Meet Saint (Maker) Savaryn! (& Reflections on 2020, too)

When Covid started, I kept seeing all these people getting dogs. I was like “JP, all these people are getting dogs because they’re stuck at home hahaha, how interesting is that. We will clearly never get a dog because we’ll be too busy resuming our jet-setting lifestyle as soon as this is over. Also, dogs poop all over the yard.”

And then…with 13 days to go in this difficult year, a puppy arrived at our home and joined our family. Turns out, never say never has become quite the theme in my life, in many more ways than one.

Meet Saint Maker Savaryn!

We call him Saint, but his full name is Saint Maker because he will help us grow in virtue. Also, every time we call his name, which is a lot, it’s a reminder of our main objective- to become Saints ourselves!

Saint is a fluffy cuddle ball who loves pretending he is a great hunter, cuddling, licking peoples’ faces, and sometimes tinkling on our floor.

I am not a dog person, but I’m slowly warming to him. I like seeing the kids take him outside to go to the bathroom. I don’t completely mind when he’s tired at night and rests his little warm fuzzy self on my lap. JP has promised to brush his teeth daily so he doesn’t get stinky dog breath as he gets old.

JP is very sweet with him, too. He grew up with dogs and loves them even more than I realized. It’s cute to see my full grown husband walking around with the little fluffball Saint. They’re already becoming good friends.

Reflections on the Year

There have been less distractions this year- in terms of places to go, things to do, people to see. And it’s given me so much time to look at the life right in front of my face with clarity. Because of this, one of my biggest take home messages of the year has interestingly been an intense reaffirmation of how often the most worth-it things are not the easiest.

Growing in holiness is hard, raising children is hard, writing a book is hard, loving selflessly is hard, homeschooling is hard. But they are are really, really important things that I value, and this year, I found myself often reevaluating how I can be more intentional in all of these areas. Each is an act of love, in a very particular way, so, really, with all of these things so very present, and my own flaws so very exposed, the question has truly become: how can I love better? Especially inside the domestic church that is my home.

I’m much more impatient than I would like. I grow weary quickly with my family. I can have unrealistic expectations or not give someone the benefit of the doubt. I’ve fought battles against my own insecurities this year, particularly with writing. Once- when realizing I had to undertake a huge revision on my second book- a really, really important one that would make the difference between getting the book right or not- JP found me on the floor of our closet crying a little. This story mattered so much but I didn’t know if I was good enough to do what needed to be done. I was so scared! But, in time, I stood up, pushed through the uncomfortable feelings and got to work, one word at a time. And now I’m on the other side of that revision and am so very proud and excited to share that book with the world!

Which brings me to another big takeaway of 2020. Life isn’t about avoiding uncomfortable feelings at all costs, or even about avoiding suffering. Both of those things are part of life, and this year has given us all a lot to be uncomfortable with, or to bear as suffering. We cannot avoid those things, even in a ‘normal’ year, but in 2020 we all had to confront it on a global scale. What do we do when uncertainty hits? What do we do when we suffer? How can we take those things and use them for good-or to make the world a better and more hopeful, loving place?

Happy New Year

I wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year. I almost was going to wish everyone a smoother 2021, but I think it’s better to wish everyone a 2021 that brings us all closer to God, to Love, to living as Gift of Self. God knows what we need to be holy, and it’s our job to accept whatever he brings.

Even if he brings you a puppy that likes to tinkle on your floor. 🙂


Leaning into the Saints as a Catholic Convert

I love learning about the Catholic Church. We’ll be celebrating my 5-year confirmation anniversary in the spring, and the more I’ve lived the faith and studied it, the more I fall in love. It might sound silly, but many times it feels like I’m stepping into the warmest hug in the safest arms when I go to Mass, or study theology, or even see the effects of my faith slowly but surely overcoming my own tendencies towards selfishness and sin. The depth, the beauty, the history, the Truth–it’s all there and it often leaves me in awe.

There were a couple of areas of faith that were a bit more difficult for me as I made my transition. Understanding Mary’s role in the church took a bit more time. And so did my appreciation of the Saints. I used to tell JP that the Saints intimidated me, half as a joke and half as a serious comment.

For some reason, the Saints seemed so out of reach. It was tough to think that people existed who walked this earth let God fill them so much that there wasn’t room for anything else. Meanwhile, I felt so far from that. I lose my patience so easily, and tend to seek my own comfort, and am prone to anxiety and worry about things I can’t control. I feared that I’d read something by a Saint and be frightened off…of what, I don’t exactly know. But I didn’t trust that it would be helpful, at least not for a while.

My Walk with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

In the end, I want to grow in holiness no matter how uncomfortable it feels, so I decided it was time to read my first official work by a Saint. Since Mother Teresa of Calcutta (now Saint Teresa) was my confirmation Saint, it made sense for me to start there. I received a couple of books for my confirmation, and they’d been staring at me from my bookshelf for far too long. I read Where there is love, there is God over the course of about two weeks. It’s more a collection of things Saint Teresa wrote and said than a book she wrote from start to finish, but I got such an intimate glimpse into the person she was through it. I could see her simple, yet poignant theology in the stories she repeated, in the phrasings she came back to time and time again.

A few points that have particularly woven their way into my heart:

Humility is to accept humiliations. Wiping my baby’s diaper. Letting someone say something short to me without saying anything back. I had never really thought of humility like that before, and it was refreshing and rang so true.

Love starts in the family. This was especially meaningful to me. I struggled for many years if staying home to raise my kids was ‘meaningful enough’ work according to some mysterious earthly standard. We have a framed piece of art in our living room with a quote from Mother Teresa, and we look at it every single day.

Seeing her broader perspective on this sort-of Theology of the Domestic Church, encouraged me in the truth I’ve been coming to accept more and more as time goes on: that my work here is vitally, beautifully important. Jesus says that when you feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that you’re doing it to Him. Saint Teresa helped me grow to understand that the little children living under my roof are the hungry one and the naked one too, and that by loving them, I’m also loving Jesus.

I also see my own sin the most at home in my family life, because I show it the easiest here. They’re the ones I lose patience with, or snap at if I’m stressed out. Because my interactions with them are such a clear mirror to my heart, they’re also the ones who give me the best chance to become a Saint. They’re the ones who I can learn to love well and patiently and fully, no matter what. They’re the ones I can most often offer dignity to in the big things and small, because they’re the ones I’m most often with.

Jesus thirsts. On the cross, Jesus said “I thirst.” While I’ve learned there have been different approaches to understanding His words, Mother Teresa’s is my favorite. Those words are displayed in each chapel of the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa’s saw Jesus’s “I thirst” as a deep expression of how much he desires each and every one of our love, our souls, our all. And, therefore, she concluded, every act of love that we do is, in some mystical way, quenching the thirst of Jesus on the cross. It begs the question: have I quenched Jesus’s thirst today?

For love to be real, it has to hurt. This isn’t about staying in an unhealthy or unsafe situation, but it is about self-sacrifice and what it means and what it takes. We have the ultimate example of Jesus on the cross, because that was His love, full and true, given for us. And it hurt. My opportunities to love until it hurts are frequent but so much smaller than that- getting up when I’m exhausted to comfort a crying child, admitting that I was wrong and apologizing for it. The world has it so backwards when it comes to love- the world tells us that love should make us feel good, that it should serve us well. But it’s really the other way around. Realizing that to truly love means that I hurt because selfishness and sin is being put to death in me, well, it changes everything. I’ve been familiar with this way of looking at love for a while, but Saint Teresa put it so beautifully, and it made such an impression on my heart.

Do small things with great love. I think many of us have heard this quote from Saint Teresa a time or two. My three year old asked God to help her become a Saint yesterday, and a few minutes later I asked her to pick up a blanket from the floor and put it on the couch. She wasn’t sure she wanted to help, but I had the thought that she could probably understand what the idea of “small things with big love” meant. So I told her that one way to become a Saint was to start doing small things with really big love. Like even picking up that blanket for her mother. If she does that little thing with big love, then she’s letting God’s love into her heart more and more. Mother Teresa’s life was marked by some really big moments, but it was filled with many more small moments where she fed a hungry person, or washed a dirty person, or smiled at someone who needed to be seen. Even washing a dish or sweeping the floor can be done with love. That was a challenge to me, in a good way. It’s something small but significant that I can do in the dozens upon dozens of small, seemingly insignificant tasks set before me through the day.

Simple, Yet Profound

The funny thing is, Saint Teresa didn’t even feel close to God for most of her life. She felt his absense from her, but loved him with all of herself regardless of that. She used that sense of absence to unite herself with the lonely and abandoned in the world and to fuel her love.

And her theology was fairly simple compared to some. JP is reading the Summa Theologica right now, and it’s quite a bit heaftier both in weight and in wording than what I just read. But I think that’s one of the really amazing things about the Saints. Saints have been made from all kinds of people, all over the world, with such a diverse array of experiences. The Saints didn’t all start out holy, but they proved that it can be done. Here, now, while we live on earth. If they could do it, then maybe there’s hope that we can, too.

Turned out, reading Saint stuff wasn’t that scary at all. In fact, it was lovely, and challenging and inspiring. I haven’t fully decided who I’ll read next, but I’ve got my eye on Saint Zelie. We named our youngest after her, and I know I’m inspired by her life as a worker, mother, and wife. I think we have a lot in common, I’d love to gain some deeper insights into the person she was.


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Why Didn’t God Just Take Away the Tree?

I love having conversations with the kids about our Catholic faith. Their insights and questions astound me and amaze me time and time again, and it’s such an honor and a privilege to engage with them.

Recently, while doing a short follow-up at bedtime to our most recent faith formation lesson, in which our six-year-old son learned about original sin and the fall of man, he asked a simple, yet profound question:

“Why didn’t God just take away the tree?”

The tree, of course, that he’s referring to, is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as described in Genesis. His sweet reasoning was that if God had just taken away the tree, then Adam and Eve would never have sinned, and humanity would have saved ourselves a whole lot of trouble.

I realized very quickly that my son was really asking a much, much bigger question than he even realized at the time.

How do we even read the story of The Fall anyway?

I’ll pause here a moment to share my own journey with the book of Genesis. I was raised Protestant, and was taught to believe the Bible was both historically and literally true in all its components. That sort of thinking made it hard for me to reconcile certain parts of the Bible, like the two seemingly-conflicting accounts of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. As I came into adulthood, it caused me to struggle to see the Bible as something more than a book of children’s stories. And, in the end, that type of firm adherence to literal interpretation across the board, was one of the many reasons I became Catholic.

There’s a great video here by Fr. Mike Schmitz that helps explain how the Bible is meant to be read, emphasizing the fact that the Bible is actually a collection of books by many different authors that are all true- but that are not all meant to be historically and literally true in every instance. The appropriate way to read a Bible would be to see it as a book made of books of different genres and purposes. While the accounts of creation in Genesis are historically true (in the sense that at some point God started time and brought the world into existence), they weren’t intended to be a literal telling of how that happened.

I like to say this when talking with my children about the different parts of the Bible- that some parts, like the gospels, were recorded as historical and literal truths about the life of the person Jesus. Some books, like the Psalms, are songs and poems. And some parts, tell us what happened, but weren’t meant to tell us exactly how.

The story of creation in Genesis and the depiction of the fall fit that what but not the specific how definition. For example, as Catholics, we are not bound to believe in a literal talking snake, but we are to believe the deeper truth of the fall of man and original sin, as taught in the Catechism.

Back to the Tree

Okay, so back to my conversation with my son.

What he was really asking, in the question of “Why didn’t God just take away the tree?” boiled down to what love means and what is required for love to be possible in the first place.

Let’s start with God. God is love, completely and fully. So, when God decided to create, He brought forth nature, he brought forth animals. And then, at some point in the vast spectrum of the process that was creation of the known universe, He did something different. He made an animal, but with something more. He gave that animal the capacity to love, just like Him. Until then, he had nature that followed the laws of science. He had animals that followed the laws of their instincts. But we are made in His image, particularly in His capacity to love. This is what sets us apart from squirrels and bears and donkeys. We can choose to go against our urges and instincts, we can do things that have absolutely no benefit to us or even to our survival, in the name of love.

Why Does that Matter?

Next, let’s imagine an Eden without the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve live in peace and harmony, and all of mankind follows, right? Sure. They would have been perfectly contented little creatures.

But God didn’t make us to be perfectly contented little creatures. He made us for love.

And what is required for love?

Love requires and demands the freedom to choose.

Without choice, then we can’t really love. Without choice, we’re robots. We’re submissive. We do the will of God not because we want to but because we must.

If God had taken away the proverbial tree, he would have taken away Adam and Eve’s free choice to choose Love or to turn away from it. And then they wouldn’t have been able to really, truly, love at all.

The tree had to be there. And by the tree, I mean the choice. The choice had to exist. For love to be real, you have to have the option to say: “No, I don’t want that.” “I choose my good over your good.” Or, in the best case scenario, “I choose your good, regardless of what that means for me.”

We do it all the time, even still to this day. How many times during a day are we faced with that very same decision. I can be short with my kids or I can be patient. I can get irritated at the person in front of me in line who is taking forever, or I can be gracious. On a larger scale, I can offer myself as a gift to my husband and my children, my neighbors, strangers and friends, or I can choose self-preservation and selfishness.

Back at the beginning and resonating through time to our very moment in this world today, that choice contains so much power.

It’s what makes love possible in the first place.

The Bedtime Chat

Of course, with my son, I didn’t quite go into all of this depth just yet. He’s six, and, God-willing, we’ll have time. But we did talk about the tree, and what it means. We talked about God and how he desires more than anything for us to love Him and other people and the world. And if he had taken away the tree, if he had taken away that choice, then our original parents wouldn’t have been able to really love Him or anyone or anything at all.

The story of The Fall is a sad story, but it’s so very, very important. It’s only the beginning of a much bigger, much more beautiful story of Love, giving all of Itself for all of us. The story we are all a part of, even to this day.

And I can’t wait to have more conversations with my kids about it as we live our our lives in the domestic church we call home.


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The Inescapable Beauty of Hope

Breathing Hope

So much of my life is framed by hope. I hope the kids will sleep well, I hope the weather will be nice, I hope I’ll have time to drink my coffee. Hope, hope, hope. Little things like that. And big things, too. I hope I’ll be a published author some day. I hope my kids will grow up to be kind, good adults. I hope JP and I will live long lives and be able to see our children’s children grow.

But there is also a deeper hope than this. And it is also part of my every breath. It is something that brings me such joy, even when things don’t go as I hope on a small scale, or even big.

And it is the hope that there is something more than just the physical world we encounter during our short time on this earth.

A Crutch of Hope

For example, I have to hope that this intense love I feel for my children and my husband is more than just biochemistry for biochemistry’s sake. I have to hope that humanity is an echo of God, and familial love is an echo of heaven. I have to hope that my attraction to beauty and harmony comes from something deep and vast. And that my anger at injustice comes from a connection to an ultimate source of Good.

Some people may say I’m weak for leaning on a crutch like that. But I’m okay with going through my life on a crutch of hope. A few years ago, when JP and I were figuring out the worldview by which we would live our lives, I experimented to see if I could find meaning dissociated from a higher power. And maybe some people can. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to a place where I could believe we didn’t have souls, and that there was no ultimate source of Good, and there was no point, and never would be for our existence, and then along those lines still believe my life had value, or that it mattered how I treat others, or that justice of any kind was important other than to further survival in a segment of our species so we could live long enough to be burned up by the sun.

If I lost that hope, I couldn’t find a way to justify, other than a desire to procreate, why I would have brought three more meaningless souls into the world. But if there is hope, then procreation is co-creating with the Ultimate Creator, who is also the ultimate source of Good. My children, like all of humanity, carry souls and are stamped with the image of the Creator.

So, for these and many reasons, I actively, and with great intention, chose hope.

My True North

Hope in something more is my True North. It is the direction by which everything else in my life is set. It’s how I frame my own minutes spent on this earth. It’s how I frame my actions towards other people. It is at the very foundation of the value and dignity I believe every human inherently carries by virtue that they exist.

It is this same hope that underlies my belief that there is still a chance my aunt, who we lost to suicide in February, has found or is finding peace and healing. That her story doesn’t end with ultimate despair. That all our stories don’t just end.

I choose to believe that Aslan will defeat the White Witch. That Good will defeat Evil. That wrongs done on this earth will be made right in a way that will more than atone for the suffering people faced.

Once I decided to live a life believing something bigger than us out there, I also chose to believe that higher power is all Good, is all Love, and is all Truth. That next step helps me to further frame how I build my life.

If There Is…

Because if there is Good, then it matters that I learn what is Good, and that I choose Good over its opposite.

Because if there is Love, then it matters that I learn what is Love, and that I live a life built around willing the good of those whose lives cross paths with mine.

If there is Truth, then it matters that I learn what is Truth. That I sift through my own personal biases and preferences, and even my own selfishness in order to recognize Truth and assent to it.

A Life Well-Lived

I hope to look back on my life one day, and have peace that it was well-lived. Lived for others, lived in the promise of something more, something beyond, something that is the source of all Good and all Love and all Truth.

It gives me great peace to hope we are all a small part of something bigger, something ultimately Good. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks I’m foolish for leaning on a crutch. That person doesn’t have to answer for the minutes of my life, or for how I choose to experience my existence. But in the name of hope, I will always hope that all those I encounter are able to find their peace. The compass by which they can walk this journey of life.

And that, in a nutshell, is why and how I have chosen to frame my life through a lens of hope.



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Morning Air Interview: “Being Gift in a Take World”

Hello friends!

Lorelei was interviewed this week for Relevant Radio’s Morning Air program about her recent article: “Being Gift in a Take World.”

Check it out by clicking here! She’s the first guest right at the beginning of the show.


-JP and Lorelei

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Being “Gift” In A “Take” World

The Disease of What’s Best for Me

There is a disease rampant in our world today. A disease called “What’s Best for Me.”

Entertainment programs are filled with tips on how to make our lives better. How to get the best deal. How to make ourselves look good. How to advance in our careers. How to make more money. How to improve our existence.

And we absorb that culture, particularly if we live in a part of the world where we are saturated with it. Unless we actively counteract the messages we receive, they absorb into us, and we end up reflecting the approach of the world instead of the approach of our faith. Unlike what we see and read and hear every day, happiness isn’t found in improving our lives and seeking our benefit. The Catholic Church teaches that happiness is found in seeking to improve the lives of others, through a sacrificial donation of self.

To Will the Good of Another

At the core of this question is the idea of love.

To love, according to the Catholic Church, is to “will the good of another.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766). That’s it. It sounds so simple.

If we are married, love is to will the good of our spouse. If we are parents, to love is to will their good too. Whatever phase of life, to love is to will the good of those we encounter.

It rings so true when we hear it, but it’s so different from the culture we live in! And it is less easy to apply to our relationships each and every day than it seems. But if we live our faith, if we put our energies into absorbing the truths the Catholic Church teaches, living as gift becomes more and more natural, more and more a part of how we function and view the world. Our lives become all the more beautiful for it.

Being Gift in Choosing Life

Our parish Knights of Columbus just distributed baby bottles for us to collect change in, and that will go towards Right to Life causes. The tragedy of abortion is great in our world, and this is another example of where so many have bought into the lie of What’s Best for Me so much, that they are willing to support the legal right to end a human life.

The reality is that women have this awesome opportunity to live our lives as gift in a way unique from men. We give our bodies as a sacrifice to grow and nurture life. And pregnancy and raising children is, indeed, a big sacrifice.

But we have an amazing example of bodily donation as gift for another in Jesus.

Jesus lived as the ultimate and perfect self-gift. His own words, which we hear at each and every Mass, are: “This is my body, given for you.” He gave his whole self for us, and it’s a beautiful parallel to what happens when a woman sets aside her own comfort to bring life into the world.

“This is my body” is such a popular phrase in pro-choice culture. But they distort the beautiful meaning of the phrase. Those who fight for legal abortion say, “This is my body, and I get to do what I want with it. No one has the right to stop me.” Jesus says, “This is my body, and I am going to give of myself fully to turn the power of sin on its head and to heal the world.”

There is a clear winner between the two uses of that phrase. In goodness, in beauty, and in the truth of what our bodies are meant to be.

Living as Gift is life-giving. Living for self is life-taking, sometimes in the very real and literal sense in issues like abortion. But also, in the sense that each time we choose self over another, we take the essence of life – truth, beauty, love, from those we wound with our sin.

Living as Gift within Marriage

I spent more years than I’m proud of watching the popular TV show, The Bachelor.

That show sends the message that love is meant to make us feel good. That it’s exciting and thrilling. There is the unspoken belief that love will be like that forever. Like a fairy tale, it will make me feel good forever.

It sets up extremely unrealistic, unhealthy expectations. Nothing about even the concept of that show is willing the good of the other – one person dating upwards of 20 men or women at one time is not good for anyone involved. That’s one of the reasons I won’t watch the show anymore.

It’s distorted. It’s sending a lie about love. It perpetuates a belief that I can do what’s best for me, no matter how many people get hurt in the process.

If we understand what the Church teaches about love and Catholic marriage, the idea of Gift is one of the keys to living a marriage that stands as witness to God’s love for humanity. This occurs when the husband and wife are living as Gift to each other in all areas of the marriage.

When we encounter any situation with our spouse, and we ask the question “Am I doing this for his/her good?” we are letting God into our decision with our spouse. Before we say that sharp word, before we lose our patience, before we assume the worst, we can think about our partner’s good.

This applies in a special and beautiful way to our sexuality, too. Catholic teaching on sexuality isn’t meant to be repressive, and it isn’t without reason. The things we are not allowed to use/do in Catholic marriage – contraception, climax without intercourse, pornography, etc., are all forms of believing the “What’s Best for Me” lie. Contraception says “I’m going to give myself to you, but I’m not going to give myself fully.” Climax without intercourse says “I’m going to take from you, rather than give myself to you.” And pornography says “I’m going to take pleasure without giving anything at all.”

But when we live as Gift, when we respect the whole person of our spouse, including our fertility, when we give mutually and fully to each other, each and every time, that is where the beauty lies. The joy of sex isn’t in finding the best way to feel good for ourselves. It’s in mutually seeking the good of the other in an all-encompassing and powerful way. A way that mirrors the life of the Trinity and foreshadows heaven.

A Disease of Humanity and the Cure

Reaching for goals and working to improve are all positive things. But when those things are distorted, and we start pursuing our own betterment even when it is to the detriment of others, then we do have a problem. When we seek our own comfort first, or own best first, when we forget to be Gift to those around us, then we have become sick.

If we live with a What’s Best for Me mindset, we will never be as happy as we could be. We will never have the peace we could have. We will never find the joy. We weren’t meant to be satisfied with the things of this world. We were meant to be satisfied with God. It follows that living life as God intended will bring us the greatest true fulfillment.

The ultimate way we can serve God is by living our lives as a gift in gratitude to our Creator. All of the above examples help to lead us in that direction. The realization that our lives are, ultimately, not our own, that each and every day is a gift from God helps us release any false control we have tried to cling to. None of this is ours. Life is gift from God. It’s meant to be lived as Gift to God and others.

The Me First disease is more than just an American problem. It’s a humanity problem. A result of original sin, when Adam and Eve were the first to believe the lie that eating the fruit was what was best for them and their own personal goals and advancement.

But the Church gives us this beautiful remedy to the sickness. The remedy for the poison that is What’s Best for Me is a firm commitment to What’s Best for You, to living life as Gift. It turns selfishness to selflessness, greed to generosity, and taking to giving. Living life as gift reverses the darkness of sin and let’s God’s light shine through. That is a powerful witness to a world that has absorbed a dangerous lie.

For more information on living life as “Gift,” please see John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or check out Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.

Note: This article was originally published on Catholic Stand.

My Experience on EWTN’S The Journey Home

A few weeks back, I hopped on an airplane and headed to Columbus, Ohio to film an episode of ETWN’s The Journey Home, hosted by Marcus Grodi.

I was met at the airport by Scott Scholten and his wife Barb. Scott produces and directs the show, and they also have a special B&B apartment in the basement of their home to host many of The Journey Home’s guests.

I had read other articles about people who had been on the show, and was very excited to see the famous “Guest Book,” where many notes and signatures from guests of the program reside. It was a surreal moment adding my name to that list, especially considering that two years ago, I was closer to leaving Christianity entirely than I was to becoming Catholic.



And let me tell you this, the Scholten’s are experts at hospitality. I was so blessed to be able to stay in their incredibly comfortable accommodations. Every little detail was attended to, and I was made to feel like a member of their extended family.

There was also a Mother Angelica mug, out of which I just had to drink my evening tea 🙂

We had lovely conversation over dinner and breakfast the next morning, and then it was off to Mass at this beautiful, quaint, historical Catholic church near the Coming Home Network headquarters, where we would film the show.

I caught sight of Marcus Grodi in the back of the church and we made a quick wave ‘hello’ to each other during the giving of the peace. I knew from my hosts as well as other guest posts about the show that Marcus doesn’t spend much time with guests before the filming begins. He wants to get to know each guest and his/her story for the first time genuinely during the taping.

They filmed 2 shows this day, back to back. I was up first.

Walking onto the set was also very surreal. I had seen this set before in the shows I had watched. There were some people who were very important and encouraging to me on my faith journey who had sat on the same side of the desk I would sit on soon. Scott Hahn, Jennifer Fulwiler and Steve Ray were a few that immediately came to mind. But there are many others.

Well hello there, Mr. Desk.

The show used to be filmed live, and still tapes as though it is. There are no re-do’s, just a 2 minute break in the middle. It was a bit intense to think about at first, but everyone is so kind and welcoming. I was definitely on high alert and excited, but once we started filming it felt more like a conversation. I didn’t forget about the cameras and people in the shadows of the lights, but Marcus Grodi is a very gracious host, and it was easy to tell him my story.


He listened so well. I don’t remember everything I said, but I do remember there were a couple of things he brought up at the end to help a point I had mentioned earlier come full circle. He asked great questions to help me elaborate on some things. You can tell Marcus is a pro. I told my story pretty much from birth to life after conversion, and felt like the time flew by. We then answered a couple of email questions, filmed a short promo, and that was it!


After filming, some of the Coming Home Network folk took me and the other guest out to lunch, then it was back to the airport and home again. It was a whirlwind, but one I will never forget.

I also don’t think it will ever cease to amaze me that my story is now counted among those that made a huge difference to me as I prepared to enter the Catholic Church, and even still after. Those stories were a lifeline as I wrestled through questions, dealt with loneliness and difficulty in the transition from our Protestant Church, and as I rejoiced in the Truth I had found resided within the Catholic faith.

I hope you will have the chance to watch my Journey Home. It airs Monday, December 18th, 2017 at 8pm Eastern/ 7pm Central on EWTN. If you don’t have EWTN, you can live stream it here online.

Encores will air:

Tuesday, December 19th, 1am Eastern

Friday, December 22nd, 1pm Eastern

Or Watch the whole episode below!

My written conversion story is also featured in the Coming Home Network’s newsletter this month, and can be found here.


Do you have any questions about my conversion story? Or whose conversion stories have impacted you in your faith walk?

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Men, We Are Being Led Astray

We All Want Happiness

Men, many of us are being led astray. We all want happiness. But not everyone seems to know where to find it. What’s more, I suspect many of us who think we have it are blind to the possibility that what we have pales in comparison to the real thing.

Those Guys

With the attention sexual misconduct is getting in the media, it is easy to point the finger at ‘those guys’ out there who have done some obviously terrible things. But I want to call attention to all of us, what we might be doing in pursuit of happiness that is equally off the mark. That’s what ‘those guys’ were doing anyway, isn’t it? Pursuing happiness in the way that they knew how, the way that they desired.

So the question becomes, how do each of us pursue happiness?

And how does this manifest itself to those around us?

For example, a group of regular guys get together for an evening away from their daily grind. Beers, conversation, some sort of entertainment – watching the game, having a cookout, whatever. These guys are, on the surface, pretty happy. Spirits are high, small talk is jovial, and the joking abounds. But listen closely to the topics of the jokes, and the spirit of the conversations and there is something not quite right. The jokes are, by in large, sexual in nature.

Now how do we gauge whether that’s ‘ok’?

By what standard am I referring to when I say something is not quite right?

Made To Love

We are made to love. And to love is to will the good of another (Aquinas). When we, as guys, are bringing sexuality into our jovial small talk and jest, I ask all of us to consider whether we are “willing the good of another” in what we’re saying. If our wives were to hear themselves being the topic of sexual jokes at guys’ night, how do we think they would feel: more loved or less loved? And when we ask this question to ourselves, how does the answer we give make us feel? Are we indifferent? Are we offended that I even pose the question? After all, what does it matter how we talk about our wives – or women in general – when they are not around? Right?



Reflection of our Hearts

How we talk about women, especially our wives, is a reflection of the state of our heart. And if we think we are finding happiness in cracking sexual jokes all basically implying that life is nothing more than finding pleasure when one wants it, then we have a serious misunderstanding of where happiness lies.

Our creator wants us to be happy. He made us for himself. And since he is infinte joy, infinite beauty, infinite pleasure, nothing short of him will even come close to the happiness we will experience when we are in total union with God. So to begin our journey to ultimate happiness – total union with God – here on earth, Jesus tells us to live like God now. Real, lasting happiness is found when we live like God lives: indifferent self-giving.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:44-45

The Challenge

I challenge each one of us to put Jesus’ teaching (live like God lives) to the test. Try treating your wife as more important than yourself in every single aspect of your marriage. Will her good as more than your own. Do this and see what happens. Lorelei and I always had a decent marriage, but then I took the challenge; I tested out how much happiness really does lie in willing the good of the other. I put to the test the claim that I was made to love.

The results were breathtaking.


When I started to will Lorelei’s good more than my own in every area of our marriage our marriage went from decent to phenomenal. The more I willed her good, the more I found she willed mine. The more I gave to her, the more she gave to me. It was like resonant feedback from a microphone in front of a speaker, only instead of a harsh noise, it was a beautiful sound, the type you wish would never end. Synergy. 1 + 1 = 3. That kind of result.


Men, it is my firm belief that we will be most happy when we live like our infinitely loving creator – in indifferent self-gift to all those around us. Put this to the test and tell someone you know how it goes. If you experience what I did, I predict our small talk will take on a different tone.


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The Prayers of My Children

The Prayers of a Child

My kids, well the ones old enough to talk, talk to God like he’s a friend. They just tell him what they hope for in their own lives, and who they want to intercede for. Felicity for the longest time prayed for her preschool teacher who had a bothersome tooth. Auggie prays for his baby teeth to come out, which I think is his three-year-old way to tell God he longs to be bigger and more grown up. He’s had to show a lot of patience while waiting to be big enough for things like a big boy bike, and to be old enough to play soccer, and to be able to occasionally skip nap. They just lay it out, no holds barred.

Then we have our family prayers. Our kids know The Angel Prayer, where they ask their guardian angel to watch over them, The Lord’s Prayer, Good Night Dear Lord, and a few others, including the Hail Mary.

The Blessing of Continuity

And, though I never in a million years thought I’d send my kids to Catholic schools (particularly in my pre-Catholic days,) we have been so blessed by St. Lucy’s Catholic School, and our kids have only been going there for 3 months. Particularly, I’m loving the continuity between our home life, church life, and school life.

And a couple weeks back our kids came home with a mini rosary. Ten beads strung on pipe cleaners and twisted together at the end. That simple little tool has added a whole new layer to our family prayers at the end of many days.


Felicity leads us in the decade, holding on to each bead as she prays, and we join in. I watch the ease with which she asks for Mary to pray for us. I feel peace wash over me as it so often does when praying a prayer I was once so afraid to pray. In the prayers of my child we settle in as a family and draw nearer to Jesus.

Unity At Last

It is such a visible, tangible, audible reminder of the unity of our family in faith. Ten years ago I didn’t know how we would handle our different faith traditions when we had children. I didn’t have much reason to believe that this level of unity would one day be a part of our lives. But I hoped and prayed for it as JP and I found our way.

And, as I listen to the simple and pure prayers of my children, I realize just how deeply that desperate prayer has been answered. And it is such a beautiful thing.


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How This Catholic Family Approaches Mass With Young Children

Many Families, Many Approaches

There are as many ways to manage a family with young children at Mass as there are families that attend. Many people will have something different that works for them. I’m always on the lookout for ideas and have read several articles on what age appropriate expectations are, as well as articles with ideas on how to engage kids in our Catholic faith, both during Mass and throughout the week.

These articles have often been an encouragement to me, and I love picking up new ideas or being able to identify with a family who manages things in a similar way.

So, here is how our family approaches bringing our children to Mass. We have a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 9-month-old.

8 Ways Our Family Approaches Mass

1- We Bring Them

Each week, our family of five loads up in our car and goes to Mass together. Exceptions for this have been when a kid is sick, one parent stays back and the other parent takes the rest of the family. I think the fact that we do this each and every week, over time, will set a good example of the importance of practicing our faith. Even when we are out of town or on vacation, we find a Catholic Church and attend Mass together.

2- Expectations Vary By Age

When our daughter turned 5, we began expecting that she would follow along with the postures of Mass (sitting, standing, kneeling), and also to join in with the parts of Mass she knew. She now sings along with many of the congregational responses.

Our 3-year-old is expected to be quiet and not distract others. He sometimes joins in during some of the parts, but we aren’t requiring he follow every sit/stand/kneel yet.

More on our 9-month-old in a bit.

3- We Sit Up Front

We’ve tried many different seating positions, but have found, for our children, that sitting up front is the most conducive to a smooth Mass (at least for the older two). They can see what’s happening, and that helps keep them more engaged.

4- We Explain Things

We don’t insist that the kids be absolutely silent during Mass. But we also won’t talk about whether or not we are getting donuts after or other random things. They are more than welcome to ask us questions, quietly, or to point something out they notice in the church, or something relevant to the Mass itself. We also sometimes will explain what is happening, or note something interesting for them to pay attention to. These small things are done in whispers. It is important to me that if my kids have a question or are excited to notice something, that I validate their engagement. When it’s time for the Eucharist, we invite them to join us to come and see Jesus, even though they are too young to receive.

5- Activities

I’m a relatively recent Catholic convert (2016) and my husband is a revert. Just prior to becoming Catholic, we were at a church with a comprehensive children’s program, where our kids never were in church with us. They went to their own classrooms to play and have a Bible lesson for the entire service. So, going from that to having them in with us at Mass every week, was a bit of an adjustment for everyone, though I have come to enjoy having our family together each Sunday.

To start, we brought an activities kit, with coloring and notebooks. We also did some crackers and water. It’s what we saw as the best option to help our kids make the transition. Now, our daughter doesn’t use the coloring much at all because she is participating, and our son sometimes does, but often sits quietly. It was something that helped us. Our daughter also has taken to bringing her children’s Bible with her. We can sometimes turn to the story in her Bible that matches the reading, and definitely can turn to the Last Supper so she can draw connections between that and the Eucharist.

My hope is that parishioners can give families grace in this area. As a teacher, I know each child is so different. One kid might need something to fidget with the whole Mass. Another kid might be able to focus the whole time right away. And every possible thing in between. Having those activities helped our kids transition, and they are weaning off their dependence on them as they grow, and as we gain experience attending Mass together.

6- Taking Turns

Our 9-month-old is incredibly wiggly. She is constantly on the go. Right now, we try to start Mass with her in the pew with us. Typically, we can make it to the Gospel before she starts getting frustrated at the confinement we’ve placed her in. She wants to crawl under the pew, and out the side, and to eat the pew and make noises to hear the sound of her voice. My husband and I are currently taking turns bringing her out to the foyer, where we can hear the service, so she can get her wiggles out until she is old enough to know how to sit still. She’s just an adventurous baby, and she won’t be that way forever. The person who is out with the baby doesn’t experience Mass as fully as the other, but the Eucharist is there, and we are able to receive Jesus into us, even whilst in the phase of baby wiggles.

7- Special Masses

During the Easter Triduum this year, I tried something new that I think I would like to continue. During those special Masses, where some unique things occur (Holy Thursday Mass is an example,) I made my daughter a chart, with pictures noting certain things for her to look out for, like the presentation of the oils, the washing of the feet, the stripping of the altar. When she noticed each thing happening, she checked it off. It was a way to keep her engaged, and to start teaching her about these particularly important moments in our faith.

8- We Make It Special

We make sure to hold hands with the kids, or let them sit on our laps, or put our arms around them, and in general just make it a special family time. We want them to feel close to us, and to experience the faith together. We smile at the big kids when they participate in something new, encouraging them to keep it up. We want Mass to be a positive experience. Something they look forward to, most weeks at least, and something they see as part of our family identity.


Again, there are as many approaches to Mass with kids as there are families. This is just what has been working for us, at this phase of life. It always warms my heart to see other families with young kids at Mass each week. Bringing our children to Mass is one of many things we can do to help our children grow in faith and virtue now and for the long road ahead.

We’re all in this together.

(Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Stand)


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