Category Archives: faith

Girlfriends In God

“Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.”
Proverbs 31:10

Who can find a woman of worth? Let me tell you, holy women are alive and well in the Diocese of Green Bay.  I was honored to spend the morning with 100+ of these holy women this past weekend at Girlfriends in God – A Women’s Day of Reflection.

It was my privilege to serve on the core team for the first of what may just be an annual event here in my home diocese.

We were blessed to start our morning with mass offered by a young and prophetic priest. He took the time to tailor his homily to women and the theme of our event. Listening to the symphony of women lift their voices heavenward in our beautiful cathedral was stirring. It was as if I could feel our collective, feminine heart unfolding for the blessings of the day. Continue reading

The Hermit Life: Saying Goodbye to February’s Darkness

I live, write and mother from “God’s County.” There’s even signage on our back road one-lane highways to prove it. Yes, I’m a cheese eating, Packers and Brewers cheering, God-fearing Wisconsin girl through and through. While I’ll likely never leave the great Badger state, here’s the thing: February in Wisconsin is the table by the kitchen in the darkest corner hell.

February and I are not friends. It’s been cold for too many consecutive weeks and people haven’t seen hide nor hair of a human being not covered in marshmallow shaped coats or fur skinned hoods since Christmas. The icing on top of that lovely cake is the fact that there’s only light for about 2 minutes a day in February.
This February my four-year-old assigned animals that have the same likeness to each of our family members. I was given bear.

“Why bear?” I asked.

“There are mama bears in stories that get mad when others bother their family. Plus, you like to sleep.” She said.

There’s a burn, four-year-old style.

My overly-observant daughter has a point. In fact, if I’m going to survive a Wisconsin winter it would ideally be spend hibernating with my bear cubs. Unfortunately, people don’t take well to shut-ins and society expects me to change the children out of their pajamas for Mass and company.

Therefore, until I’m rich and famous and can snow bird on out of here for 8 weeks every winter – February is about surviving.

I can’t imagine life without the four seasons. Plus, having the cold tundra of winter keeps many creepy-crawling bugs out of our state by a deep freeze that kills them all off once a year.

However, the pros just don’t outweigh the cons when it comes to a Wisconsin winter. By the time Lent rolls around every year I often feel like if there’s another doom and gloom day in my soul I just may roll over and play dead until spring. Things are always the worst at the darkest hour of the night (or in this case, year). Thankfully, hope rises with the March sun. There may be snow/sleet/rain and hail, but there’s hope.

Last weekend my husband and I took a late-winter trip to Door County, sans kids. We hiked through the freshly fallen snow and bare trees to a violent and spitting Lake Michigan.

The trees were heavy and bent with the wet, sticking snow of a late-season storm.

They were my peers, the bent trees. Hunched over, naked and frail from a winter of coldness and little light.

A tree doesn’t turn from its source of light as we humans do. Trees search for the light and chose to grow toward what they know sustains them. They grow heavenward. In the cold bitterness of the darkest times they may bend downward but they survive because spring will come and they will bloom again.

With gratitude, I too know the story doesn’t end in February. Just when so many of my branches are on the brink of snapping, Lent comes and the pain is reigned in and re-focused heavenward. This carries me until the bloom of spring – when we are all resurrected.

This winter I’ve put my hermit like behavior to good use. You may have noticed my absence in the social media words. It’s been deliberate. When I’m not changing a diaper or crying into the reproducing laundry pile I’ve been wading knee-deep through the messy dream of writing a book with my dear friend and fellow writer/speaker Woman at the Inkwell. It’s funny how our dreams tend to bend us ever so slightly and look a bit messy.

It’s March and I’m ready to do just that, march forth. God willing, beauty will bloom in the chaos. At least it will be spring, and there will be light.

Winter Trees, Door County, WI

Are You a "Santa Family?"

We’re a “Santa” family. I understand the reasons behind some families choice to keep Santa out of their Christmas celebrations, but for us, it’s important to include him.

There is beauty in the “magic” of Santa. In the innocence in the heart of a child that can believe a man can make it around the world in just one night, solely to bless the lives of children everywhere. The story is appreciated and loved because of its wonder, sans the syndical and bitter questioning that sneaks its way into our hearts with age.

We use the Santa story to teach our children about the unconditional love that can be found in a gift that is given out of love, not earned like a sticker on a responsibility chart. Once a year, for just a few years, they will wake with the type of anticipation that only lives within a child. They’ll know that awaiting them under the Christmas tree decorated with holy cards will be humble presents, right next to the manger that’s present all through Advent. The gifts won’t be there because they have earned them or they deserve them, just because they are loved – similar to the baby Jesus who will be placed in the manger that sits under that Christmas tree.

Accepting unconditional love and unearned reward may be difficult later in their lives depending on their temperament. The “Santa years” are great practice for them to accept that they are loved just because. They are loved by us, by each other and ultimately, by Christ. They did nothing to earn this love, can do nothing to lose the love and need only accept it – like a gift on Christmas morning.

There is no “naughty” or “nice” list and Santa works in his workshop year-round making toys for boys and girls because St. Nicholas inspired him to be loving and kind to children out of the goodness of his heart.

There is no danger of our children learning one day about Santa and drawing a parallel to Christ –  thus dismissing the resurrection as a fable, myth or moral story. We talk about Santa from December 7th to December 25th every year. We talk about the baby Jesus everyday.

My biggest concern that comes along with being a “Santa family” is not a spiritual one. We’ve got three daughters in this home. Teaching them to sit on an old man’s lap, tell him their secret desires and then take candy from him doesn’t really coincide with what we generally teach our daughters about strange, odd looking older men! Then, on Christmas Eve, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ birthday and while we are sleeping he’ll sneak into our home and we’ll leave him a snack? It is rather amusing when you think about the details.

Seems my girls feel the same way, judging from the Santa pictures we’ve taken the past few years.

A blessed feast of St. Nicholas! May his goodness and generosity inspire our Advent and Christmas season in whatever way is best for our families.

Gold chocolate coins, an ornament to celebrate the year in the life of our family and a new book of stories of the Saints have appeared on our fireplace! 3 little gals are going to be so blessed by St. Nicholas’ visit in the morning.

Baptism by Fire

**This post first apeared on Catholicmom.com last week. Elena’s baptism was the most beautiful sacrament I’ve even seen. I’ll share part II later this week.***

Part I

In making the preparations for our third daughter’s baptism my husband and I were challenged on our beliefs about the sacrament and necessity for infant baptism.

Our baby’s baptism brought with it the culmination of several manageable, but timely, stresses in our lives. Since Easter we’ve had a baby, moved to another city, joined a new parish and my husband wrote and defended his graduate thesis, received his master’s degree and started a new job. Also in that time we did some genetic testing on our newest family member and learned she shares the same genetic condition as her daddy.

Although thriving, it is necessary for our little “Laney Bug” to have some testing this week at the Children’s Hospital involving putting her under. For us, this meant she must be baptized before her testing and the clock began ticking on getting a baptism on the books.

We were met with some opposition and questions about why she had to receive the sacrament before her tests.

At first, I was extremely bothered. In fact we were outright angry someone dare question our wishes for our child. We are the parents of this beautiful child and thus all spiritual intentions for her are our responsibility, which we accept with joy.

Ironically, that’s a big part of baptizing an infant – renewing our own baptismal promises and committing to our community, and our Lord, that we will do our very best for our child to carry the light of Christ in her heart and be a faithful member of the body of Christ. It’s why I cry like a baby whenever I witness a baptism.

I expressed these views and was asked to just admit that this was an “emotional issue” for my husband and I, not a sacramental issue. In the end, it boiled down to me being asked this question:

“Do you, in your heart of hearts, really believe that your beautiful, innocent baby girl would not be welcomed into God’s kingdom if she were not yet baptized upon her death?”

I skirted past the question and we gave our reasoning for our intentions. We shared Church teachings and decided to disregard the opinions of others and set up the baptism. However, just because something is right doesn’t make it easy.

We struggled with the disappointment in how our third daughter would not have the same baptism experience as our first two. There was no party. In fact, there was no family. We were given an 8am mass baptism a week in advance and both of our families live over 3 hours away. We decided not to invite anyone or throw together a party. The whole thing had already been too stressful.

Amid this disappointment it was difficult to look forward to our daughter’s baptism this week. That question I had been asked was haunting me. It had struck a chord deep in my heart.

The truth is, I don’t really know what I believe would happen to my daughter were she to die before she were baptized. I know what my Church teaches me, but I also know I am a mother and my love for my daughters goes to ends of the earth. Doesn’t God’s fatherly love for us goes even further?

One may be baptized by blood, water or even intent is some cases. And, as long as someone is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they’ve been claimed for Christ.

I however, feel as if I’ve just been baptized by fire. I’ve been baptized into a renewal of my own faith and baptismal vows. My mama bear instinct kicked in. In protecting my young I was forced to question my Father. Would He protect me as a mother and offer me comfort by welcoming my child?

Through much prayer and discussion with my husband I came to this:

I don’t know what would happen to my daughter should she die before she was baptized. Just as I don’t know what happens to anyone who does not live their earthly life as a member of the body of Christ.

But, I DO KNOW what WILL happen to her if she is baptized into the faith. Our daughter will be re-claimed for Christ and welcomed into Christ’s kingdom.

Because, even when she’s not with me, I need to know where she is. I am a mother.