Minimize so as to Maximize!

Recently, we decided to live a more minimalist lifestyle.  For most of my life I’ve only ever desired simplicity but rowing up I often found myself surrounded my piles of laundry, dishes and people.  As one of nine it wasn’t easy to keep order of schedules, rooms or names.  I love my family and the chaos and the noise but I’m finding out that I’m a person who  greatly values order, peace, silence and above all simplicity.

I’m not a clean freak, there’s no bubble wrap around my child or plastic over my couch, I just desire order.

God knew what he was doing when he gave us order.  Night is night and day is day.   I think that our culture of consumerism and love of stuff is battling with God’s order and simplicity.   In my own life I find that the more I have, the more anxious I feel, the more impatient I get, the more unhappy I am.  So it’s time for a change because I don’t want more stuff, I want a better, freer, fuller, more holy life.

It’s amazing how much our environment can influence our lives.  When there’s clutter in my room, there’s clutter in my heart.  As we’ve rooted out the need for TV in our lives we began to root out other false needs.  In the past month, we’ve packed up 3 bags of clothes and extra bedding that never gets used (nearly 50 pounds of stuff) to donate.  We’ve packed away the toys that Peggy no longer uses or doesn’t need.  We’ve given ourselves a list of foods that give us energy and nutrition and we stick to it.  We cut back on spending (I rarely ever need anything from Target and yet I go nearly every other week) and started paying off debt.  We are working to simplify our life so that we can better enjoy it.

Simplicity breeds order and perhaps that goes both ways.  I’m finding that I have felt more rested, peaceful, joyful, playful and prayerful over this last month than maybe ever before in my life.

Minimize so as to maximize – I don’t think I made this up, I’m sure there’s articles, books, blogs and research to support this.  I can only speak for what it has done for our life and I can say that is has positively impacted us in every way and on every day.



Becoming Friends with My Husband

For Lent this year Nate and I decided to give up TV, leaving us with a lot of time in the evening.  The other night he said to me “I feel like we’re becoming better friends because of no TV.”

It struck me hard.

Nate and I were friends for over a year before we began to date.  We got to hang out and get to know one another and enjoy one another’s presence along with the rest of our community.  When we (finally) started to date we did so for a little less than five weeks before he asked me to marry him.  Nine months later we were married and well the rest is the rest.

Our lives continued and with a few pregnancy losses, we had three years of just us.  In this time we had a lot of fun antiquing, catching a movie, grabbing a beer or just relaxing together.  Once we moved from St. Louis to Boston our commutes got longer and our lives busier.  We were both working more and so even though we often traveled together by the time we got home, cleaned up and ate dinner it felt like the day was over and we were tired and spent.  We’ve always loved watching TV and movies together and so night after night and day after day it just became the norm.  And then throw in pregnancy fatigue and hormones and there were weekends that all I wanted to do was lie in bed and binge on Netflix.

Our baby arriving was the first step back into freedom (though when a girl is up for the third time in the night and is too afraid she’ll fall asleep while nursing (for 25-40 minutes at a time!) and an episode of Supernatural is just the remedy – enough to keep her up though it didn’t require too much brain activity that would later keep her awake long after).  Yes, our little girl snuggled up beside us in her cosleeper (or often in our bed) meant no TV or TV at a very very very low volume.

I should back up here and say that we are living with our family at the moment and while this has many perks one of the drawbacks is that our only space was our bedroom so it often became bedroom/playroom/living room.

With a baby trying to sleep just 3 feet from the TV we quickly realized that this wasn’t what we wanted and yet we didn’t want to give it up so life continued like this for a while longer.

With this new year, we both knew we needed some change and Lent was the perfect start.

The evenings without TV are great, we talk or read or play with Peggy and go to bed early (and together – before he would often stay up for another episode while I went to sleep).  The hard part is the day when it’s me and my 10-month-old.  It’s hard in those hours that she’s asleep to resist the urge to relax and be mindless for a while, but I find that as I’m resisting I’m making time to improve myself, our marriage, our family life, our home, our finances and our dreams.  Things that we often put off for tomorrow are being accomplished today.

The temptation is still there during the week but we find something else to fill our time.  On Sunday’s we feast and watch a movie with our family.  We choose what we watch more carefully as we only get the one day (or one movie) so we find that not only do we have more freedom to talk or do other things to build our relationship, family, and future while not watching TV, we are finding that we are not taking in as much “junk” as we used too.

So let me get back to becoming better friends with my husband.  In the last 4 weeks, we have talked more and more intentionally than we have in the last 4 months.  With jobs and babies and church and well life, it gets harder and harder to make time for what’s really important – Jesus, family, each other.

We have become better friends through this Lent – learning more about each other, having fun with each other and really listening to what the other has to say.  Our friendship has deepened, our marriage has grown and our life has become more fulfilling.

What about you?  What have you given up for Lent?  Is your sacrifice allowing for growth in the things that are really important?

In disciplining ourselves through no TV we are realizing a life with much greater freedom and we are desiring this freedom in other aspects of our life as well.  But that’s for another day and another post.



I love chocolate.  I’m a woman, a wife, a mom and I’m not ashamed – I love chocolate.  I love it so much that it’s nearly a need in my life.

Over a month ago we switched our diet to Paleo – cutting out a lot of the food that causes fatigue, skin irritations, upset stomachs and more.  This process begins with an intense month of no grains, no beans, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine.

As you can imagine it’s not the easiest thing to do.  Each day we were faced with cravings and choices as we conditioned our self to follow a new set of rules and a new rhythm.  No more quick bowl of granola for breakfast and you can say goodbye to your creamer and coffee.

As we cut back on these foods the cravings grew – the first few days are the worst but I’m finding that it’s still hard every day.

Just today I wandered into the kitchen – not hungry, maybe a little bored – looking for something sweet.  It’s 4:30 PM, dinner is still a bit away and all I want is some chocolate or salty chips or anything to occupy my belly and satisfy this want.

But that’s just what it is – a want – not a need, not a must-have, but a want.  And a want born out of boredom and years of mindless snacking.  I’ve conditioned myself since college to satiate whatever appetite I had – I ate the food I wanted when I wanted it.  I wasn’t stick-thin but I wasn’t overweight either.  I would work out for an hour and then order pizza.  Chocolate, yes, soda, sure, waffle with ice cream for dinner, yeah bring it (college was the best).

Well, it’s been over 3,500 days since I began college and the daily binge is finally coming to an end.

Cravings only become real when you give in or say no.  In living the Christian life we are often confronted with cravings of sorts – watch more TV because you’re bored with your life, eat more food so you don’t feel so empty, post that comment or photo so you feel better about yourself.  If we’re not careful, these cravings turn into habits and habits shape who we are.

Discipline is the enemy of temptation.  With following a Paleo food plan I still have cravings for chocolate and bread but because of my discipline, I’m finding it easier to say no.

Just as cravings can turn into habitual snacking which then leads to more cravings, discipline creates ordered and intentional habits which in return help to build virtue.  There is strength in saying no.  There is grace in denying our wants.  If we start differentiating our wants from needs, we’ll find we have a lot more space, time and freedom on our hands.


So which will you choose?


With love,



The Road

Friends, in January, after returning from New Mexico (visiting family, eating ice cream in the 60-degree sun and enjoying some rest and peace after a busy holiday season), we started Paleo.  We joined the 21% of Americans who resolved to lose weight/eat healthy this year (and every year I’m sure) and as our new diet began we were excited and gratified to find ourselves satisfied and feeling good.

No grains, no beans, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol.

Eating lots of fresh, whole vegetables, eggs and meat needs creativity to avoid eating the same thing over and over (not that that’s a bad thing).  It’s been fun to cook more and cook differently.  It has opened our minds to being more intentional and thoughtful about what we are using to fill our bellies.

This mindset has begun to pour over into other aspects of our lives.  For years we’ve been telling ourselves that we wanted to eat better, feel better, work better.  We wanted a clean, simple, minimal home with clear and defined disciplines for the life we want to live.  Well, for years this dream and desire have gone on to be just that – a dream and desire.

But not anymore.  As we continue to dig into our new “no, that’s not paleo” lifestyle we recognize the other areas in our lives that are in need of such limitations.  Pair this with Lent and we are in for a long, much needed, purification.

The question “with what are we filling ourselves?” has become our new mantra.  What TV/Media are consuming?  How much Facebook and Instagram?  What clothes do we never put on while thinking “I have nothing to wear”?  Where else can we set limitations and reduce our intake?  Do we really need fill in the blank, fill in the blank, fill in the blank?

There’s a lot of good in where this has brought us.  Sure, we feel better, have more energy, and are living more intentionally in the kitchen, but we are also beginning to lean more into our marriage and home life.  We have given up TV for Lent allowing for more time for conversation, quiet and rest.  This time for conversation has given us the opportunity to get to know one another again – our stresses, our hopes, our fears, the things often unsaid when “fine” or “alright” is a much easier response at the end of the day.  We read more, pray more and play more games.  This time, once filled with mindless Netflixing is now allotted for relationship and character building and going to bed when we are actually tired (not after the next episode!).

Christ calls us to be conformed not to this world but to Himself (see Romans 8:29, Romans 12:2).  As this Lent continues and as we continue to look into our hearts and our lifestyle, we are finding it easier and easier to let go of the “stuff” and to grab on to Jesus.

Learning to live with less has brought us to living more.

We’ve gained a lot of clarity and sense since we began this journey and though the road is long we’re happy for it.  As we look to and rely less on stuff, we can look to and rely more on Christ and one another.


So how about you?  What needs to go or where can you bring order (to your life, home, etc) so that you can be more available to the ones you love?


with love,


look to Mary

In this time of Advent and of the Extraordinary Jubilee my heart says “look to Mary.”

Mary is Jesus’ mom (OK you probably know that).  Mary carried Jesus for 9 months and then for 33 more years.  Mary wiped his nose, changed his diaper, and left him at church.  Mary is a mom, which is awesome because a lot of times I need a mom’s help.  But Mary is also a lot more.

Mary is a vessel of mercy.  She literally carried “Love and Mercy itself” (Diary of St. Faustina, par. 1074) and brought Salvation into this world.

Look to Mary.

At the Annunciation, by the Holy Spirit, Mary received the gift of bearing the Son of God.

mary(The Annunciation painting by Henry Tanner)

Shortly after she went to see her cousin Elizabeth.  There Mary exclaims the Magnificat, a song of praise to God.

artworks-000060192172-820shh-original(Jump for Joy painting by Corby Eisbacher)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations shall call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and Holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
(Luke 1:46-55)

Mary knows what God has done.  She knows that her son is to be the savior Israel has waited for.  She knows that God is fulfilling his promise of mercy through her.

Look to Mary.  She is still a vessel of mercy.  She is still bearing Christ to this world.  She is still carrying light and hope and peace and joy and freedom.  And through her God wants to fulfill his promise of mercy to you.

A mother understands love and mercy probably more than anyone else.  A mother knows that a child must learn to comfort himself so she lets him cry until he falls asleep.  A mother knows it is a best for a child to have boundaries so she sometimes has to tell him no.  A mother knows that it is best for a child to grow up and take responsibility for himself so she lets him make his decisions himself.

There is so much mercy in the way a mother loves.  There is also great sacrifice.  Mary understood this more than anyone.  She understood that with this great gift to love a child there would be great sacrifice involved.  She stood by her son as he was crucified.  Pope Saint John Paul II writes “Mary is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy.  She knows its price, she knows how great it is.  In this sense we call her the Mother of mercy; our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy” (Dives in Misericordia, par. 9).

Mary’s love cannot be separated from God’s mercy.  She is the Mother of mercy, the Mother of love.  She is closest to the heart of God.

Look to Mary, the Mother of mercy.

Domenico Ghirlandaio - Cappella Vespucci - Madonna della misericordia.jpg(Madonna della Misericordia, painting by Domenico Ghirland)

the year of Jubilee


Please accept my caps lock as excitement for what this year means for me, for you, for our church!  It is incredible.

In the olden days the Jews would participate in what’s called the Jubilee year.  Every seventh year, by law, would be a sabbath year and after the seventh sabbath (49 years) they would have the Jubilee (the 50th year).  If you read Leviticus chapter 25 you will read about the sabbatical year, “for six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the LORD; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard….it shall be a year of complete rest for the land” (25.3-4, 5b).

So just as there is a sabbath every seventh day, there is a sabbath every seventh year and after seven sabbaths, the great Jubilee.

Leviticus continues to then outline the law for the Jubilee year and here’s where it gets good.

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years.  Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud….And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.  The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines.  For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you:  you shall eat only what the field itself produces” (25.8-12).

In the Jubilee year you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land, return to your family, and not sow or prune the field.

– Proclaim liberty: as part of this year you are to free any debts owed to you.  If you have a slave they are freed, if someone owes you money or land you forgive the debt.
– Return to your family: this part emphasizes communal life.  If you have an estranged family member or a family member who has fallen on harsh times you are to take them in and provide for them without any return or payment or rent.
– Don’t sow the field: rest and let God provide for you.

Ok, now let’s look to Jesus.  In the Gospel of Luke Jesus takes a scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4.18-19, Isaiah 61.1-2a).

Jesus is announcing a Jubilee year and as we know from Leviticus it is a time to proclaim liberty and freedom, to release slaves and forgive debts.  It is a time to return to communal life, to provide and care for one another without counting the costs.  It is a time to give rest to the field and let God provide food for you.

Here’s what I know.

– Jesus’ life, death and resurrection give us freedom from sin and death.
– Jesus instituted the Church and showed the importance of communal life.
– Jesus is the Bread from Heaven, the Bread that sustains.

Freedom from sin, forgiveness from the ones we’ve hurt or forgiveness for the ones who have hurt us, a return to family and to a life giving community and church, and the Eucharist.

This is the reality we live in.  Today starts a new Jubilee – a time for mercy and joy.

How are you going to live this Jubilee?

What Makes You Happy

Hello friends,

All I have to say today is listen to this.  It’s a series of sermons from Andy Stanley called “What Makes Us Happy.”


Yesterday I sat and watched re runs of Project Runway all day with the thought “I don’t want to pray, I just want to be relax.  I just want to do what I want and right now I don’t want to pray.”

I keep telling myself that I should fast from alcohol and pray to have a baby.  Then I tell myself “can’t I have fun?”

I keep telling myself that I should go to Mass each day (it’s less than 1/2 mile to the church) but sleeping that extra 10 minutes is much more appealing.  Shouldn’t I do what’s going to make me happy?  Sleep makes me happy.

I have the idea right now that religious is boring, that prayer is boring, that being a saint means not being happy.  Whether you’re like me or not you should give this a listen.  Happiness isn’t in what we do or what we have, it’s in who we know.

the Throne of the Cross

-We should glory in the Cross of our Lord

Happy Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!  Today we look to the Cross and recognize the power of the love that is revealed through Christ’s sacrifice and the healing mercy of this act.

In the reading’s for Mass today we hear about the Israelites complaining that they are unsatisfied with the food they have to eat: “why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water?  We are disgusted with this wretched food.”  God doesn’t like their complaining so He sends serpents to where they are and those who were bitten die.  But Moses repents for the people and asks that the Lord take the serpents from among them.  God commands Moses to make a saraph (serpent) and mount it on a staff.  All who were bitten and looked at the staff were healed.

Just as God gave Moses the staff of a serpent for those dying to look at, God gave us Jesus on the Cross so that we might look at and be healed from our ailments and cured from death.  That is the power of the Cross.  One look can bring salvation.  He took what was the look of death and using the very same symbol (a snake, a cross) and turned it into life.

The cross depicts death.  Jesus did die on the cross alongside two thieves.  It was a cruel and embarrassing punishment.  Yet we know the victory His Cross obtained for us – the victory of life over death and freedom from sin.  So though we may have been bitten and poisoned by different sins in our lives we can look to the Cross and see our salvation, life and resurrection.  “Through Him we are saved and delivered.”

I’ve had my share of snake bites in this life.  As I remember them, yes, there’s pain and sorrow but mostly I remember the mercy of the Lord and the healing He gave to me.  His Cross didn’t end in death and neither do our sins; if we choose to accept His love and mercy there can be new life.

This is why we glory in the Cross, this is why we exalt it and admire it because it won for us new life with God forever.

Awesome God

We talked about fear of the Lord at youth group a few weeks back and it is sticking on my heart with super glue.  I can’t get away from what this means.  Not a fear of punishment or a fear of an evil tyrant but a fear caused by awe and wonder at the holiness of God.  Like most things in our faith it’s both simple and complex.

Ralph Martin, an author, speaker, professor and leader of Renewal Ministries, writes in his book The Fulfillment of All Desire:  A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints that “the biblical fear of the Lord is an intelligent fear, based on a deep perception of the holiness and majesty of God….While the fear of the Lord is simply the beginning of wisdom, and the end of wisdom is love (1 John 4:17), one doesn’t jump into love without a deep and ongoing experience of biblical, Spirit-inspired fear….Fear of the Lord is a gift of God; it is not opposed to love, but prepares for it.  Fear of the Lord and love of the Lord go together” (p 55, emphasis added).

Like I said, both simple and complex.

In trying to wrap my head around this I have learned that fear of the Lord is an experience and encounter with the Almighty, Creative, Awesome God.  This encounter with God saturates us in grace and moves us to act in love.  I am reminded of the beloved in the Song of Songs: “I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh” (5:5).  This awe inspired love sits over me like the liquid oil of anointment as I come to meet the Lord.  It is sacred and to be honored.  God does not want us to be afraid of Him but just as we might stand in awe of a beautiful painting or sculpture and admire the work of the artist, or just as we grow in excitement and anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit, how much more so should we be in awe of God and grow in anticipation of His visit to us.

Fear of the Lord and love of the Lord go together.  When we see God for who He is we are moved to love and honor Him as King and Ruler over all.  And we fall on our knees in humble service because of His majesty and magnificence.

The fear of the Lord is glory and exaltation,and

It’s OK if you aren’t ready to jump into love of the Lord.  Take time today to contemplate his holiness and majesty.  How can you grow in fear of the Lord today?  How can you honor the Lord God today?

with love,


Do Everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus

-Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything

I found two things remarkable in today’s readings:

“Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
– Colossians 3:17

“Let everything that breaths praise the Lord!”
– Psalm 150:6

All I have to say is that this cannot be down without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I ask myself “how is this done? do everything in the name of the Lord…everything?” It sounds lofty and great, sure God I give you everything, I’ll do everything in the name of your Son.  But really everything?  Like taking out the trash and watching Project Runway and finding the right dog to adopt?

There is a word in Greek that is used to describe the actions of the Holy Spirit: dunamis.  You’ve probably already guessed that this is linked to English words like dynamite or dynamic.  The Holy Spirit can work in incredibly powerful ways in our lives and the action is like dynamite – explosive.  I read today’s readings with a desire for a greater influence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Dynamite results in an explosion and an explosion leaves a cloud or haze.  If we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives he will come like fire and explode in our hearts and he will leave his mark in the form of a cloud of grace and glory that will cover all we do and say.  It will change our perspective and our point of view.  It will saturate us in grace and love.  That same Spirit will breath new life into us and into our situation and praise and blessing will follow it.  This will effect everything we do, everything we are and it will make us more like Christ.  And then we can do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with praise and adoration on our lips.