Mornings with Saint Thérèse

St. Thérèse is very dear to me. Over the last several years in particular, she has become a very real friend to me during both turbulent times and ordinary days. I think that many Catholics have a favorite Thérèse story. Mine was last year, during a time that I was faced with a fairly scary situation, I told Thérèse that if she were to send me a rose, she needed to make it obvious because I'm too dense to catch it otherwise. The next morning, we accepted a spontaneous invitation to the zoo with some friends. We turned a corner at the zoo, and there was an enormous (like 16 feet high) rose made of Legos! I had to laugh because in that moment, I really knew Thérèse had my back. She was by my side. The communion of saints felt very concrete to me that day.

By a happy turn of events, I recently found myself in possession of an extra copy of this beautiful book, Mornings with Saint Thérèse, and I would like to give one away. Please leave a comment below and I will select a winner on Friday, October 7. And thank you for popping in to my much-neglected little space here! ♥

in which i realize i am george bailey

It's a Wonderful Life has been my favorite Christmas movie since I was nine years old. Always sensitive, always concerned with suffering and justice, this film has always revealed something very true to me. George Bailey doesn't "do his duty" and put others before himself with some giddy sense that it's fun to do it. He does it because it's the right thing, even though it's hard. He never wanted to run his father's business or stay in his small town or protect his alcoholic uncle or see his wife and children live in an old dumpy house. But he did those things anyway, because he loved people—his family, his community—and he couldn't walk away from them even when it would have been convenient to do so. And of course, in the end, the people in his life rallied around him when he needed them.

Now, I'm not saying that I've sacrificed myself in any way near to what George Bailey did. But I will say that my community has rallied around me in the most blessed of ways this month. There was a day a couple of weeks ago when we received in the mail several gift cards from friends far and near, including a very generous anonymous one. With tears, I sat down and looked at the abundance with which we have been showered by so many people, and I looked at my husband and just said, "I'm George Bailey—we're George Bailey."  

We have been so richly blessed, so cared for by so many people. We couldn't have provided a magical Christmas for our children this year, and others stepped forward and did it for us. My gratitude is almost inexpressible. So, if you are one of the many, many people who have helped us this year, thank you so very, very much. And if you are one of the many more people who have been cheering for us and holding us in prayer, thank you as well.

This Advent was amazingly blessed. We were able to keep it in the most prayerful and anticipatory way yet, and I was really excited about that. And Christmas is a blessing that just keeps giving. 

A few people have asked me about how we celebrated this year. It was pretty simple and quiet and I loved it. We attended Christmas Eve mass in the evening, forgoing the loud, hot, overstimulating "children's mass" and pageant, and were so glad we did. Quiet carols and candlelight were a more peaceful way to end the season of Advent that we'd just observed. There were a few handmade gifts for some of our extended family members. We hosted Christmas Day brunch for my family at our house, which was really wonderful and simple. It was only the second time in 15 years that we haven't dashed out on Christmas Day, and it made for a lovely change of pace, one I wouldn't mind repeating! I like to host things even though it's a lot of work and I'm rather high strung. Snow on Christmas Day and lots of board games and books in the days since have rounded out what has been one of my favorite Christmases ever. I have never felt so blessed. 

Christ is born!


The word "advent" comes from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming". Each year, we find ourselves settling with more ease into the ways we observe this season. We seem to add something new every couple of years, and frequently take something away, too, always coming more into a place that suits us just where we are as a family.

Every year, we get out fewer decorations right at the start of the season. This year, we have actually only taken out things directly related to our advent observance (except the nativity, which we can never wait for!), leaving all of the other Christmas things for another day. This weekend, we got out our advent stocking calendar, advent wreath, Jesse Tree ornaments (on the miniature tree—waiting until our customary mid-December date for bringing the big tree in this year), our winter and Christmas books, our favorite advent music, and the nativity with empty manger.

We also made some chaplets for the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, thanks to a gift certificate to a craft store. This is our first year praying the Christmas novena, although I've wanted to for a couple of years. One thing I've realized about myself is that I usually need a long time to think about something before diving in on it. (For example, when we moved into this house, I had recently started liking white painted walls quite a bit, but wasn't ready to commit to them. Now, a few years later, I am very much ready for that commitment. Perhaps if things become a bit more stable for us, we will go ahead and paint the walls white in the next year!) Anyway, after hearing about the St. Andrew Christmas Novena for several years, I decided a while back that this year we'd do it. We had a great time making the chaplets (sort of using this tutorial, but simplified without the extending section leading to the medal), with my three older children choosing from among the purple beads (we had amethyst, dyed agate, and purple glass) and stringing their own, while I did the finishing and hardware at the end. Last night we all prayed it together for the first time, and already I can see that it promises to bear a lot of fruit of contemplation and slowing down for this busy bunch of mine.

This prayer, combined with the candlelight from the advent wreath (by the way, we've been using this booklet of advent wreath reflections for the last two years, and it's really nice), and the scripture reading and soft singing of Lo, How a Rose with the Jesse Tree, gives me the feeling we have half a chance of actually being prepared for Christmas this year, no matter what material gifts show up under the tree on Christmas morning.

No matter what your season looks like, I wish you peace, rest, quiet, and joy during this time of waiting.

on "suffering well"

We have all heard the stories. The cancer patient with a smile on her face. The family who makes up for their lack of money with abundant love. The parents who survive an illness or death of a child with grace. The stories of people who suffer well.

I have not felt I have been suffering well. I have told my mom and my sisters and my friends, in jagged, desperate text messages and emails, that poverty is not making me holier. Reality has often consisted of my numbly scrolling through pages of social media sites with tangled hair, barking at my children, ignoring the state of my house. I have not felt holy. I have not felt like a saint of poverty.

Because, of course, we have examples of saints. Mother Teresa gave up everything not just to serve the poor, but to be one of them. I am not Mother Teresa. I have been fighting my circumstances, not graciously accepting them, and especially not embracing them. I have been envious. I have been ugly.

I have not been suffering well.

Or so I thought.

Christmas is coming, and suddenly we have had offers of help with gifts. People have gone out of their way to tell me that I have inspired them or helped them through their own hard times—not just in the past, but right now. Right now, while I think I am failing.

I sat down today to read Soul Gardening Journal (which, as an aside, you should subscribe to! It's free! And amazing!), and opened it right away to a beautiful piece called "Your Children Are Your Prayer" by Caitlyn Bootsma. Reading it, I realized that "suffering well" doesn't mean what I think it means, just as "praying well" doesn't always mean what we think it does. I have something to offer. An occasional word here, or photo on Instagram. An occasional glimpse through my eyes of good life, being lived, even when things are so hard and so depressing and so desperate. Those things may be a strange juxtaposition, but it's real. Some days I don't feel like getting out of bed, and on the same day, snow is falling and my daughter is playing "Let It Snow" on the piano and I'm reading to my little ones and drinking tea, and on the same day I'm wildly texting my mom that things can't get any worse (and they can't, they truly can't), and at the same time, they can't get any better. Does that make sense? The worst day can also be the best day. 

You guys, it is Love that is holding me up. Love of this little family, love of our broader family and community, love of strangers. Their love for me. My love for them. It's the Love of our Good God.

It should not be such a surprise that suffering is so hard. Because, oh my goodness, it is really, really hard. And I realized that, even in the moments that I do not think I am up to the challenge, that I cannot put one foot in front of the other even one more time, that I am doing it. 

I am not failing as much as I thought.

Water without price

And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.’

Come, Lord Jesus!
— Revelation 21:5-7, 22:20

Today instead of bringing our customary May Day baskets to family and friends, I had the final class of my four-year biblical school. We closed our study with the close of scripture, the final chapters of the Book of Revelation. When we got to the passage I've quoted above, the floodgates opened and tears began to flow freely. It was as though, at least for a moment, all the questions in my life had been answered and all of scripture was opened up for me in these verses. It was such a beautiful moment for me, and such a moving way for my four years to end. I will officially graduate next week, but today was really the culmination of our study. It was such a big accomplishment, and it was difficult for me at times, but I'm so grateful that I've completed it. 

This spring is a big one for our family, with my graduation next week, and James's First Holy Communion last week. He was so sweet, and earnest, and reverent that day. It was such a blessing to us all. 


I made him a boutonniere using ranunculus and some little white flowers (chamomile? I don't know), as well as apple blossoms from our tree which is blooming more beautifully this year than in the last two that we've been acquainted with this house. It has all seemed so very auspicious. 

In a new space

As I begin writing in a new space, I'm thinking about what blogging has meant to me over the years—I first began blogging about ten years ago now—and what I want it to look like going forward. 

I'm feeling just a little bit shy writing here, a little bit like I haven't found my voice yet, though I've been writing in a blog for such a long time. This move is something I've been considering doing for just about exactly three years, but I was apprehensive about it at the same time. 

I've been thinking a lot about this post, written by one of my very first close blogging friends, for several weeks now. With her permission, I wanted to quote a bit of what she wrote, because she said exactly what I've been thinking and feeling. 

I’m thinking about the story I want to tell, both to myself and to others.

Essentially, I want the life of my family to be relevant, not necessarily to a wider audience, but to myself. I want it to be aesthetically pleasing. I want it to act as both record of our time and creativity and as a reference for myself. I want to inspire myself, but I want it to be useful, too.
— Kyrie Mead, Mead and Daughters

When I first got into blogging, I was doing it for me, mostly. I wasn't thinking about growing an audience, but I did. For a time, I was writing for thousands of readers. Gradually, as I was unable to keep up my pace, those thousands of readers began to move on, and I began to be there even less. But I have missed it, too, the process of writing, the journal of our days. 

My life is a little different now. Our family has grown. Our older children are busy and fun and challenging in ways that they weren't as little ones. I've said many times that I feel more comfortable, in my element, more me, with little ones. My older children perplex me. 

My husband has not had a "real" job in almost a year. We have been getting by on nothing more than the grace of God. It is one day at a time. Our needs have been provided for, but it has been very difficult. I'm in my mid-thirties, my husband in his mid-forties, and while most of our peers are moving into bigger homes and thinking about seriously funding retirement accounts, we are starting at square one. I'm stressed about that, and it's hard to put a pretty face on that kind of fear and stress. 

But I have to. I have to reclaim my will to live purposefully or I will be adrift. No one else can do the work of sainthood for me. That's my job, it's the gift I've been entrusted with. It is my grace.