Clinging to the Cross

Clinging to the Cross

Once upon a time in the future, I’ll be a more organized writer person and know exactly when things I’ve written will post on other sites ahead of time. Apparently, today is not that day.

Some time last year, I looked ahead to today’s Gospel and wrote a devotion for CatholicMom.com about perseverance in clinging to Jesus and the Cross. As is often the case (I blame the Holy Spirit), the words I wrote in the past hit me right between the eyes in the present.

>>Please clickhereto read my brief reflection.<<

If there’s anything the roller coaster of 2017 has taught me, it’s that, if everything else in my life was completely stripped away, Jesus would remain. He is constant. He would never forsake nor abandons me. He simply beckons.


The only “sales-y” message I genuinely look forward to receiving is my daily email from the EWTN religious catalogue. Sure, they have some beautiful religious articles and books (aka Heather’s kryptonite), but they always include a quote from my favorite Saint-in-waiting, Mother Angelica. Here’s today’s gem:

“God is simple. He doesn’t have multiple ends. He doesn’t say, “If I do this, she’s going to do that,” and “If I do that, she’ll be humble.” No. Those are all merely effects. God has one thing in mind: To make you run to Him in all your needs.”

That’s what I’m talking about, friends. Let’s run to Him with our needs, tired and weary as we may be. He wants to hear from us!

God bless y’all!

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These folks have a bad case of “mine-itis”

These folks have a bad case of “mine-itis”

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!

If you’re going to post something on your blog after a few months away, why not write about what you know? Here’s an excerpt from my Sunday Gospel reflection for CatholicMom.com wherein I break down Sacred Scripture utilizing my mad knowledge of Sesame Street:

In today’s Gospel, I’m struck by the disloyal tenants, who, entrusted with harvesting fruit from the Master’s vineyard, not only refuse to give of what they’ve been given, but beat and kill those who come to collect the harvest, including the Master’s Son. The tenants suffer from the most extreme case of “mine-itis,” where desire to possess and rule brings certain destruction.

Read the rest here.

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Thanksgiving for Advent

Thanksgiving for Advent

This Advent has been … odd. Is that the right word? Odd? Yes. Sure. Let’s go with it.

It was Thanksgiving one day, then I turned around for a second, and WOOSH! – it was the first Sunday of Advent! What in the actual heck?

I ascribe at least some of my radical disorientation to being displaced. Traveling away from home over the holidays will do that to you, unless you are super organized and have everything for the impending holiday season located, unpacked, and situated just so before you leave so it’s all waiting for you upon your return.

If you are a human who actually does that, I salute you.

I am not one of those humans.

I am grateful we only forgot my contact lens case, my glasses, and all of the 4-year-old’s pants at home.

But I digress.

Our family traveled for a good chunk of time over snowy mountains and through forests and desert on Thanksgiving day to celebrate with my family. It was a long drive with lots of excited (read: loud and obnoxious) kids over some precarious roads, but the trip wasn’t the worst ever.

Here (below) are most of us on the way out of Dodge. See how we’re all (mostly) smiling? That lasted about another 20 minutes or so. My husband is trying to make the sign for “turkey” with his non-driving hand. I think.

Renshaws on the road

The most precarious part of our journey wasn’t over the mountain itself, but through the small towns with super icy roads once we reached the other side. Thank God for studded tires!

Snowy

Look! Pretty fake stuff at my Mom and Dad’s house!

Trukey

I think it was -9 degrees on Black Friday. Holy brrrrr, Batman!

Snowy again

Something I wasn’t expecting to see (check out the date on this bad boy) at a place I wasn’t expecting to be (for four hours) with my son on Black Friday. #urgentcare #misnomer

Urgent care

Thank You, Lord (and Mom and Dad!) for date night with my main dude. It was very, very, very, very, very, very, very (infinity) much needed.

Date night

Sir K with his tube. For a Southern-born lad, he handled the freezing temps pretty well. For the first 20 minutes.

K with tube

The loud and rowdy cousin table at dinner Saturday night … we’re missing a few in frame, but don’t worry. We knew exactly where they were. Mostly.

Cousin table at dinner

And, just like that, Advent was here.

St. Thomas

And then we drove back through the (not-quite-as) icy small town roads, through the desert, through the forests, over the mountains, and finally back home on the first Sunday of Advent.

Despite being pretty bone tired from our the drive, we began dutifully digging through the bin in the garage marked “Advent,” hoping to at least find our calendar and wreath for that first evening.

A funny thing happens when you move cross-country twice in under three years with a big family and lots on your mind, apparently. Things get displaced. Or worse.

Here’s the sad excuse for an Advent wreath I found in my Advent bin in the garage. Apparently, candles don’t take too well to lots and lots and lots of changes in heat.

Advent wreath

I finally found the calendar, too, about ten boxes later. It was NOT, I repeat, NOT in the Advent bin. NBD. #rageface #whyGodwhyface

The thought crossed my mind, and it wasn’t the first time, either: “If only I could get more organized, Lord. Then I’d have a peaceful, holy Advent, and I’d be ready for Christmas.

Last Monday was spent kvetching about my presentation the next night at my old parish. You know that whole Gospel passage about a prophet not being welcomed in his own home? Yeah. That Scripture passage had gotten in my head and wouldn’t leave me in peace and I was, frankly, freaking me the freak out. I shared my specific sentiments with a priest friend, who wrote back: “Well, by all means, then, I will pray for you.”

It turns out his prayers (and those of other dear friends in the know) reached God’s ears and were answered. By no means a flawless talk, it was, nevertheless, not too shabby. The crowd was smaller than expected but quite attentive and very receptive, which was wonderful.

So, fast forward one talk and several days of more real life throughout the rest of the week later, and WOOSH! – it’s the second Sunday of Advent.

Holy moly.

I wrote a little more about what – or, rather whom – might be attempting to keep us away from where we should be this Advent for CatholicMom.com. The article was borne of a great deal of inner turmoil – I just talked about this very topic on Tuesday night! Why can’t I just get the words out on the page?? – and I hope it speaks to someone who is looking toward the manger this Advent season but is having a hard time nonetheless.

You’re not alone.

Pax,

heather

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{SQT} Writing, Advent, radio, conferences, and (yes!) slowing down

{SQT} Writing, Advent, radio, conferences, and (yes!) slowing down

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727

Today’s installment of Seven Quick Takes Friday should be known as the  #HASHTAG version, because, sweet fancy Moses, this post is rollin’ in ’em. Let’s dig in, shall we?

31 days of unexpected joy

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#write31days

For the past 30 days, I’ve been writing about the same topic – unexpected joy – every. single. day. as part of the aptly-named 31 days. Wowza. It’s been a huge leap of faith for me to participate – an exercise in creativity, discipline, and sheer guts, and I am dang proud (and, truthfully) more than a little surprised that I’ve actually made it this far. I’ll show you what I purchased for myself to commemorate this feat as sooooon as it arrives. So excited! Meanwhile, please check out all of the posts here.

TVP on itunes (2)

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#TVPRadio

Since last I participated with SQTF, The Visitation Project has made its debut on iTunes! We are super excited, and can’t wait to share more episodes with y’all. We’d love it if you’d bless us with some happy reviews. Please and thank you so much!

journal-and-cards-on-table (2)

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#BISAdvent

People get ready – Jesus is coming! Friends, the season of Advent is, as of today, LESS THAN ONE MONTH AWAY. Stop screaming (please – you’ll hurt your nice singing voice) and get ye over to the huge blessing that is the Blessed is She shop, where they are pre-selling an Advent journal with devotions by none other than Catholic recording artist Audrey Assad. There’s also some amazing Jesse Tree calendar (with some Scriptural reflections by yours truly and other fabulously talented writers) that will inspire you on your journey toward Bethlehem. Buy the bundle (journal + calendar) and save!

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#DiveInLiturgicalCalendar

Speaking of calendars, my friend Meg has created this gorgeous liturgical wall calendar for 2015-2016 that will knock your socks off! Each day offers the Mystery of the Rosary, Advent ountdown stickers,  Saint of each day, liturgical season color coding, Advent & Lenten Meditations, two Novenas,  and much more. If you’ve been itching to live a more liturgically Catholic lifestyle, this is the calendar for you, and at 12″ x 18″, it will surely be a focal point in your home. I can’t wait to use mine!

My second post is up at CatholicMom.com on Monday. It's a doozy.

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#CatholicMom

Speaking of writing about the same topic for 31 days, I plan to write a wrap-up piece about my experience to be published on the CatholicMom.com website this coming Monday if I don’t collapse beforehand. UPDATE: read all about it here.

CWR15 Social Media 72215 (2)

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#CWR2016

It’s hard to believe, but tonight (Friday) marks the first organizational meeting for next year’s Catholic Women Rejoice conference, our 5th (!!) annual. I’ve joked that conference planning is a bit like pregnancy + childbirth – it’s simultaneously hellacious and rewarding to live through. Within a few (several?) months, you’ve forgotten the bad parts and are ready to do it all again. Please keep watching the blog and especially the Facebook page for more details. It’s gonna be great!

Retreat feet.

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#projectslowdown

Okay, so this hashtag isn’t really a hashtag, but dang if it shouldn’t be. I’ve been going at a pretty brisk clip in a lot of areas for quite a while now, and I am starting to feel it in a variety of ways. I went on a silent retreat at the end of September, and while it wasn’t horrible, it was really hard because it became quite clear that I am living a much too stressful existence right now, and something has to give, or my brain and body will eventually give out. I am going to be talking to Jesus and Mary quite a bit in the next season about being more intentional about this.  And, yes, I get the irony of talking about allthethings (above) and talking about slowing down (here). I’ve never pretended to be someone who makes sense. 😉

Alright, then – I think that’s it for now! Thanks to the amazing Kelly for hosting yet again; please check out all the other fantastic SQTF entries here. Until next time, God bless y’all!

heather

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31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Silence (Day 5)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Silence (Day 5)

Retreat feet.
Retreat feet.

Folks who know me well and not-so-well might be surprised to read that silence brings me joy. Well, that’s one of the reasons this series is called “unexpected,” my friends – you never know what you’re gonna get!

Anyway, silence did NOT always bring me joy.

A trip in the way-back machine will show my younger self surrounded by a LOT of noise – the bigger the car stereo system, the louder the rock concert, the rowdier the party – I sought out the noise, and the noise was more than happy to be found. I believed these things were bringing me joy.

I’ve often joked that God knew it would take having the incomparable noise of life with five young children and a husband to get me to want to spend time, alone, in a chapel filled with nothing but Jesus in the Tabernacle and my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong – I still crank up TobyMac in the minivan and get down to Lecrae in the living room. But it’s different now. I’m not as apt to seek noise for its own sake anymore. I’m not trying to drown God out … usually. I want to actually be able to hear Him.

And yet, I do still struggle with silence. I sometimes struggle with it mightily. Because I am out of practice actually entering in to the silence. And that is because I lack discipline.

I suffer from what Buddhists would call “monkey mind.” My thoughts swing from branch to branch like busy little monkeys, and more often than not, I have seemingly several dozen monkeys swinging around simultaneously with no end in sight. Admittedly, my mind can be a very scary place. I have not figured out exactly how to calm the monkeys yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion it doesn’t involve bananas. Rather, I must regularly invest the proper amount  of time to be still and know that He is God. 

So, late last month, I found myself on a silent retreat. Again. You read correctly – silent – as in, no talking whatsoever. It had been four years – way too long – since my last silent retreat, and it took me all the way until the final Mass on the final day to begin to feel like, perhaps, my soul was beginning to start to become acclimated to the rhythm of silence and prayer.

My time at silent retreat this year solidified three things:

  1. I need more silence in my life, not less.
  2. Daily silent prayer/meditation and weekly Adoration must be non-negotiably present on my schedule.
  3. No retreat or program or new good endeavor can take the place of spending time with Jesus, and only I can do the necessary work to spend time with Him. I can’t outsource that.

Today I had a chance to reflect a bit on my very first retreat into silence over at CatholicMom.com – how my spiritual director tricked me into going and how it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It is still bearing fruit today, lo, these six years (!!) later.

My advice? If you’ve considered going on silent retreat but aren’t sure, DO IT. If you’ve been before and have another opportunity to go, DO IT. If you haven’t considered it because it scares you, consider it and DO IT. Be not afraid of the silence, my friend. You will find God in the silence, if only you seek Him.

Until tomorrow, God bless y’all!

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” -Luke 5:16

“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” -Luke 6:12

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