31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Beginnings (Day 31)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Beginnings (Day 31)

Beginnings blog title

I wanted to title this post 31 Days of Unexpected Joy:

“Completion!” or

“The End!” or

“Sayonara, sucka!” or

“I did it!” or (my personal favorite)

“Insert Hallelujah Chorus Here!”

But instead, I chose “Beginnings,” because, well, I feel like I’ve (re)learned a lot during this crazy 31-day writing process, but it’s not over and done with – not by a long shot. I feel like, in many ways, I’m just beginning. And beginnings feel fresh, new, and promising, which is good, especially since I feel a bit tired, weary, and worn.

On Monday morning, CatholicMom.com is scheduled to publish an article recounting some of the spiritual lessons learned during this challenge. Read it here! Meanwhile, here are some of the nuggets I picked up (or recalled) along the way, in no particular order:

I am really stubborn. Or crazy. Or both. (Is this really a surprise, people?)

I can write about myriad topics even if I am not “feeling” it.

I can try new things, and I am up for big challenges – still.

I can follow through until the end just for the sake of saying I’ve finished.

I can be consistent. But I can also bob and weave a bit as necessitated by the needs of my family (see photo-heavy posts, shorter entries, late posts, etc.).

There’s nothing wrong with a little order, a little chaos, and a little help from friends to bring you through to completion. Thank you, Bobbi, Rez, Mary, Abbey, JulieSterling, CristinaLaura, Jenny, and others for the companionship and solidarity, and extra special thanks to guest-bloggers Laurel and Melissa who encouraged and inspired me along the way.

Joy is not a feeling. It does not change because of my circumstances or feelings, rather:

Joy is a reality. I only need to choose to enter into that reality with the help of Jesus my Lord.

I am weak, but He is strong.

Through Him, I can do hard things. I am a conqueror.

And, yes – admittedly – I am a very tired conqueror.

Thank you so much, dear reader, for sticking it out with me. I hope you have learned something – anything – from following along this past month. I can’t promise that I will post anything tomorrow – it is the Lord’s Day, after all – let’s just let Him have it. But until next time, I pray for wonderful beginnings for you and those you love. God bless y’all.


31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Sacrifice (Day 30)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Sacrifice (Day 30)

You’ve heard it before:

No pain, no gain.

And maybe you’ve come across this:

No trial, no triumph.

Here’s the one I’ve come to understand a little bit better this past month:

No sacrifice, no joy.

Now, it’s one thing to sacrifice something and experience pride because of it – and there’s nothing wrong with a healthy sense of pride over a job well done.

The joy I’m talking about, however, comes from an interior knowledge that you’re uniting the discomfort of your present circumstance with the Ultimate Suffering of Christ on the Cross.

This month, our church encouraged its parishioners to offer up extra prayers and sacrifices in honor of Respect Life month. Multiple crosses made from construction paper sat on a table in the narthex awaiting someone’s written description of their offering. Once complete, the crosses were affixed to a larger cross at the front of the church, making a beautiful collage of prayer to support the dignity of life.

Here’s mine:

Respect Life Cross

I think there’s gotta be a rule about one’s sacrifice losing efficacy should one constantly grumble about it. Same with talking about one’s sacrifice with anyone who will listen. After all, “God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).”

So I tried really hard not to do those things.

But dang.

It’s honestly mind boggling that, even thirty days in to the month, I am still jonesing for soda or juice or milk or iced coffee. Mmmm. Coooffffeee.

The good news is, as best I understand it, that I’ve had way more opportunities to offer up my minor inconvenience and suffering (small ‘s’) for human life. And, hopefully, rather than being too proud of sticking to my promise, I’m taking it in stride, experiencing a deep sense of joy that comes from knowing that, even in my small way, I’ve entered in to the mystery of Christ’s redemptive suffering on the cross.

(And I’d be lying if I didn’t add that I’m excited about coffee on Sunday. C’moooon November 1st! Amen.)

Until tomorrow, may God bless y’all in His loving kindness.


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

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


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



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)



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)



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!




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.



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)



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.



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!


31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Daily Mass (Day 29)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Daily Mass (Day 29)

What can separate us (2)

When we lived in Alabama, we were extraordinarily blessed to attend a parish that offered not one opportunity to attend daily Mass, but two. My husband worked across the street from the parish, so we regularly attended as a family, both during our homeschooling season and when the children were at a parish school.

It. was. awesome.

We were so incredibly fed – and healed – during this season of near-daily Mass attendance. Hearing the Word of God every day? Receiving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity every single day? There’s just nothing, nothing in the universe like it.

Now that we’re back in Oregon, we’re in a different season. We are lucky if we make it to one extra Mass a week. But I am so grateful when we do.

Today was one of those days.

And it didn’t take long for me to feel God’s presence even as I attempted to keep the little people from climbing all over the pew. As the familiar verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans washed over me, I got misty-eyed:

“Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son

but handed him over for us all,

how will he not also give us everything else along with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?

It is God who acquits us.

Who will condemn?

It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,

who also is at the right hand of God,

who indeed intercedes for us.

What will separate us from the love of Christ?

Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,

or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

As it is written:
For your sake we are being slain all the day;

we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly

through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,

nor angels, nor principalities,

nor present things, nor future things,

nor powers, nor height, nor depth,

nor any other creature will be able to separate us

from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, what can separate us from the love of God, my friends? Nothing. Nothing.

And that is something to be eternally joyful about. I’d bet my life on it. Today’s recommendation: attend daily Mass if and when you have the opportunity. It will change your life.

Until tomorrow, God bless y’all!


31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Moments (Day 28)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Moments (Day 28)

Hello, all! We’re winding down the 31 Days of Unexpected Joy series, and I thought it might be fun to post a few photos from the past 28 days that capture some joys – unexpected and otherwise – that I’ve experienced with my family. We’ve had, until the past few days or so, some unusually warm Fall weather and enjoyed the outdoors and a special trip to the zoo with Grandma and Papa. Enjoy, and I’ll see y’all tomorrow!

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