Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Make Time for Daily Prayer

Shrine of St. Frances Cabini, Colorado. Photo by S. Kelly

"In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we reflect on the importance of devoting time to prayer.  We all know how important prayer is, yet it seems so difficult to find time for it.  

"Perhaps we need to ask if we truly love God, as he asks us to, with all our heart, and all our mind and all our strength.  For the heart of prayer is the love of God, the source of our life, who constantly "caresses” us with his own love. 

 "A heart filled with the love of God can make even a silent thought or a small gesture of devotion a moment of prayer.  The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, to call God our Father, and to grow daily in his love. Our families need to ask for the gift of the Spirit!  Through prayer, even in the busiest times, we give time back to God, we find the peace that comes from appreciating the important things, and we encounter the joy of God’s unexpected gifts.  

"Through daily prayer may our homes become, like the house of Martha and Mary, places where Jesus always finds a warm welcome."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to School: Our Mother's Perspective

Lisa and Shelly welcome a special guest post this morning from our mom!  Please leave her a comment about your own "first day of school" experiences. 

Lisa asked me to send her some photos taken of hers and Shelly’s first day at school. Hmm – surely I have some. That was a momentous day in the kids lives, and certainly, in mine.

I found ONE picture of each of them – that’s all – and not even good pictures. No one would know that it was from their first day of school except that the month and year are written on the back. 
First Day of School 1978 - Lisa in Kindergarten
Lisa - age 5 - Kindergarten
First Day of School 1978 - Shelly in Third Grade
Shelly - age 7 1/2 - Third Grade

Why didn't I take more photos? 

Perhaps one reason is that summers were different in the mid 1970’s – 1980’s than they are now. Our biggest event was six weeks of Saturday swim meets for their younger brother. We took an occasional vacation out of town. Once, when Lisa was almost ten, she attended Camp Cullen. I have a photo of her with her trunk.

I've learned that what I recall about summers won't be the same as the girls recall, but summers when they were in elementary and middle school consisted primarily of neighborhood activities – swimming at one of the two neighborhood pools where they could go on their bikes, playing outside and at various friends’ houses, library visits, and maybe an occasional movie as a treat.

Aside from Lisa's one time, there were no week long camps, either in or out of town, and no extensive sports camps (the girls didn’t play any team sports). They girls may have continued dance classes and piano lessons, but with an emphasis on fun and not preparing for a recital or dance competition. Mostly, they just enjoyed being out of school and doing things like swimming, playing and reading.

We went “back to school” shopping in August – primarily to their dreaded store – Sears. Well, that’s where my mother took me - the store on North Shepherd in Houston. And of course we bought school supplies.

So, by the end of August, I think we were all ready to return to some sort of routine that included getting out of the house and seeing more friends, even if it did involve early mornings, homework, school projects, deadlines, regular bedtimes and activities that caused stress. Summer was a welcome break from all of that and, yet, made us all look forward to doing it again.

But, why no pictures? Was I too excited to finally get back to a routine to stop and take a picture? I don’t know. Although in retrospect, I wish I'd grabbed the camera. 

Marilyn Henley
Mom to Shelly, Lisa and David

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Unplugged on Vacation

I'm one of those people who is always connected to a device - usually in front of my Macbook or attached to my iPhone.  Last year when we took a family vacation to the beach in Mexico I was unconnected from the online world for 5 days.  My computer stayed at home and my iPhone remained off and in the hotel safe.  Whew, it was hard at first but by the end I hated turning it all back on.  This year when planning our family vacation, I found myself really looking forward to getting unconnected and relaxing.

We decided to head back down to Tulum in Mexico to the same resort we stayed in last year.  Man, I was looking forward to my beach chair, reading my books, and chilling without my phone.  One small hiccup, I wanted to use my phone to take pictures this year. Last year I bought a point and shoot camera to take with us and the quality of photos wasn't really great.  I didn't want to carry my big DSLR camera to the beach so I wanted to use my iPhone.  Its small and takes awesome pictures!  But, would I be tempted to hop on the hotel wifi and check in to Facebook?  Post on Instagram?  

After hemming and hawing, my desire for better pictures won out and I decided to risk the temptation and use my phone for pictures.

Headed on Vacation Unplugged!!
Could I Stay Offline for Five Days?
After getting on the plane, I took one more picture and posted it online that morning.  Then I put my phone in airplane mode and left it there for five days.  Trust me when I tell you I had a little angst about it.  But by the time we landed in Cancun I'd mostly forgotten about it.  

Last year while on vacation I constantly reached for my phone to waste time online only to remember it wasn't there.  This year I cringed when I saw people on the beach or at dinner surfing on their phones or tablets rather than enjoying the view or their loved ones.  I think seeing all the people around me on their devices inspired me to want to remain unplugged versus making me want to check my phone.  I could see them not enjoying each other and it helped me avoid the temptation of connecting online.

There was plenty to do  at the beach or not to do, depending on how you look at it.  I had to catch some sun, swim in the pool, take a walk down the beach, eat amazing food, drink a few drinks, read several books and catch some zzz's.  That's a full to-do list.  No time to be checking a phone.

I will confess to posting one thing on social while I was away. My family typically enjoys Tex Mex food on Friday nights throughout the year which normally results in a Friday night margarita picture on my Instagram feed.  (Come follow me on Insta at @The5Jones) Since we were in Mexico and having Mexican food and a Margarita on a Friday night, I wanted to post a Friday night margarita picture.  My husband had a tablet with wifi for work emergencies, so we took it to dinner that night for the picture.  It was so tempting to surf while I was on there, but I had my kids giving me the evil eye at dinner, so I quickly got off.

My One Post on Social while on Vacation - Margarita Friday Night (with a PhotoBomb)

I'll also add that we didn't allow our kids to bring anything electronic with us on the trip, even kindles and tablets that work without wifi or data.  They brought actual books, paper, playing cards and drawing pencils.  They complained before we left, but didn't hear a peep out of them about it once the trip was underway.  They snorkeled, swam, read, played cards, and just about everything else.
Electronic Free Vacation for the Kids Works!

After landing at the airport and clearing immigration and customs in Houston I turned off airplane mode.  It killed my post vacation buzz to see all of the messages and notifications pinging in my phone.  I should have waited.

How do I capture this feeling at home?
This latest vacation being disconnected from social, email and the web has me wondering if I need to be connected all the time when I'm home.  I'm betting there are some changes I could make, notifications I could turn off on both my phone and computer that might help me be more present.  Would it be possible to turn my phone to airplane or do not disturb mode at night so I don't see the notifications first thing when I wake up and turn off my alarm on my phone?  Or maybe stop using my iPhone as my alarm clock?  Definitely a few things to think about.

How do you disconnect or cut back on the notifications from the online world?  I know I can't recapture that feeling of being back on the beach but maybe there's an in-between to help bring the relaxation of the beach vacation home with us.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thrilled to be Three: Holding Jesus

Sunday evening we attended Life Teen Mass as usual. We always try to sit in the front row for a number of reasons, but primarily so Douglas will pay attention and watch the Mass. After receiving Eucharist and a moment in prayer I watched my older daughter, recently confirmed, serving as Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist while the choir sang Hosanna (by Hillsong United).

I glanced to my right to check that my little man is behaving. This is what I see (yes, later I snuck the iPhone out to click a picture)...

Holding Jesus in your Heart

He sees me looking at him and solemnly says, "I'm holding Jesus in my heart," before turning back and gazing reverently at the altar and crucifix.

And yes, there were tears in my eyes that my little three year old recognizes God is present in his life and heart.

- Shelly

Saturday, August 8, 2015


It was a crazy, awesome, amazing, wonderful, and inspiring week! Kids, teens and adults at our parish learned about Conquering Challenges with God's Almighty Power at Everest VBS.

VBS is Awesome - Everest VBS at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church

You want to know why I've been director of our parish VBS for four years?  What keeps me coming back even with the demands on my time and sometimes stressful planning? It is because of days like these. Days when you hear and see that the kids are getting the message of God's infinite love.

VBS is great fun for kids

When I see the kids having fun with each other...
Everyone enjoys VBS
When I see the volunteers engaging with the kids...

When I see the teens and adults bonding and connecting with one another...

When I see the smiles, and smiles and smiles...

When I hear the kids share with our priest what they've learned about God this week...

When I see the kids seated as a large group on the floor praying in the mass...

When the kids (and their parents) give me the most heartfelt "Thank You" for the week...

Teens and adults working together at VBS

Wednesday morning, we started out with mass and ended the day with silent prayer asking God to
heal us.   It gave me goosebumps.  When I got home Wednesday night and looked through my pictures, I saw something else that brought tears to my eyes.  JOY  I saw joy on the faces of the kids. But not just the kids, on the faces of the teens and adults.  I started out this week fighting a terrible head cold and struggling to get through the VBS on coffee and adrenaline but seeing what I had captured with my camera changed my week.  My head cold was forgotten and I was powerfully reminded why we were working so very hard on something many people discount as just frivolous fun for the kids.

Fun with Silly String at VBS
VBS is fun!  But it is so much more than that.
VBS is fun, but it is so much more than that.  It is about leading kids closer to God.  It's about creating relationships with our faith, God and each other in a fun and real way that kids, teens and adults can understand.  VBS is special to me because of how it enhances each lives who participate.  I promised myself I wouldn't write another long post about how VBS changes us so I won't, but go back and read Why VBS is Special to Me for more about why VBS is so great for the whole church.

God Sightings at Everest VBS

If you do not have VBS at your church or parish, do what I did and start it!  Not just for the kids, but for the entire church community. The rewards greatly out weigh the hard work.  Our Sunday Visitor has teamed up with Group to produce a Catholic VBS version of Group's most popular VBS program each year.  They made it so easy to follow and start from scratch.

Volunteers Make VBS Possible
Our fearless crew leaders for Everest VBS at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church
A huge heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our volunteers.  I am always amazed at the people who are called to help make VBS a reality in our parish.  We started out four years ago having to beg people to come help but now we have so many volunteers we create new jobs for them to do.  (Remember, never turn a volunteer away!)  I hope you know just how appreciated you are.  We can't wait to have each of you back next year!

Mother - Daughter volunteers at VBS
Thank you to my mom for always helping at VBS
A quick shoutout to my mom who always gives up her birthday week to help at our parish VBS.  Thank you MOM!!!

VBS Directors - Old and New
Current and New VBS Directors
Now that VBS is over for another year I am exhausted but filled with joy.  It was worth every bit of stress and work.  I am also filled with a sense of appreciation.  Earlier this year I announced it was to be my last year as VBS director for our parish.  I was terribly nervous that no one would step up to fill the director spot, but as it turns out my timing couldn't have been more perfect.  Someone else was discerning their volunteer involvement in our parish and my announcement was a sign to her.  Not only did God provide a new VBS director for our parish, but he provided me a new friend.  I am looking forward to supporting her next year as the kids Follow Jesus, the Light of the World in Cave Quest VBS.  Dani - you will be amazing!!!

So much more to write about VBS that I want to explode, but I won't do that to you.  Instead you can head over to see more pictures of our VBS on our parish Facebook page.

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