Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Veggie water

In this edition of Works for Me Wednesday I want to share with you one way I try to prevent food nutrient waste. We know that boiling and even steaming vegetables draws some vitamins and minerals out of the vegetables and into the water. Short of drinking the water, how can we utilize those nutrients?

First, I let the veggie water cool in the pot I used to boil/steam (usually it sits on the table or stove while we eat our meal). Then I pull my designated "veggie juice" container (lately I'm using a Cool Whip container) out of the freezer and pour in the new juice (veggie bits and all). Then I return it to the freezer.

Whenever I am making rice or soup, I pull out the veggie water to use. If I think ahead, I set it on the counter to thaw. If I remember last minute, I bend the container until the chunk of frozen veggie juice pops out into my big measuring cup and microwave it. Then I add water or broth until I have the amount called for and pour it into my cooking pot. The rice soaks up the nutritious water while cooking. Or it becomes part of the soup's broth.

These pictures show the water left from collard greens - it probably tastes strongly by itself, but when mixed with the water from other veggies (broccoli, corn, spinach, etc.) it isn't noticeable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

We are Catholic nerds

My blogger friend Bill Donaghy created the badge above to unite all lovers of Catholic trivia and odd (only to outsiders, of course) lifestyle choices. He posted a fun quiz/checklist in this post and I scored highly (missed the reposition question - doh!). This one really made me smile:

9. You have Catholic mags in your bathroom book rack.

That's so us! The proof:

Yep, we have several issues of our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic News & Herald, and the National Catholic Register in our bathroom basket. The Register is a great source of world and Church news from a solid Catholic viewpoint. If you're interested you can get four issues free. And if you decide to subscribe, feel free to use our code: Q71377.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Moments Together winner

And the winner of Moments Together for Couples is...


Her comment number, 11, was chosen by and we've already been in contact. I think the book has found a great new home!

Now let me share Wendy's lovely comment about maintaining spiritual intimacy in her marriage:

My husband and I decided early on in our marriage that helping each other grow spiritually would be primary in importance, so we try always to read at least one chapter of the Bible together before bedtime. It works great that way because the children are sleeping (no distractions) and no matter what our day was like, it ends on a great note and puts life back in perspective.

Wise words!

Spiritual intimacy with your spouse

Our Moments Together for Couples giveaway has drawn to a close and I am left with one thought: Deo Gratias! Not because it is over, but because I find my heart and our marriage enriched and inspired by those who entered. In response to the question, "How do you cultivate spiritual intimacy with your fiance/spouse?" many beautiful examples were shared. I encourage you to read through all of the comments.

Some highlights:

"We share spiritual intimacy in our marriage through devotions every morning and then we pray together. Praying together is such a huge thing for has brought us sooo much closer..and although it was awkward at it totally feels right!" - Katy

"We keep ourselves close by talking... especially when we're driving in the car and the kids fall asleep, then we can really get a good conversation going about our deep-seated beliefs." - piseco

"This may sound odd, but we've had some rather major challenges (financial, etc) in our life recently and they have really pulled us closer together and toward God." - sweetpeas

"We put each other first, and we try to get away at least once or twice a year to just regroup." - shannon
And here's my favorite:
"We sit in bed and pray Morning and Evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. We make a special point of adding all of our intercessions after the 'scripted' ones.

We have made an agreement that anytime one of us notices a strain in our relationship (e.g. the silent treatment, etc.) we will ask the other to pray together - immediately. We have committed to always respond 'yes' to this request and it really helps." - Bob (married 35 years - wow!)
Thank you to everyone who commented on the giveaway post and shared the things they do to stay close to God with their spouses. I wish I had more copies of Moments Together to share! I've been pondering these examples all week and David and I have had a couple conversations about our prayer life. I am happy to report that we are praying together more spontaneously again, and I am sooooo grateful.

If anyone else would like to share their tips for spiritual intimacy in the comments here, please do! We could all use the encouragement and inspiration.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Seven Random Things

Yay! My first meme! The beautiful and very much NOT neurotic ;) Melissa of Bountiful Blessings tagged me.

1. When tagged, place the name and URL on your blog.
2. Post rules on your blog.
3. Write 7 non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Name 7 of your favorite blogs.
5. Send an email/comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged.

Here goes:

1. I always let the tap water run into the sink for a second before I fill my glass or water bottle. I don't like the idea that that first bit of water was just "sitting" in the pipe. If I really stop to think about it, though, all the water comes through a huge network of pipes. What does it matter? Either way, I do drink lots of tap water.

2. At a meal I cut up everything on my plate before I begin eating. All the meat into bite-sized pieces, all the pancakes into squares. This usually puts me several minutes behind my husband in "eating start time," and I'm a very slow eater, so he spends a lot of time waiting for me to finish.

3. Which brings me to my next preference: talking throughout a meal. While David prefers to eat and THEN talk, I like to eat AND talk. At the same time. (Please excuse me if I've spoken to you with food in my mouth - it just doesn't feel rude to me when a good conversation is flowing.)

4. I LOVE recycling. Whenever I move to a new place I review all their rules for what can and cannot be recycled. I'm always on the lookout for recyclables. I even flatten and recycle toilet paper rolls. And, yes, I have been known to pull paper products and empty water bottles out of coworkers' trash cans to put them in a recycling bin.

5. I like most rodents. Rats push the envelope with their scaly tails (my sister Beth had two as pets, Captain and Princess), but I am all about gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and, yes, even mice. My brother had two pairs of mice when we were kids, and he let me name the first pair. I chose Je Suis and Souris. Translation from French: "I am" and "mouse." He didn't let me name the second pair. (For the record, he chose the much cooler names Aztec and Inca.)

6. On that note, I really enjoy thinking about names and naming things. As a little girl I would line up my stuffed animals on my bed and write down names for all of them. A few months later I would give them all new names. A treasured stuffed bunny rabbit (with a whole wardrobe of dresses and matching bloomers) I dubbed Cabrina Mary Lou Anne Marie Davenport Stone and affectionately called Mary Lou. Every few years I write out my top five or so favorite names for future sons and daughters. Reading my old lists makes me laugh (I won't list the names I no longer like for fear of offending people with those names).

7. I employ a closet organizing system that uses twist ties and bread bag tags of various colors to let me know how long I've worn my clothing items. Out of a desire to conserve energy and water and to prolong the life of my clothes, I only wash them when they are visibly soiled or have been worn for three full days. That's probably more than you ever wanted to know, but it works for me.

I would love to read responses from Devin and Katie, Bill, Adam, Sarah, and Carrie. I know that's not seven but ours is still a relatively new blog. If you are a reader I don't know about, you have a blog, and you are interested in writing your own responses to this meme, please do! Then let us know in a comment here - thanks!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Receiving abundant life

He did not bring us out this far to take us back again.
He brought us out to take us into the Promised Land. (x2)

Though there be giants in the land I will not be afraid. (x3)
At Adoration yesterday this song arose in my heart. I can still imagine my college friend Sarah playing it on her guitar and catching the change in pitch just right with her voice (I never could). Why this song, why today? I began to journal:

Perhaps it's because I feel like I'm floundering out in the open a little. God has most certainly led me to this stage in my life - I've followed Him to and from some strange lands (New Jersey??) along the way. I now find myself happily married (Deo Gratias!), working full time in a decent job, living in a decent apartment, looking forward to some new ministry opportunities . . . and childless. Is motherhood my Promised Land? Why can't I see it on the horizon yet? What am I to do here in the desert in the meantime?
Eat manna.
The words came to me like a whisper, but the command was strong: Eat manna.

Do you mean the Eucharist, Lord? Are You calling me to draw nourishment for my journey from Your Body and Blood? I go to Mass up to 6 days a week, Lord. I am receiving You. Is there more I need to do?
I come to give you life -- abundant life.
Yes, Lord. I know that my heart has been stiff, closed-off, and distracted at times - unreceptive. There are giants in my heart, and they try to separate me from You.
Though there be giants in the land I will not be afraid.
Lord, forgive my doubt - free me from fear. Help me to conquer the giants and open myself fully to receive your graces. Jesus, I trust in You. Grant that I may recognize and embrace the abundant life You offer me.

I share these personal reflections and prayers with you because I want you to know how good God is to me when I struggle. His messages to me opened my heart anew to His love and I left His Presence filled with joy and hope. That hope carried me through today. After a busy day of work I still had a song in my mouth and a bounce in my step. At one point a coworker caught me bouncing and imitated me playfully. Bashful but wanting to explain, I blurted out, "I'm happy!"

"I know," he replied, smiling. God is good.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Giveaway: Moments Together for Couples

Back when I used to listen to our local Christian radio station every morning, I loved catching Dennis Rainey's FamilyLife Today broadcast. In just a few minutes each day he would share some poignant truth about God's plan for couples and families. I found him so informative and encouraging that I jumped on an opportunity to purchase his first book of daily devotions (now a national best-seller). Together with his wife Barbara, Dennis Rainey wrote Moments Together for Couples as a Scripture-focused discussion and reflection guide aimed at helping couples draw "near to God and one another." My husband and I aren't reading it ourselves, so I would like to offer our copy to another blessed couple.

How to Enter to Win

This giveaway is open to anyone in the contiguous United States. If you are interested in winning Moments Together for Couples, please leave a comment below with an answer to this question:

How do you cultivate spiritual intimacy with your fiance/spouse?
Or, if you are not engaged or married:
Share an idea you have for cultivating spiritual intimacy with one's fiance/spouse.
Please be sure to leave a way to contact you if you win - either an email link in your Blogger profile or your email address typed into your comment. Deadline for entries is Friday, April 25th at 8 pm. Winner will be chosen by random drawing on Saturday. Thank you!

For more opportunities to win lots of great prizes, head on over to the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Super Savings Saturday: CVS dirt

I've been CVSing for a few months now, with guidance from MoneySavingMom and her commentors. This week I met with some success, so I thought I'd take a moment to share. I nabbed:

  • 1 blood glucose monitor (to donate)
  • 2 Colgate toothpastes (to donate - I already have 10 or so stockpiled)
  • 2 Benefiber chewables (to donate)
  • 2 Arm & Hammer Sensitive laundry detergent (a favorite of mine)
  • 1 Johnson's Buddies soap (to throw in the baby box - for shower gifts, donations, or, perhaps, a future baby of our own)
  • 6 cute gift bags (to give as a gift or to contain gifts I give)
  • 1 bag of organic potting soil (for me to try to growing something on our apartment balcony - it doesn't hurt to try!)

Total: $55
Total after coupons: $35
ECBs used: $27
Cash paid: $8
ECBs back: $35

All that stuff and I "broke even." Now I just need to find a way to use large ECBs (1 $15 and 2 $10) in future transactions.

Check out others' Super Saving Saturdays displays!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Popcorn Prayer

I used to feel comfortable sharing off-the-top-of-my-heart prayers out loud with others. It wasn't always that way - my comfort only grew with the example, encouragement, and practice time the members of my Protestant Bible study and youth group meetings provided. But verbal "free" prayer (not memorized or ritualistic) brought me into a new intimacy with God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I thrived on that spiritual closeness.

Somewhere along the way someone told me that allowing a small group of people to pray out loud as the Spirit leads them is called "popcorn prayer" because the prayers POP at random when the kernels are ready. I liked the idea of it - no one is expected to pray in turn or even at all. But all prayers are welcome.

When my involvement and ministry transitioned from interdenominational to strictly Catholic during my senior year of college, I was eager to encourage my more reticent Catholic brothers and sisters to open their hearts and their mouths to God. Popcorn prayer seemed a great way to do it. When I led prayer groups, small groups, and youth ministry meetings, I often incorporated popcorn prayer into our time together. Sometimes the participants got engaged - other times silence dominated. I tried to take it all in stride.

Well, today I read a post about "The 'Pray if you feel led' Prayer" over at Stuff Christians Like (a witty new blog I'm reading these days). In item #159 writer Jon Acuff reflects on the stereotypical experience of those involved in what I refer to as popcorn prayer.

For example:

"Suddenly, there's an expectation. In less than a minute that opening prayer is going to be finished and you'll be faced with an incredibly difficult decision. Do I pray? Do I feel led? When do I pray? When is the 'Closer' going to speak up and put an end to this prayer? How do I not start praying at the same time as someone else? So many questions, each fraught with danger and intrigue."
If you're interested, read the rest of the post (and the comments). Then come back and help me with my new dilemma: for the love of the people I serve (especially the super-self-conscious youth), should I vow never to inflict this torture on others again? Is "pray as you feel led" a problematic endeavor all around, or is there still merit to inviting others to voice their praises and petitions in the intimacy of a small group of friends?

PS I would SO loved to read a "Stuff Catholics Like" blog - I'm not witty, though, so I'll leave that for someone else.

Edited to add: It exists!! Looks like Stuff Catholics Like just began this month.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shower Bucket

Time to share something that works for me!

As a County employee, I receive a monthly newsletter that includes a section encouraging environmentally conscious (aka, "green") practices at work and at home. This month's newsletter included a tip I had not seriously considered in the past:

While waiting for your bath/shower water to warm up, catch the water in a bucket and then use it to water your garden or flush your toilet.
I admit it: I have probably wasted a LOT of water waiting for it to get hot for my showers. Sometimes I get distracted and let it run long after it has become hot. I would like to be more responsible in this area. So, for the first time this week, I caught the cold water in a bucket and, when the bucket was full, started my shower (thankfully, the warm water was ready).

Because we live in an apartment and my houseplants only need so much water each week (which I faithfully "catch" from the kitchen faucet with an empty milk jug I keep under the sink), I decided to try using the water to help refill the toilet tank after a flush. It worked, and the bucket holds enough for two tank-filling assists.

I'd love other ideas for using the caught water. Maybe I could use it to soak dirty pots in the sink or to rinse out the tub after a scrubbing. What else?

Photo credit: travz

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tree Chapel

In They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees, missionary priest Gary Smith, S.J., describes the chapels in some of the Sudanese refugee settlement villages where he served. Several consisted of four walls and a grass thatch roof, susceptible to fires and termite infestations. Others were not buildings at all, due to the poverty of the communities. Instead, the refugees gathered to worship God and celebrate the Eucharist under huge trees. "The Kobo 'chapel' is on a small promontory that overlooks the West Nile," Smith writes. "Large rocks beneath a towering tree on the promontory serve as pews" (p. 173).

Even though our new old parish church is in need of an update and expansion (which we hope will come next year), it is far more luxurious than the refugees' modest open-air gathering spaces. Still, there's something elemental about praising God in the midst of His Creation.

In college I took a class called "Christian Prayer: Practice and Understanding" - one of the true blessings of my educational experience. For an assignment I chose to write a long paper on praying in nature. I titled it "Under the Fig Tree" after the passage in John, where Jesus tells Nathanael He saw him under the fig tree. (I once read that it was Jewish custom for men to study the Torah under trees.) My paper explored Franciscan creation theology, Jesus' preference for praying on mountains and in gardens, and the rich symbols in nature that speak of our relationship with God (or maybe I just made that last one up was five years ago!).

Some days I long for a simpler, more rural life where I can "get lost" in a forest or meditate on a trickling brook or field of wheat. I am reminded of the giant horse chestnut tree I befriended in the Botanical Gardens of Leicester, England (pictured above). As a visiting student in a two week "immersion experience" of British history and culture, I often escaped to the gardens during our unscheduled time to exercise and to pray. The horse chestnut tree's branches swept the ground around it like a skirt, and I would slip between them to take shelter underneath. In that peaceful place, I lifted my heart to God in prayer and song.

Where have you found a sacred space outside of church?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Gift for Everyone

Yesterday at Mass, the resident priest told a story about our Bishop. He said that whenever anyone told the Bishop that they were open to a religious vocation, whether male or female, the Bishop would pull out a rosary (or have the priest-secretary obtain one) and offer it as a gift. The Bishop would then ask the individual to pray, asking the heavenly Mother for guidance. The Bishop would also add that person's name to a list and include those names in his own daily prayers.

First, let me say that I love Bishop Peter Jugis, and I think he’s an awesome bishop. I was very impressed that he offers rosaries to those who are opening their hearts to God’s will. In my own life, the rosary has been the tiller, the Holy Spirit has been the wind, and our heavenly Mother has been the boat who carries and guides me to the Lord.

When I first realized how much I needed the Lord, I didn’t know (and I’m still learning) how to spend time with Him. My father (may the Lord bless and keep him) had spent years praying the rosary at home with a family who resisted the invitation to join him. Years later, I found this powerful weapon, which helped unite me to the Eucharist, fight sin, and teach me how to love women like a man should.

As a beginner to the rosary, I had found Fr. Peyton’s reflections to be wonderful in their various contemplations of the mysteries. They helped me get past my initial aversion to the “monotony” of the beads; the reflections, pulled from Scripture, also helped me to remain faithful to the devotion. As I grew in understanding and in God, I purchased Fr. Peyton's Rosary Prayer Book, which allowed me to read them without having to go online. After five years, my superficial dislike of constant repetition has been replaced with an intentional longing to hold onto the words of each prayer. After five years, I finally feel peaceful in the arms of my mother, the Church.

In his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which is often quoted, JPII delivers a beautiful teaching on the rosary and provides a better explanation of what I’m trying to say:
"In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church...continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit." (15)
Mary rocks! I turned thirty today and, taking a look at everything I’ve been given, I can only kneel before Jesus and adore Him. Then when my knees are sore, I climb up into my Mother’s lap and hug her around the waist crying with tears of love. I’ll graduate nursing school this year, I’m married to a wonderful and beautiful woman, and I’m living a life that keeps me close to God.

So I can appreciate why our Bishop chooses to entrust those souls to Mary. When I allowed her, she showed me the path to her Son, and I wish this for others. Finally, through the rosary, Mary reminds me how much I love my own parents, who chose to bring me into this world thirty years ago.

Thank you, my glorious Queen, for guiding me to your Son. I pray that others may turn to your gentle guidance so that they may open their hearts to glorify the Lord. Amen.

Image credit: GFvonB

Happy Birthday, David!

he's wearing green heart beads because it was St. Patrick's Day and we were in New Orleans
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the day my beloved husband came into the world! Let's pray that God blesses David with many more years of loving and serving.

PS If you're wondering why he's wearing green heart beads, this picture was taken on St. Patrick's Day when we were in New Orleans (2007).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spirited Talk

I have a confession to make: I love filling out surveys. Actually, I find them recreational. When I was a teenager, my mom participated in a survey group that sometimes sent products for "the 13- to 18-year-old girl" to try and then answer some questions about. I loved that. So, when I graduated from college, I registered for ZoomPanel and began completing surveys regularly, earning points towards lots of nifty prizes (including a small food processor, a pair of binoculars, and a waffle maker). If you are interested in trying out ZoomPanel, I would be happy to refer you. Just leave a comment or email me and I'll send you a link.

A few years ago I saw an advertisement on the back of a parish bulletin (yes, I do actually look at those from time to time) for, a survey-facilitator for Loyola Press. The website describes itself as a "unique online community of people willing to share their thoughts and ideas about Catholic life and faith." Although I wouldn't really call it a "community" (I have never interacted with the other participants), I agree with their assertion that, "By sharing your perspective, you will help Loyola Press improve our publications and better serve the greater Catholic community."

They do not invite me to complete surveys very often (only twice a year, if I remember correctly), but the surveys are about Catholic publications, which I thoroughly enjoy reviewing. I'm not registered for because I want to earn prizes; I participate because I want to help the editors choose good Catholic material to publish. And I've seen my opinions make a difference!

The last survey I took offered us information about four projects that Loyola Press was considering publishing. I read excerpts and answered questions (both multiple choice and short answer) about my impressions. I honestly thought two were lame and one was downright problematic - so I wrote why. But the fourth was awesome - inspiring material, incredibly well written. I urged them to publish the book. And they did! Months later, I received an email informing me that, due to positive feedback received via SpiritedTalk, They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees by missionary Jesuit Fr. Gary Smith was set to be published in February of 2008.

So I requested that my library purchase it (more on that in a future post) and they did - 3 copies! As soon as the one I'd reserved came in, I began a spiritual adventure of solidarity with the Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. Fr. Smith's writing is clear and engaging, informative and full of love - of God and of the suffering people God called him to serve. Several times I have been moved to prayer by Fr. Smith's honest reflections on the beauty of the Sudanese and on his own frailty. Other times I have asked myself "how then shall I live?" with this new knowledge of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ on other continents - and the abundance I take for granted every day. Perhaps God will call David and I to be missionaries (in a foreign land) someday? They Come Back Singing encourages me that such a life would be full of joy.

I highly recommend this book, if you're up for the challenge - and the blessings.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Old New Old Parish

When David and I moved to Charlotte in June 2006, we "shopped around" for a parish. I scoped out all the parish websites (their links and advertised activities gave me a feel for the orthodoxy of each priest/parish) and emailed questions to the coordinator of the diocesan young adult group. We attended Sunday Masses at several parishes and reviewed their bulletins for possible ministries in which to involve ourselves. David lived near one parish and I lived near another, and three other parishes were within 20 minutes driving (I know, can you believe we had so many options here in the South?!). As "roamin' Catholics", we felt free to choose where to make our new spiritual home.

After two months we registered as parishioners at St. Ann's, a fifty-plus-year-old parish with a school and a new pastor. Masses in Spanish and English were held in the cozy "basement" church (the upper church had never been constructed) and the small, diverse community was known for its warmth, music, and big heart (lots of service in the city and beyond). I felt God calling me to St. Ann's because it offered lots of opportunities for me to get involved in ministry and make a difference. I joined the choir, and David and I decided to try out youth ministry together.

St. Vincent's during our Nuptial MassWhen we got engaged and approached the pastor to schedule our wedding, he told us he couldn't guarantee that the church would be available in August of 2007 (the parish hoped to begin constructing its "real church" at last). So we booked our wedding at an aestheticly pleasing church down the road (St. Vincent's). Soon after, St. Ann's got a new pastor. After some discernment, we felt God was not calling us to continue with youth ministry there.

Several people told us that the youth ministry program at St. Vincent's was exemplary, so we called the director and spoke with her about getting involved. She welcomed us, and we deliberated over whether to leave St. Ann's to join St. Vincent's. I'm a big believer in attending Mass where you minister to provide a continual witness to the ministry participants and to develop relationships with them in a variety of contexts. At the time, we felt that St. Vincent's parish family offered us a more orthodox and visibly pro-family atmosphere. If God blessed us with a baby, I thought I'd find more support and enrichment for holy family life at St. Vincent's. So, in the month after our wedding, we transferred parishes.

Long story short: St. Vincent's liturgies are lovely, families are abundant (and large), church is bright and peaceful, and youth ministry is truly blessed. I enjoyed my time experiencing all of them. While David enjoyed serving at St. Vincent's, he discerned that God was calling him away from youth ministry. The new pastor at St. Ann's will soon be offering the Latin Mass there, and he invited David to serve at the Mass (and to help him coordinate/train the other servers). David agreed, and has been studying Latin as nursing school allows.

Already the parishioners at St. Ann's have welcomed us back - and asked us why we were gone so long. We tell them about our involvement in youth ministry there, and then we tell them how much we're looking forward to our new ministerial involvement at St. Ann's.

I'm sad at the prospect that David and I may not be serving together in the same ministry, but I am excited about our new opportunities. I will attend a few more YM meetings at St. Vincent's, but we are participating in Masses at St. Ann's beginning this past Sunday. I asked the pastor how I could serve at St. Ann's, and he recommended a few options. A couple days later he told me that he prayed about it and wanted me to join his RCIA team for the next year. I quickly agreed. My administrative skills will be put to good use (I'm pretty familiar with sacramental certificates and other important canonical paperwork because I previously worked in a diocesan diaconate office). My spirituality and knowledge of the teachings of the Church will be challenged (and shared!) in my interactions with the candidates and catechumens.

This is a big step with an uncertain outcome - but I've taken lots of those in my journey with God. I have faith that He will carry us through - and teach us along the way.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Anointed by Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

In an article for the April 2008 Family Room (a FamilyLife publication) entitled "10 Ideas: Reflecting the Fruits of the Spirit," Scott Williams invites readers to use Galatians 5:22-23 as a spiritual health diagnostic.

I found his reflection on joy to be particularly compelling:
"Unlike happiness, joy is gladness that is completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. In fact, joy denotes a supernatural gladness given by God’s Spirit that actually seems to show up best during hard times. This is a product of fixing your focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances."

Doesn't that kind of joy sound appealing? David often challenges me to consider the difference between happiness and joy. When I ask him, "are you happy?" he will usually respond, "I'm joyful." Joy, as Williams describes it above, is a richer, deeper, less self-centered, and more sublime experience. (About my choice to use the descriptor "less self-centered": its seems the phrase "do whatever makes YOU happy" is prevalent in our culture.) Joy comes not from our own efforts or the things of this world; it's sole source is the divine life within us: the Holy Spirit.

I believe all of the above, but I don't think about it often enough. Williams' subsequent question gets to my heart:
"Am I experiencing a joy of life on a regular basis, or is my happiness dependent on things going smoothly in my day?"

In January 2001 I made a Spiritual Exercises retreat in Rhode Island - five days of silence (other than the daily liturgies and lessons). I look back upon that experience as a waterfall of God's grace in my life - the blessings were countless. Among other messages from God, I received His confirmation that I am "Anointed by Joy." I am still unpacking the meaning and implications of this phrase, but in the years since that retreat I have seen its fruit - and its challenge - in many of my relationships. Basically, I am a joyful person when I am spiritually connected with God, and I can bless others with the joy He gives me when I resist Satan's attempts to undermine that joy (especially through worldly distractions). The Lord knows I have failed to BE what He created me to be many times - even daily.

I hear you speaking to me today, God. I know you are reminding me of the joy that comes from the Spirit within me and asking me to receive and share it once again. Please help me, with your grace, to give you glory with the joy you have given to me.

Photo credit: Andrew Hux

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Secret Signals

Every day I receive a marriage tip in my Bloglines feedreader from For Your Marriage, a Catholic marriage help website. The tips remind me to seek ways to love and serve my husband daily. Couldn't we all use some more "resources for living happily ever after"?

Today's prompt got me thinking:

"Do you have any secret signals that alert each other to a decision or preference when in a group of people?" Marriage Tip for 4/8/08

David and I have talked about establishing secret signals to let each other know when we have something in our teeth, we're ready to leave a conversation/room/event, etc. But we never got around to actually coming up with the signs. Any ideas?

And, if you and your spouse (or future spouse) DO have your signals established, what kinds of situations have they helped you communicate through?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Dilemma of Charity

A while back our friend Adam emailed me about disposing of bottles made with BPA. The research convinces us they are not healthy for us to use, yet tossing them in the trash just rubs us the wrong way. What to do with them?

In my response to Adam, I admitted that I didn't think this through when I wanted to get rid of my two "number 7" bottles - I ended up donating them to Goodwill. At the time I thought: "a not-so-good water bottle is better than no water bottle at all for a poor person, right?" Yeah, I now realize that that's terrible logic. So I brainstormed about Adam's bottles and told him I thought they could safely be used for storage of solid items, even dry goods like rice or sugar. Some random ideas: change jar? Lego container? Battery holder?

It all depends on our needs. In the end, if I could find no use for them in my home, I would not grieve over having to toss toxin-leaching bottles.

This issue is closely linked with another dilemma I've been pondering lately. Now that I'm changing so many of my food purchases for the better, I wrestle over whether it is right for me to buy the cheap stuff (when I come across great sales) to donate to charity. Should I be encouraging needy people to eat sugar-laden cereals by donating them? Our national obesity epidemic is in part attributable to all the cheap processed foods available. But we can't really afford to purchase organic for ourselves and our monthly donations (collected by our diocesan
Catholic Social Services).

Other examples: David and I have decreased (but not successfully eliminated - yet) our use of standard antiperspirants and deodorants due to the possibly
Alzheimers-inducing nature of the aluminum they contain (dementia runs in David's family, so we have cause for concern). With help from Money Saving Mom's weekly deal posts, I can often get deodorants for free or nearly free at CVS. But should I? Last week I read about a way to actually MAKE money by purchasing toe separators at CVS (thanks to their Extra Credit Bucks program) - but I no longer wear nail polish now that I know that the chemicals it contains may harm babies in utero. If I got the toe separators and donated them, would I be encouraging other women to endanger their children? And what about diapers? They are a much-requested donation for the local crisis pregnancy organization, Room At the Inn, and I've seen ways to buy them cheaply by matching coupons with sales. I am 100% committed to cloth diapering to limit our environmental impact and better care for our babies. Should I still give disposable diapers for the moms who would otherwise have to buy them for their babies (and thus have less money for utilities, gas, and other bills I cannot get deals on)?

I'm eager to read your thoughts on this dilemma...

Photo credits: bottle by darrylh and deodorants by ??

Friday, April 4, 2008

Vote for the Catholic Brady Bunch!

Here's your chance to help a large Catholic family get their kids into college:

Howdy Friends & Family,

Our family has entered a $25,000 nationwide UPromise college scholarship contest in which you submit a 30 second video (no more than 5 MB in size) explaining why you'd like $25K towards college. We made a cute parody of "The Brady Bunch" and all nine of our kids fill up the nine squares! You have to watch it a few times, because the kids thought of several creative things that happen as our oldest, Nathan and Matthew, sing about why they need the money for college. You can vote for and view our video, "Our College Fund", at:

A larger version of the video is on YouTube:

We received a phone call Friday that our video made it into the Top 10 and now the $25K Grand Prize Winner will be chosen by the voting public! YOU can help us win by voting ONCE PER DAY (if possible) April 1 through April 16. We would be so appreciative if you (and any family or friends you think may enjoy the video and vote) could help us win the scholarship!

I'd like to email you a quick reminder to vote each day. Just let me know if you'd rather not be on the list. If you spread the word and someone else would like to be added to the daily vote reminder list, I can add them if they email me at:

Thank you in advance for any help you can give towards this effort! And again, please feel free to forward this email to any friends or family you think may enjoy the video and vote. We may never be able to know or thank everyone who voted, so please accept our heartfelt THANKS from our whole family!!

UPromise Contest Voting:
"Our College Fund" video parody of "The Brady Bunch"
* April 1 - April 16

-- Christopher & Kimberly Kocmoud

I've already voted twice - there are some great videos in the top 10 (I especially like the one from Wisconsin and the singer/guitarist) but I prayed about it and feel voting for the Brady Bunch parody (which is also very cute, don't get me wrong!) is a great way to support our huge Church family.

If you've never heard of Upromise I encourage you to explore their website and, if it interests you, sign up. If you don't have a student (or graduate - they allow you to transfer earnings towards Sallie Mae student loans, too!) to "save" for, consider clicking here to register and send your earnings towards David's student loan. Thanks!

Hat Tip to Maureen

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

BPA-free giveaway at Soft Landing

The Soft Landing Baby Blog is hosting a giveaway in honor of two new BPA-free "starter kits." These assortments of safe baby-feeding tools (ranging from bottles to bibs) are a great way to try out a variety of products before spending lots of money for a whole set that doesn't end up working well for you or your baby. The new kits are geared toward older babies eating solid foods. I certainly don't have one of those, but I still wouldn't mind winning one of the kits. If I do, I'll either keep it for a future baby (God willing) or give it away to someone else who has one. Perhaps you'd like to do the same?

Head on over to the giveaway and leave a comment for your chance to win!

(If you missed my post about the hazards of BPA, look here.)

Reusable Takeout Containers

Inspired by Renee, Portland's EnviroMom, I decided last week to bring my own containers with us to restaurants for leftovers.

For my birthday this weekend, we ate out twice (such a rarity!). On Saturday, my mother-in-law treated us to a dinner at Carrabba's, where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner. I ordered their fabulous Chicken Bryan, with the creamy goat cheese on top. Mmm!! Then I packed away the second portion in a container I'd carried in in my new fabric bag.

On Sunday, David took me to my favorite Italian restaurant here in Charlotte, Portofino's. I always order their delicious eggplant parmigiana, which can feed me for three separate meals. This time, however, I took the extras home in my own Pyrex "meal packs" (ready to pop in the microwave at work) and spared the trash one more styrofoam box.

As a long-time environmentally-conscious consumer, I've gotten over the "weird" factor of using my own bags. I was a little concerned about what our waiter or the other restaurant patrons might think of me packing away food into my own containers (especially at two "nice" restaurants), but they didn't seem to notice. I tried to be discrete, but David purposefully caught the attention of the person who refilled our water glasses. "That's my wife!" he said, pointing to my filled container. He shakes his head when I do frugal and efficient things like that, but he secretly admires my efforts.

This works for me!