood, etc. with those who may also be in the same boat!

Prayers for you. Would love to hear your stories too!

God bless and happy Gaudete week!