Friday, October 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Building Community

7 Quick Takes about Building Community
 - 1 -

Social Community - This past week our Life Teen took a little break from the semester's Social Justice curriculum for a Social Night. Instead of our traditional proclaim (subject lesson lecture) followed by small group discussions, we gathered the teens in the church, lifted our voices in Glory and Praise (singing), asked them to count off into teams (surprisingly harder than it sounds) and sent them outside. A simple hula-hoop relay race got the blood moving before setting up the Color My World paint powder main event. Everyone was told in advance to wear white shirts and old pants. The game resembled Capture the Flag, with the object being to throw paint on another team's leader, while protecting your own. Thankfully, we had enough post-Confirmation teens available to lead, so we adults didn't have to get dusted. What chaos! What mess! The paint powder covered not just their shirt, but arms, neck, face, hair, glasses, etc. I hated it.  The kids loved it.

- 2 - 

Spiritual Community - Thank you for all the prayers offered while I was on my ACTS retreat. A longer post is in the works about this amazing experience. Part of the spiritual development of ACTS is allowing the process to be revealed slowly as it takes place. Since I've never been on any other retreat, I can't even offer comparisons. Take it on faith and trust that this life changing event brought many of those in attendance a lot of healing. ACTS retreat also developed an immediate sense of community between both the women who attended and those who served; we are all Sisters in Christ. When it was over, one of the many thoughts in my mind was how much I wanted to share this feeling, this community, with the men and women of my own Parish. Pray that an opportunity to bring this retreat to St. Angela's will one day appear.

 - 3 - 

Building Community - Speaking of developing community, there's a discussion taking place on the Facebook page for Catholic Working Moms concerning how a parish supports Single Moms. The mom who started the discussion noted that she is a single working mom in her late 30s - too old for Young Adult ministries, too divorced for Married ministries, too employed to meet during the day for Mommy group, and too busy to volunteer much. She doesn't feel very supported at her parish and her comment spurred good conversation on the group. This morning, I saw a link to her article about the same topic on Time.com. In the article she makes an excellent point that's not about creating yet another mommy group, it's that
The Church should be aware of our existence at this point, recognize our growing numbers, and be there to offer the support we desperately need. At the very least acknowledge, that we exist.
The conversation and dialogue coming out about our shared experiences are what's important; these discussions allow us to support one another and build our own Catholic community, even in an online forum. 

 - 4 - 

Family Community - This Saturday night, our parish is hosting its annual Trunk or Treat. Are you familiar with the practice, because I'd never seen it before moving here. Families sign up for a parking space, decorate the back of their vehicle, and hand out candy to the kids in costume trick or treating. It's one of those events where families come together as a real community. Last year my family set up our truck with a Duck Dynasty theme, not exactly unique that year, and had a blast. This year we've been a little busy to be inspired, but Lisa reserved a parking space. We can't wait to see all the creative themes and costumes. Now.... how should we decorate for tomorrow night?

- 5 - 

Pet Community - When my mother-in-law died nearly 13 years ago, she had recently adopted (rescued?) a poodle mix. Not being a dog person, I don't remember the details except that Saydee needed her and she needed Saydee. My mother-in-law's unexpected death caused great stress and turmoil not just for our family, but also for Saydee. Thankfully, my husband's brother lovingly took in this crazy dog. His girlfriend, who became his wife, supported him in offering Saydee a stable home. Sadly, this week Saydee crossed the rainbow bridge. Losing this last little connection has brought back many sweet memories of my mother-in-law though I'm sure for her in heaven, it was a joyful reunion. 

- 6 - 

Secret Community - During my long daily commute, it's been my habit to listen to books on tape CD.  It feels like my "theme" this year was books about World War II communities. The most recent book, finished this morning, is titled The Girls of Atomic City written by Denise Kiernan.

While listening to this story about a secret government reservation built in the Appalachians, I kept picturing the tv series Eureka. The super-secret Site X, now known as Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was massive, gated, and heavily guarded. Workers were forbidden to talk about their jobs, even to one another, even to their spouses. They spoke in code, using words like "Tube Alloy." The author did an excellent job of collecting and using first-hand stories of the now-elderly women who said "Yes" to taking an unknown job in a place that didn't even exist on any map. Many of them boarded trains without knowing the destination, just trusting that everything would be taken care of. This secret community grew to a population of 70,000 at its height, with precious few knowing they were enriching plutonium for the first atomic bomb that would finally bring an end to World War II.  If you like reading about everyday women who collectively contributed to an historic moment, you will love this book. 

- 7 - 

Work Community - As a working Catholic Mom, I spend 50+ hours of the week either in commute or in the office. On a particularly long, stressful day, I snapped this sunrise photo when I first arrived.


And 11 hours later, I snapped this sunset picture before I left.


These two pictures that bookend my day, felt like a perfect bookend to my week. Wherever you are today, I hope you see beauty all around you, even in the little moments of the day. TGIF!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II

5 Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II
Today we celebrated the first Feast Day of our Santo Subito – Pope St. John Paul II. For Lisa and me, John Paul II was THE POPE; we knew no other growing up. His life, as a whole, teaches us so much and inspired us to reconnect with our faith. Here are five lessons we can learn from Pope St. John Paul the Great.

God Calls Each of Us

“If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

Today's Gospel reading from Luke recounts the parable of being prepared for the master’s return. It concludes with Jesus saying, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Despite the global unrest and uncertainty experienced in his late teens and early young adulthood, John Paul II always said Yes to the Lord. He studied the seminary in secret during WWII, though discovery meant death. His courage and fortitude brought people hope during the Communist oppression of Poland. Surprised and humbled at how God used him, he never shied from where God asked him be, and as our Holy Father stood in solidarity with his home country, joyfully embraced the youth, and traveled around the world to deliver God’s message of love. He inspired multitudes with his writings, setting hearts on fire for the Lord.

Think about what God asks of us on a daily basis. He asks us to love one another. He asks us to trust Him. John Paul II modeled this for us, his words counseling and guiding us when we feel unworthy.

Be Not Afraid

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

St. John Paul the Great certainly understood standing up to fear. How could he not have been afraid? He witnessed countless murders at the hand of the Nazis. The uncertainty of life he faced as a young man, young priest, and young Pope would paralyze many of us with fear. Even at the end of his life he knowingly faced prolonged suffering.

His message is a clarion call for us. When we feel that we can’t live up to what God calls from us; when we want to hide from Him, John Paul II reminds us BE NOT AFRAID. He said it repeatedly; it was important to him.

Even when we’re not in mortal danger of death, we are faced with fear. How often do we let fear of failure stop us from learning – growing - experiencing – taking action. I do it nearly every day. I suspect so do most people.
5 Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II


Divine Mercy

"Be apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary."

St. John Paul II felt spiritually very close to St. Faustina, a Polish nun who received a message of mercy from God to spread throughout the world. Knowledge of her revelations, received in the 1930s, were known to St. John Paul II while he was studying for the priesthood in secrecy. He could see the convent and cemetery where she lived and was buried from the factory where he was forced to work. As Archbishop, he was involved in the process for her canonization. His own Canonization took place on Divine Mercy Sunday.

How many of us know the Divine Mercy chaplet? “Prayed on ordinary rosary beads, The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer that extends the offering of the Eucharist, so it is especially appropriate to use it after having received Holy Communion at Holy Mass. It may be said at any time, but our Lord specifically told St. Faustina to recite it during the nine days before the Feast of Mercy (the first Sunday after Easter). It is likewise appropriate to pray the Chaplet during the "Hour of Great Mercy" — three o'clock each afternoon (recalling the time of Christ's death on the cross). In His revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord asked for a special remembrance of His Passion at that hour.”

Take time this week to rest in this powerful prayer. Here is a beautiful version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet sung in a style easy to listen and respond.

Redemptive Suffering

“Thus to share in the sufferings of Christ is, at the same time, to suffer for the kingdom of God. In the eyes of the just God, before his judgment, those who share in the sufferings of Christ become worthy of this kingdom.”

When Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson's he did not step down as Pope. He did not take his own life to prevent experiencing pain. He never gave up. Instead, he saw this as an opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering. St. John Paul II modeled for everyone that there is an unexpected simple beauty in suffering with Christ. And caring for someone during their period of suffering is a service not only to them, but also to God.

We live in a world that devalues suffering. The world asks us to eliminate suffering through drugs, suicide, or abortion. But suffering can be a redemptive act that brings us closer to God. It doesn’t even have to be a great suffering. Consider how do we handle even the temporary sufferings of our lives? Do we embrace it and give it to God or curse it and ask why God doesn’t remove it from us?

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded. He almost died. Three days later, he forgave his would-be assassin, who was sentenced to life in prison. But St. John Paul II didn’t merely say he forgave this man, he also visited him in prison, prayed for him, and kept in touch with the man’s family.

When we feel wronged we demand justice, we demand retribution. We harden our hearts. Instead, we should be seeking God’s Divine mercy and forgiveness. Pope John Paul II modeled for us that forgiveness must start with each of us, in our own hearts. Forgiveness is something we choose to seek, to plant in our hearts and nurture so it will grow and be fruitful. It is in forgiving that we ourselves are forgiven. Although it is not an easy thing, it can bring great healing. Consider someone who has wronged you recently, pray that you can let it go, surrender it, release it entirely.

Five simple messages that require a lifetime of practice. Thank you Holy Father for modeling each with great courage and strength. May we all be receptive to whatever comes our way in this world.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Texas Early Voting Has Begun

Early Voting in Texas runs October 20-31 in 2014
Early voting in Texas begins today Monday, October 20th and runs through Friday, October 31st.  There are many reasons to early vote or to wait until election day, but registered voters in Texas are allowed to early vote in person for any reason at any voting location within their county of residence.

Because you can vote at any location in your county of residence during early voting and most location include weekend hours, it is usually the easiest time to vote.  Harris County alone has over 41 early voting locations that are open on the weekend!     

You can check the early voting locations for your county and their times by visiting the Texas Secretary of State Online Voter site here or on VoteTexas.gov.  

November 4th is the Texas General Election.


Don't forget your TX ID to vote - the US Supreme Court ruled Saturday allowing the Texas Voter ID Law to remain in place for the November general election, which means it is in effect for early voting as well.  

A Texas voter will be required to show one of the following forms of photo identification at the polling location before the voter will be permitted to cast a vote.
Texas Sample Election Identification Certificate
TX Sample EIC
  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport
If you do not have one of these forms of identification, you can obtain an Election Identification Certificate from a DPS office (which many are open on Saturdays to obtain an EIC) or from a EIC mobile station which may be found in a city near you in the next two weeks.  

Even though it is not a presidential election year, there are several key statewide Texas races that need your vote.  Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, US House Representative and several more.  In your excitement to vote for the races you see commercials for every night on TV, don't forget about your local or down ballot races.  

Your county races are just as important as the gubernatorial and other high-profile races.  It might seem overwhelming to go through page after page of judicial and local elections, but who is elected to those positions might affect you just as much or more than the Attorney General of the state of Texas.  If you aren't sure who to vote for in all the down ballot races, you can vote straight party ticket, ask a trusted friend or do some research with organizations who you believe represent your interests. 

I'm not going to give you a long lecture on why US Citizens should vote.  I believe most of us realize how important it is to do our civic duty and show up at the polls, but I recognize that it is easy to get distracted and put it off.  Don't put it off for later.  Just go Vote!  




Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting Young Athletes

Throughout a long weekend with two children playing in a soccer tournament, my mind kept coming back to the book Changing the Game.  It seems the perfect time to share my reflections on the Changing the Game and the difficulties in raising young athletes. This post originally appeared on CatholicMom.com  
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Over 21 million kids in America are involved with youth sports programs and 70% of these kids will drop out of organized athletics by the age of 13. We as parents have so much to learn about this increasingly competitive and intense world of youth sports if we are to keep our children playing longer and playing because they enjoy the sport. So where do we as parents turn to educate ourselves on raising athletes in today’s world?

Changing the Game by John O'Sullivan A good friend of mine with three successful athletes who always seems to handle the competition, disappointment and expectations with grace told me to read a book that really helped their family. It is the national bestseller, Changing the Game: The Parent's Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids by John O’Sullivan.

Reading through it I kept shaking my head at things I’ve struggled with over the last nine years with my kids in sports. There are so many things I’ve never really thought about when dealing with the day-to-day reality of practices and games.



My top five reflections from reading Changing the Game.

1. Why Play Sports? - What do you want your children to take out of playing a sport? It can go beyond just teamwork and fitness. The list of life lessons to learn on a field, ice rink or swimming pool include – discipline, gratitude, perspective, fairness/unfairness, jealousy, humility (in victory), gracefulness (in defeat), commitment, relationship and sometimes failure.

And the great part about kids learning about these in sports is that we as the parent also get to learn from them.


2. Core Values & Life Lessons – Are my actions on the field, at home and at practice reflecting the values I want my child to embody? Am I grateful for the trainers, do I say thank you to the parent volunteers, do I have patience in the learning process and can I keep it all in perspective?

Reflecting upon my answers to those questions helped me realize how much I have to learn about parenting athletes.


3. Unconditional Love - Does my child know that his performance on the field does not affect my love for him? Does he know that I love him unconditionally? Does he know that even if he fails I will always be proud that he took the risk?

Sports are a great avenue for a child to gain confidence partially through marked success and abysmal failures. They ultimately learn to not only fail gracefully, but how to succeed by overcoming failure. In order for him to take risks and fail or succeed, he needs confidence that his parents love him no matter what. That love will give him the support and encouragement he needs to take those big risks.

After all, where else besides youth sports can kids fail and learn to overcome without serious consequences?


4. Communication - How am I communicating with my athlete? Do I ask him what he hopes to get out of the training or season? Why does he play? What are his goals or expectations in the short and long term? Do I ask and do I listen?

After a disappointing game, do I give him time to absorb the experience and then help him figure out the lesson when he’s ready? Am I giving him the tools he needs to deal with the coaches, players and referees?


Parenting Athletes 5. Their Game - How do you encourage your athlete to play their hardest, when do you push and how do you handle a disappointing result or performance? The book helped me to realize that my athletes need to be playing the game for themselves, not performing for their parents. My child needs to be released to the game.

The sport is HIS experience, not mine. We, as parents, are the spectators and the kid is in control of the outcome. I am simply a fan during the game. The #1 fan of course, but still, just a fan. It is our job as the parent to help our athlete set his goals and expectations and then discuss as a family how the athlete’s goals/expectations match up with those of the parents. Once we have the goals, we as a parent can push our child to meet his specific goals when they need the extra support. 


Players receive training in a sport. Coaches receive training in a sport. Parents most of the time do not. We as parents need training in how to nurture our young athletes to develop a high-performing mindset and ensure a life long love of the game.

What do you struggle with the most parenting youth in sports?

What has been your greatest influence in learning how to parent athletes?




Friday, October 10, 2014

I'm Not "Just" a Blogger

Blog Elevated 2014 Conference

If you follow us on social media, you probably noticed that Shelly and I attended Blog Elevated Conference in Galveston, Texas. Blog Elevated started hosting their conference last year in Houston and I’ve felt really blessed to attend both years. Last year I left the conference blown away at the idea that blogging can be a business in the way they presented. As a predominately faith-based blogger, I wasn't sold then on the idea of turning Of Sound Mind and Spirit into a business.

This year I approached the conference a little more open to the idea of how and if we should blog as a business. Shelly and I attended together so we could really be on the same page discerning the next step forward for our blog.

CONFERENCE TIME

Blog Elevated!

First, let me say that the ladies behind Blog Elevated really KNOW how to put on a conference! Lisa and Bobbie understand what is important to bloggers and how to make it happen over a 2 1/2 day event. They planned everything beautifully with so much attention to detail from the moment we checked in until the closing speaker.


They chose the Moody Gardens hotel, which provided that special tropical-vacation feeling, even though we were only an hour from home. Our beds were comfortable, the room clean and well decorated. The staff went out of their way to provide service with a smile, the meeting rooms were top notch, and the Food was excellent. The opening luau reception even included a fire pit with smores! How’s that for attention!

SESSIONS

Information from the keynote speakers, panelist and the breakout speakers was plentiful.

Dayna Steele kicked it off by reminding us to believe in ourselves and identify our goals. She also pointed out that sometimes goals are attainable because you helped others on your way. Her most valuable piece of advice? Don’t write a word in the morning until you check the news! You may not know this, but Dayna used to be a huge morning DJ in the Houston market. She kept us hanging on the edge of our seat with all her anecdotal stories about rockers like Sammy Hagar and Billy Idol.


Marie Bonaccorse from P&G gave me a new way to think about identifying the voice of a brand. While I could never possess the potty humor necessary to tweet for Charmin toilet paper, the voice she created for Charmin online is creative and attention getting in a memorable and out of the box way. I love her hashtag #tweetfromtheseat!

Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum really opened my eyes to what is possible for a blogger wishing to turn their blog into a business. A successful business. He and his wife were very generous in supplying the audience with practical, helpful steps and include specifics on how to make money with a food blog online for everyone.  

Matt Cherry from iBlog Magazine was available to the audience for questions at any point after giving us his 30 easy changes for big blog growth. Watch our space as we implement some of his recommendations.

Shelly and I split up for some of the breakout sessions. While she learned about the possibilities of Vlogging and managing a YouTube channel (the future of blogs) from Audra Kurtz, I pondered the advice of Holly Homer about the way I utilize Facebook, both as a blogger and as a social media consultant for businesses. (Just a hint, you can hear Holly give her advice on building organic Facebook growth in a recent episode of the Social Media Examiner Podcast. It's worth the listen if you manage a brand page on Facebook.)  In addition to her informative presentation on Pinterest, Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy met with me and many others during one-on-one sessions where she evaluated our Pinterest accounts.

With our Imperial Sugar and good friend Cintia 

SPONSORS

The sponsors! How can you not hold a special place for these companies who contributed so much to the success of Blog Elevated. It’s not just that we came away with incredible swag from the event, but how they were there all the time to meet the bloggers and interact. Kristal Howard from Kroger won extra points from me for participating in the popular brand panel once again this year, offering so many practical pointers on how to interact with brands and do business with them. Thank you to Moody Gardens, Imperial Sugar, Kroger, Galveston Island, iBlog Magazine, Ahalogy and many more.

CLOSING KEYNOTE

With Kristen Welch
Kristen Welch from We are THAT Family closed the conference with a Keynote speech. Check out her blog, because I’m betting you’ve read more than a few of her viral posts on Facebook. After all that talk about blogging for business, I wondered if the Blog Elevated Conference organizers knew what they were doing when they scheduled Kristen Welch to wrap things up, but honestly - she brought the experience of the conference full circle for me. Kristen told her story of being an accidental successful blogger whose life was rocked after she accepted a trip to Kenya to blog about the poverty and living conditions there. During the trip, she heard God calling her to do something more and having a successful blog was a part of it.

She was incredibly inspiring. I found myself sitting there thinking, "Why am I blogging?" Is it about me? Why do I do it? All of the same questions I find myself thinking about after attending the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) every year.

TAKEAWAY


The conference really drove home that we are not "just" bloggers. The push of the conference drove home that we should we be treating our blog as a business. The to-do lists presented to write more, drive better stats, improve referral business and maybe monetize the blog was a bit overwhelming. My mind swirled at all that I could do to get more, to do more with the blog. Man, I was getting on the bandwagon. My homework list grew with each presentation and speech.


And then I came home and thought about it.

You know, while there is nothing wrong with monetizing a blog and blogging for business, it just doesn’t feel authentic to why Shelly and I started Of Sound Mind and Spirit almost six years ago. We have kept the blog going out of a sense of calling or vocation. She and I feel called to evangelize our faith journey through our life experiences, to live out loud, the good and the bad, for Christ. We both agree that we can and should look to ways to implement what we've learned at the conference, but we don’t want to lose the heart of why we do it.

So we have many things to think about and many tools to implement. Watch our space and leave us feedback so we know what YOU want to see here. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being part of our small community. We appreciate your support.



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