God has blessed me so abundantly this month, and I’m thrilled to share my joy with you. After the past two years of great struggle and grace, this month was like a sunshine of God’s mercy.
My “baby” is all launched and out of the nest! Introducing The Right Heart this month has gone beautifully. I was a little over-ambitious, to be sure, but everything went off with just a few snags here and there.
One snag was that my Rafflecopter giveaway tool ended up being a little tough to use because of how I created it, but more than 400 of you figured it out, so…I give myself a B- on my first attempt at a giveaway. 🙂 Another snag was that technical difficulties and scheduling problems caused me to have to produce and release some of the launch month episodes out of order. I only got one email asking about the scheduling stuff though (thanks for making my day, Julie!), so I am guessing the confusion didn’t worry you guys too much.
All right. Ready for some crazy-amazing news? I am deeply humbled to share that episodes of The Right Heart have been downloaded more than 2,300 times as of tonight.
That is scrape-me-off-the-floor-and-break-out-the-champagne amazing, ya’ll.
Also, mildly terrifying.
Truly, God doesn’t call the qualified. I am “just” a Catholic wife and momma living out her faith right along with all of you. I have a bachelor’s in mass communication (funny how I am using that degree in ways I never expected), but I don’t have any fancy post-graduate degrees or certifications beyond that. I have a library of half-finished spiritual books that I walk by 100 times a day and secretly hope to just absorb by osmosis. What I do have is a little bit of life experience and a lot of God-given heart to share my faith and my testimony.
But then again, I hope I made it clear from the beginning that The Right Heart isn’t about me and all of the wonderful advice I’ve got for all of you.
It’s my amazing guests that bring the oh-so-right to The Right Heart. My heartfelt thanks to my first guests: Danielle van Haute, Kate Dawson, Jenay Franco, Kristin Fontana, Molly Walter, Lauren Warner, Katie Sciba, and Sarah Denny. I wish you could be the ones receiving all of the emails and Facebook messages and affirmations that your words are touching lives.
I had the incredible blessing of attending the Edel Gathering in Charleston, South Carolina. It was one of those opportunities when several special people in my life came together to give me a birthday-anniversary-Christmas gift all in one. And I’m a happy woman for it.
Edel is all about giving moms a place to get together, sleep in, eat food we didn’t cook, have a glass of wine, and have plenty of deep conversations late at night or during spontaneous morning coffee shop conversations with new friends who live 1,000 miles away. The only real structure to the conference (besides two dress-up evenings with delicious food and wine), were three inspiring talks, thanks to Kelly Mantoan, Rachel Balducci, and Audrey Assad.
I met the delightful ladies above (except for Audrey) as well as some other Catholic blogger gals you may have heard of: Ginny Shellar, Hallie Lord, Christy Isinger, Haley Stewart, Chrysten Copley (my sight-unseen roommate), Mary Lenaburg, Lisa Schmidt, and more. I was worried that I was going to go all fangirl on some of these sweet bloggers that I have enjoyed reading for a while, but I think I mostly held it together. (Except for Hallie Lord, who I just wanted to pour out my heart to for some reason. She was really kind.)
The blogging gals were just as nice in person as they seem online. And so easy to talk to. And also shorter than me. I’m a lofty 5’9″ or so without heels, so when I put on my girly-girl shoes for fancy events, I’ve about a foot taller than the likes of Christy Isinger, who is the prettiest, tiniest little Canadian momma-of-five you ever saw. I think she momentarily was a little speechless when I introduced myself from literally a foot above her trademark trendy glasses.
I also loved meeting Sr. Margaret Kerry at the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore on King Street in Charleston. She gave me an impromptu lesson in Twitter that was much appreciated. I think I’ve tweeted about five times since then, but that’s OK. I’m more of a Facebook girl myself, but I at least understand the idea of Twitter much better since talking to Sr. Margaret. Check out the selfie we did together to practice a Tweet on-the-go.:)
We also both write for CatholicMom.com. All of the CatholicMom contributors at the conference were supposed to get together for a group picture, but I completely forgot to meet up for that, and so later on Sr. Margaret and I decided to take a picture of the two of us just in case.
Also, there was half a second that I really thought this was the Holy Father as I was walking into the bookstore. Maybe I’ll meet this guy for real one day. At least I know where he lives. I wonder if he is taller than me in real life…
My phone ended up taking pretty terrible pictures, unfortunately, but I have a few fuzzy ones of me and some new friends that I have to share. (If anyone has tips on taking great pictures in different lighting situations with a Samsung Galaxy S5, shoot me an email and I’ll be eternally grateful.)
My roommate was the beautiful dark-haired girl above. Chrysten Copley. and we literally found each other on the Edel Facebook group, checked each other’s profiles, and said, “Let’s give sharing a hotel room with a complete stranger a shot!” She was lovely. We had some amazing conversations and it was nice to have a buddy when I walked into that Friday night cocktail party not knowing a soul except for her.
Here are some other new friends I made (oh how I wish I could have better pictures of them!):
Last week, we were very blessed to be able to attend our first 8-day Oasis Retreat with Domestic Church.
Oasis is a family retreat, with formation for both couples and children, including scheduled times for special couple dialogue and prayer. It took us a couple of days to settle in to the retreat (and to get used to hiking a quarter mile uphill three times a day for meals at the dining hall), but oh-my-goodness was it fruitful and fun for our entire family.
The Oasis retreat is not a vacation–it’s something different altogether. We were a little skeptical (read: mostly Michael, understandably) about using our one vacation this year on this new concept of a “family retreat.” Would we get to relax? Would we have enough fun? Would it be “worth it”?
So often when we’ve been on vacations before, we have failed to really connect as a couple when it came down to it, and we have left our faith mostly at home except for mass at the nearest Catholic church on a Sunday. The retreat schedule created space to nurture our individual prayer lives, our marriage, and also our family. Because we weren’t together as a family constantly, when we were together for “family time” (as the schedule called it), we really dove into it and were present to it. And mostly, our family time was spent swimming in the gorgeous rock-bottom creek in front of our cabin.
We went on one excursion to some caves on the first day of the retreat, but the mini-disaster that was skipping naptime for three-kids-under-six to drag them 250 feet underground made for a change of heart about trying to do too much. We decided to take it easy and stay on the property for the rest of the week. Which turned out to be perfect for us.
We had morning prayer and daily mass, as well as adoration and confession available. Fr. Clinton Sensat joined us for the entire week and honestly worked his tail off tending to our group with fantastic talks and beautiful, challenging homilies targeted to lay faith, marriage, and family life. We had couples ranging in age from newlywed to 44 years young. Two sets of grandparents attended the retreat along with their adult children and grandchildren. The testimonies of many of the older couples to the work of the Holy Spirit in their marriages through Domestic Church was so inspiring!
Some new wheels
To make a long story short, the timing was very suddenly so, so right and we are now the ecstatic owners of a new-to-us 2012 Honda Odyssey. We still have our old Swagger Wagon (an ’04 Honda Odyssey) which we bought when we were pregnant for our second baby. That van is now Michael’s primary vehicle.
And you know what? Speaking of Michael driving our old van now, I was really impressed that my husband didn’t even bat an eye about trading in his beautiful 2011 Honda Accord for a dinged up, baby blue minivan. I mean, showing up to work in an old minivan after having a decent-looking, somewhat manly car can’t be all that easy to stomach. Unless you’re just kind of awesome.
Also, God must have somehow known that this was my “dream” color for a new van. He is so good to me.
On another note, I hope nobody reads this post and compares my highlight reel of a post to their outtakes. I’ve got my own uglies and ongoing crosses that I deal with every day. For just one example, we are still looking for a house after nearly two years of living with my parents. And the waiting is hard, ya’ll.
So share in my joy but also continue to pray for me, sweet readers. And know that I pray for you.