When the Gospel is hard…

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

John 9:2

Can I tell you how this verse tears my heart into tiny ribbons every time I read and hear it? I have long ago rejected this kind of thinking even before having my own special needs child, but a lot of the world, and a lot of Christians…have not.

The idea that children born with various physical, mental, developmental and cognitive disabilities were a punishment for sins of the parent pervaded well into the late 20th century. Why didn’t we see more of these children in public in decades past? Well, the majority of them were sent to institutions where society could ignore them and the parents could silently bear the “burden.” And it happened in Catholic families as much as in the general society. How remarkably pro-life of us to treat the least among us with such dignity! (For the un-initiated, that last sentence is sarcasm.)

For a society that prides itself on how “progressive” and “accepting” it is, we sure do abort unborn infants for suspected inferior traits at an alarming rate. Let’s not forget how we rush to defend the parents who murder their children with disabilities in cold-blood by decrying what a hard life the parent had. And while we’re at it, why don’t we also talk about how welcoming churches are in general to those with developmental and cognitive disabilities. By the way, I’ve heard people use today’s Gospel reading to defend all of the above actions because Jesus cured the man’s blindness which means surely He rejects the imperfect as well.

If you think that way…if you think my child is a punishment for my sin and that Jesus loves her less, it might be time to turn in your Christian card.

Just look at the next verse:

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

John 9:3

In the case of the blind man, restoring his sight was a very specific action to show Jesus as the light of the world. It does not mean Jesus rejected the man and his disability. As our pastor pointed out today, this man had an encounter with Jesus. We can all know as much about Jesus as the Bible, the Catechism, our parents, attending Mass, receiving the sacraments and events like Eucharistic adoration can teach us, but have we really and truly encountered Christ? And his first suggestion to meet Christ in your life? Head to our local Miracle Field and watch the differently-abled athletes compete. Watch their parents faces. Watch those who volunteer with them. He pointed out that from all the commandments the greatest was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength but the second, was to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). And at the final judgment when the people on the right ask Him when they saw Him hungry, thirsty, a stranger, etc, He reminds them that whenever they did something for the least among them, they did it unto Him (Matthew 25:37-40).

In the face of all that, it is undeniable that God creates each life for its own unique purpose and it is completely irrelevant if we fail to see what that purpose is. It is most definitely arrogant and even evil if we suppose there is no good purpose and no right to life and dignity of those with disabilities if we cannot see for ourselves what that purpose is. It is most-likely not the only reason God created my child, but let me tell you, she has allowed myself, my husband, my children, her grandparents, her Godparents, and all she meets to encounter God in an amazing and profound way. I can tell you my boys have learned more in their short lives about patience, compassion and self-sacrifice than I did in the 26 years I lived before God blessed us with Shelby.

And it’s not just the disabled who can help us encounter God. There are also the elderly, the homeless, the sick, the marginalized…

And why does it matter that our children have these kinds of encounters with God on this level?

A while ago there were a few articles floating around the interwebs that claimed to give Catholic parents a guaranteed way to keep their kids Catholic. They spent a lot of time talking about going to Mass, reading the Bible, having the Catechism at the ready, setting a good example in the above and parents being the primary educators of their children. But in none of them was included the actual living out of the Corporal Works of Mercy and seeking out these encounters with Christ. Which may be why so many parents read those articles and wept because they did all those things and one or more children fell away from the Church. This morning our pastor held himself up as an example of one who left and it wasn’t until he encountered Christ in real way, not just learned about Him, that he realized just how important it is that our kids learn where and how they can meet Christ.

And this is the real reason this Gospel is hard. It makes us really reflect on what we’re doing to encounter Christ in our own lives and how we’re making it a priority with our kids. It forces us to reckon with the fact that we may not only not be living Christ-like but may not be seeking Him out for substantial encounters. And it might be a sobering reminder of what we really need to do this Lent…find Jesus and truly encounter Him.


When God wants more…

Lemme start by bringing you up to speed on Lent two weeks in.

The lack of poultry, beef and pork has resulted in B-12 deficiency. For me. Jeff seems to be okay. And I eat a lot of fish too. But despite increasing other food items higher in the nutrient in my diet, yeah, I’m deficient. I was tired. Which I expected. I had headaches. Also expected. Then I started with vertigo. Not expected. So today I headed to the pharmacy to get a B-12 supplement. And I already feel better so there’s that.

Also, it snowed here Sunday. It also all melted same day but it snowed. I headed to Mass in rain and then about half way there, I realized it wasn’t raining anymore. It was snow. And by the time I got to church, snow was sticking to the ground. Had it been colder and therefore more stuck, it would have been about 3-4 inches. William and I stopped on the way home and got donuts for everyone and I got a latte.


In case you missed it or you live in a state or part of a state that doesn’t observe it, Sunday also marked the start of DST.

My prayer life, while improving this Lent, still has a lot of room to grow. And last week I got behind on EVERY-BLESSED-THING. It was so not funny. And I kept plugging along but something wasn’t right. I wasn’t giving up, but I wasn’t gaining ground either. I was stuck as to what was going on. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Finally, this morning I figured it out.

In addition to fasting from meat, I gave up my personal facebook for Lent. And while that is going pretty well, it’s still a struggle a lot of the time. And today as I continued playing catch up, I read a reflection written by Elizabeth Foss in the Blessed is She Lenten devotional journal, Put on Love. In it, Elizabeth talks about being tied to screens and not being tuned into our family. Yesterday I had an epic day with the snow, Mass, donuts, and a lot of good family time (a lot of it planning for a big trip we were surprisingly gifted Saturday). It wasn’t lost on me that I was more plugged into both God and my family and less to technology. As I read the words and reflected, I realized that facebook wasn’t enough. God was asking for me. He wanted me to give up all personal social media. Boom.

This mainly means snapchat and instagram. Today I deleted both off my devices. This is going to hurt. I was really enjoying the Blessed is She instastories. I was also loving hearing from friends who only use snapchat. But God wanted more.

Greatness, in God’s eyes, means sacrifice and humility. Well, the humility was there this time. I knew I needed God more and when He told me the sacrifice I would have to make…I sighed. I won’t lie, I totally sighed. But I did it.

Lent has been, in the past, a time for me to realize what an awesome fail-er I am. This year, I’m learning lots of interesting things about myself. And God. And our relationship. I’m finally able to do lots of hard things. Things I’ve struggled with and failed at so often in the past. God’s timeline is always so radically different than mine and I’m seeing that again. I’m learning how much humility works to my advantage. And how weak I am and how much I need Him. His guidance has brought me to places I never knew existed. Being open to Him and submitting when God wants more is a wild ride. But I encourage everyone to pray and listen and see what God wants. And to be ready to submit beyond your comfort zone, because this is where trust begins.

Why I’m Celebrating My 14th Wedding Anniversary by Going to Work

…followed by teaching faith formation.

Unless you live under a rock (no judgment, I’m living under the one called Lent right now), you probably know that today, March 8, 2017 is International Women’s Day and in the US is the day chosen to be “A Day Without Women” protest/strike.

And I’m not participating. I’ve been emboldened by Molly at Molly Makes Do who posted a pic of herself in her work uniform on her instagram (@molly.makes.do) with this caption:

Today I do show up for work because I respect my job and it’s [sic] rules for PTO and sick leave. My patients don’t have the privilege of choosing a day off and I don’t get a day off from mothering. Today I wear blue because it’s my uniform and I don’t have the privilege of choosing what I wear. Today I buy things because women in other jobs, with small business, etc. rely on the money I spend. Today I do all these things because a woman before me fought for my right to work, have an education and be a mother, the best way I can show my importance is showing up and remaining visible in my world, not running from it. Support a woman run business today, support women in crisis in charity and volunteering, write more letters to your elected officials. We are important when we show up and get the job done.

to share with you why I am going to work today.

Today I show up to work because the children I work with deserve to have a safe place to be after school where they can learn, play and grow. Today I show up to work because the mothers of those children deserve to have a safe place for their children to be cared for while they work. Today I show up in particular for the single mothers of some of those children who don’t have a choice to not work because their every penny earned pays to feed, clothe, and shelter their children. Today I show up because I work with two amazing women who are also mothers and we are a sisterhood that depends on one another. Nothing works quite the same when one of us is forced to be out because of illness or emergency. Today I show up out of respect to my own mother who made the difficult decision to go back to work to try and build better futures for her four children. Today I go to work to earn money to help women in small businesses provide for their families and donate to women in situations who need it. Today I show up to work because I will not been seen and not valued if I do not show up (yes, it really is that simple). Today I show up to work to show my daughter and my sons that we have to carefully decide what is worth fighting for but also how we take up arms in that fight. Today I show up to work to honor the many women who came before me  who fought for my right to be there.

Finally, and most importantly, today I show I up for work because it’s my 14th wedding anniversary to my amazing husband. When we stood before God and our families we vowed to each other and God that we would be united in marriage for richer or poorer. There’s been a lot of poorer over the last 14 years as we’ve struggled to parent three young children, one of whom has special needs, on a single income that he provided. My unemployment and under-employment meant we’ve done without a lot; more that most people understand. While we are certainly not rich by earthly standards, my job, acquired less than a year ago, has put us in one of the richest (materially) times of our marriage. It has relieved much of the stress on my husband for me to pay a few bills and buy groceries. Today I go into work to honor my husband and our marriage vows. We’ll celebrate when we’re both scheduled to be off in a slightly larger way than in years past. And we’ll celebrate today by supporting each other for richer or poorer.

He Knows Better

Another private message. Another email. So sorry, no one wanted to read your submission. We only publish solicited work, but good luck peddling your wares elsewhere.

The form letters. The messages from friends “in the business” who can’t help. I look at the old ones along with the new sometimes.

Another friend suggests I self-publish. I would have to self-edit too because I can’t afford a bad editor much less a great one and yeah, we all know how that would turn out.

And many more encourage me to keep submitting. I do, but I’ve learned not to expect much. Maybe not even anything.

For a long time it bothered me. I would negatively compare myself to the other chosen to collaborate on a project. Even worse, there were times when I’d think, “I’ve got as much talent as her/him, they just know more and better people.”

A very kind journalist friend told me my writing is good but not the “wow, outstanding” that will easily win followers and garner me invites into the invites only club. My best chance is submissions and things falling onto the right editors desk.

An editor friend has said that my voice is unique, just like everyone else’s. So I just have to keep trying to find the one person who will love it.

I can easily fall into a pity party over rejection letters and advice that wants to encourage me while also whispering, “it might not work out.” Most days I try not to think about it. I try to keep doing…something. And to keep my chin up.

I think about the days when I wasn’t sure I’d get married because I hadn’t found a boyfriend at the Newman Center. He knew better.

I think about the day I stared at the sky after a miscarriage thinking parenthood would be something else friends would experience and I would not. He knew better.

My life hasn’t turned out at all like I thought it would. And that’s okay. Because He knew better. Maybe publishing will never be in my life. And that’s okay because He knows better than I do. Maybe all the rejection professionally and being passed over both professionally and personally will lead me to some great life lessons or some huge success. He knows better.

I know some of my family think this is defeatist talk. But I’ve left this professional stuff to God because He knows what He has planned for me. After a huge round of rejections in writing and job hunting a year and a half ago, I posted this on social media:

Well, got some disappointing news on the job front. I can probably stop waiting for the interview phone call. But I’m choosing to share this information because while I have been specifically asking God for this need in prayer, while I’ve done the positive affirmations and such…God’s answer is no or at least not yet and God is not a genie who grants our every desire and makes our lives easy and perfect (Job 1:21). He is our loving father and while He is able to make all things possible (Philippians 4:13), He will only do the right thing as a father should. His plan is not this, not right now. And while I’m okay with that, it’s okay for me to be a little disappointed (I am) because I do not know what is in store. I don’t know what’s next. Perhaps this “no” will lead to a better opportunity, or maybe better timing? Maybe God just wants me to be in my current situation longer so that I can appreciate it more? I can’t know, I can only trust and keep on praying. God has not abandoned nor punished me with this turn, He will mold me into who I am supposed to be if I allow Him to (Jeremiah 18:6). He will use what and who I am for His purpose. His plan is far superior to what I can dream of (Jeremiah 29:11). Through all of this I must continue to decrease while He increases (John 3:30). His mercy and goodness continue to follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).

To my shock, I got a message from a friend who’d just weeks before lost his three-year-old daughter in a horrific car accident. He said my message encouraged him and reminded him that God would work even through his terrible situation. I was embarrassed I had even been complaining when my disappointment was nothing compared to his grief. But God has a bigger plan than my disappointment or even the tragic loss of a child.

All those times that God knew better, He taught me to trust Him more. My husband was on the other end of a wrong number phone call not praying at the Newman Center. Trust Him, He knows. My babies were coming but I had to appreciate the difficulty of having a child with special needs. Trust Him, He knows. Maybe my writing will help someone else who is struggling in ways I can’t imagine…I think of the man in today’s Gospel: Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). I struggle. I cry out in moments of desperation. That verse is a prayer I rely on heavily. 364 days after our first failed listing of our old house, we closed on our new ones. Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief. I know You know better. You show me time and time again. You must increase, I must decrease. My faith is not written by what other people think should happen to me, it is written by You. I refuse to submit to others believe is success in my life and wait to see Your better plan. I will not hope in the plans of me, but believe in Yours.


Seven Things I Learned Losing Oliver



  1. It’s not silly to ask for prayers for your pet. No, he’s not a child and he’s not a child dying of starvation, dehydration, lack of medicine or from the ravages of war. But that doesn’t make him less deserving of prayer. And truly kind, truly Christian souls will recognize that, will not accuse you of assigning the title of “child” to your pet and will kindly offer their prayers. As my dear friend Katherine said, “If Saint Francis can sing to the moon and Saint Anthony can preach to fish, I don’t know why anyone can’t pray for a cat.”
  2. Even when you know in your heart you’ve made the best decision, the compassionate decision and as my grandmother said, “the merciful” one for your pet, it still hurts unbelievably to have to make that decision. It feels like no matter what decision you make it is the wrong one. And no matter what it will leave you wishing you’d had any other option. (Because the other options they gave you, they told you would do nothing but isolate him from you until he did die.)
  3. There will always be debate about what happens to our pets after they die amongst Christians of good faith. I think of Pope Francis telling the little boy whose dog died, “Paradise is open to all God’s of creatures.” And it makes me think, “why wouldn’t it be?” The Director of Faith Formation at our parish loaned me a book entitled, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, in which a little boy’s cat dies (the same story that played out in our house this week). The little boy’s father tells the little boy we don’t know a lot about heaven because we haven’t been there. I echoed that to my boys. And I told them that while I wasn’t sure, I hope it was a lot like this when I (hopefully) get there (eventually).

  4. Telling your kids that you had to put their beloved pet to sleep is the absolute worst. It’s like reliving the moment 1000 times in a second and their grief is like your own magnified by infinity. When your seven-year-old tells you, through tears, that his heart is broken and will never be fixed again, it breaks you like you’ve never been broken before.
  5. Grief is a very strange thing. It comes on strong as if it will never let up. Then seems to subside quickly only to creep in at inopportune times. It makes one boy withdrawn and another louder and sillier than before. It strikes when I pull up into my parking space expecting to see him sitting in the window…and he’s not there. I am fine talking to a co-worker about what happened but cannot put up the leg rest on my seat because he used to jump up there and snuggle but won’t anymore. Ever again.
  6. I pick up his ashes today. I have no idea what new pandora’s box of emotions this will open up.
  7. Oliver is special. I say that in the present tense for a reason. He reminds me still that pets are great reminders for all of us of the great love God has for us. The kind of love that truly comes without conditions. The love that forgives and bears all wrongs and therefore shows great mercy. I don’t think a day will go by when I do not miss Oliver, like I still miss my childhood dogs Winston and Misty and the dog I lost five years ago, Gilligan. I always thought Gilligan and Oliver would have been great pals. I am sure that he will continue to teach me about God’s love the rest of my life. And for that reason while my heart is broken, it is still full.

RIP sweet boy. I hope we made your lives even a small fraction as wonderful as you made ours. We love you. We miss you. We thank God we got to be your humans.

Check out more (happier, hopefully) Quick Takes with Kelly!

Binge-Watch Update: Bloodline

In her memoir of her friendship with the late poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy entitle Truth and Beauty, novelist Ann Patchett describes helping Lucy start writing her first novel. They are canoeing down the Little Harpeth River with Ann rowing (and pushing) while Lucy rides and brainstorms out loud. Ann recalls the event in part thusly,

Lucy went through all the characters in detail and each one was more despicable than the one who came before. When she told me the narrator, the abandoned sister, was wildly promiscuous and drank too much and probably has sex with the character of the nephew, I suggested she ease up a little.

‘We’ve got to have someone we care about,’ I said. ‘And it helps if that person is the one telling the story. You can write a novel in which every character is despicable later, I just think it’s a bad idea for a first novel.’ (Truth and Beauty, pp 214-215)

The creators and writers of Bloodline could have used a friend like Ann Patchett when they made this show. The tagline of the show is: We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing. The truth is they are just bad people. To say that each character is more despicable than the next is a gross understatement and there is literally no one to care about.

Bloodline is a Netflix original series that was recommended to me by two of Jeff’s brothers and their wives over Christmas dinner. I was intrigued and since I had just finished Stranger Things, I thought it might be another great series after that exceptional experience. I thought wrong.

It turns out not all Netflix original series are created equal.

Bloodline stars big names Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, John Leguizamo, Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek. The less famous Jacinda Barrett (of The Real World: London fame) and Enrique Murciano (of Without a Trace). And newcomer Norbert Leo Butz. And Chloe Sevigny makes several guest appearances.

Chandler is probably supposed to be considered the series’ protagonist. He is the second oldest son of the Rayburn family of Islamorada, FL in the Keys. He is a detective with the county sheriff’s department. The Rayburns are essentially the “First Family” of Islamorada and like all prominent families they have secrets. Butz, Cardellini, and Mendelsohn play his siblings. Mendelsohn plays his older brother, the black sheep of the family. Spacek and Shepard play their parents. And there is a fifth sibling, a sister named Sarah who died as a child. Barrett plays Chandler’s wife and Murciano is his partner as well as his sister’s fiance.

The series begins with a pier being dedicated to the family and eldest son Danny (Mendelsohn) coming back for the event. His siblings have all created lives in the town while a dark family secret (or maybe more than one) drove Danny away. The family are less than enthused about Danny’s return except for his mother Sally (Spacek). Where I thought the series would go would be in the direction of exploring the dysfunction within the family and also the repercussions of that.

Early in the first episode though, when Danny hooks up with an old friend who is trouble before seeing his family, I realized that this series was not going to stick with the obvious trope which would have been rife with complex characters and intriguing psychological explorations. But no, these characters are just bad people. They are incapable of doing anything ethical or even just kind-hearted. And just when I think it can’t get any worse, that they cannot make any more bad decisions, these characters outdo themselves.

And, um, there is the small matter of uncreative dialogue that heavily features f-bombs. A friend told me she and her husband called it their “effen show.”

The show has aired two seasons and will air a third sometime this year but has been cancelled after that. I am unsure if I will watch the trainwreck til the end as the second season ended in spectacular meltdown. Plus, as my aforementioned friend reminded me, the show is totally not edifying. I only have a small complex about completing things from a college professor who told us that we had to read at least 100 pages before we could throw a book down in disgust. That meant a lot of us finished a lot of books because 100 pages in…we figured we might as well finish it. And that transferred to tv series for some odd reason.

So while I remain undecided about finishing the series, I would highly recommend skipping this one altogether.

Currently binging on Community on Hulu, The Office (US version) on Netflix, Breaking Bad on Netflix, and Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime.

So yeah, it’s a new year, I have a blog and all that jazz…

We’re half a month into 2017. We’ll have a new president before the week is out. I’ve been back to school two whole weeks and…yeah, I know you’re bored already.

Long before Advent I had my patron saint for 2017, St Christopher Magallanes, the Cristero martyr. But the Holy Spirit had a surprise for me in the form of a smiling, hunched over Albanian born nun in a white sari with blue trim. Back in maybe September, I saw on snapchat via Catholic News Agency that the Missionaries of Charity in San Ysidro, CA were giving away Second Class Relics of Saint Teresa of Kolkata. Finally, around November, I got around to looking up the website information and sent them an email hoping to get one and realizing they may not have anymore to give. Suddenly, during the third week of Advent, Gaudete week, I got a package from San Ysidro and opened it to find approximately 20 relics and medals. I was blown away. Solved was my problem of what to get my co-catechist, director of Faith Formation, and priests for Christmas. And easily I knew I’d pass one on to my parents and one to my grandparents. When I gave one to our director of faith formation she said, “God must want you to evangelize about St Teresa!” Well, that was kind of out of nowhere and caught my attention.

So now I have two patrons for 2017: for faith St Christopher Magallanes and for evangelization for St Teresa of Kolkata.

My Bible verse for 2017 is John 3:30 He will increase, I will decrease. And I’m really working hard on this but you know, it’s a struggle. A lot. Because I’m really great at resisting grace. It’s this thing I’ve got called being human.

So, of course, my word for 2017 is trust. Like Psalm 27. Trust. And I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit is going to have a field day with this. But there you go. IF there was ever a reason that I knew I needed to trust, this is it. I need to know that this is something I really need to focus on. So, here we go. 2017, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.