Night Driving

night driveTomorrow afternoon we load up the car — kids, elderly mother, dog, and presents. Lots and lots of presents. Then we head down 75 for 20 hours or so for our annual adventure to visit my mother-in-law in West Palm Beach.

It’s Craig’s annual opportunity to see how many times we can let the house-sitter set off the house alarm. Just in case you’re wondering, the record is 6 in a single day. We had to get a new house sitter after that. Also a new bedroom carpet, which Gretta soiled with the ferocity of a fireman’s hose every time the alarm went off. Good times.

My favorite part of this drive is … the night driving. Late into the night, as one by one the rest of the family nods and dreams, I sit behind the wheel, listening to a book on CD, pounding Diet Coke and Christmas cookies. My personal record is eight hours without a rest stop … with luck, I’ll be able to match it.

With night driving, you don’t have to listen to kids squabble, or play endless rounds of the Alphabet Game, or stop every ten minutes for water and bathroom breaks (you’d think they’d catch on to the fact that the two are directly related after the first twelve stops). No snarky drivers, or traffic jams, or construction pile-ups. Just the hum of the engine, the gentle lull of the reader, and the faint illumination of my husband’s LED screen. It’s pretty perfect, really.

Of course, this doesn’t last for long. Sooner or later, the aroma of Christmas cookies hits the nose of my teenage son, who hones in like a drone (despite the fact that he can’t smell the underwear rotting in his room for months on end). Sarah argues in her sleep, even if no one takes the other end of the debate stick. It’s okay, though. This is what it means to embark on a family adventure.

I wonder if this is what it was like for the Magi as they followed the trail of the star(bucks) toward Bethlehem, to find the newborn King, their camels laden with gifts and provisions and their hearts full of hope.

St. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar — patron saints of road trips — pray for us.

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When God’s Will Hurts

Today I am sitting at a desk that used to be my home-away-from-home three years ago, when I worked for this company full time. I’m here to attend a Christmas party before going to pick up my mom from her daycare facility.

nativity-447767About an hour ago, I was standing outside in the cold, unable to get into the building because — as a contract employee — I had no way to access the building. No keypad code. No card. For the first time, I felt the full weight of what it means to be a contract employee. This was reinforced when someone finally let me in — through the delivery door. (I should point out that this was doubtless not the intention — it was simply that everyone was gathered for the meeting. Most days, I really love the arrangement. It was just unfortunate timing!)

Sitting here at the desk, I ask myself why this bothers me so much. Last week when I found out my application to become an employee again had been passed over in favor of someone else, my immediate reaction (and my reaction for several days after that) was relief. This meant I could keep working from home, and could have a flexible schedule. I was confident that this was the hand of God, arranging everything in the best interest of all his children.

It was just today, standing out in the cold and waiting for someone to see me, that I felt another, darker side: as a contract worker, I don’t really belong, not like I used to. And in that moment, I realized something else: that sometimes following the will of God — even when you know in your head it is the right way — can sting. When Simeon saw Mary in the Temple, holding the infant Jesus, his words to her were a dire warning: “a sword shall pierce your heart.” She had surrendered unconditionally to the will of God.

Still, she had been warned, the way will not always be lined with palm branches and dancing shepherds. One day, that way will involve a cross. One day, she will feel like an outsider — out in the cold, people staring, judging, pitying. She will be the mother of a criminal executed in the most horrific way possible. She will be an outcast by association.

And so, my friends, will you. Because following God’s will always entails a cross. Jesus promised it: “If anyone comes after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.”

That wood that once shaped a manger, is the same substance that shaped a cross. And the way that God calls us to follow from the moment of baptism, and again at confirmation … will entail the sufferings that are necessary for us to grow in perfect love.

Mary, Queen of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

 

 

Cookie Chronicles

blueberry zucchiniThis year, with Mom helping with the baking, I decided to dig out the old family receipe files and mix things up a bit from the tried-and-true gingerbread and candy cane routine.

In addition to the traditional banana bread (to use up the sour cream from the sugar cookie recipe I usually use), we are making:

Almond sugar cookies (my Aunt Lolly’s recipe), with crushed almonds and almond flavoring in place of vanilla. The scent was so heady, Chris wandered out of his room just to find out what was going on!

Next up, peanut butter cookies, using the “natural peanut butter” Craig asked for, then decided wasn’t crunchy enough. I added some crushed peanuts, just to be safe. Then roll ’em in more crushed peanuts and sugar. Because … well, you just can’t get enough peanuts in a peanut butter cookie!

Finally, my grandmother’s (Dixie’s) oatmeal chip cookies. I remember making these with her when I was a little girl, measuring out the oats and dumping them in the bowl. I figured we need at least one kind of cookie that will satisfy the sweet tooth of someone with a nut allergy, right?

Tomorrow is Sarah’s first guitar concert. She’s only been playing a couple of months, but the teacher already has her in a group of girls playing Taylor Swift’s “Last Christmas.” Looking forward to the fun!

Want Help Talking to Teens About Sex?

coleen-kelly-mast-2This morning my interview with Coleen Mast (“Mast Appeal with Coleen Kelly Mast”) will be airing — or you can click on the archives here.

But rather than go on about my book, I’d like to take this opportunity to promote Coleen’s resources, which I’ve admired for a long time.

Dr. Coleen Mast has a wealth of material for parents of kids of all ages to help them talk with their teens about issues pertaining to sexuality. Her “Sex Respect” resources are a terrific way to talk with your kids about these delicate issues. We bought the “Love & Life” program for our teenagers. You can find out more about her program here at “Respect Incorporated.”

Lent with St Teresa.jpgOf course, if you’ve already HAD this talk, or are confident you don’t need any additional help … go ahead and pick up copies of my books, Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta!

Celebrate St. Mother Teresa at Dinner Tonight!

mt-dinner

Today I’ll be talking with Jen Fulwiler on her radio show — if you’d like a free copy of “Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta,” just leave a comment below about the show, and I’ll put you in a drawing for a free book!

For many people, the weeks leading up to Christmas are full of rich food, lavish parties, and mall hopping till you drop. So today I thought I’d share with you a simple vegetarian meal with flavors reminiscent of the adopted homeland of Mother Teresa, and my new book with Servant/Franciscan Media Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Recently at our parish mission, I had a distinct sense of déjà vu. My daughter’s eyes lit up  as a middle-aged missionary (in this case, a priest) spoke in animated language about the needs of those he serves, and challenged those in the congregation to give and to go. Clearly, Sarah was eager to take up that challenge — and I offered to go with her to talk to the priest afterwards.

I’d had a similar experience when I was her age, and a missionary had come to the small non-denominational church my family and I had belonged to for years. The missionary had given a similar challenge, and my middle-school self could not wait to join the effort. After the service was done, I went up to talk to him . . . and I’ll never forget how his eyes scanned over my head, looking for older and more suitable candidates. Sadly I walked away, wondering why he didn’t want me — and promising God that he could still have me, if he wanted.

Turns out, God did. About five years later, the good people of my church rallied together to raise my support, and I spent an amazing year in Senegal, West Africa as a short-term missionary before going to work in publishing (a mission field of a different kind).

And so, when this missionary priest scarcely looked my daughter in the eye as I invited him to sit with us at lunch (he was unable to do so), I decided to take it upon myself to cultivate this hunger for missions. Last night we made a “Mother Teresa Dinner,” (the recipes have been posted on the Franciscan Media website), and talked about her life among the poorest of the poor as we made naan bread.familypicWe also talked about friends like Colleen Mitchell, a Catholic missionary who works (with her husband Greg and their children) among at-risk mothers and their children in Costa Rica, and her book
Who Does He Say You Are?

I don’t know if Sarah will wind up going to the mission field. But I want her to know that she can . . . if God wants her, and she is willing to go.

sarah

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Get a Free Copy of “Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta” Today!

jon-leonettiThis morning (Monday) at 8:15 I’ll be chatting with Jon Leonetti in the Morning on Iowa Catholic Radio. Hope you can join us … You can listen to the show here: http://www.christiannetcast.com/listen/player.asp?station=kwky-am

Would you like a chance to win a free copy of Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta? Leave a comment below between 8:15 and 11:59 a.m. on Monday, November 28, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a free book!

The winner will be contacted via email, so don’t forget to leave your email in the message. Thanks!

 

Catholic Conversation Interview: Steve and Becky Greene

mother_teresa6Hello! If you are looking for a little Advent inspiration, tune in tomorrow to “The Catholic Conversation,” The Cradle & The Convert hosts Steve and Becky Greene. We’ll be discussing Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta and what exactly Mother Teresa has to do with Advent!

If you haven’t already signed up, you can register for the W.I.N.E. Seasonal Meditations (based on the book), a free daily reminder to pause during the day to prepare your heart for Advent. Just click on this link to register. And if you want to purchase the book, you can find it at FranciscanMedia.org or at Amazon.com.

Finally, if you want to try my recipe for Rose Sunday Chocolate Pound Cake (your family will thank you), you can find that here.  Enjoy!