green lid with metal scraper
Advent, Bible, Gospel

HGTV Renovation and Advent?

Thursday 3 December 

Memorial of St. Francis Xavier 

Good Tidings Advent Devotional

Mt. 7:21, 24-27 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” 


I love watching HGTV. I love seeing neglected houses, in sad states of disrepair, transformed  into something new and beautiful. But do you ever notice how quick the transformation is? The  renovation and that shiny, new farmhouse sink look good, but are they really good?  

In Matthew 7:21, we’re told that doing good work in the Lord’s name is not enough for us  enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do the will of the Father. Doing good work but without  doing God’s will is like covering up old knob-and-tube wiring with pretty walls and not fixing  what’s truly lacking. The result of good looking work is fleeting. In a few years, a new contractor  will have to step in to fix the real issue.  

By analogy, disciples seek to do the will of God — not just what looks good on the surface.  But how do you know what God’s will is? If you are like me, you might worry about not getting it  right. I’m not a contractor, and a million HGTV binge sessions won’t make me one.  

The story of the two foundations points us to the first step in discipleship and understanding  God’s will. First, Jesus asks us to listen, and after listening, he asks us to act. (See Mt 7:24). When  we do this, Jesus promises that we will withstand the beatings life will throw at us.  

Jesus doesn’t say that my house is good as long as it looks pretty on the outside and is built in  a nice neighborhood where the weather is perfect year-round. He says, “The rain fell, floods came,  winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock”  (Mt: 7:25). 

Trust in the solid promise that when you listen in prayer and act of God’s promptings, God  will lead you to create something strong and beautiful that stands the test of any storm. You will surely shine brighter than a new farmhouse sink. Plus, the best, cutest, host-with-the-most  carpenter will be living in that house with you ready to repair as needed.  

What is your foundation?

Cassandra Smith 

You can download a copy of this free Good Tidings Advent 2020 Devotional HERE

Advent, Bible, Books, Gospel, Liturgical Living

Good Tidings – Advent 2020 Devotional

I’m excited to share with you Good Tidings, an Advent Devotional for 2020. You can read Good Tidings daily by downloading this FREE PDF, or you can subscribe to my blog and receive the devotion delivered to you each day of Advent.

Good Tidings includes the daily Gospel, reflection, and a guide through lectio divina for each day of Advent. The booklet culminates with a Nativity Prayer on Christmas.

This year, when many of us have been at home for months on end, my hope is that this devotional will help make Advent special.

This year has felt pretty monotonous for me. I’ve stayed home, worked from home, homeschooled, and days have blended into weeks and months. Creating this Advent devotional has helped me put some punctuation marks in a sea of sameness. Editing this booklet really lifted my spirit out of quite a funk. Though I couldn’t reach out and hug each friend who contributed to this devotional, I felt closer to them by reading their words. I hope this book will do the same for you.

I’ll be leading discussion digitally in the Joyful Momentum Facebook Group daily throughout Advent. Please join in!

Catholic Family, Motherhood, Parish Ministry, Uncategorized

Catholic Mom Summit!

I’m so excited to share with you that I’ve teamed up with CatholicMom to present the Catholic Mom Summit.  The (AMAZING!) event is coming up digitally on November 13-15th

And… It’s FREE to register!

The Summit will feature more than sixty well-known and loved Catholic authors and speakers, including Danielle Bean, Katie Prejean McGrady, Mary Lenaburg, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Lisa Cotter, Michele Faehnle, Emily Jaminet, Sonja Corbit, Haley Stewart, Kendra Tierney, Sarah Christmyer, and more!  We’ll be talking about the real issues that moms face every day and the practical steps of how to find the peace and balance we all want.  

I’ll be talking about recalibrating to our vocation —in our women’s ministry groups and in our homes.  I’m looking forward to sharing my heart with you and ask for your prayers as I prepare my talk! 

Register HERE to sign up!

See you at the Summit!
In Christ,
Elizabeth

P.S.Sharing really IS caring!
Please forward this email to all the moms you know and share the link on your social media. Thank you so much!!

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Catholic Family, Family Life, Homeschool, Motherhood, Self Care, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

This Fall May be a Season of Pruning and That’s Okay

Late August in my family is usually filled with last-minute beach trips, back to school shopping and sports try-outs.  It’s fun for the kids but hectic for me as I balance leisure time, with the kids’ needs, and my own work.  By September, I relate well to that internet meme where the kids are all lined up at the bus stop with frowny faces, and the mom is jumping for joy at the realization that she gets the house to herself for a few hours.

But that’s not happening this year, is it?  Nope!  Most of our back to school plans have been up-ended as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. My older children began classes digitally, and we have opted to homeschool our rambunctious second grader for the first time. Instead of a quiet September, we’re bumping up the chaos.

My aspirations of autumn “me time” in a quiet café with a pumpkin spice latte are cooling off faster than my re-microwaved home brew.

So how am I finding and balance amid the noise of competing demands and an ever-changing pandemic environment?  Honestly – it’s tough, and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.  But when I do manage find balance, here’s how: 

The name of the game is recalibrating.

friend recently had to abruptly change a plan that we had made together.  In her email, she wrote that we needed to “recalibrate.”  Her word stuck with me because that’s how I’m managing in this pandemic.  I’m constantly recalibrating.   

I’ve seen and read a fair bit of unhappy stuff on social media lately, and I am concerned that a lot of us are facing the fall with other re words. Re-ticence, Re-sentment. Re-servation. Re-calcitrance. Re-sistance.      

As I face this school year, I’m focusing on recalibrating.  Why?  Because back to school days should be a time of re-newal. You see, recalibrating is adjusting to a true and accurate value.  Like orienting a compass toward north, when we recalibrate to the correct value, we get renewal.  This fall, I’m recalibrating life to my Christian vocation. 

Recalibrating to your vocation.

What do I mean by recalibrating to my vocation?  Well, let’s back up.  The word vocation gets tossed around frequently in Christian circles, but what does it mean?  Very broadly, our vocation is how we express our love of God and share the Gospel.  We live our vocation through married life, religious life or holy orders, or singleness, and it’s possible to have more than one vocation. St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example, spoke of her vocation to the religious life and her vocation to start a new religious community to serve the poor as a “vocation within a vocation” or a “call within a call.”

If my life is properly calibrated, each part of my life feels like a “vocation within a vocation” and life makes sense.  Married life dovetails with motherhood, and my job fits within our family dynamic.  When I’m working within my vocation, instead of feeling pulled toward competing priorities and anxious, I feel clarity. 

This doesn’t mean that working within your vocation won’t ever be hard.  Take one look at a crucifix and you’ll be reminded that living our vocation can be extremely challenging.      

But when I feel pulled in all different directions at once and everything in life becomes a chore, that’s when I know it’s time to recalibrate to my vocation because my vocation matters.  The other stuff frankly doesn’t.  I take time to remind myself of what my vocation is, and as importantly, what it is not.  I scrutinize whether the things that demand my time help or hinder my vocation. 

This is a prayerful process through which I’m reminded that that God created me as a finite being with finite capabilities and finite hours in my day.  I’m am not called to do everything.

Holy Pruning.

During this pandemic, God is certainly calling me to focus on my family, keep my children safe, educate them, and catechize them.  This is requiring me to prune things out of my life and make more space for these priorities.  It’s a holy pruning.  Some of the pruning is obvious:  I need to limit the time I spend on Instagram and Netflix, for example.  But I’ve also made some harder decisions to prune away fun social functions and volunteer work that I enjoy, so that I can give more attention and energy to my vocation. 

Navigating this fall’s evolving school schedules and family dynamics will require continued recalibration and pruning, but I find it consoling to remember Jesus’ words that God prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it can bear even more fruit for the kingdom (see Jn 15:2). How are you recalibrating?

Uncategorized

Keep Writing – Especially When It’s Hard

Being a writer can be weird.  Last week I wrote a 700-word piece and it took all my gumption, brain effort, and about 18 hrs of work.  I probably wrote 4,000 words in the process of eeking out a mere 700. By the time I finally hit the “send” button on the mini-project, I was barely moderately happy with the result. It was definitely not the best thing I’d ever written, but I had to stop editing just hit submit.

Fast forward to this week, and in two hours, I just rattled off 700 words that I’m really pleased with. I’m not exactly sure what the difference was between the two projects other than my mojo was working for one and not the other.

But that’s life, right?  

Sometimes things come easy, but sometimes we have to work for them.  The contrast in my easy writing day versus hard writing day is a reminder to me (and hopefully to any writer) to keep working. 

Keep writing even when writing is hard and tedious because the result is at least three-fold –

1. You finish the written product, so your imagined book or blog becomes a reality.

2. You’re building discipline, which will help hard writing days get easier. 

3. You’re building skill in your craft. 

Press on in the tough writing days and be grateful for the easy ones.  You’ll never regret the effort. I’m cheering you on. Cheer me on, too.

Catholic Family

On Becoming a College Mom

I spent $133.47 at my son, Patrick’s, college bookstore this week.  I had not spent that much money on nonessentials since the pandemic hit.  But I enthusiastically plunked the money onto the counter at the College of William and Mary bookstore and happily walked outside to the Virginia summer humidity sporting a new ball cap and a bag full of college mom paraphernalia that screamed my pride in Patrick’s next step in his adult life.

The Move In

Arriving to Patrick’s new residence hall, we unload bins of school supplies and a semester’s worth of clothing, bedding, and ramen noodles.  We were amateurishly clumsy in our unloading tactics as items fell out of grocery bags and rolled across the sidewalk.  While chasing a rogue bottle of Gatorade, I noticed that the mom and son in the car in front of us had expertly packed everything in large, zip-up Ikea bags.  Several college mom bumper stickers on her SUV tailgate confirmed that she had past experience with freshman move-in.   

Once we transported the gear to Patrick’s room, we started to arrange the furniture.  Patrick rejected each suggestion I gave for how to fit his mini-fridge into his rather small room, and it became clear that he wanted, and perhaps needed, to arrange his room without me.  I left Patrick and his sister to the task of arranging the furniture while I ran to the store for a few necessities. 

The Floodgates

As soon as I got in the car, I was grateful for my new ball cap and oversized sunglasses because the floodgates opened.  I cried my eyes out all the way to the store and up and down laundry detergent aisle.  I even cried my way through the Chick-fil-A drive through on my way back to campus.  When I returned to the dorm, Patrick and his sister were beaming with satisfaction.  They had made the bed, hung posters, strung Christmas lights, and even found a spot for the mini fridge.  The room looked great –without my input.   

I invited Patrick to go to dinner with us, but he opted to eat with other freshman.  My daughter and I ate dinner and drove past the dorm later in the evening to see if Patrick needed anything.  From a distance, I spotted him sitting on the lawn with other students.  We slowed down to look but kept driving.  I didn’t want to intrude. 

Saying Goodbyes

We said our goodbyes in the dorm parking lot the next morning. 

I left Patrick with the following words:

Be good. Study hard.  Go to church.

And I cried – surprise, surprise.  I told myself that I would feel less sad when my daughter leaves for college.  However, as I put the minivan in reverse, I saw the expert unloader family from the day before.  The seasoned, strong college mom hugged her son goodbye with a smile, but as soon as she slid into her car, she burst into tears. 

Unexpected College Mom Grief

I was not prepared for college mom grief.  It is a confounding grief.  A paradox, really.

It’s a paradox because unlike other types of grief, in grieving a child leaving the nest, we’re grieving exactly what we worked so hard to attain for so many years. 

Throughout our motherhood journey, we traverse “long days and short years” often filled with pregnancy nausea or the anticipation of adoption, teaching our children to read, celebrating birthdays, confronting medical challenges, leading scout meetings, navigating finances, getting kids to behave in church, reheating cups of coffee, attending sports practices and music recitals, and helping our kids learn to share, do chores, and make good friends.  We joyfully and exhaustedly parent our children. 

With our work often unseen, we raise squirmy, snuggly children to become God-loving, independent, kindhearted young adults who don’t need our help to set up dorm rooms, find dinner, or make friends. 

But the manifestation of that adult can break our mom hearts a little as we think about the childhood years where they desperately need our physical presence. 

Acceptance: It’s Going to be Okay

It’s okay to grieve that our children don’t need us the way they used to.  It’s okay to cry on college move-in day.  It really is.  Once again, I bawled my eyes out on the flight home from Virginia to Washington State.  Somewhere over Missouri, I recalled words that my friend Mary Lenaburg wrote about grief.    

“Acceptance is where healing begins,” she wrote. 

So the goal this week is acceptance.  God called me to motherhood that began with a child who desperately needed me for nearly his entire life until now.  Now, however, my vocation as his mother is to accept that my son needs me in different ways. He needs the hidden work of my prayers instead of overt actions.  He needs the subtlety of a listening ear instead of direction.  He needs me to support him even if he does things differently than I would.  He needs me to observe him from a distance while he forges his way.  His Mom driving away is exactly what Patrick needs. 

As for me, I need to accept that happiness and sadness can co-exist in this new chapter of motherhood.