200th Post Giveaway Winner!

200th Post Giveaway Winner!

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The time has arrived, my friends! We’re announcing the winner for the RCMBlog 200th Post Giveaway in this very blog post! But first – a reminder that you are ALL winners! How so? you might ask. Well, if you missed the announcement in the original post, Gina from Other Side of the Fence  has generously offered an exclusive 15% off for all RCM readers! Simply visit Gina’s shop – https://www.etsy.com/shop/othersideofthefence – and enter LaughALot15 as your discount code when you check out.

The discount code for all items at Other Side of the Fence  expires tomorrow, friends, so shop soon and often!

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And now … without further ado …

Drumroll, please …

Congratulations, dear Angela B.!! You are the winner of the #RCMBlog 200th Post Giveaway! If you would kindly email me  your mailing address, I will send it along to Gina, who will mail you this lovely print from her shop. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Thanks again, y’all for your participation and readership. It truly means a lot. Many blessings!
heather

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I’m running away, y’all

I’m running away, y’all

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As I type this, it’s so early that the sky is painted darker than liquid swirling at the bottom of an inkwell.

The birds aren’t awake.

Neither are my children.

Nor is my husband.

But I am.

I’m stealing a few moments in the pre-dawn stillness to type out a few things before I hit the road and then hit the coffee and then hit the friendly skies for a long-needed weekend away. On my own, I might add. Important detail, that.

My things are packed in a brand-new discount deal carry-on rolling bag because my old rolling bag is over 20 years old and has at least one bum wheel and I finally gave myself permission to replace it.

Last night after the kids went to bed, I (mostly) finished up one writing assignment and then I went and did something quite rash – I activated the auto-responder for my three email accounts.

“I’m away from my inbox,” the notice reads. “I’ll respond as soon as possible upon my return. God bless you!”

Activate? Yes. Save? Yes.

Some may be surprised to receive such a message from me; I’m still sort of surprised that I did it. I haven’t employed the “vacation mode” feature on an email inbox since I left the working-away-from-home world before our youngest was born in 2013. It’s been with a somewhat twisted sense of pride that anyone who needs to may get ahold of me via any manner of multiple platforms most all of the time, much to my immediate family’s dismay.

I have a difficult time turning off and tuning out. Call it “monkey mind,” call it FOMO (fear of missing out) – whatever you call it, unplugging doesn’t come naturally for some reason, and I’ve paid a price for it.

So, last night, after activating my vacation auto-responder, I turned the laptop off, took an uninterrupted shower, and went to bed at a relatively decent time anticipating my severely early wake-up call.

Sacrificing sleep this morning to be at the airport by 6 a.m. was totally worth it, though, because I’m headed across the country to spend time learning, laughing, and lounging with friends both old and new.

Did I mention I’m traveling by myself?

Before y’all decide you want to shoot me and my plane-hopping self straight dead, I’ve missed out on plenty other opportunities like this over the years. Were I in a season where I was hugely pregnant, or had a newborn, a contagious illness, an inconsolable child, an unemployed husband, an ailing parent, or the like, I would likely not be making this trip. But I’m not hugely pregnant. I do not have a newborn. I’m not contagious. My kids seem to be okay. My husband is gainfully employed. My parents, God bless ’em, are likely galavanting across the countryside somewhere on a trip of their own.

And so I’m leaving. And because I’m in the season I’m in, I don’t really feel that guilty about going. Thanks be to God.

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Recently, my Spiritual Director asked me what recharges my batteries. I didn’t have a quick response at the time. After several moments considering, I finally answered, “I need time with people who not only like me, but love me, and enjoy conversations about deep things and silly things and real things and want to hang out and eat good food and have a glass of something and solve problems and encourage and commiserate and collaborate and validate and cry and pray and laugh until our sides ache.”

And you know what amazed me? He said that I should go and do just that very thing at least a few times a month or, preferably, once a week. And even more stupefying – he really meant that I should.

Sure, Father – no problem, I snarkily responded inside my head. Once a week. Or a few times a month. Are you gonna watch my kids? And do the laundry? And take people to choir / volleyball / whatever practice? I wanted to ask. I think the astronauts in the space station orbiting Earth could see my eyes interiorly rolling at the prospect of regularly scheduled, fun (gasp!) time away from my responsibilities.

My laundry list of how and why Father’s scheme couldn’t possibly work in a million years began scrolling through my brain:

My husband. Five demanding young children. School stuff. Extracurricular activities. Volunteerism. Ministry considerations and tasks. Blah, blah, blah ad nauseum.

And yet, nowhere on that long list of why I should or shouldn’t do what he recommended was my name or my actual needs or my wants.

Typical.

I say, “typical,” because I have long been afflicted with what my friend Rebecca calls ‘self martyrdom.’ I, like many women I know, think that by putting everyone and everything else before myself, I will be holier, healthier, and happier.

Well, perhaps this model of constant sacrifice and dying to self works magnificently for some women, but in my particular case, the exact opposite is true. Neglecting my physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs has NOT made me holier or healthier or happier. It has caused much heartache and many problems, the bulk of which I won’t go into now.

And so, with slight trepidation (because change weirds me out), enthusiastic encouragement from my spiritual director, and support from my husband, I’m slowly learning to consistently put myself on my extraordinarily long list of things and people to take care of. Simple, right? Simple conceptually, sure, but, for me, not necessarily easy.

Because … that list, don’t you see? The list. And the guilt.

When I first heard that the Blessed is She writing and creative team would be gathering for its first-ever retreat this Fall, my heart leapt at the opportunity to be with my co-workers in this amazing apostolate and then sunk at the specific obstacles that most assuredly would prevent me from joining in. Money. Time. Responsibilities. Money. Stuff.

And yet, not long after expressing my desire to attend the retreat to my hardworking husband, more details emerged that made getting there seem possible. And then my husband found a killer deal on airfare. And, blessed man, he bought my ticket. And, just like that, I was going.

Check out #bisteamretreat on social media this weekend to follow along!

And so, as fiercely as I love my husband and my children, I am most definitely running away for a few days. I can’t promise I won’t look back while I’m away, because that’s not in my nature. But I can promise that I am for sure leaving behind the guilt that often prevents me from fully enjoying myself. Hallelujah!

Oh – and I am going to work on finding a way to make a casual local gathering happen on a regular basis, because, holy heck, Batman – who can afford to fly across the country every time they need a break?? Certainly not I!

One last thing – even though I’m technically returning to the chaotic throes of family life on Sunday evening, my auto-responder says I’m away from my inbox until Tuesday, and I’m holding to that, since Monday I’ll be very busy yet again waking and feeding and clothing and chauffeuring and ushering off the school-aged kids, and later I have a very important appointment to bake brownies and snuggle on the couch for a good, long while with my preschooler, because that time with my baby boy sorta recharges my batteries in its own way, too.

Have a good weekend, y’all.

heather

Photo credit

Celebrating 200 posts with a giveaway!

Celebrating 200 posts with a giveaway!

Hello, friends!

Along with being a Christian, married to my husband, parenting my kiddos, and owning some pants from x number of years ago that still sorta fit me sometimes, this here blog is one of the most steadfast things in my life.

And looky here – I recently published my 200th post! For a soul as inconsistently consistent as I, that’s nothing to sneeze at. So, to celebrate, I’m offering a fun little giveaway with the help of an amazingly talented and creative friend who is likely 100x more consistent and 150x more generous than I.gina-2

While she’s been on etsy several years, Gina Fensterer from Other Side of the Fence had a grand re-opening of sorts recently, adding home altar sets – including prayer cloths, candles, and printables – to her wares.

Gina told me she decided to open shop after she made a few prayer table cloths for her family: “I thought it would be fun to make special cloths for others, in combination with prints and candles,” she said. And, “After sharing the idea with women in a few online Catholic social media circles, I took the plunge!”

Soon, Gina says she will have preorders available for Advent and home altar sets for the entire liturgical year. How cool is that??

In between projects, Gina kindly agreed to make one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite (soon-to-be? I hope so! Saints), Mother Angelica, into a beautiful print to give away to one lucky reader. Isn’t it just lovely???laugh-a-lot-win-this-print

“Try to laugh a lot,” Mother Angelica said, “because life is funny and everybody today is too serious. The only tragedy in the world, my friend, is sin.”

If you’d like to win this custom print, simply put your name in the combox, below, and tell me something that cheers you up when circumstances threaten to knock you down. From all entries received, I’ll randomly select and announce the winner on Monday, September 19th.

Oh! And as if the giveaway wasn’t enough, beginning today, Wednesday, Sept. 14 and ending next Tuesday, Sept. 20, Gina is kindly offering an exclusive coupon code just for Real Catholic Mom readers – use LaughALot15 when you check out for 15% off anything in her shop!

Thank you so very much, Gina, for praising God with the gifts He’s given you, and thank you, dear readers, for hanging with me, as inconsistent as I may be. <3

Love,

heather

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We are never too far gone

We are never too far gone

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Have you ever believed that you were too little or too much? Not enough or more than anyone could handle? I’ve felt that way, too. But you know what, friends? We are never too little or too much for our Heavenly Father. We could never be not enough for Him or more than He can handle, because He loves us – perfectly, unconditionally, mercifully.

Today, I have the distinct honor of reflecting on today’s Mass readings at The Catholic Conspiracy.  I pray that you will know in your soul that, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, there is nothing that can compare to the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s unending merciful love for you, today and always.

You are never too far gone for His love. Never.

heather

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Wherein I rap today’s Gospel

Wherein I rap today’s Gospel

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Okay. You got me.

There might be a slight bait and switch going on with today’s post title. While it is highly probable that somehow, somewhere on the interwebz there is raw footage of me actually beatboxing or rapping or otherwise making a fool of myself for the Gospel, I’m not unearthing said footage today (cue my mother breathing a sigh of relief).

Rather, I’m over at Blessed is She, rapping about today’s Gospel passage, which is, quite literally, an oldie but a goody about the contradictions of Christian life. I share a bit about the methodology I use to dive into Scripture, as well as acknowledge how crazy it often seems to live as Christ-bearers in today’s post-Christian society:

“When we live the paradoxical, counter-cultural realities of Christianity, however, we are promised fruit that remains. In Him—and not in the world—we are ultimately satisfied. In Him, we rejoice and leap for joy. The Kingdom of God is ours through Jesus. Let’s continue to feed on the Word as we journey this road with Him.”

Read the rest here, y’all, and let me know what you do to keep yourself immersed in and open to His Living Word.

God bless y’all,

heather

photo courtesy Blessed is She

Choking Down Humble Pie

Choking Down Humble Pie

imageGood morning and happy Sunday! Today’s readings had me staring down the powerful (and I’ll just say it – intimidating!!) Litany of Humility prayer over at Blessed is She. As scary as some of the words of the LoH might be, true humility is not the same as humiliation and embarrassment; rather, authentic humility reminds us of right order – that God is God and I am not – and thanks be to God for this truth! Find today’s Scripture readings and my complete reflection here. Have a wonderful Sunday, friends. God bless you. 

heather

photo credit

Retreat with Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT

Retreat with Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT

The Retreat (4)Women of God, if you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get away for extended time with Our Lord yet weren’t sure where to go, we have an incredible retreat opportunity for you this Fall with dynamic author and speaker Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT.

Sr. Miriam is the author of the incredible book Loved As I Am, and has countless speaking gigs under her belt, including Steubenville conferences, Called to Love, and keynotes at Catholic Women Rejoice in 2012 and 2013.

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Sr. Miriam 2013

She’s also super active on Twitter as @onegroovynun, which is fun for me and all her 17.7k followers on that social media platform.

Sr. Miriam Twitter

Without further ado, here is the scoop for the upcoming Fall retreat with Sr. Miriam:

Location:
Our Lady of Peace Retreat in Beaverton, Oregon

Dates: 
Friday, October 14 (evening) through Sunday, October 16 (afternoon).

Details: 
Opportunity for group prayer, individual prayer, Confession, Mass, Adoration, socialization, walks around the peaceful OLP campus, and, of course, several conference sessions with Sr. Miriam. This is NOT a silent retreat.

Lodging:
There is limited space to stay at the retreat house the whole weekend, but we will allow for some retreatants to use the “commuter” option, which means they enjoy everything but the overnight stays. Commuters are responsible to find their own lodging off-site if they do not live locally.

Transportation:
Transportation to and from the retreat venue is the responsibility of the retreatant. Folks flying in will want to select PDX (Portland International Airport) as their destination airport.

Childcare:
Due to logistical considerations, childcare is not available during the weekend; however, Moms with lap babies are welcome to bring them along!

Cost:
TBD. Full retreat includes lodging for Friday and Saturday nights as well as all meals and materials, while the commuter rate includes all meals and materials but lodging is the responsibility of the retreatant.

Space is limited and will sell out, so if you’d like to be included on the registration list, please email: CatholicWomenRejoice@gmail.com or contact us via this form.

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Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet read Sr. Miriam’s book (and I highly recommend you do), you may learn more about her transformational story here and here.

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God bless y’all!

heather

A letter to my children as they prepare to go back to school

A letter to my children as they prepare to go back to school

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This summer has whizzed – and I mean WHIZZED by. Admittedly, this is mostly my fault. The time and space has been filled with lots of busyness and activity and not quite as much rest and relaxation as this Mama would like; however, time marches on, and the beginning of the new school year is staring us square in the face.

It is in the back-to-school spirit that I penned the following letter to the four (FOUR!) of my kiddos who will be in full-time school this Fall. You can read my Mea Maxima Cuppa column in its entirety here.

God bless y’all,

heather

Photo Credit: Green Chameleon in Bristol, UK via Upsplash

Why I can’t quit

Why I can’t quit

Recently, people have noticed that I’m sort of, um, preoccupied, with the upcoming women’s conference. Have you heard about it?? No?? Well, it’s going to be fantastic!

The fifth annual Catholic Women Rejoice conference is happening Saturday, August 20 (that’s in, um, TWO weeks) with Author and blogger Hallie Lord, blogger Mary Lenaburg, Blessed is She Founder Jenna Guizar, best-selling Author, Blogger, and The Visitation Project co-host Rebecca Frech, and Archbishop Alexander K. Sample. All the cool kids will be there! Register today! End commercial.

Anyway, the bags under my eyes are carrying their own luggage these days, and I’m not quite my usual perky self. The to-do lists have birthed multiple longer to-do lists, and while the work is beyond plentiful, the laborers are excruciatingly few. 

Over the years, people have peppered me with questions about my involvement with this event:

“Are you getting enough sleep?” No.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” Because.
“You have young kids at home!” Yep.
“It’s so much work.” Amen.

“Women are too busy to go to something like this, anyway.” Um, really?

“Why don’t you just give up?“

Why, indeed.

FULL STOP.

My friends, the very best reason to do something is because God asks you to do it. A close second is because the devil doesn’t want you to do it and whispers in your ear that what you’re doing isn’t worth it, and you’re not worth it, and the women who will be served aren’t worth it, and it’s just a big hassle, and you’re underqualified and crazy and you should just give up.

Apparently God made me extraordinarily stubborn for such a time as this, because I will NOT quit, and I will NOT give up.

Time after time, God has shown me that women absolutely do need opportunities like this. They need space for community, for fellowship, for encounter. For praise. And, like the little boy giving Jesus what he had to help feed the crowds, I believe God can take what precious little I give and use it to bless and heal women, their families, whole communities, and our broken and beautiful world, all for His greater glory.

Sr. Miriam 2013

What we Catholic women are doing – trying to live faithfully and joyfully – is an utterly counter-cultural existence. That’s right – we’re rebels. The Pacific NW, where I live, is consistently cited as one of the most unchurched areas in the nation, with Catholics as the crystal-clear minority or minorities. And we can feel it. We hear:

“You know what causes that, don’t you?” as we shop with our children in the grocery store.

“How come you let a bunch of old men in Rome to tell you what to do?” as we engage in the workplace.

“Why aren’t you taking more time for yourself and going on some exotic vacation?” as we pursue social media.

“Why do you need to confess your sins to a priest?” as we chat with our friends.

“Isn’t it enough to just be a good person?” as we talk with our neighbors.

“Live and let live, man,” as we’re told by our legislature.

Time after time our culture tells us: “That may be your truth, but it’s not my truth,” and, my favorite: “Be more tolerant,” as society drifts further and further away from the actual Truth.

Between you and me, as a Catholic woman, I have felt very alone in our society. I have felt isolated. I have felt extremely discouraged. I have believed the lie that I am the only one trying to do this work – this beautiful, difficult, amazing work – that Catholic women do. I have cried myself to sleep, wondering *where my people* were, and whether I would ever find them.

Eventually, though, I decided to quit complaining and do something. Since there wasn’t anything happening in my area where a big group of Catholic women could get together and be joyful about being Catholic women, I was going to start something. And so, with no money, no location scouted, and no speakers booked, I began planning the first general Catholic women’s conference in the Pacific Northwest with nothing but faith, hope, and a telephone.

I didn’t know if anyone would show. But they did. And they kept coming back.

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Catholic Women Rejoice and other conferences like it exist because someone decided to take a chance on the idea that women need a place (even if it’s only once a year) to gather together outside of Sunday Mass and know that we are most certainly not alone, that who we are as women matters, and that the gift of our common Catholic faith is something for which we should rejoice!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with connecting with other women online – in fact, it’s probably where I connect with friends most consistently, because that’s the season of life in which I find myself. But there is something about seeing other women – being in their presence – looking into their eyes and seeing the underlying compassion and deep understanding that transcends spoken language: “You get it.” 

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At a typical Catholic women’s conference, participants are free to be fully themselves without fear or worry. A woman can bless herself and her food before eating and no one will give it a second thought. Another can nurse her baby while enjoying a conversation. Someone can be comforted in her struggles with infertility. Another can discuss the Pope’s latest encyclical, or the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning. Still another can steal away to the Adoration Chapel for a few quiet, distraction-free moments with Jesus.

No one will be accused of being a Papist. Or a bigot. Or an idol-worshipper. Or a hater. Or a breeder. Or a weirdo. We can celebrate Mass, go to confession, and pray. We can sing, laugh, and praise. We can ask Mary and the saints and each other to pray for our needs. We can eat good food that is still warm that we didn’t have to prepare ourselves. And, you know what? We can have FUN. You know, like, smiling ’til your face hurts, laughing ’til you can’t breathe anymore, fun.

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I honestly believe that Catholic conferences and events uplift women and reinvigorate them to go back into the world and do God’s will through their individual vocation*, whatever it may be. They remind us that we are not alone in this work. They remind us that we are Catholic. And that we are strong, resilient women – wonderfully, fearfully, and beautifully made. And because of these things, we are free to truly rejoice.

And so, as I continue to wade through my myriad to-do lists, I am praying for all the women who will come to Catholic Women Rejoice, or any other conference, for that matter, that in that time and space with their sisters in Christ, they will encounter Jesus and emerge renewed and transformed. And after that? After that I’ll sleep.

Even if women’s conferences aren’t your “thing” or you can’t attend or organize one this year for whatever reason, you could donate to  our scholarship fund, sponsoring another woman to attend, contact me about putting an ad in our program or supporting us as an underwriter, or – most importantly – we are so grateful for your prayers! And I will keep praying for you. ❤️

*Whether a woman is a stay-at-home Mom, a career woman, a single woman, a religious, a work-inside-or-outside-the-home Mom, discerning her vocation, not a Mom, retired, a full-time volunteer, an Auntie, Grandma, high school student, college student, or any other iteration of Catholic woman of goodwill, she is welcome at Catholic Women Rejoice.

Grandma A

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What’s the truth?

What’s the truth?

August 4 2016 image @s_mckendrick

Lots of crazy stuff happening in the world today, right? “Crazy” seems like an understatement. I can’t believe the headlines and the feeds and the videos and the photos … it’s just too much.

Sometimes the noise from the media and society at large is enough to make me want to ditch this suburban existence and go off the grid to live in a yurt somewhere in rural someplace.

But then I wonder where I’d get my fancy coffee and a wifi signal and how we’d fit all the kids in such a tight space.

Details, details.

Even when everything seems to swirl around me at justtoomany miles per hour, there are, contrary to what the culture tries to shove down our throats, some absolute truths (and Truths) to which I cling, including:

God is good.

I am His.

I am loved.

Everything is grace.

The Catholic Church is my home.

Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist.

Mercy awaits all who enter the Confessional.

Being a wife and a mother is good, holy, and thoroughly exhausting work.

Heaven is real.

Music lifts my soul.

Almond milk lattes make me happy.

My husband is hilarious.

I love a good bass line.

Each of my children are wonderfully, fearfully made, and I’m lucky to be their Mom.

Jesus Christ is real and I need Him.

***

Today, I have the honor of contemplating today’s Gospel reading over at Blessed is She. Basically, I’m asking myself – and you – if I truly have the faith to believe that God is Who He says. And, if I do believe it, what am I so worried about? 

” … faith isn’t reserved for some moment in the future when we have a minute to spare. It’s for today—it’s for right now. God is on His throne today. Jesus is saving us today. We are His children today. Do we believe?”

God’s got this. He’s got me. He’s got you. If only we have the faith to believe.

Read the rest here.

God bless y’all.

heather

Photo credit: Shannon Lacy for Blessed is She