Laughing and Trusting in God’s Will

I loved this past Sunday’s Catholic Mass readings! They contain many angles of Wisdom but I especially tuned into the parts that speak to those of us who struggle with anxiety and doubt in God’s plan in our lives.  

Like I shared at CatholicMom.com this week, I struggle with accepting the trials God allows me to go through and often fail to see the gifts through the challenges. 

In the first reading from Genesis, the Lord shares with Abraham that Sarah, who is “advanced in years, and… had stopped having her menstrual periods” and was barren, would have a son! 

Sarah didn’t believe this could really happen for her.  In fact,  she laughed at such an impossible prophesy.  But the Lord, offended at her incredulity, asks,

Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? 

Sarah, like a true daughter of Eve, lies and denies her laugh but the Lord, being the all knowing Father,  answers back – and I love this line –

“Yes, you did.”

Ha! Sounds like a conversation I’d have with one of my own willful children.  

(As a side note,  I also love the irony the USCCB notes that her laughter prefigures the name of her future son, Isaac.)

It’s been said (and said and said), “The best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans.”

But how often do I also laugh at His plans in my life?  How often does He try to show me a better way and I laugh in disbelief or naive arrogance? How often do I doubt – or don’t even notice – the “marvelous” ways He works in my life? 

In a way, today’s first reading can also be very aggravating if we have yearned for something and feel like God is not listening. Sarah received what she’d been wanting (a few years too late in her opinion) after she had long since stopped hoping. 

What about those of us who, like Sarah, yearn and PRAY for something but never receive any special visitors from the Lord telling us we’ll finally get it? 

In our hearts we might know that the Lord has other plans for us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future“, plans that He knows are good for us, and that we should just trust Him.  

But our minds remain anxious and restless when we cannot understand His ways or feel like He’s not listening…or maybe not even there…

When we stop trusting God, or when we’re left feeling abandoned by Him, we fill our lives with things or busy work to try and fill the gap or obstinately try to force our plans. We become resentful and obsessed. We stop praying,  we stop listening, we stop hoping. 

In Sunday’s Gospel, Martha is consumed by her work to the point that she seems to forget why, and for Whom, she’s doing it. While her sister, Mary, on the other hand, “…sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.”

The Laudate App (my favorite app) had a great reflection on Sunday’s Gospel shared by Don Schwager and Presentation Ministries. Don reminds us that –

Anxiety and preoccupation keep us from listening and from giving the Lord our undivided attention. The Lord bids us to give him our concerns and anxieties because he is trustworthy and able to meet any need we have. His grace frees us from needless concerns and preoccupation.

So what do we do when things aren’t going our way or we are confused by how God is working in our lives? 

I LOVE this point made in the Presentation Ministries reflection:

Some people say they are like Martha; others say they are like Mary. However, the Lord is not calling us to be Martha or Mary, but Martha and Mary.

​We are called to be like Martha and continue living and going about our days but we are also called to be like Mary and unite our days with prayer by making time to intentionally seek Christ’s Presence in our lives.

We give our anxieties to the Lord when we open our hearts to him and allow Him to enter us and heal our pains. 

We can find hope and peace again in any situation when we humbly pray,

Lord, I have no idea what I’m doing here or how to live with this. I give it to you. Guide me, lead me. Heal me.

(I used my WordPress mobile app to write this whole post so forgive any funky formatting!)

 


Backyard Golf, Tear-free Onion Cutting & Other Random Friday Takes 4

I’m in a bit of a blogging rut so I’ll use Kelly’s Friday 7 Quick Takes as an excuse stay up way too late and blog very unexciting things.

1. Mini Golf Course in the Backyard

Our beloved and oh so kind and generous pastor decided to give our three boys some of his golf clubs (some older ones collecting rust and dust in his garage).  He offered them an old beebee gun first but, after seeing the look on my face, decided maybe that was “a little too heavy for them for now” and instead offered them long hard metal poles that can be swung and hit hard golf balls everywhere. 😉

All joking aside, it was very nice of him and has provided the kids some new and different weapons, er I mean, entertainment.

On an unusually “cooler” day this week we set up our own makeshift mini golf course in our back yard using items we found in our outdoor toy shed.

It was extra challenging with the long grass and the fact that my kids tried using these real clubs like mini golf clubs and the fact that I have no idea how to really golf. The nine-year-old thought he knew it all and kept calling everything a bogey and a double bogey. (I had to look up how to spell that and what it means here and I still don’t really get it.

I was particularly proud of this hit-the-ball-down-the-slide one. I missed the picture but the 9-year-old scored a hole in one down the slide on this one!

2. Watching

I took the kids to watch Zootopia last week. I thought it was alright enough but the all the kids really liked it!  I don’t really feel like taking the time to give it a full review.   They also got to go watch The Secret Life for Bees. They said it was good but “definitely not as good as Zootopia!”

My husband and I have been watching the BBC’s Life series on Netflix when we feel like watching something but not a whole movie. Our world and all the life that lives here is so amazing. I marvel at God’s ingenious ways and unique sense of humor with all these marvelous creatures great and small.

3. Reading

I haven’t had as much time to read this summer as I’d like to (like when was the kid) but when I do get a few minutes break in the day or in the evening (as long as I can keep my eyes open) I’m enjoying these two books:

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

and Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories by Dawn Eden

I got this for a review a while back and thought I’d maybe skim it over and then give it to a friend but once I started I realized – no, this book is definitely for me right now. I’ll share more when I’m done but I already highly recommend it!

4. Speaking of great Catholic Spiritual Books…

Did I mention I’m part of a new book coming out in August?! Well, I am!

We started working on it back in 2014 so I’ve had to hold in my excitement for the final product but now that it’s only a month away I can start letting my excitement out!

The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections is a new CatholicMom.com book coming out August 29 (2 days before my birthday!) I, and many of my fellow CatholicMom.com writers have contributed our own reflections to go along with each day’s Gospel reading. If you’ve been looking for a new daily Gospel Reflection book from the perspective of Catholic moms, look no further because this is it! 

I’ll share more about it in the weeks to come as we get closer to the August release, for now, you can pre-order online today at:

I know I can’t say this is my book but I’m so excited to be part of a published book for the first time!!

5. Beautiful Clouds

I got to drive into this beautiful scene on an early morning this week.

The rays coming out of the clouds were so distinct and magnificent. I had to be careful to keep my eyes on the road.

Then, Wednesday night, I walked out of an evening meeting and was stunned by this magnificent sight:

Clouds may only be composed of water vapor but when the setting sun hits those just right it’s a captivating sight.

6. Kid Chef

We usually go to the Y in the mornings and come home ravaging hungry but I like to shower “quickly” before making lunch or I’ll end up staying in my sweaty yucky gym clothes the rest of the day. Well the 9-year-old either got tired of waiting for lunch or decided to be nice (or a bit of both) and has taken to making lunch for everone on his own! It’s been a HUGE thing for him to do that and I’m very proud of him and thankful. Especially when I come downstairs and find taquitos ready for everyone to eat!

7. Goggle-eyed Onion Cutting

Lastly, I decided to take my son’s advice and use my new prescription goggles while cutting onions so I wouldn’t cry the whole time and guess what? It totally worked! Not one tear!

My life has changed forever. No more trying to cut onions with my eyes closed!

And a P.S. Bonus #8 Random Tip of the Day: If your dog accidentally steps in the sticky spider trap liquid and then gets it all over her fur and you can’t figure out how to get it off – use vegetable oil liberally all over her fur, wash, repeat until it’s all gone.

Ok, now go check out Kelly’s and other’s much more amusing Quick Take posts.


The Office/Homework Room/Entry Way Before & After Renovation Tour 6

It’s the post you have all been waiting for! Yes, even you Razak in Mozambique. I’ve shared glimpses here and there about the renovations and improvements we’ve done with our Office/Homework Room/Entry Way room and I’ve promised a full blog post of the whole project from the before and after. Your patience and dedication as you’ve waited has finally paid off!

I give you…

The Office/Homework Room/Entry Way Before & After Renovation Tour!

We’ll start with…

The BEFORE picture:

As you can see, it was practical enough I guess but very cluttered. I’m allergic to clutter so being in this room made me grumpy. And it’s the room where I help the kids with homework so it didn’t work very well.

Sometime towards the end of April, I said to my husband,

Husband, I’d like to make a few changes to this room now. Would that be ok with you?

Go for it. 

And so I did…

New Paint Color

Before ripping the carpet out, since I didn’t care if it got stained, I gave the room a fresh coat (actually 2 coats) of new paint with my most favorite color – Sherwin Williams’s Copen Blue SW0068.

After painting our guest bathroom this color and loving it, I knew I wanted more of it in the house somewhere.

I spent a lot of time obsessing and deliberating about which color to use – and asking friends and family for advice – thank you! – and trying to decide if I should do one color on top and another on the bottom or keep it all the same.

I finally went with my mom’s advice (cuz mom’s know best, right?), and tried the same color on the whole wall and am so glad I did! I think it would have chopped the room up too much and made it look even smaller if I only did the new color below the chair rail.

I primed it first with primer tinted with the Copen Blue. Many, many thanks to my mother-in-law for coming over and helping me get the room all painted before having to pick kids up from school!

Carpet Removal

Next step,  get rid of the horribly disgusting dirty carpet! This was my most favorite part, well after the new paint color. For a few years, I’ve been taking my sorrows and frustration out on that carpet. Poor thing became the scapegoat for all my problems.

The kids are squabbling again…and I hate this carpet!

No one’s listening to me to me today…and I hate this carpet!

It’s no wonder my Hulk counterpersonality hadn’t ripped the dang thing up earlier and ripped it all to shreds.

This room is the first one everyone walks into from the garage and up to our rooms so, being a high-traffic area, it was no surprise to see how dirty this thing got. My sweet husband tried appeasing me by spot treating the stains but after a while I couldn’t stand (on) it anymore.

Finally,  on an evening in May, the day finally came! My husband and I ripped the carpet out the evening before we put the new floors in. It was a most satisfying feeling.

New Floor!

After ripping the carpet out, we put in new laminate wood flooring.

The previous owners had left a couple boxes of the BerryAlloc flooring throughout the rest of the main floor (except for this room and the living room carpet) and I was able to track down the same exact color at a local home improvement store.

I say “we’, but it was more like my amazing father-in-law and awesome husband who did it all in a weekend.

And it turned out so beautifully!

There’s no way my husband and I could have put the new floor in by ourselves. My husband’s dad is just one of those people who just knows the right way to do things like this – how to measure accurately, where to cut, how to jimmy things so they fit just right, how to “miter” things together, all while making it look like it was all done by a professional (or even better in my opinion!)

Desks

After the new paint and floor, I almost didn’t want to put anything in the room, it was so open and clean. How’s that for minimalism? I wanted to keep the room functional yet as clutter-free as possible. I knew this would be a challenge since the room serves multiple purposes – Entry Room, Office, Homework Room, etc.

I saved a bunch of Office/Homework Room/ Entry Way room ideas to a Pinterest Board and really liked these ideas for one long desk along one wall like this one and this one:

I already have a desk I like so instead of making it exactly like those, I worked with what we had.

Who says a folding table isn’t a real desk?

For chairs, I wanted to find some cute antique-y white chairs or ones I could paint. One day, I took a trip over to our local Re-Store shop to see if I’d find anything for the room and I spotted these two white chairs!

I was so excited, I bee-lined it for the cashier and bought them before someone else could and what a great deal it was too.

They go so well with the room and desks!

Storage

As nice as it would be to only have those two desks in the room, the reality is that we do need to actually use the room. Next up, it was time to look for storage ideas. I knew I wanted something that the kids could access easily enough but that wasn’t just out in the open for younger kids to get into.

I had originally thought I’d like to do this:

As “chic” as that is, the reality is I’d constantly be picking pencils up and wiping marks off the wall because the kids wouldn’t appreciate the cuteness factor as much as the practicality factor.

After searching through garage sale furniture and antique/consignment stores for the “perfect” storage cabinet and not finding what I wanted, I went with this cube shelving and cube storage bins from Target:

I like how you can add a shelf insert to convert a cube into a drawer for better use of space.

While I didn’t do much with the floor, my three-year-old and I assembled the shelving unit all by ourselves!  I was pretty proud of that.

I moved my other storage cart I’d used before over by my desk for “my stuff”. It’s not my favorite item in the room but it works and fits perfectly so I’m good with it for now.

Bulletin Board and Dry Erase Message/To-Do Boards

I’m a list maker. I have many lists – Google Calendar Reminder Lists, my phone’s Memo app, Evernote Lists, Trello Lists, and yes, even Paper Lists (gasp!).  I know, it’s crazy and I’d like a more consolidated system but it’s what works for now. I also really like using Dry Erase Boards to jot down quick notes and then wipe them away when I’m done. But…let’s face it, the average Dry Erase Board is a little, well, ugly.

So after some more Pinspiration, I came up with this:

I’d like to find a simple Quote board to hang over the Dry Erase Board.

Made one for the Meal Menu/Grocery List while I was at it.

And a fun bulletin board.

I will write up separate posts for those projects with more details and how-to’s.

Hooks!

Next, we needed to add some hooks for hanging book bags, jackets, and mine and guests’ purses.

For the kids’ book bags and jackets, I searched and searched and bought and returned and finally I found the perfect board – in our storage shed in the backyard. 😉

I got the hooks at Hobby Lobby, painted it the same white as the trim and frames, and had my husband help me drill the hooks onto the board. It looks nice and empty now but come August and 4 backpacks and jackets/coats will hang from it.

Now this next piece is the one I’m the most proud of:

This is something I saw on Pinterest and actually did!

If you noticed in the before picture, there was a door leading into the Kitchen.  So we took that off – which gave us much more space for the desks – and then my father-in-law helped me make the bench, we attached it to the door, drilled in the hooks and ta-da – an Entry Way Hook and Bench!

And there’s just enough space to store our library books baskets!

Accent Frames

Finally, it was time to add the accent finishing touches. Again, I wanted to keep the deco simple but still functional. My friend, Mary, helped me so much with this part and I’m so incredibly thankful!

I absolutely LOVE how it turned out!

I love how this frame turned out to display a special Mother’s Day gift from my daughter.

Of all the stuff I’ve kept over the years, personal cards from friends and family are my greatest treasures. I love receiving special notes in the mail but I also love pretty stationary. So I wanted to find a way to both display the pretty cards I’ve received and continue letting them encourage and inspire me and fill me with joy.  I’ll post more about these ones too later.  Using Pinspiration again, and Mary’s crafty guidance and frame, I came up with this:

People know I love pretty cards with birds and flowers. 🙂

And this for inspiration at my desk:

The After Picture

And finally, this wouldn’t be a Room Renovation post without a Before and After collage so here you go –

I started this project in May and finished at the end of June, not bad really! I’m super incredibly pleased with how it all turned out. Now I don’t hate coming into this room, it’s my new favorite room! I love coming in here, it makes me feel joyful and happy and a little bit proud with all we accomplished!


You’re Invited to Join The Catholic Community Cinema Society 4

Do you like watching movies? Do you appreciate genuine and authentic movies that encompass Truth, Beauty, Redemption, LOVE and all that other good stuff? Do you relish a deep, enriching and eclectic conversation with others who also value these same qualities in a good movie?

Well hold onto your popcorn and hold your hopes up high cuz I’ve got an exciting announcement for you!

I’d like to introduce and invite you to a new endeavor unlike anything you’ve ever screened before…

The Catholic Community Cinema Society was proposed and founded by none other than the Most Overly Enthusiastic Cinephile I’ve ever known: My long-time friend, Joel, who writes all about movies, books, culture, family, faith, and other cool life stuff over at I/FWP. (That’s short for Ideas. Folk. Work. Place.)

Basically, those who want to be part of this awesome Catholic Community Cinema Society will all watch the same movie each month and then have fun conversing about that same movie. See Joel’s blog post for the specific details on how it works and how you can participate. 

We’ve already lined up the first three movie picks for July, August, and September:

All these are currently available on Netflix Instant Watch. You can also rent the Princess Bride, Shawshank, and The Hustler on Amazon Prime for $2.99.

If you aren’t sure about joining in, know that Joel used his Overly Enthusiastic picture and brotherly charm to convince not only myself but also the hilarious Mary of Mary Big Hair to join this new Society (said in a stuffy High-Class British accent) so that he wouldn’t be all alone in his overly enthusiastic cinephilia.

Of course we agreed because we didn’t want to make him feel bad er I mean, because we too are overly enthusiastic about movies!!!!!!! (See all those exclamation marks?) See, I’ll even give you my own Overly Enthusiastic expression to make up for using his picture without permission. (Although, he did send me the picture so technically I have full rights to use it how I choose, right?)

Now that we’ve probably scared you away with our overly enthusiastic selves – or at least convinced you to join us for the obvious entertainment factor – head on over to Joel’s blog and stay-tuned for a post later this month all about The Princess Bride!

(Amazon Affiliate links included in this post – Which means when you purchase anything on Amazon after clicking the links, they send me a teeny thank you gift card I’ll probably use for either books or renting more movies.)


Finding Dory, Finding Family, Finding Self {Movie Review} 4

This weekend we surprised the kids with a day trip up to Kansas City for my husband and my great nephew’s baptism. (I can’t believe I am a great aunt!) We drove up early and watched Finding Dory at the Cinemark in the Kansas City Plaza.

Aside from the movie, I think the highlights for the kids were getting to go up escalators and crossing a skywalk to get from the ticket booth into the theatre. It’s the small things.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Disney Pixar Finding Dory sequeal to Finding Nemo. Nemo was such a great movie, I wondered if Pixar could make a sequel that was at least as good as Nemo. After seeing the terrible disastrous disappointment of a sequel that is Cars 2, I didn’t want to hold my hopes too high for this one.

I’m happy to say that I am very pleased with Finding Dory and would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Finding Dory is a true family movie everyone can enjoy! It’s manageable and classic entertainment all ages can easily process and relate to. 

Side by side with the original, I would say this sequel side-story about Dory looking for her parents may not be as thrilling or complex of a plot, however, its milder temperature is overlapped with the humorous wit and absent-mind minded nature of Ellen DeGeneres’s Dory that everyone came to love in Finding Nemo.  I love Nemo and Marlin, but everyone knows Dory is the real star of Finding Nemo. It was fun watching a whole movie with Dory and a great mix of new characters everyone can relate to.

Parents with younger children who may not have been comfortable with the more intense scenes in Nemo (like the sharks) will enjoy the calmer flow of Finding Dory. Not to say there aren’t exciting moments, they are just less intense and resolve faster.

I was thankful Pixar paid attention to what families appreciated and liked with Finding Nemo and stuck with the same core values of family and friendship with a clean, tasteful, and fun presentation. I really liked that Dory has two parents that she has good memories of and the two parent characters, Jenny and Charlie, are good, loving, and strong mother and father characters.  Oh and the child Dory is too cute.

My husband says he appreciated how familiar the movie felt with the original Finding Nemo but it’s still different enough that it wasn’t just a boring repeat of the first marine adventure.  Unlike, Cars 2, they didn’t try and one-up all the adventure of Nemo with ridiculous intense action scenes.

For myself, the two themes I loved about Finding Dory are:

  • The Importance of Memory
  • Turning Disabilities into Strengths

First, Memory

Memory has been a huge part of my life this year, I’d say Memory is the word theme of my year so far.

Aside from being able to relate on a smaller scale to Dory’s short-term memory loss and absent-minded challenges….

Wait, what was I going to say?

Oh yeah…

I’ve always been fascinated with memory. What are memories, how do they work, what are they made of? Are memories only neurological reactions or do they come from somewhere deeper, outside of our physical bodies?

Where would we be without our memories? How would we function in this life? How would we find meaning without our memories? Who would we be without our memories?

All these thoughts about memory and how important memories are were already swimming around in my mind and heart before watching Finding Dory and the movie drug me down deeper into the current of those thoughts that I’ll hope to explore in later blog posts.

For now, I’ll say that I was very aware of the role all of Dory’s memories played in helping her find her family but most especially it was the painful memories that helped Dory the most in her search for her family and herself. 

Disabilities at Strengths

This is another huge theme I’ve been mulling over and wrestling with for some years now that has come to the forefront of my thinking and everyday living recently as I try to figure out how to look at my children’s perceived weaknesses or unique challenges as something good instead of something terrible that’s tearing them, me, and our family life apart.

All the characters in Finding Dory struggle with something, even Hank, the seemingly rough and tough “septopus”, has his own monsters he’s trying to hide from. Each character learns now to work through their own fears or disabilities while also learning how to work with others and their differences.

I can’t go into all the details but suffice to say that we’ve had special challenges with one child for a few years now and, now that school is out and the routines and structure are gone, it’s become very, very, very challenging at home.

I’m having to learn (and re-learn) how to look at this child’s challenges and struggles and see how I can turn them into strengths and gifts for himself and our family.

Like Marlin in Finding Dory, it’s soooo hard to comprehend and look at the world and various situations differently than what I would do. Like in Finding Nemo, Marlin again has to let go of his perceptions and way of solving problems and learn to trust Dory and see the world as she sees it and think like Dory.

“What would Dory do?,” may become my new mantra too, only replacing my child’s name for Dory’s.

This is a great movie for kids, but one might wonder if they really made this movie for parents. 😉  Make sure you bring some tissues when you watch it, Pixar knows exactly where the tear buttons are on mom’s hearts.

**This last part contains spoilers so that’s why I left it at the end if you want to finish here and come back after you’ve watched it.***

Since this is a movie for kids, here’s what our kids said they liked about Finding Dory when I asked.

12-year-old daughter: I liked how it showed Dory when she was little and her family together. It wasn’t just about Nemo and Marlin’ story, it was also about Dory and her background too.

Favorite scene: When the truck fell into the water with all the fish coming out.

13-year-old goddaughter (who is visiting with us): I just liked the part where it was talking about Dory’s past and how she felt when she was little and the story behind all that.

Favorite scene: The Becky bird – she’s kind of scary – but funny when she dropped the pail to go eat the popcorn. And when they have to bounce on the water fountains while saying, “What would Dory do?”.

9-year-old son: Dory’s past, I liked seeing when she was young. I like when the truck was falling and the fish were slow motion falling out of the truck into the water. I like that the octopus [Hank] could camouflage.  And, I liked Becky and when the seals were making all the noises on the rock.

6-year-old son: When the truck fell and then the fish ate the fish and then he barfed it out.

3 year old: Um, um….um…. about Dory’s mamma and dad! And….swimming. Because Dory is a fishy. Mamma, we watch-ed fishies at the place [the acquarium] we went to. [He remembered the aquarium in Tulsa we went to last year!]

As a side note, we looked it up and were AMAZED to learn that there are octopuses that really can camouflage like Hank! Check this out and be amazed at the wonder of Nature –

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