31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Order (Day 27)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Order (Day 27)

So, funny story – this post about order that you’re reading right now – is about as out of order as it can be. First it was going to be the post for day 4 of this 31-day sojourn. Then it was forgotten and became day 23. Then something else happened and it got bumped to yesterday. Annnd then it got bumped again.

Sorry, Order. You just haven’t been that important to me – I’ve taken you for granted for years. Especially in the past. I saw very little need for you. I’ve kind of pushed you around, using you for my own gain only when I felt it necessary.

As a woefully busy wife and mother with an embarrassing amount of things on my “to do” list, you’d think I would have gotten my act together, and all my household chores and ministerial obligations would be systematically honed and scheduled and executed like clockwork.

Excuse me while I laugh my freaking face off.

Because everything does not run like clockwork around here – not even close – and I am sorry to say that, while there are seven people with free will running around in the house, much of the reason things are not orderly is because of my faults and failings. The crux of the responsibility falls squarely on my shoulders.

I could rhapsodize about all the problems I’ve had with Order (and its immediate family members Scheduling and Deadlines and Cleanliness) – all the baggage, as it were – that led me to this place. And, perhaps, it would make me feel better to get those things off my chest, and perhaps it would cause you, dear reader, to empathize or have pity upon me in my plight. You know the one thing enumerating it all wouldn’t do? It wouldn’t get a dang thing done better, more quickly, or with fewer meltdowns. So, I will save that drama for another time. Perhaps.

Today, Order, I see you. For this moment, in this space and time, I truly do.

There’s value in you, Order – dare I say, possibly, even joy –  that I’m starting to welcome as time marches on and the baggage seems less significant as the to do lists and tasks and calendaring items seem more so.

I’m learning, however slowly, that having things in order – at least, as much as I am able – can free up more space to do things I want to do rather than, as I’ve long thought, would squelch my creativity. In that freedom, friends, I’m finding some unexpected joy.

Inconceivable, I know, but true. One routine tweak, one to do list, one tidying up session at a time.

before and after

Until tomorrow, y’all – praying for your peace of mind and a sprinkling of joy.


31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Gifts (Day 26)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Gifts (Day 26)

So, I think there are two kinds of people in this world: those who like surprises, and those who do not. Guess which I am?

Yes, yes, I love surprises. And so, tonight, it is my absolute (and unexpected!) joy to share a very, very beautiful and fun surprise with you. I thought I was going to be posting about the unexpected joy of order tonight, but God (and my sweet friend Meg) had other ideas.

I will not apologize in advance, but I will warn you: a sizable photo dump ensues from the marvelous spiritual art care package I received via snail mail mere minutes ago. I knew I was in for a treat when I saw the return address label:

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I haven’t known Miss Meg for very long, but she messaged me when she saw my “Life is Beautiful” post on FB, I believe. Meg wrote to tell me that she was so moved by my words that she wanted to offer me a gift from her shop to commemorate my birthday. I thought she was so very sweet. And then I plum forgot to follow up with her on her offer. How very me of me.

Anyway, we did finally connect, and I was so impressed by the items I received (The Memorare, below, as well as The Hail Mary Prayer and ABCs) that I asked her if she’d be interested in collaborating for the (at the time) upcoming Catholic Women Rejoice conference.

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Thankfully, she said, “Yes,” and not only created the cover art for our program, she provided signed mini-prints of the cover art for each of our attendees!

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I was so impressed by Meg’s generosity of spirit, her humility, and her openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that I invited her to work with me on next year’s conference, too. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Anyway, back to the care package … I was like a kid in a candy store – ripping at the package:

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I knew Meg was working on a Liturgical calendar, and … she sent it!!

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I’m planning on sharing more about the calendar itself next week, so you’ll just have to wait. 🙂 However, in true Meg form, she sent other amazing goodies as well! Here’s the front view:


And the back view:


And close-ups, clockwise from the upper left!

Flowers/St. Faustina quote bookmark:



Houses/Mother Angelica quote bookmark:



Butterflies+flowers/C.S. Lewis Humility quote bookmark:



Geometric stained glass/Divine Mercy (Diary of St. Faustina quote) bookmark:



Periwinkle+leaves flowers/Edith Stein bookmark:



Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas for a Holy Life card

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Fortitude card:



And, last but not least, an Act of Consecration card with Miraculous Medal:



It is so wonderful to see someone with such amazing gifts using those gifts to glorify God and to encourage others. I was just overwhelmed by the generosity and beauty before me … and simply humbled.

Please go check out my friend’s shop. I promise you won’t be disappointed, whether you purchase a gift for yourself or for someone else.

Until tomorrow, may God bless y’all with abundant joy.


PS – BTW, Meg neither asked for nor knows that I’m writing this post, but I hope that an uptick in her orders by generous souls such as yourself will make her glad that I did. 😉 –hr

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Psalm (Day 25)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Psalm (Day 25)

The Lord has done great things for us

Did you catch today’s Responsorial Psalm at Mass? Yes? No? It was almost as if God chose it precisely for my #write31days topic! How unexpected.

Even if you didn’t catch it, you’re in luck, because I’m including it here for your (further/initial) meditation, contemplation, and perhaps for even praying aloud.

How often do we take the time to recall the amazing things God has done for us and those we love? What has He done that has filled you with joy today, yesterday, last week, last month, last year?

Once you’ve prayed and are able to do so, write these things down so you may consider them again when you need to be encouraged.

If you’re in a good place right now, it will likely be quite easy to go through this exercise. If things have been challenging or downright terrible lately, however, it might take a bit more perseverance. Perhaps just ask for God’s help to pray these words until you believe them when you read them. That is more than enough.

I encourage you, though, regardless your emotional state, to ask God to help you to see where you’ve been utterly and richly blessed.

Be reminded by the Psalmist and by the testimony of your own life that we serve a good God, an awesome God. He has done great things for YOU.

R. (3) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Until tomorrow, may God continue to mightily bless y’all.


31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Self-Care (Day 24)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Self-Care (Day 24)

Today’s guest post was written by my friend Melissa Cecilia, and is about something I’ve struggled with over the years, even before I became a wife and mother: self-care. Taking the time to nurture one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual being is key to a balanced life, yet it’s so easy for one – or all – aspects to be neglected, and, before you know it, everything’s out of whack. I hope you enjoy Melissa’s insight and tips on how to create everyday joys! Please feel free to share in the comments what you do to care for yourself.

After experiencing a rough summer and bumpy start of graduate school, it would’ve been easy for me to say, “Well, there’s nothing to be joyful about with everything that’s happened.” However, I know better than to go down that route.

I have a little rule for my life: do something you enjoy every day. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and not thinking about the stress while you listen to your favorite song. Don’t believe that it can help? Allow me to show you how it helped me.

I was in and out of the hospital for most of the summer. Yes, a pain (sometimes quite literally) but nothing that I couldn’t get through. During one late E.R. visit I was able to go outside around midnight and just look at the stars. There wasn’t too much light pollution so I was able to sit outside and marvel at the beauty that surrounded me. It was so wonderfully peaceful to simply sit outside, by myself, feeling the cool air as I tried to look for constellations and shooting stars.

Post-surgical procedure down time is hard for someone as active as I am. I don’t like sitting for more than half an hour. I don’t like not having something to do. I was in so much pain and was unable to do much physical activity for weeks at a time. Instead of dwelling on it, I occupied my mind. I read some of my favorite books (as well as re-read my own novels). I worked on a gorgeous summer-themed jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes even watching a favorite movie would help bring a smile to my face when I wasn’t feeling that great.

Those were just some things I did for myself; how I find joy in the little things. Are you feeling stressed out and stuck? Take a walk in one of your favorite places. This could be around your neighborhood, a park, or even a shopping mall. The idea is to physically remove yourself from the thing that causes you to stress out.

Unable to go out and finding it hard to think of something to do? Make yourself a cup of tea (or the beverage of your choice), go on Spotify or Pandora and discover new music. Have a mini dance party and don’t care about what anyone says. Sing along to your favorite song. Not big into music? Re-read your favorite book – or at least your favorite parts of your favorite book. Even painting your nails can have a positive effect on you. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Self-care is so often neglected, mostly because it can feel like you’re feeling lazy or unproductive. I believe it contributes to our inability to see the good things in our lives. If you’re a busy lady, don’t feel bad about taking five minutes to yourself every day. Sometimes you have to create your own little moments of joy, and that’s perfectly okay.

Heather’s note: Want more? Check out The Visitation Project’s audio episode about self-care here.

About today’s guest writer:

Melissa “Emmy” Cecilia is a Young Adult / New Adult author and freelance writer living in Los Angeles, CA. She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and is currently studying towards an M.A. in Biblical Theology from John Paul the Great Catholic University. She enjoys swing dancing, hiking, being a budding photographer, and getting lost in the world of literature. In her spare time you can find her blogging over at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer.

Emmy ogiti

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Movie Night (Day 23)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Movie Night (Day 23)

Our children’s school has a fun tradition of sponsoring regular movie nights in the gym. The kids wear pjs, bring a blanket and a stuffed friend, and sack out on the floor while the adults (and 2-year-old) hang back slightly and keep a (mostly) relaxed eye on things.

Tonight’s selection was Inside Out, a movie probably everyone has seen and knows more about than I. While I’d heard of it and vaguely recall people liking it, no details particularly lodged in my noggin. This could be because I get out to see movies in an actual theater once every 18 months or so (on average) and Inside Out wasn’t on my 3-year-plan.


Imagine my surprise when I discover the movie is all about emotions, and who’s at the center of the emotion squad? You guessed it. A character named “Joy.”

Movie night near

Movie night screen near (Joy with Sadness) … and

Movie night far

Movie night screen far (again, Joy with Sadness).

I liked the movie. I really did. I laughed out loud several times, and was biting my lip several more to keep from crying (so sue me! I’m a softy!). I couldn’t help but think about Easter Sunday, and how it wouldn’t be possible without Good Friday, just like Joy realized she needed Sadness to help Riley (the human protagonist) reengage with her family and environment.

I am a sloooow movie-processor, for the most part (probably because I don’t see them often and am out of practice), but I’d love to talk with you about it: have you seen Inside Out? What did you think?