Shop Local, Shop Catholic: A Houston Gift Guide

Though Advent is still a few weeks away, ’tis the season to start making a list and checking it twice. To make it easier on you, here’s a gift-guide to Houston businesses that are either owned by Catholics or  sell Catholic items. The hope is that, as you spend your gift dollars, you use them to support those who use their talents and business savvy for God’s glory. To be clear, none of these links are affiliate links – this is just a compilation of my own creation to support local Catholic merchants. Also, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Please feel free to leave links of gifts you’d recommend in the comments section (no MLMs, please!)

Happy shopping!

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St. Patrick, Drew Brees, and Adversity – Or, Engaging 5th Graders During CCE
St. Patrick probably would’ve liked football. Drew Brees probably likes green beer. They’re practically bros.

I’ve taught Continuing Christian Education (CCE) for about 10 years, give or take a year. During that time, I’ve taught pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd-5th grades. Each grade level is special for different reasons, but three years ago I realized that 5th grade is my super-fave-favorite. They’re old enough to ask smart, intelligent questions about the Faith, but young enough that they are still (mostly) innocent and carefree. Junior high looms large  around the corner, but for now, these kids are filled with the confidence of being the eldest of their schools. They have a sense of their budding responsibility to be good examples to the younger kids, and they relish the opportunity to live up to the high expectations we set for them. Seriously. Fifth graders are the BEST age for teaching religious education. FIFTH GRADE IS MY JAM.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t connect, like, AT ALL, with the 5th grade boys. The girls and I get along well, because they’re more generally more mature and interested in spiritual ideas. Not necessarily so with the boys, though there have been a few notable exceptions. I have four brothers, so you wouldn’t think I would have trouble talking to these kids, and yet, I think I revert back to awkward-around-boys-5th grade Wendy and just fail miserably engaging and helping them understand how the study of Christ, the Scriptures, His Church, the Saints, etc., have any relevant connection to their lives. Until last Sunday. *mwahahahaha* Continue reading

Bold. Permanent. Indelible. – Harvey Makes His Mark

My mailbox on the 28th of August, 2017.

Funny thing about Sharpie markers. On their website, the product description offers its use for “paper, plastic, metal, and most other surfaces.” It’s that “most other surfaces” part that gets me. You know what surface I never dreamed I’d be using my trusty fine-tip Sharpie on?

My kids’ arms.

Turns out, Sharpie writes well on skin – even if your hand is shaking like a leaf. And it stays there after several days of baths and soapy scrubbings, as a bold, indelible reminder of a hurricane that still haunts my dreams, almost two months later.

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Boomers, We’re Listening. Love, Millennials

The more I experience life as a wife, mother, sister, friend, and professional, the more I realize I’m clueless. Really clueless. As in, everything I thought I knew – and I thought I knew a lot – is challenged on a daily basis and I rediscover, for the umpteenth time, that when it comes to life experience, I’m a noob.

Growing up, I was the kid that wanted to sit with the adults and talk while my cousins rolled down hillsides and played with bubbles outside. I’ve long preferred the company of older, wiser adults to the company of peers. Even as an adult, I gravitate towards reading blogs and following social media streams of wives and moms who are older than me and further along their paths of marriage and family. I love to see their challenges and learn how they have grown from them, emotionally and spiritually. To see how they have navigated life crises and struggles, and hopefully learn from them as I encounter similiar waters in the not-so-distant future.

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Embracing the Cross

“Where there is life, there is hope.” – Bilbo Baggins

My husband and I have been married for just over ten years. Not a long time, but enough of a span to have learned a thing or two about the “for worst” part of our vows. We’ve weathered a deployment, nine moves, five pregnancies, one conversion process, depression, anxiety, family separations and heartache, legal challenges, and enough financial strain to make your head spin. There have been days when the only prayer I could I utter were the words Jesus spoke on the cross in agony: “My God, My God – why have You abandoned me?!”

My crosses are real. They threaten to crush me under their immense weight. I feel alone, struggling to breathe. Like the walls are closing in, and there’s no way out.

In the opening of St. James’ letter to the dispersed Church, in the midst of great persecutions, he writes: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4.)  Excuse me? Consider it all joy? The heartache? The pain? The soul-crushing horror? How?! How am I supposed to do that?

Looking back at each of my crosses, I see where God used them to help me grow in love, in kindness, in humility (He keeps sending me the crosses to help with my humility…), in goodness, in mercy, in compassion, and in forgiveness. He is calling me to holiness, and providing me a way to get there. He is calling me to sainthood, to perfection. To completion.  And for this? For this, I am grateful for my crosses. If they bring me closer to Jesus, I daresay I love them. And with His help, I can even learn to embrace them. With joy.

What about you, sister? Pour yourself a cup of hot tea – or coffee with a splash of Bailey’s – and consider the crosses in your life. Pray about the one that is leaving you breathless. Weak. Tired. In that  moment, thank God for the opportunity to grow closer to Him. Ask Him to help you find the joy.