Command Center

Monday, August 29, 2016



The fall season with its crisp air and notions of pumpkin pie spices, apple picking, and warm scarves used to bring me such joy.  It used to mean slowing down, but over the last few years, it now makes me anxious just thinking about how busy we will be.  I will go back into the classroom to teach, our son returns to school, which brings additional activities and expectations, holidays consecutively hit with a vengeance and by Christmas, I wonder, “how the heck did we get here”? 

Not to mention, my prayer life, reading, and creative pursuits go out the window with all of these activities. 

So here I am watching August quickly slip away, a little worried about how I will manage to juggle everything properly.

A priest told me recently that many great opportunities come your way, all of which are truly good and would please God.  The thing to remember is you don’t need to do all of them nor does God truly want you to say yes to all the things.  For a person like me who feels a certain satisfaction checking off a really long to-do list, his advice is tough to follow.

Thankfully, this wise priest left me with very practical advice, he instructed me to pray this very simple prayer:  Lord, help me to know your will for me today.  And then really pray it. Every. Single. Day.



I also created a small command center for our home because organized systems help me feel sane.  It’s a place for important papers and items that need to be signed or sent out soon.  There’s a board for messages or reminders, a menu planner and includes the most important command of the command center: the prayer I need to see each day to remind myself to listen for God’s voice and filter out the noise of my life.





The gold frame simply has a piece of pretty scrapbooking paper behind glass so I can use dry erase markers on it. 

The weekly menu planner is printed on paper and taped to the back side of a clear clipboard, again so I can use dry erase markers each week. 

I did not include a calendar to my command center because our calendar with all of the fun feast days of the church and other liturgical year information resides on a wall nearby.  

And just for fun, I have a FREE copy of the menu planner for you:

 CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD MENU PLANNER



I'm curious to hear about you! 

What do you look forward to the most about the fall season?  How do you stay sane and slow down during the busiest times in your life? 





Think Once Again Of A Piano

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


We were lucky enough to receive the gift of a piano from a friend.  She simply didn't use it much and figured it was time to give it a new home.

It arrived wearing a homely shade of brown some out of date "jewelry" so I decided it was due for a face lift.

I'm going to share with you something that may change your painting and DIY projects forever.  It's a little thing called Chalk Paint.  And let me tell you, I've heard about it before and dismissed it as a complicated fad but I was wrong.  

It happens sometimes.





Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is the original brand and if you have a Stockist (a person who sells the brand) in your area you're in luck!  The thing that makes it great is you don't have to prime.  Can I say that again with more enthusiasm?  YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRIME!

Total time saver.  Because if you're like me, you are cramming in projects during a child's nap time, nighttime, or early morning hours while they're still in bed.

Also, the paint adheres to metal, plastic, glass, wood, and fabric!



Steps for Successful Chalk Painting


1. CLEAN 

Clean your item with a damp rag and dry.




2.  PAINT 

Using a basic paint brush (I used the cheap chip brushes you get from Home Depot) apply 2 coats, allowing it to dry in between coats.  You can use more if you feel like you need it, but truly for this project I only required 2 coats.


It seriously takes 20 minutes to dry each coat Walk me to the confessional if I'm lying because seriously this stuff is miraculous. Disclaimer: if you're in a super damp climate or it's really rainy and humid out this time will increase.  I'm in Oregon and it still took around 20 minutes.



3. WAX  

Wait 24 hours and then apply wax.  Don't skip this part.  This is what seals in your color and protects your piece.  And it's easier to apply than you may think.

You have options with the brush you use.  The first option is using the official Annie Sloan wax brush.  It's a little pricey but if you are planning to do more projects it's worth it.  Also, the pointed tip prevents you from applying too much.  The second option is to hit up a craft store like Michaels and look for a very similar brush.  It will probably have a flat top.  I voted for the latter to save a little cash and it worked great.

Use the wax very sparingly.  I brushed it into my piece using a circular motion.  Once I finished one large area, I wiped and buffed it with a clean rag.  Your paint will appear darker but since the wax is clear, it will dry to the correct shade.

At first your piece will feel satin-y soft, each day the wax coating will continue the drying process.  In fact, it takes about 30 days for it to completely cure although, it's dry to the touch and useable pretty much right away.


4.  TOUCH UP IF NEEDED

Added bonus.  If you need to touch up your paint you can still apply it even after you've waxed.  Allow it to dry 24 hours and you can always go back and add a little wax if needed to those spots.


5. CLEAN & ADMIRE

Clean brushes using mineral spirits.





My neighbor Sharon stocks Annie Sloan at her shop in Big White Goose in Canby, Oregon.  Nope, this is not an affiliate link, I'm not getting free paint or anything else, I just like the product and I think she's a kind and brilliant business woman.





What do you think of the finished product? 




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A Childlike Love

Tuesday, August 9, 2016




We all give and receive love so differently. 

For example, I know that my mom loves me or anyone else for that matter through cooking.  Food is her love language. If she really, really loves you she’ll make you egg rolls.

I discovered this test called “Five Love Languages” not too long ago and it’s such a great resource.  The premise is that we all feel love in very specific ways.  Some of us need quality time with our loved ones, some feel loved through acts of service, others through physical touch like hugs and hand holding, still others through thoughtful small gifts, and some recognize love through words of affirmation.

My husband and I took the test and we found it eye opening.  It helps us understand how to intentionally show appreciation for each other in a way that we know will truly reach the other. 

I never thought much about how Henry shows us love aside from the sweet kisses and hugs he gives until we picked him up one day from childcare.  Our friend Jenny, did a craft with Henry and a few others in childcare while we attended a bible study.  She asked each child how they show love to others.  What I saw surprised me. 

Written on one of the hearts was:

How I Love My Mom
Hide and Seek

Hide and seek?  The week before the only game Henry wanted to play was play hide and seek.  I count and he hides in the same places over and over giggling the whole time.  I roll my eyes but play anyway and admittedly, I’m bored after a few games. 

I looked at the craft heart with surprise.  In disbelief, I uttered, “You mean every time he asks me to play this ridiculous game he’s saying he loves me?!” 

Instead of looking at this repetitive game as an inconvenience this was such a good reminder to me to take a minute and really pay attention to my child and what he’s telling me through little things like the games we play.

My friend smiled and reminded me of a quote I love from GK Chesterton, and here’s the full text:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So much of our days are filled with repetitive acts.  Put in the laundry, take out the laundry, fold the laundry, do it all again tomorrow.  Or if you live in my house, let the clean laundry sit in a tall pile until you just can’t take it any more and then you maybe put it back in the wash so it at least it’s doing something other than sitting in a pile on the floor. The monotony or the attitude of monotony ages us.  

We are too busy because often the root of it is we feel we are too important to do this pointless task…the laundry, the cleaning, counting to 10 and seeking out a child a million times.

Today’s reading (what is read in every Catholic mass throughout the world today) is taken from Matthew Chapter 18: 1-5, 10, 12-14.

The disciples were arguing about who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Which is pretty funny if you ask me.  If I made it to Heaven I'm pretty sure I'd be wearing a t-shirt that says "Just Happy To Be Here".   

Jesus says to them,

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
And so that leaves us a lot to ponder.  

What does it mean to be childlike?  What qualities do you think Jesus was talking about here? And how can we become more childlike in our daily life?

Feel free to jump in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 











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An Unexpected Visitor: A Conversion Story

Friday, August 5, 2016




We chose to purchase a home in the little town we live in because of its history, its charm and that “small town feel”.  We have farmers markets, an annual city celebration with a parade led by the high school marching band, summer concerts in the park and a main street with a barber shop where the men sit outside and smoke tobacco pipes.

On a warm summer afternoon we walked back to our car after our city celebration on Main Street. I smugly commented on the boring nature of our town and how grateful I was that it’s so safe. 

The next morning we were in full Holmes Family fashion, late as usual to mass.  We struggled to find a parking spot and then raced across the street.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed two police cars parked in the middle of the road.  They were parked side by side, each facing opposite directions as if both officers had simply stopped to chat with one another….you know, right in the middle of the street, because it’s Sunday in our town, and nothing interesting ever happens here. 

I shook my head and smiled and ran into the church.  I plopped down and went through the motions of mass. 

This is where I’m going to stop for a moment to explain.  Yes, I just said, “went through the motions”.  A few years earlier my husband and I stopped going to mass for a period of time.  We had been struggling with our faith and little by little, a few small choices eventually led to not going to church all together. 

It was a tumultuous time in all aspects of our life and we just couldn’t seem to find our way.  Job loss, job change, moving to a new place with no real connections and watching the life we had so carefully planned crumble.  It was the perfect storm for a spiritual crisis. We weren't angry at God and never stopped believing in Him but we strayed into complacency.  The foundation we built our lives upon was not built upon God as much we pretended it was.  

Finally, when we had enough of wandering in our proverbial desert, we knew it was time to return.  And I can’t speak for my husband, but I can say that I arrived with some baggage.  I carried with me hesitation and doubt and a good dose of egotism but somehow I returned week after week.  

A few years later God blessed us with a son.  The difficult pregnancy and delivery showed us without a doubt that we were never in control.  And in all of the trials I knew God was with me.

And yet my heart, as I sat there in that pew, was still hardened. 

I never understood what St. Paul meant when he said, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”   I always thought if God called you, you would naturally come running.  But that’s not the way it is sometimes.  

God speaks truth and truth is light to the dark corners of our life, the ones we sometimes aren't willing to examine.   

We turn away because “we know better than the teachings of the church,”, or we think “I'm really a good person so why do I have to do those things?” or “those teachings are archaic and don’t apply today.”  The litany of my excuses went on and on.  Going to mass felt like an activity I needed to check off my list, yet I was longing for more but didn’t know how to find it.


And that’s what I carried in my heart that summer day.
  
After mass I overheard some old ladies behind me saying things like, “He was carrying a back pack.  Who knows what was in there?”  And the other woman piped up, “Did you see how he was dressed?  His face was covered.  That was really strange.”

I thought two things: first, they must have been talking about something that happened in the news and second, they sounded so prejudiced.  

Just because someone is dressed differently, don’t automatically assume there’s something wrong with them Church Lady. 

And so I smugly walked away. 

Chatting with our friends after mass I discovered just moments before our family rushed into church and sat down, a man covered from head to toe with only his eyes showing, carrying a rather large black backpack walked into our church.  He entered through the side door closest to the altar, marched down the center aisle and planted himself in a pew.  Everything about him, from all accounts, was menacing to say the least.  In the time since then, I’ve learned just how welcoming, unassuming and decent the people at our parish are.  They’re the kind of people who take to heart the idea that Jesus shows up in the faces of the poor and outcast. 


However, it was very clear that this man was not here to worship.  He was eventually asked by an usher to leave. I’m not sure how long this took or how this went down exactly but it was enough to warrant calling the police. This man was sitting in the church when we, in our blissful ignorance, sat down in our pew.

Our friends who arrived just minutes after we did were not allowed into the church and had to wait outside until the man was removed from the building.  

Persecution of Christians reached historic levels that year (2014) and it continues to escalate today. At the back of my mind were recent events of Christians all around the world dying because of their religious practices and beliefs. 

What was this man’s intent?  Was he just drunk and belligerent or did he choose to enter a Catholic Church for a sinister reason?  I couldn’t help but wonder if I were in the shoes of any of the Christian martyrs dying around the world if I would be willing to die for my beliefs.  Was my faith strong enough? Did I really know what I believed in?  And would I be ready to stand judgment for the life I’ve led? 

The answer was sadly, no.

I realized that I needed to make a choice. I could no longer sit on the fence with my faith…I needed to take it seriously or not at all. 

I could hear God asking

What do you really believe, Maria? Are you ready to follow me or do you want to continue sitting on the sidelines?

I will never know why that man chose to walk into our church that Sunday.  But I do know that the day a possibly drunk man, with poor fashion choice and a bad attitude walked into our church was the day everything in my spiritual life changed.  That might sound silly but God works through the oddest situations to break open the hardest of hearts.  He shows us what we need to see when we need to see it.   

In what unexpected ways has God spoken to you? Have you ever felt like you've been sitting "on the bench" with your faith? Are you still struggling with this now?  If you've made the choice to get off the bench and "get in the game" how did you do it?  

I'd love to hear from you. 


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