My mom and I took my daughters to San Antonio this past weekend. My recent New York trip happened to fall during one of my daughters’ birthdays, so to make it up to her I arranged for a special out-of-town trip to the San Antonio zoo with her three sisters.
Since we hadn’t been able to do a big celebrating on her actual birthday, it was important to me that everything go well. A few weeks before the trip, I spent hours planning the Perfect Birthday Weekend Experience to make sure that this trip would be exactly the experience our family needed.
The zoo trip was great. But when we arrived at the hotel, our room wasn’t ready.
When you have just walked four children ages 3, 6, 7, and 8 around a zoo for five hours, this is not what you want to hear.
Not only were the girls overtired and my mom and I in desperate need of a rest, but I had spent a long time picking our room. I had looked at all the hotel’s options and splurged on the only one that would meet our Perfect Birthday Weekend Experience needs.
When they told me the room wouldn’t be ready any time soon, it didn’t occur to me that this could be anything but a disaster. When they offered me another room and listed its benefits, I hardly heard them. Traveling with kids and planning special occasions is overwhelming to me, and the only way I can ever see my way through is to try to control everything to ensure that everyone has the perfect experience. To my mind, the loss of my plans for the hotel room meant the loss of any potential for a good evening.
As I stared at the hotel manager in silent despair, I remembered that I am trying to trust God more this Lent. I have not followed through with a lot of my grand plans for this season, but I have been trying to see the hand of God in each situation, to remember that I am in a living relationship with Someone who is truly with me in each moment.
Given my background of lifelong atheism, it’s easy for me to fall into lukewarm theism, where I see God as a concept rather than a person. When I get lax in my spiritual life, that’s the direction in which my mentality drifts: I believe all the ideas of my religion, but I perceive that the day-to-day business of life is entirely up to me.
There in the checkin line at the hotel I remembered my Lenten commitment, and I forced myself to at least pretend like I believe that Jesus is a real person whom I can lean on, even though I was fatigued and very fixated on the loss of my perfect plans.
“That’s fine. We’ll take the other room,” I said to the hotel manager.
And then I forced myself to put the situation in God’s hands. Maybe he had a better plan. Maybe it was all a mistake but he could bring good out of it. Maybe — just maybe — something about my vision for the hotel room wasn’t perfect after all.
We stepped into the new room, and the girls screamed with glee as they skipped down the hallway. It was an expansive one-bedroom corner suite, complete with a jacuzzi and a cozy living room.
I stepped out on the balcony, which itself was about half the size of a normal hotel room, and I gasped. This room was 10 floors higher and in a different part of the building than our first room, and the view was magnificent. And right outside our window, across the street 15 floors below, was a cathedral. The positioning of the balcony was so perfect, it was as if this hotel room were designed to offer the perfect view of this church.
We left for dinner, and while we were out I asked around and discovered that the church is the San Fernando Cathedral. Opened in 1750, it’s the oldest continually operated parish in Texas, and one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. I had desperately wanted to see this famous church while we were in town, but I didn’t think I’d have time.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I stepped out onto the balcony to behold this masterpiece of the Church. By now it was dark, and I was caught off guard when I saw a jumble of colored lights where the cathedral should be.
Once my eyes adjusted, I saw that there was an elaborate light show playing out across the cathedral facade. I called to the girls and my mom, and they each stopped in their tracks once they saw it. Vivid colors leapt across the face of the cathedral, sliding together to line up perfectly with the curves of the architecture, then melting away to display the faces of a priest or a saint.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” one of my daughters said.
“It’s like they’re putting on the show just for us,” the birthday girl whispered.
We huddled together to stay warm against the Spring breeze, and as I watched our personal viewing of the cathedral light show play out below, I thought of what we would have missed if I had insisted that everything go according to my plans.
And then I thanked God for giving us exactly the experience we needed.
I was blown away by all the responses to my request last week that you describe your worst church experience in 10 words or fewer. (And by “blown away” I mean “I stayed up until 1:30 AM Wednesday night laughing until I cried.) You can see the HILARIOUS comments people left on Facebook here.
Musician Marie Miller kindly helped me put together a song using your responses as lyrics. She is extremely talented and I am a huge fan of her music — look her up on iTunes when you get a chance! (Her song 6′ 2″ is my favorite.)
Marie... Read More
I’m having musician Marie Miller on my radio show again tomorrow, and we’re looking for lyrics for a little song we’re putting together. That’s where you come in!
Tell me about your craziest day taking kids to church in ten words or fewer, and Marie and I will turn them into a little song for your amusement. You can leave your answer here on Facebook or in the comments to this post.
The last time she was here we had a ton of fun making a song out of actual texts Joe and I have sent to one another, which you can see here:
Read More →
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We finally did it: we got rid of the carpet of doom and had hardwood floors installed.
The upside? No more giant carpet beetle snack bar in the middle of our living room.
The downside? CHAOS ON A LEVEL I CANNOT DESCRIBE.
Outside, it was wet with wind and temperatures in the 30s and 40s. We had limited access to the kitchen. As the work progressed downstairs, our homeschooling family of eight was confined to smaller and smaller spaces in our three-bedroom house. It was like The Cask of Amontillado, but upstairs and with more fighting over... Read More
We did it! I survived the week of two-hour daily radio shows on SiriusXM last week (with much help from my fabulous producer and the Catholic Channel team), and I only had to pull a sleeping bag over my head to muffle bizarre kid-related background noises once.
It was definitely an intense week, but it was more fun than I thought it would be. I had a blast doing the show, and I hope that came across on the air.
I was able to put together not one but TWO free MP3s with excerpts from the show! Both are available through my free podcast here (also... Read More
Exciting news! SiriusXM and I decided that it would be fun to see what it would be like if I did a daily two-hour radio show for one week! (We’ll talk later about why my idea of “fun” always involves extremely intense activities that test my endurance and the human ability to survive without sleep.) That’s right, that means that…
My radio show will be live from 2 – 4 PM ET on SiriusXM Channel 129, every single day this week!
If Monday’s show is any indication, this week is going to be a blast.... Read More
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It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to check in here on the blog, which means it’s past time for a 7 Quick Takes post!
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As you may already know if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, my wonderful grandfather passed away earlier this month. He was 100 years old.
As blessed as we were to have him for as many years as we did, his passing was still hard to process. I was his only grandchild, so we were certainly very close.
I frequently posted here on the blog about the amazing meals he’d... Read More
When I walked into the ballroom on Saturday afternoon at last year’s Edel Gathering, I was surprised to see a woman sitting in the back row, dabbing tears out of her eyes with a crumpled Kleenex. Soon, almost all the women in attendance would be weeping openly in response to Marion Fernandez-Cueto’s heartfelt talk, but at this point the Saturday event had barely begun.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She nodded. “I just can’t tell you how much it means to me to see an entire room full of women who understand my life.”
After... Read More
Happy Epiphany! Happy New Year!
I just got back from Nashville, where I was at the mind-blowing SEEK 2015 conference. There were 10,000 college students in attendance, and I had the honor of giving the women’s keynote.
It’s the story of how I used to think that there was only one right way to be a “good Christian,” and the startling moment that God showed me that to be truly Catholic is to by truly myself. (There’s also a Q&A at the very end where I answer questions that were tweeted during the talk.)
I had a ton... Read More
It’s that time of year again!
I spent hours this weekend adding wonderful new saints to the list and updating the code, so the Saint’s Name Generator is cleaned up and ready to go.
Click here to get your patron saint for 2015!
One of my favorite New Year’s traditions is reading comments hearing about which saints people got and what that saint might mean to them. I’d love to hear about yours! I often have to close comments due to an enormous amount of spam, so if you can’t comment here on the blog leave a comment over... Read More
The other day I came across a clip from the end of It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie which has a surprising ability to turn me into a mushy, sentimental mess. I got all teary-eyed to see how the imperfect angel, Clarence Odbody, gave George a new lease on life by coming to him in his darkest hour.
I think one of the reasons I find that scene so touching is because I’ve had so many Clarence Odbodys in my own life. I can’t think of a single crisis I’ve gone through that didn’t involve God sending some “angel”... Read More
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We still don’t have a Christmas tree. I just walked by a broken Advent candle in the toy pile next to a naked Barbie. But it’s all good, because I GOT MY CHRISTMAS CARDS DONE! (Not “done” like “sent,” but “done” like “we got a decent picture and the newsletter is written.”) I’m so excited!
As I say every year, this is one of my very favorite holiday traditions. I love getting everyone’s letters and pictures each year. Even for the families that I already know... Read More
I was surprised by the wide variety of reactions that bubbled within me when I read Kendra Tierney’s post about how she’s not giving her kids toys for Christmas.
In about three seconds, I went from “THAT’S NUTS!” to “It sort of makes sense but I would never do that” to “Maybe I should do that” to “I TOTALLY NEED TO DO THAT!”
After I thought about it a bit more, I decided that the specifics of the idea might not be the right fit for us (at least not for this year),... Read More
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On October 2, 2008 I wrote my first “7 Quick Takes” post. Soon after that I made it a link-up, meaning I put some code on the bottom of each of my own 7 Quick Takes posts so that other bloggers could submit links to their own posts of the same format. In the six years since then, not a single Friday has gone by that I haven’t written a 7 Quick Takes post and hosted the linkup (or at least posted a note with a lame excuse about why I couldn’t).
The 7 Quick Takes blog party has been part of my life week in... Read More
At the beginning of this year, my friend Rachael had the simple but brilliant idea to start having regular dinner parties. She called it the Dinner Club for Underachievers, and she set the rules to be simple enough that even families in crazy seasons of life could participate. The rules are:
Couples take turn hosting the dinner club
The hosts do not have to provide any food — they just provide drinks and paper plates and utensils
Each guest brings a dish (appetizer, main course, or dessert)
The guests don’t bring kids (but the host’s... Read More