Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Change is Coming!!

The last month or so has just gone by in a blur.  With all of the holiday activities, traveling to see family, visits with friends, Jesse's trip to NCYC...to say it's been chaotic is an understatement.  And as it usually happens, all these things happen at the same time as the crazy twists & turns life gives us.

The first big news in our household...

That's our youngest, Maddie, announcing that she is going to be a big sister.  We will be adding another set of little feet around July 4th, which is in between Bella (June 30) & Maddie's (July 14) birthdays.  I feel slightly guilty that they will have such close birth dates, but I hope we can develop some fun traditions in this two weeks timeframe.  Once I got over the initial surprise, I have been pleasantly excited with the news and am so excited we'll have another baby in the house!

With this announcement also comes a more serious effort to find a house.  We currently rent our home and although it has been a wonderful house, we are clearly outgrowing the space.  The girls all currently share the second floor room as a big bedroom/playroom.  We have only one tiny bathroom and (my biggest frustration) no dishwasher.  Although I offer up my dish washing time as prayer, I can only stand so much of it!  So, we are meeting with a friend who is a Realtor this week and will hopefully make some decisions about the next steps to make this happen.

The last (and very exciting) news isn't something that has happened...yet.  It has the potential to happen in the next few months.  I'm trying to exercise patience & not think about it too much, but late at night, I sometimes let myself think about it.  And it gets me really excited!  If it happens, this wonderful blessing would drastically change our lifestyle.  That's about all I can speak to for now, but I will ask that anyone reading please pray for this very special intention.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some odds & ends

I've been very sick for the last week & haven't had the energy to think about blogging.  Today is the first day I'm starting to feel like myself.  So, as I get back into the swing of posting, I'd like to give you some random thoughts:

- Jesse is taking me to see Five Iron Frenzy this weekend.  He loves ska music & has been excited to see one of his favorite groups get back together.  I don't really know any of their music except this song.  I'll be really disappointed if they don't play it!

- We have the opportunity to buy our church's 15 passenger van.  I find this both practical & ridiculous!

- I'm going to see Pentatonix in April!!!!  If you don't know them, you should!  I'd start with this one or maybe this.  There's always this amazing song (which I was already obsessed with before they sang it) or this fantastic compilation!  They are all fantastic, but I must say that Mitch has the voice of an angel!

- I'm so thankful for all the wonderful people in our lives that have given us clothes for the girls over the years.  I keep clothes sorted in plastic tubs based on age/size.  I seriously have enough clothes to open my own store (future career here...perhaps!).  But from all of these clothes, I can count on one hand the number of outfits Jesse & I have purchased.  We have been so blessed to have people give us clothes & buy them as gifts for our children, that we have never needed to buy many items ourselves.

- As much as I stress about money, I'm grateful that we have a roof over our heads & can afford our little luxuries (if the occasional fancy meal out & a couple of concerts count as such).

- I've been reflecting a lot lately on this bible verse that keeps popping up in my life:
"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."  Philippians 4:6

- When I was younger, I heard the expression, "Let go & let God."  I'm finding this to be much more difficult as an adult/spouse/parent/slight control freak.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Small Success Thursday: Small Graces

This week I'm once again linking up with Catholic Mom to reflect & share three small successes from the past week.  Although this is only the second post of this series, I'm starting to realize that I don't spend enough time in reflection & thanking God for all of the small graces that occur in my everyday life.  I often find myself so bogged down by the hectic nature of my days that I don't fully appreciate all the beautiful little moments going on around me.  So, this week, my three small successes all center around small graces...

1) My religious ed students had to complete a worksheet about last Sunday's gospel, the parable of the judge & the widow.  At the bottom of the worksheet, they had a free space to write their own prayers to God.  One little boy wrote, "Dear God, I pray that my enemy will become my friend so that my life gets better."  Evidently my lesson seems to be sinking in.

2) I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Fr. Thomas Rosica.  It was a blessing to be present & hear his message.  I will be posting more about this talk later, but one of the highlights was his recollection of World Youth Day 2002.  I was fortunate enough to be at the closing mass in Toronto with Blessed John Paul II.  It's been nice to think back on the beauty of that mass & remember the sending forth message given to all of us there.

3) I've decorated for fall...mostly...ok, so the fall decoration bin still hasn't been returned to the basement (does it still count, I think so!).  I did drag my feet on this one because I love summer so much & hate having to say goodbye for a long 8+ months.  I'm still not ready for the snow that is sure to come our way soon, but I will try to enjoy this fall season for what it is in & of itself.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marriage: A Covenant

Today is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary.  I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today, reflecting on the example that my parents set for my brother & me, thinking about all the ups & downs they've experienced in thirty years together, wondering what the next thirty years will have in store.

When I look at a picture of my parents on their wedding day, I can see the youthful excitement in their eyes.  They were young, my mom was 20 & my dad was 26.  Although I'm sure they had some disagreements while dating & during their engagement, overall they felt nothing but bliss as they set out to begin their lives together.
My Parents on their Wedding Day
A few months after their seventh wedding anniversary, my dad became seriously ill.  Initially, doctors believed he had a severe case of the flu; but as the months of dehydration, nausea & fatigue continued, they began to believe it was something more serious.  Ultimately, he was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS).  My dad's illness became a catalyst of change for our family, especially for their marriage.  My mom, who had been our homemaker, went back to school & eventually earned two degrees.  My dad became "Mr. Mom," taking us to school, sports practices, appointments, etc.  The dynamic of their marriage took a sudden shift.  But they were still the same two people who stood at the altar that day & took a vow before God to honor & care for each other in sickness & in health.  Of course, when you say those words, you don't really know what types of challenges life has ahead for you.  But that is all part of taking the leap of faith & trusting that with God & your spouse, you will be able to accept whatever comes in your path.

Although I'm not thankful my dad got sick & I would give anything in the world for him to get better, I wouldn't trade the experiences we've had as a result of the illness.  My brother & I were never guarded from the fact that mom & dad sometimes disagreed or argued.  But what we learned by seeing those things was that despite the fact that they might not agree, they always loved each other.  I know for a fact that it was their vow, their covenant before God, that has kept them together for thirty years.

So now, when I look at my own wedding photo, I wonder, what sorts of challenges will life throw at us?  In six years of marriage, we've had our fair share of ups & downs.  There are times when we can't stand each other & I wonder what on earth did I get myself into, but in those moments, I find God pulling at my heart, causing me to take a long hard look at my actions & hopefully making better, faith-filled decisions.  Marriage is a journey of sacrifice, learning the ultimate love comes through giving unto others, especially your spouse.  The covenant Jesse & I made on our wedding day is our bond to each other & to God.  Although it has its difficult moments, I honor that covenant more & more as we continue on our path together.  Hopefully in 24 years, we'll be able to share a story of unending love through trials & tribulations, ups & downs, with our girls & those around us just as my parents are exemplifying to us today.
Jesse & I on our Wedding Day

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ripple Effect

I am a believer in the adage that "it takes a village" to minister to the youth.  Jesse has kids from all different walks of life going through all sorts of issues in their lives.  He also has a small group of adult volunteers that help out.  Some are former youth group kids & others are just adults that want to help out.  Regardless, it is obvious that the impact on our youth isn't just coming from the program director.  It's the youth mentoring each other, adults helping lead discussions & so many other countless moments of encouragement & prayer.

Last year, one of our adult helpers was diagnosed with terminal cancer & given months to live.  It was an incredibly difficult time for everyone.  She was a young, vibrant woman & it seemed unbelievable that she would be taken from all of us so suddenly.  She was known as "Momma Vicki" since she took on a motherly role with lots of our youth.  They went to her with their issues & she gave advice, supported them, baked them goodies & even doled out some tough love as needed.

The day before she passed, Jesse & I took a small group of those closest to her over to her house to see Vicki & pray with her.  I was so proud of our youth.  I could tell they were obviously uncomfortable being so close to the death process, hearing her moan in pain, yet they held her hands, told her they loved her & held hands around her as we prayed a rosary.  It was a beautiful experience & at that moment, I was reminded of the beauty of ministry.  Without the ministry work, Vicki would not have been surrounded by all our love & prayers as she departed this world for next.  Without the ministry work, these kids wouldn't have been impacted by Vicki's loving care & constant encouragement to better themselves while always giving back in some way.

The youth group meeting held after her passing was incredibly difficult.  Her absence, both in our hearts & in the room, were glaringly obvious.  I saw kids that haven't been to youth group in a long time & others who have drifted away show up out of support for her.  It was a beautiful tribute to a beautiful spirit.  The kids got up & told stories about Vicki, some caused laughter & others tears, but they were all poignant.

I spoke to the group as well.  I reminded them that from the day I met her, Vicki had always wanted to be a mother.  Although it wasn't God's plan for her to have biological children, she fulfilled that role with each & every one of our youth that she encountered.  She was a mother to all of them & as her "children" it was now their responsibility to carry on her legacy & not forget the lessons she taught them.  I think they all took that to heart & realized they need to go make a difference in the lives of others in the way she influenced them.  I hear them mention her name, saying "You know what Vicki would say..." when they think of the advice she would give them.

Though Vicki isn't with us here, her presence is carried on by the kids who are her legacy.  Even if each of us does one thing to continue her memory or treat someone kindly in the way she treated them, then she will continue to live on in our hearts.

Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord & let perpetual light shine upon her.  May she rest in peace.  Amen

Friday, October 18, 2013

Praying for our Enemies

I'm teaching third grade religious education this year.  Last year, I taught kindergarten, so having older elementary students, plus the preparations for First Communion, makes it a wonderful challenge.  Although I prepare for the day's class topic as best I can, I usually find some other topics coming up that I feel are important enough to dedicate an entire class session to.  One such topic came up two weeks ago...
We were discussing prayer, not just the various forms of prayer, but also the people we pray for.  I started asking, "How many of you pray for your parents?"  All hands went in the air.  "How many of you pray for your brothers & sisters?"  A few hands less than the first time, apparently sibling dislike seems to be in full-swing for these third graders!  After a few more questions, I decided to ask a more challenging one, "How many of you pray for people you don't like?"  ("People you don't like" seemed a bit too generic, so one boy with a love of all things superhero volunteered the word "enemies.")  With this question, almost no one raised their hand.  So, I asked them the logical next question, "Why not?"
Naturally, they had all the usual reasons: "They're mean."  "I don't like them."  "They don't like me."  I explained that although these things may be true, that was still no excuse not to pray for their enemies. After all, doesn't God love us all just the same?
I could tell this had gotten their attention, so I decided to explore the issue in further detail with them following week.  I started the next class by reviewing the subject & asking them if anyone had prayed for their enemies (only a few hands went up).  Then, I read them the story of Sidney & Norman.  It's the tale of two pigs who each get an invitation to visit God. Norman, the prideful pig, learns that God loves him (and not because of his goodness), but is sad that he judges other pigs. Sidney, the troublesome pig, learns that God loves him, even with all his imperfections.  At the end, the two pigs learn that God's love comes without any reservations.
The point for my third graders, and really for all of us, is that we should focus less on our supposed goodness or troubles & more on the infinite power of God's love. When we do that, we can see everyone as equally created in His loving & divine image.  Only then can we love, pray for & take care of each other in the way we are called to as disciples of Christ.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Success Thursday: 1st Edition

I'm linking up with Catholic Mom this week to participate in their "Small Success Thursday" event.  I've had a particularly challenging week & today was one of those days that was just a struggle to get through.  So, while trying to unwind tonight, I perused my usual blog sites for inspiration.  I came across the Small Success post & thought it would be worth a shot.  Perhaps thinking through my blessings will help me feel more inspired.  Here goes nothing...

This week, I feel most blessed to have:

1) Taken Monday night to have a true-blue, honest-to-goodness family night.  After I got home from work, Jesse & I prepared dinner together, the girls set the table & we all sat around talking & laughing.  The tv stayed off & we went upstairs together with our girls.  Jesse & I took turns reading story after story.  It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

2) Been able to share a hug with a dear friend & fellow mom.  She's having some frustrating times with her little boy.  As she told me about these issues, I could see her hurting, so I just reached out & gave her a hug.  She's always been supportive of me & I'm so glad I can return the favor.

3) Started cleaning off my hutch, which has accumulated an embarrassing amount of school papers, religious education papers, mail, bills, magazines, etc.  It's the first thing you see when you walk in my house (which only makes the problem worse).  Although it's not complete yet, I feel encouraged by the inroad I made the other night.  Now if I can only keep focused to complete the project & tackle the papers.

Well, I suppose I am feeling a bit better after having reviewed some of the highlights of my week.  I'm looking forward to linking up to this event in the future.  Hopefully this reflection will ease my anxieties about all the things I feel I can't accomplish due to a lack of time, money, effort, etc.  Have you been able to reflect on your blessings this week?  Please share below.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comfort Zone

"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" ~ Unknown

For those who know me, they will understand that I'm not the type who really likes to step outside my comfort zone.  As much as I love being a youth minister's wife, sometimes there's nothing more uncomfortable for me than having to mingle with a room full of strangers, most of whom usually start conversations with, "Oh, so you're Mr. Jesse's wife!" followed by one of my well-versed quips in response.  Then the typical small talk about ministry work, which segways into discussing the challenges of raising three small children & spending most of my time with them on my own, which is usually followed by the awkward silence as conversation runs dry.  I have been trying to make more of an effort to keep conversations from getting to the awkward phase, with some success.

As a child, I wasn't shy by any means.  I was a cheerleader, participated in band & choir, theater shows & many other things, but I wasn't particularly outgoing when it came to meeting or talking to new people.  Ironically, as salutatorian of my graduating class, I read the following poem during my commencement speech:

My Comfort Zone
I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn’t fail.
The same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before,
But stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.
I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much.
I said I didn’t care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
But deep inside I longed for something special of my own.
I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.
If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true.
Reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!
–author unknown

Rereading this poem reminds me of how I felt when I was graduating high school: excited, anxious for life to begin, feeling that the possibilities were endless.  Sometimes, amidst the chaos of marriage, raising three children, work, & ministry, this time feels like it was ages ago.  But, if I really contemplate the meaning of this poem, it holds lessons that are still relevant (perhaps even more so given the often repetative & mundane nature of some of my daily tasks).  So, the next time I'm confronted by intimidating life choices, I'm going to try my best to take a breath, step outside & let the change begin!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My First Youth Group Field Trip!

A couple weekends ago, Jesse & I took 13 youth group kids to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the PointFest concert.  Bands included Building 429, Tenth Avenue North & Third Day.  But the headliner was TobyMac!  He has been one of my favorite Christian artists going back to the days when Jesse & I met.  We had an amazing time strolling through the park & relaxing on the beach before seeing TobyMac.  All of this might sound like a great trip, no big deal, until you consider...

1) I have three children ages 5 & under, one of whom is still breastfeeding & needs me every 4-6 hours or so for a quick snack.  This is both a blessing & a curse.  I would NEVER change the fact that I breastfeed, but it makes it difficult to leave her for longer than a few hours.  It required a bit of planning, pumping & two babysitters who weren't afraid to do meal times, play & bedtime with all three girls.  Start to finish, I was away from the kids for a total of 18 hours.

2) My last attempt at going with the youth group to a concert was disastrous (more to post about this later).  Needless to say, we never actually saw/heard any of the concert.

I'm incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip.  Although we got home in the wee hours of the morning & it took me a few days to recover, it was well worth it.  Not only did I get to see TobyMac, but I was able to spend some quality time with my lovely hubby, sans children.  Plus, when I did get home, I was able to appreciate my little ones all the more.

Our group upon arrival at the park.

We had a great view of the concert.

Love this man so much!

Monday, September 30, 2013


Maybe it's because I work full-time.  Perhaps it's because I have three children ages 1, 3 & 5.  Or that my husband & I are ships passing in the night when it comes to time spent together.  Whatever it is, lately I can't help but feel like I can't keep up...

My house looks like a mess...all day...every day.  I will never be featured in a lovely Pinterest picture or capture my latest home organizing project in a post here.  I'm just trying to stay on top of the daily stuff (and failing miserably).

The dishes are never-ending & did I mention the only dishwasher I own is currently typing this blog?!

I'm drowning - in laundry, piles of bills/mail, papers/handouts from school & overall clutter.

I live in 1,000 sq ft.  That's it.  For three children, two adults, one cat & all of our clothes/food/toys/memories/etc.  It's not nearly enough.  Not by a long shot.

I write a blog (when I find the time & feel inspired) but I don't think anyone actually reads it except for my husband.  "Hello, is anybody out there?"

I make to-do lists & feel accomplished if I can check off one thing.

I feel like I'm buried so deep in a hole that I can't even see the daylight.  I'd love to figure out a better way to conquer some of these items, but I have to find some motivation first.  Living with all of these things day in & day out for years makes it difficult to get excited about change.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Unpruned Fruit

Although I am by no means a gardener, I am familiar with the concept that in order for trees, shrubs & other plants to flourish, they must be trimmed.  I always have difficulty understanding why you have to thin out by trimming off perfectly good branches.  To the untrained eye, that seems nonsensical.  But, any green thumb will tell you that pruning is a necessary step in order to have beautiful, fruitful & healthy plants.

I recently read an article in my hometown paper about a local green thumb who did not heed the advice to prune back her peach trees.  She thought, as I do, that her peach tree would be alright if she didn't prune off most of the small, healthy young fruits.  Unfortunately, when the peaches ripened, the branch broke under the weight of the all the peaches.  This left her tree weakened...pitiful.

Too many peaches on the branches. Photo by LINNA ROEMER
Photo by Linna Roemer
I can't imagine a better analogy to my everyday life.  Although I don't have a lot of control over all the things we say yes to in ministry, it is clear that we frequently find ourselves overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of things that need to get done & require our attention.  It's incredibly difficult to say no to anything because frankly, when you are talking about a matter of faith, it's hard to say no!

But, that being said, how good am I to anyone if I am spread thin?  Isn't it more powerful to do a few things right than to do a bunch of things half-hearted?  As I go about my week, I plan to think about each thing I'm doing & whether it is adding value to my faith, family or personal well-being.  If not, then I might have to get out my pruning shears.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Real. True. Love.

Jesse & I have our fair share of arguments.  Sometimes they have to do with important issues & other times they are less significant.  As we approach our sixth wedding anniversary, I have been thinking about all the times we got angry with each other in the previous six (ten - if you count our dating/courtship period before getting married) years.

What I've realized about all our previous fights is this: try as I might, there were really very few arguments where I could recall the actual topic we were fighting about.  My memories were much clearer when remembering the things we said/did during our arguments.  And that really spoke volumes to me about the importance of my actions.  When Jesse gives talks to his religious education teachers, he tells them that the kids won't remember what you taught them, they'll remember who you were.  I think the same goes for how we treat not only our spouses, but our family members, friends, co-workers and complete strangers.

Jesse & I have given countless talks on marriage for our local Pre-Cana retreats.  One of the things we stress to these soon-to-be-married couples is the importance of fighting fair, especially during the inevitable arguments.  If you're thinking about winning the argument, then that means your spouse will lose.  And I don't know about you, but I don't want to hurt Jesse or fight in such a way that he feels like less of a husband.  This is not to say that we have idyllic arguments, but we usually try our best to vocalize how we are feeling.  These skills have gotten better the longer we've been married (after all, we've had lots of practice!).

That being said, when we do have arguments & need some time apart to blow off some steam, I usually end up pouring my energy into something.  As a result, my dishes are usually done, a load of laundry gets folded or the bathroom gets cleaned.  Recently, I heard this song, which I think is my new post-argument anthem. Although it might be a little harsh for some, I find the frank emotions of the song point to the irony of a strong, committed marriage.  After all, when you devote yourself to a lifelong Sacrament, you are going to feel crazy with your spouse sometimes.  But the irony is that even though he may drive me crazy, at the end of the day, I feel God's presence working in my life, in our marriage, and I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When Anxiety Attacks...

The last few weeks (or months depending on when you start counting) have been a whirlwind of craziness.  Granted, I know our everyday routine isn't exactly simple.  However I can't help but feeling like things have been extra crazy as of late.  I have spent all summer just going & going & going.  My to-do lists have been growing & I see no sign of an end.  I've had a few bouts of insomnia even though I'm exhausted most of the time.  I'm just running from one fire to the next, trying to put them out.

I have come to realize that this is no way to live.  I miss having some quiet time for myself, time to sleep, read/blog, or just to play with the girls.  I've recently had Philippians 4:6 come into my path several times.  I think it's a not-so-subtle message from the Almighty that I need to make a part of my daily recitation.

So, I'm going to try my hardest to present all my anxieties to God, knowing that He will take care of them.  Certainly this approach can be challenging because it requires surrender.  But I think we all could use a life jacket when we feel like we're drowning.  And God's love provides the best life jacket available!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Helping the "Needy"

My husband is a very giving person.  Whether he's shuttling kids to youth group, delivering food pantry goods to families with bare cupboards or counseling those in times of crisis, it seems he is always helping others.  These acts certainly go along with the duties of being a youth minister, but he goes beyond that & takes the disciple nature to another level.  My heart is warmed every time I see the needy families he helps...

...Unless the "neediness" of these families is questioned.

Over the years, there have been times when I find out that the people who are the recipients of our time & efforts aren't as needy as they let on.  Poor financial choices tend to drive some of these needy people to our front door.  I'm not talking about people who barely make enough to pay their bills.  I'm referring to those who take from the food pantry while buying newer cars, gadgets, video games or other "extras."  Recently, someone told Jesse that they had no money to buy an A/C unit that was desperately needed.  So, we were able to come up with a unit & took it to their house to drop off.  I was more than a little surprised to see they had just purchased a huge, brand new flat screen TV.  Another time, someone actually had the audacity to request specific brands of food be stocked at the food pantry since those were what they liked.

On the surface, both of these (true) examples leave me speechless since I can't imagine how some people can be so forthright, especially when they are the recipients of charitable acts!  However, our society has become very self-focused, so feelings of entitlement & "What's in it for me?" abound.  I suppose it's no wonder people feel they really are needy.  But, it's time we start separating our true needs from our wants & prioritize them.  Of course doing this requires some self-restraint which, in my opinion, is practiced far too infrequently nowadays.

I tend to get easily frustrated by these situations & know this is something that I have to work on.  We are practicing much more due diligence with our giving, which seems unfortunate because it takes the focus away from those who are legitimately in need of assistance.  Even though I don't always recognize it, there are blessings coming through these situations.  After all, as the Prayer of St. Francis states, "...it is in giving that we receive."  I'll keep reciting this mantra in the hopes it helps me deal with these situations better each time they occur.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Vacation Bible School

Jesse has been too busy to put together a VBS program this summer (plans are in the works for VBS Summer 2014 at St. Jude) so I enrolled our two oldest in the Vacation Bible School program at our former parish.  This morning was the first day of the VBS week, so I took all three girls with plans to drop off our oldest two for the morning.

I had suggested to Jesse that perhaps he should take the girls because I knew they would have separation issues if I took them.  Unfortunately he had a horrible toothache & had scheduled a dentist appointment, so I had the dreaded task of reminding them I would be back in a few hours & that they should stay & have a good time.  Fifteen minutes of hugs, kisses, tears & reassurances of my prompt return, I walked out of the church, listening to stifled sobs as I left.

Naturally, I felt guilty about leaving them, especially since the program leader wasn't doing much to convince any of the kids that they would have a good time.  And of course, I couldn't stop myself from thinking, "If Jesse & I were running this, we would..."  I guess I'll have some suggestions for next year's VBS planning.  Needless to say, when I picked them up at lunchtime, both girls were very excited about all the things they learned that day.  And I'm sure they will continue to enjoy themselves as the week progresses.  But, if every drop-off is prefaced with an episode like I had today, I think Jesse will be taking them!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Under Construction

For the past couple of weeks, Jesse has been doing a major overhaul of his offices & storage areas.  Since we live about 20 minutes from our parish, I couldn't have imagined that this would impact our home life in any way.  How silly of me!

Although we don't have any of the actual organization/cleaning/renovating happening here, I feel like I'm living in the midst of a construction zone!  The scope of this project has expanded beyond what I thought.  It has been very stressful to have all of this going on in the midst of our typical routine which is busy enough on its own!  I keep having to remind myself that this construction period is only temporary.  The end product will be worth it.

"Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be."  ~ Khalil Gibran

Gibran certainly has it right.  I can't count how often I find myself getting caught up in the details!  When I find myself doing this, I try to take a step back & see the forest through the trees, so to speak.  It is a good centering activity to help me focus on the greater picture and usually helps me get refreshed before jumping back into the details.

I know this office project will be over soon and then Jesse will have a wonderful, professional office (pictures to follow!).  And all of the chaos will have been worth it.  Then it will be time to focus that same organizational effort on our house...but that's another project for another day!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Family Time Out

Well, it finally happened....our family went on vacation!  But before you get images of a relaxing beach, a theme park or some exotic location, let me stop you there.  We drove 7 hours to Indianapolis for my cousin's high school graduation.  Months ago, when we first began planning our trip, I suggested that since we would have to be in Indy anyway, we might as well spend a few extra days there & do some fun activities with the girls.  How nice it would be to take the girls to the Children's Museum (I haven't been there since I was little) as well as check out the Indy Zoo (we have a love of zoos & check them out in all the areas we visit).

The weather was perfect, sunny & warm.  Perhaps the best part of this vacation was that it gave me time to reflect & take a pause from everyday life.  I cannot express how wonderful it was to spend 7 straight days with my husband & children.  Although there were a few stressful moments, overall we had a wonderful time just being together as a family.

My aunt took this picture right after we got back from Mass.  I'm so blessed!

Although I wish we were able to get away like this more often, it certainly helped me appreciate the time we did have.  And, as with all vacations, I was all too quickly thrown back into the chaos of everyday life.  But, I came away from this trip with the awareness that I need to carve out some time for myself each day, as well as continue my effort to have more family time.

Sorry I've been away from the blog world for so long.  This little vacation also reminded me why I started this blog in the first place & I look forward to posting lots more about life as a youth minister's wife!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May the Sixth...Maybe Not

Beginning with the birth of our third daughter, Madeline, back in July, our lives have been a whirlwind.  I'm used to the fast paced life that comes with children, working full-time & keeping up with the youth minister schedule.  But, when Jesse took his job as a religious education coordinator shortly after Maddie was born, this pace seemed to kick into high gear.  One of the main reasons for this was because the job required much more time & energy, along with the many meetings, events & sacraments to prepare for.  When I wrote out the craziness of each month on our refrigerator white board, Jesse & I would remind ourselves, "We just have to get to May 6th."   For on that date was the last major event of the year...confirmation.  Then, after that, we knew the pace would slow & we could spend significantly more time together.

May 6th has come & gone.  And in reality, our hopes shouldn't have hinged on that date since it has taken a few weeks for things to start to slow down.  Regardless, we are now weeks past that date & the pace has slowed, if only a little bit.  As much as I would like to say we've rekindled our romance, spent evenings engaged in deep conversation or something like that, I can't.  As a matter of fact, things have been really difficult for us since our time together has increased.

I feel like we've spent the past 5+ years learning how to be apart, developing our own routines & nuances.  And now that our time overlaps, we are stumbling all over each other.  When asked if we would recognize each other now that we have more time together, I jokingly told someone that, "Most couples have difficulties because they drift apart.  We'll be the ones with issues because we're too close."  But really, there is a lot of truth in that statement.  We are certainly having trouble coping.

So I've been praying a lot & finding comfort in the little things.  When Jesse had been a youth minister for a year or two, I came upon the song, Lead Me by Sanctus Real.  I find myself coming back to this time and again when we hit a difficult patch.  I encourage all couples, especially those with long hours away from each other, to listen to this & find encouragement & strength in the lyrics.

"Show me you're willing to fight.  That I'm still the love of your life.  I know we call this our home, but I still feel alone."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Youth Group Cookout

Jesse came home from senior high youth group last week & said, "By the way, we're having youth group at our house next week."  Surprise!  Thankfully there really wasn't much for me to have to prepare, which is a good thing because I haven't had any free time lately!

We live about 15 minutes from our church, in a more serene & rural area than the downtown hustle & bustle atmosphere that most of these kids are used to.  Our yard is plenty big to run around, play football, soccer, Kan-Jam & have the opportunity for these youth to just be kids.  This cookout gave them the opportunity to relax & hang out with one another.  To me, I think these types of fellowship events are just as important as regular youth group.  Jesse's weekly message at youth group is always relevant, encouraging & challenging, but it also provides a platform for the youth to bond with each other & engage in peer-to-peer ministry.

I laughed when Jesse said he was only going to bring home one van full of kids.  Typically, he spends the first hour before youth group each week driving around & picking kids up.  But surprisingly enough, they carpooled & we ended up with a great turnout.  I would say 80+ people in total.  And...ready for the shocker?  Jesse didn't have to take a single person home.  Now if only we could get that sort of activity during regular youth group meetings.

I'm so proud of this little community.  May they all go out & change the world!  As for me, I've got to get back to clean up, it looks like a hurricane of hungry teenagers came through our yard & house!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zach Sobiech

We are all given a finite time on this earth, realizing that someday we will pass on from this place to the next.  However, "someday" is so vague, we often (myself included) forget how truly valuable each day is since we don't know the day or time we will be called home to our Heavenly Father.  Although it would be emotionally exhausting to think of each day as our last & wonder when it will be our time to go, I think we should at least try our very best to remember that each day were are given is a blessing from God.  And it is our job to try & do our very best with

Every once & a while the media will catch hold of a story of someone with a terminal illness, given a finite amount of time to live, and share their stories of hope, perseverance & attitude of living for the moment. Recently, I heard such a story, that of Zach Sobiech, a young man who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that is often deadly in children.  At the age of 14 he was diagnosed and at the age of 17, he was given months to live.

I watched the documentary of his life & felt incredibly inspired by his attitude, "You don't have to find out you're dying to start living."  Zach used the power of music to express his final thoughts to his family & friends.  The song "Clouds" has become a YouTube sensation.  Although the situation is incredibly sad, the song is remarkably uplifting & encouraging.

Zach found solace attending mass by himself early in the mornings.  He & his family had a devotion to St. Peregrine & even made a pilgrimage to Lourdes to visit the healing waters.  His family found strength & comfort knowing that this was a part of their earthly journey, but that it was not truly the end.

I don't know that I could react to this type of situation with the same type of faith & dignity that Zach did.  Listening to his songs, I am reminded of the many blessings I have in my life.  Although there are plenty of times when I am stressed by the kids or frustrated by Jesse's long hours away from home, it is in those times when I need to take a step back & thank God.  He has blessed all of us with so many wonderful things.  It shouldn't take a tragedy to make us realize it.

I have been drafting this post for a couple of weeks.  Sadly, Zach Sobiech passed away yesterday, May 20, at the age of 18.  Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord & let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let Go & Let God

As I wrote in this post, I have someone in my life, "Jon," who has proclaimed his decision to actively be in a same-sex relationship.  When I left off on my last post, Jesse & I had decided to limit our contact with Jon because of his lifestyle decisions.  Unfortunately, not much as changed since then.  When Jon & I had our falling out during Holy Week, he said some very hurtful things.  Now, I understand we all sometimes say things when we are angry, but that is still no excuse.  So, I have asked him to apologize for these things before we can begin to talk & hopefully heal our relationship.  But that apology has not happened yet & the more time that passes, the more I am beginning to feel it may never happen.

Coming to this realization has been a very difficult thing to deal with.  When all of this started, I didn't expect to be at the point where I am now.  But that is true about a lot of things in life, isn't it?  We never know what sort of ripple effects will result from our actions & decisions.  It can be nerve-wracking to contemplate all the various outcomes to our potential choices.  We (especially those of us with control issues!) want to feel like we are in charge & maintain control over our lives.  But the truth is, we can only be truly happy if we relinquish control & let God take over.  Our Heavenly Father wants the best for us, it is up to us to listen & follow His will.

As frustrating as it is, I know that I can't force Jon to understand my decisions.  I can't force him to end his same-sex relationship; I can't make him turn to the Eucharist & find healing through Confession & Mass.  As much as those things bother me, I have to take that energy & channel it into prayers.  Prayers that God warms Jon's heart, prayers that Jon's faith strengthens, prayers of mercy for Jon & prayers for faith & hope for all of us impacted by Jon's choices.

I have found a lot of solace in music during challenging times in my life.  Lately, the song I have been listening to that has touched my heart during this trying time has been "Not Alone" by Family Force 5.  The chorus says:

Cause I don't hurt when you say it
I hear your words, I can make it
I need you now, I want you now
To tell me that I'm not alone

May we all surrender ourselves to You & open our hearts to Your will.  Allow us to hear Your words, reminding us we are never alone; even in the darkest moments when all seems lost, remind us of Your presence.  Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Work-Life Balance Introduction

At the time when Jesse was offered his first youth minister job, we were 6 months pregnant with our first child (we waited to find out it was a daughter until the day she made her arrival!).  We made a list of all the pros & cons that this new opportunity would bring.  Right near the very top of the "Pros" column was "flexible schedule."  Since youth groups happen in the evenings, Jesse would be able to stay home during the day with our little one.  Although we were a mere 3 months away from meeting our little girl, we hadn't yet discussed what would happen when my 6 weeks of maternity leave ended & I had to go back to work.  It was a conversation I was certainly putting off because I didn't want to think about the day I had to drop my newborn off at a daycare & then go into work for the day.  I understand that daycare is a blessing for parents who have to work daytime jobs, but in my heart I knew it wasn't going to work for us.  If I would have to continue working (a necessity when your job carries all the healthcare benefits as well as necessary income) after our daughter was born, I could only imagine being comfortable with her being with Jesse all day.

So, we made the decision that Jesse would take the youth ministry job.  At the time, he was working 50+ hours a week at a job placement service & wanted to remain there for as long as possible, which meant right up until I had to go back to work.  So, he continued to work there during the day & lay the groundwork for youth group in the evenings.  Needless to say, when our daughter was born, I spent most of my maternity leave by myself (looking back, this should have been a warning of things to come!).

I am blessed to be able to go to work in the mornings & know that my daughters are being taken care of by their dad.  I think it has made him a better parent & has formed a strong bond between Daddy & his little girls.  All that being said, there are very few days that I walk out the door & don't wish it was me being able to stay home with them.  Or at least be able to do this.  There are certainly times when I am thankful that I can go to work & get a break from all the craziness that comes with having 3 little ones.  But I miss them terribly when I'm away & can't wait to come home cuddling & playing with my girls again!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Marrying Up

While trolling through some Catholic ministry blogs, I came across this post.  It made me smile because my husband has often said that he "married up" & has been told this by different people on quite a few occasions over the years.  So this had me suspicious...wondering if this is an inside term all the youth ministers use to describe their spouses.  Perhaps it is supposed to help us feel better when we hear it; in that moment it helps make up for the long hours & time spent away from home.  If so, I think it's a pretty good strategy because, let's face it, we all like to feel appreciated & acknowledged from time to time!

I pride myself on being a strong support system for Jesse's ministry.  Even though I'm not at youth group, going to concerts or camping trips, I do feel like I am contributing.  When Jesse first became a youth minister, it was hard for me to deal with all the time we spent apart.  I felt very disconnected from what he was doing & almost like I was in competition for his attention.  But over time, I have matured & allowed myself to get more involved (directly & indirectly), which has helped me become more empathetic to the dedication of time & energy it takes to be a youth minister.

By taking a genuine interest in his programs, retreats, youth groups, etc, I feel more connected as a couple.  In fact, in 5 years of ministry, Jesse has never made me feel that my contributions are insignificant.  Rather, he says exactly the opposite.  Nothing makes me feel more special as a wife than when my husband tells me there is absolutely no way he could do what he does without my love & support.  He understands & appreciates the sacrifices I make so that he can do what he does.  I feel like an integral part of "our" ministry & have no doubt that we have made the right decisions to be exactly where we are right now.

However, knowing it's right in no way means it is easy!  I have to constantly stop myself from saying, "Do you really have to work tonight?" though I admittedly still say it a couple (ok, maybe more!) times a week.  But, when I am able to surrender to it, as difficult as that may be, there are always positive things that happen as a result.  I just remind myself that I married up... :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Difficult Choices

A couple weeks ago, we began Holy Week, the season when we remember the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion; the ultimate sacrifice made for us so that we may live with Him eternally in paradise.  It is surely an emotional season, but one that brings with it beautiful symbolism & ceremonies in the Church.  But this year was particularly difficult for me.  I have been struggling for a long time with how to handle a certain situation & unfortunately it all came to a head during the week.

I have someone who I'm very close to in my life; I'll call him "Jon" so as not to overkill using "a friend" and also to keep him anonymous, since for the purpose of this blog, I would rather focus on his choices than his identity.  For a couple years, I have been hearing second-hand that Jon is either bi-sexual or homosexual.  Several months ago, Jon & I went out to dinner & he shared with me his decision to actively pursue a relationship with a man.  In fact, he informed me that he had been dating men for quite some time & just recently entered into a relationship that made him happy.  For the first time since his struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA) began, he was feeling comfortable in his own skin.

I would like to say that I sat at that dinner table & began to express my disappointment with his decision & rattle off some theological arguments for why homosexual relationships are not approved in the Catholic Church.  However, since Jon grew up with the same Catholic values & morals as I did, he was already well aware of the Church's position.  So instead, I chose to sit there, listening to him & seeing the happiness in his face, all the while feeling my conscience tugging at my heart.

After some prayer & consideration, I chose to share this article written by Steve Gershom with Jon.  If you have anyone in your life struggling with SSA, I highly recommend reading Steve's blog.  I found an incredible amount of consolation in the fact that you can have SSA & be a full member of the Catholic Church.  And, just like with any vocation, there are struggles & sacrifices, but the overall message is that you can still be a happy, active member of your faith & continue to receive the Eucharist.

Unfortunately, Jon's response was motivated by anger at the perceived judgement of his life.  He clearly stated that living chaste was just "not for him" & he would continue to pursue his relationship whether we liked it or not.  Since Jesse & I have had countless conversations about this subject, I knew what my next move had to be.  I knew in my heart that Jon's choice goes against everything we believe & would compromise his ability to receive the Eucharist.  Because I love & care enough for Jon, Jesse & I told him that we would have no choice but to limit our contact with him.  In addition, we didn't feel our children, who are too young & impressionable to form their own opinions much less have any idea of what was happening, should be exposed to the choices Jon was making for himself.

Our choice to limit conversation with Jon has caused a lot of turmoil but we stand firm & hope that one day, Jon will open himself up to the possibility that perhaps he can live a chaste life.  I continue to pray every day for this to happen, but ultimately he has to make his own choice.  Contrary to what some might say, I love Jon with all my heart & it is because I love him so much that I had to take a stand.  I care so much that I want to see him in the eternal paradise, which is worth giving up earthly happiness for.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Lately I've been dealing with some very difficult decisions (more to come on this later).  Although I know I am making the right choices, it still doesn't make the consequences of my decisions any easier.  I have been living the adage, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it."  Even with that understanding, I have been searching for a sense of understanding; A sign, if you will, that I am doing the right thing.

I have always found solace in the beautiful words of the commonly known "Serenity Prayer."  The other night, I was researching the exact wording of this prayer when I stumbled upon the full length version.  Although the first few lines are most well known, it was the second half of this prayer that brought me the peace & calm that I desperately needed.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What I've learned in the kitchen

I am not a cook, not even close.  Before we got married, my repertoire included such dishes as macaroni & cheese (from a box), ramen noodles, grilled cheese & egg salad sandwiches.  All highly gourmet options...not!  For several years before we got married, Jesse was the manager for a restaurant chain, so he did all of the actual cooking when we would get together.  I managed to survive on whatever I threw together.

After we got married, our cooking pattern continued.  Jesse left his job at the restaurant & spent a few months out of work before his next job, so he had lots of time to cook meals.  However, once he began his demanding youth minister job, his hours at home started to dwindle.  Not long after, our oldest, Sophia, was born.  For the past few years, and two more children, I have managed to make my way through the kitchen without setting anything on fire!  Although I always wanted to become more kitchen savvy, it wasn't until Jesse was unavailable to cook that I realized, "I cannot raise my family on frozen dinners & basic, college staples!"  It was certainly scary to think about truly cooking, but I understood the importance of getting good nutrients into our diets.  Plus, I have very fond memories of family dinners growing up and I wanted my girls to have similar experiences.

Everyone has heard the expression, "If God leads you to it, He will take you through it."  Perhaps a bit dramatic for my cooking stories, nonetheless, I have found this expression to be very helpful during various trials in my life.  It can be easy to point blame or ask, "Why me, God?" when dealing with difficult circumstances, but I find it much more productive to try and focus on gathering strength from God & growing closer to Him in prayer.  Only when we are at our weakest, most vulnerable moments, can God truly mold us & teach us so we can become more loving, more Christ-like.

Today I read a blog from a woman not much older than me, who had successfully fought cancer twice.  When she was diagnosed the second time, she was unsure if she would have the strength to go through it again.  Her mantra was, "The strongest steel has to go through the hottest fire." Our company is involved in the metals market, so I'm familiar with the process...hot blocks of steel are pushed through a series of hot (and by hot, I mean about as hot as lava) rolls until the steel is the desired dimensions.  As the steel cools, it has time to "de-stress," thus the finished product has fewer surface stresses & is, essentially, a stronger steel.  The imagery of this is something I plan to use during my prayer/meditation.  God wants take each and every one of us and "roll" us...mold us...into a more beautiful, strong person.  Yet, He is willing to show us the way & be with us along the journey as we learn how.

Though I'm far from the perfect cook & I still make lots of mistakes, I take every experience as a learning opportunity.  I relish in the success of making something that my family enjoys & even requests!  But, I also know I have a long way to go.  Thankfully, I have a house full of empty tummies willing to try my offerings.  I only hope we can be so open to the courses that God has in store for us.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Welcome!  I've been wanting to write a blog for a while now.  The idea first came to me a couple of years ago but only really took fire in the past few months.  I have searched the Internet for those in similar life situations, but haven't had much success.  So, alas, I will begin my own blogging journey.  I hope at the very least it will provide me with an outlet for my thoughts, emotions, experiences, etc.

So, a little brief summary of my life:  I have been married for five years to my husband, Jesse (insert comments about how adorable it is that we are "Jesse and Jessica" here!).  Jesse is a youth minister and has been quite successful in his endeavors, if I do say so myself.  We have three beautiful daughters, ages 4, 2 & 6 months.  These girls are, without question, the loves of my life.  Motherhood has been the most amazing, rewarding and exhausting journey I have ever been on, but the rewards are constant!  I work full-time but when I'm not working, I spend a lot of time as a married single mom due to Jesse's work schedule.

For some strange reason, when I sum up my life in a short paragraph like that, it all seems so neat & tidy...uncomplicated even.  Perhaps that's how people on the outside might see my life.  There have been some wonderful highs & depressing lows as I've traveled through marriage, motherhood and the work/home balancing routine.  I thank God every day for the wonderful blessings He has given me.  I find myself having an on-going open dialogue with God, which I believe has helped me keep sane when the kids are crazy, Jesse is off working somewhere, dinner is nowhere near ready & I have a major project due at work!

I hope this blog will be helpful not only for me but anyone else who may stumble upon it.  So welcome...to the sharing of life lessons from a Catholic youth minister's wife!

God bless,