Army Life, Mass Reflection

Lessons from the Laundromat

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in too much hard stuff . . . like there is so much going on in your life, that you can’t possibly do anything else?  In the midst of these hard moments God often gives us opportunities to reach out to others because in doing so, we lightened each other’s burdens.  

This summer, my friend Mandie and I traversed some hard stuff – not bad stuff – just hard.  You see, we are both Army wives, and each of our husband’s received orders to relocate from our homes on the east coast, to Washington State. 

Adventurous and dutiful, we bid farewell to friends, packed our minivans, kids, pets, and husbands, and trekked across country.  But upon arriving to Washington, we hit some hard stuff.  We learned that each of our housing plans were delayed and we would spend about five additional weeks living in a hotel room.

Now initially, driving across the country and having a family slumber party in a hotel is fun. After 50 days, however, everyone in my household grew a little cranky.       

During our transition, Mandie and I reached out to each other.  We met for playdates at local parks, took our kids out for Happy Meals, and even timed our weekly trips to the laundromat together.  While doing laundry, we helped each other swap loads, kept eyes on our young kids, and enjoyed each other’s company.  

This may seem strange, but our weekly laundromat link ups were highlights of my summer. While I don’t prefer folding my families’ unmentionables in public, our laundromat link ups were full of genuine, unfiltered, honest conversation with a friend who understood exactly how I was feeling because she was walking a similar path. 

One day, while folding laundry, Mandie and I chatted about how much easier our work was together.  Mandie texted that evening, writing:  

“You know, sometimes we miss the chance to help others with their hard stuff because we can’t see past our own hard.  We feel so overwhelmed by whatever we are going through and don’t feel like we have anything left to offer, but if we can find ways to help despite our own hard things, then we can lift each other up.”

Her words capture a key lesson from today’s Old Testament reading that is poignantly relevant:  seeing past your own hard stuff to help another person changes everything.  

In today’s reading from Exodus, Israel is trudging through hard stuff.  They are waging war with Amalek, and everyone has a difficult job. Joshua and his men fight the battle. Meanwhile, Moses stands on the hill above the battlefield with the staff of God raised in his hand. As long as he keeps his hands raised, Israel has the better of the fight, but as he grows tired and brings his hands down, the enemy begins to prevail.

Aaron and Hur climbed the hill with Moses.  After reaching the top, I imagine that they were tired and inclined to tend to their own duties, but when they saw Moses crumpling from his burden, they helped him! First they gave him a rock to sit on. When that was not enough, they lifted his hands to support him and stayed with him until the battle was won.  

Imagine how this battle might have gone differently if Joshua’s men did not join him in the fight because they were too preoccupied with their own lives.  How might the battle have ended if Moses had gone up the hill alone, or if Aaron and Hur decided that they were too tired to lend help to Moses?

While we are tough and strong, and gritty, and can do a lot independently, God puts us in community with each other so that we can help each other with the hard stuff.

Looking back on the summer, by sharing our hard things, Mandie and I accomplished more than getting the laundry finished; we renewed the joy in our spirits. In the midst of our individual work, we put rocks under each other and raised each other’s arms.  As St. Paul wrote, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

Army Life, Catholic Family, Uncategorized

Tips for Faith-filled Summer Travels

Summertime means family travel time! Pack up the minivan, stock up the car cooler, fill the gas tank. Let’s go! Perhaps you are off to dip your toes in the surf? Maybe you are headed to a family reunion, or a favorite amusement park.

This year, our family adapted our usual summer vacation to make way for a cross-country move from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to Washington State. We wove family vacation time into the move with stops in South Bend, Indiana to visit friends, a hike in the Badlands National Park, a visit to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, and a day wandering Yellowstone National Park.

Whether vacationing, visiting family, taking the college shopping trip, or moving cross county, travel knocks us out of our normal routines, and sometimes our faith practices get juggled around in the mix. Here are some tips and ideas so that no matter where the summer takes you, you can easily stay grounded:  

  1. Find Catholic shrines or places of interest along the way. Help your family connect to the Universal Church by finding Catholic places to visit. Catholic author Marge Fenelon recently published My Queen My Mother A Living Novena – A Marian Pilgrimage Across America. In the book she features numerous Marian Shrine across the US. Here is another state by state guide to Catholic spots from Epic Pew. Take a picnic for your visit.
  1. Load up on Catholic CDs and podcasts. In an age of smart phones in our pockets, and Lighthouse Catholic Media CD racks occupying the narthexes of many parishes, this is just too easy! Be sure to downloaded podcasts ahead of time to save data! Here are some favorite Catholic podcasts this month:

Girlfriends Podcast with Danielle Bean. Get it on any of the usual podcast apps. You can also join her Facebook group to keep the conversation going.

Father Mike Schmitz with Ascension Presents. This podcast is incredibly relatable. It’s short, so if you have teens in the car, it’s a great conversation starter. Father Mike’s sense of humor draws everyone in, but he digs into tough topics. My teens enjoy this one.

Abiding Together with trio of dynamic friends, Sister Miriam, Michelle Benzinger, and Heath Khym, these ladies bond over everyday conversations in Catholic life – family, faith, service, children, relationship, and more. I feel like I could be chatting along with these women.

  1. Find Mass along your route, especially on Sundays. It can be hard to be a stranger walking into a parish for the first time. If you’re on vacation it can be easy to make excuses to skip Mass: you don’t know if the community will be welcoming to your kids; you want to drive 300 miles in one day and an hour at Mass will cause delay; you didn’t bring church clothes. Don’t make excuses. Jesus wants to meet you at Mass, whether you are in your traveling jeans and t-shirt or a three-piece suit.
  1. Say a family novena for a feast or saint that coincides with your travels. A friend told me that novenas intimidate her. When I asked her why, she said it was because she was not quite sure what they are. A novena is a specific prayer said once a day for nine days. It could be as simple as saying a Hail Mary for a specific intention for nine days.

Right now, the Church is approaching the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22. Since she has a special feast day, her novena started nine days before the feast. We mid-way through, but you can jump in! Here are two upcoming novenas.

Novena to St. Anne, the mother of Mary, starts July 17 and her feast day is July 26.

Feast of the Assumption Novena starts August 7th for the feast on August 15.

A beautiful thing about a novena is that after nine days of repetition, it puts a new prayer on the tip of your tongue.

  1. Fast from distractions. You may take beautiful pictures on your family’s trip, but avoid the temptation to jump on your smart phones to post all over Instagram or catch up with what all your friends are doing on their vacations as soon as you get back to the minivan or hotel room. Cherish the time in closer quarters to converse, play games, and bond. Instastories disappear in 24 hours; family memories endure.

These are just five ideas to stay grounded during travel. I’m curious to learn your tips for a faith-filled summer.