Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unearthing Buried Treasure

photo credit pexels, 2016 via pixabay, 
Imagine you're holding a treasure map. You follow the dotted line, face the pits and perils, walk the 100 paces past the palm tree and over the hill, and then you see the treasure chest, sitting, open atop the sand.

Wait. Isn't that thing supposed to be buried?

The exciting thing about treasure is getting to unearth it and discover what's inside. It's your discovery.

That's one of the things I love about watching my children grow. They are constantly discovering new things; Treasures that I have known for decades, but they are just unearthing.

Recently, when I announced I was making a grocery list, my older son urgently announced, "Momma, you HAVE to buy this cereal I had at Daddy's. It's called Froot Loops. They are all different colors and each color tastes different." I just smiled and nodded, listening to him tell me about  a cereal I have known for 30 years (they are all the same flavor, btw). Finally I said, "Kiddo, I'm a Froot Loop eater from way back. I KNOW Froot Loops." I agreed to get some from the grocery store and when I poured him a bowl the next morning I was reminded of how good those little o's are. Man, they are tasty.

The next day I asked my son to share the story with my parents, so they could hear about this "new" cereal he tried. My dad piped in with, "I ate Froot Loops when I was your age," and I realized, I was mistaken in thinking I was the original connoisseur - we are generational Froot Loopers!

Through this discovery upon discovery, I was reminded of how exciting something can be when you experience it through the eyes of a child, even a breakfast cereal.

So many things become routine or expected that we forget how much they once enlivened our senses. 

We forget how carefree it is to chase bubbles, how eye-poppingly huge a T-Rex is or how thrilling it is to ride a bike down a steep hill.

I think that's why we love hearing kids talk about God. We get to hear the awe, playfulness, trust and LOVE that they experience as they are discovering Him. And as we listen, we are reminded of the way we felt when things were new in our own faith journey. But here's the amazing thing about this treasure of our faith: We can keep digging! There is always somewhere deeper to go where God has more riches to show and share with us.

So keep listening. Keep showing your children the way. And keep digging!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Day I Let the Past In

Via Flickr (2009), all rights reserved.
Can I tell you about my house? It’s not a 1920s bungalow, a mid-century modern, or a craftsman with a sprawling front porch. I live in a 1500 square foot, 1986-built home that would never make it into the magazines or an HGTV show.

After my divorce, I moved back into my parents’ home to breathe, regroup and save money as I determined my next step. I slept in my old bedroom, in a twin-sized bed with glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and my little boys shared the room next to mine. We did this for about a year until I felt ready to move out (again). I got pre-approved for a loan and the next day my best friend called and told me a house five doors down from my parents’ was on the market.

The by-owner sign had been stuck in the ground that very day. I called my realtor (whom I hadn’t even met yet) and asked her to check it out. I made an offer the next day and this Memorial Weekend marked two years since we moved into our little home (not to be confused with a tiny home - I’m not crazy enough to do that).

I made the offer quickly because I knew it was my home. I prayed before I walked in, asking God to make it clear whether or not I was supposed to buy that house; I had too much at stake to make a hasty decision. When I walked in, there was bad floral wallpaper on the foyer walls, the smell of teenage boy in the second bedroom, a walled-in kitchen with no line-of-sight to the living room and a laughable amount of storage, but I felt the presence of Jesus. I felt peace.

After the walk-through I asked the realtor and my dad/second set of eyes if I could have a minute to myself. They waited outside and I stood in the foyer and smiled and cried. I was so grateful for God’s faithfulness and comfort.

Even though I had grown up down the street, I never knew Teresa, the matriarch of the family. I heard she was going through a divorce as well and had sons a little younger than me. We passed in the hall at the closing, but that was the extent of our contact.

Until this Mother’s Day.

Her daughter-in-law tracked down my email address and said Teresa had moved to Texas, but was going to be in town for Mother’s Day weekend. She said, “I know this might be weird, but I’d like to bring her by to see the house. I’ve heard you’ve done a lot of work on it. She’d love to see it.”

It’s true. I knocked down those confining kitchen walls, added on a screened-in patio and yes, pulled down the floral wallpaper. And while, yeah, it might be weird to have the previous owner, a stranger, in my home, I never hesitated, “Of course she can come by.”
Kitchen before
Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.
Kitchen after
Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.

So on Mother's Day weekend, two moms who had both walked some bumpy roads, hugged on a front porch. For one, beyond that porch was 29 years of memories, the house she brought her three baby boys home to. For the other, the porch marked the threshold to a new beginning for her and her two sons.

We laughed about the smells of teenage versus toddler boys. She stared, mouth gaping at the kitchen renovation, saying she’d always wanted to knock down those walls. She told me the giant oak in the backyard was once a little sapling planted by her when her mother passed away. And my little boys showed her big boys their Ninja Turtles and those big boys pretended to be curious, because of course, they had played with the same turtles in that same room 25 years earlier.

Yes, she brought her family for the tour. Two of her three sons, the daughter-in-law, two grands and more. And our two families - eleven of us total - like an amoeba, moved through the house, from one room to another, laughing and sharing stories. We stood in the cramped 1500 square feet and had an unspoken understanding: I would take good care of what Teresa had poured her heart and soul into and she would give her blessing so I could feel like it was now fully mine.

They thanked me for allowing them in that day, but I felt like the one who had been blessed. I got to see that my home was built on a foundation of love - a legacy that I am so happy to carry on.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Night = Family Night

When I was in high school, a friend of mine was never allowed to go out on Friday nights without first having dinner with her family. They had a standing appointment. Pizza every Friday.

For my family, the more realistic goal was breakfast together every weekday. No matter what time our school day started (even when one of us didn't have to be at school until 9am) we all were at the breakfast table by 6:15am. I can't promise you we were all bright-eyed but we were there, starting every day together as a family.

That was 20+ years ago.  Now it's even more difficult to carve out time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try, right?

My boys and I love our family movie nights. We pull out a big blanket and all the pillows they need to be comfy. They get to eat their pizza on a sheet on the floor and I always make my "old family recipe" of stove-popped popcorn*.

They love it and so do I because at the end of a long week, I just want to chill at home. And as much as I love playing Ninja Turtles, sometimes this mom is just too tired to pretend to wield nun chucks. Cue the movie!

Picking the movie du jour is another story. I almost rented one last week, but wisely watched the trailer first. Yikes. Not appropriate for my kiddos. I feel like we have pretty much exhausted the list of safe movies out there.

Then I heard about Pure Flix. They are actually offering a free one-month trial of their family-friendly movies. There are Veggie Tales galore, other fun cartoons and good stuff for mom and dad too. Have you seen Woodlawn yet? It's a great football movie!

I think we underestimate the bonding potential of movie-watching. No, we might not be chatting for those two hours, but we are cuddling, focusing on the same thing and we get to chat about the movie afterwards, even days or weeks later. Even if you can't do the standing dinner or breakfast appointment, consider adding in the occasional family movie night. And let me know what you're watching!


*Recipe for the Easiest & Best Popcorn Ever:

  • Turn stove burner to high heat
  • Pour popcorn oil (find it in the aisle by the popcorn!) so it covers the bottom of pot. The pot can be any size. I usually use 2-qt. 
  • Pour in a single layer of kernels. 
  • Put lid on pot (this is an important step!) 
  • Give it a shimmy-shake every 30 seconds or so
  • Watch it pop! And remove from the heat once the popping slows down. 
  • I pour it into a big bowl and sprinkle with with iodized salt. I don't think it needs butter, but feel free to top it however you want. ENJOY!!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday and the Importance of Good Friends

Palm or Passion Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the entire year. At the start of mass the palm procession around the church feels so ceremonial and regal. Then by the gospel reading, we are experiencing the passion of Jesus and all of the pain, guilt and suffering that comes with it.

I asked my friend Fr. Gary why we have to read the passion on Palm Sunday. We have all of Holy Week to journey to the cross and Good Friday to really dig deep into it. 

Why can't we just stay in the Hosanna for a little while? 

He explained the very logical reason - not everyone can make it to church on Good Friday and we can't go from the Hosanna to the Resurrection and skip over the cross. And then the other reason, that having both within the same one hour mass reminds us of our weakness. 

The same people who were welcoming Jesus into town, shouting, Hosanna in the highest! one day were shouting Crucify him! days later. Listening to Fr. Gary talk about the two sides of our humanity reminded me of how important my crowd is. 

I doubt everyone shouting Hosanna was fully in-the-know about Jesus. Maybe one guy just showed up because his buddy did or maybe another guy heard what was going on and jumped in. Then they got to catch a glimpse of the savior of the world passing by. 

Same deal with the crowd in front of Pontius Pilate. There were probably a few people who thought, Jesus is amazing. I've been around him and he doesn't deserve to die. But then, in the middle of the angry shouting, they gave in and added a voice. 

Your crowd is important. 

They can lead you to see Jesus or they can lead you to turn your back on Him. What a gift we have in this special day. What a great way to teach our children the importance of solid friendships with kids who will challenge them to grow closer to Christ. And it' a great reminder to us to really explore our church community, find a place where we can contribute, invest and receive the support we need to stay in the hosanna.

Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lazarus Was a Good Person


After many years of hearing Matthew Kelly say, "Our lives change when our habits change" I finally took one piece of his advice. I got a mass journal.

Copyright 2017 Dimitris Vetsikas via Pixabay
(Here is the gist of the mass journal.) I used my journal for the first time last Sunday. Over and over again I found myself saying, Alright, God! Lay it on me! I'm listening! only to get interrupted by a dropped crayon or a Momma can you read this to me? 

The first reading came and went. Gone went the Responsorial Psalm. Was there even a second reading? For the gospel I was being badgered by the little one to wear my bracelet. It was the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead, so I'd read it before. No biggie. 

Then came the homily. I only caught a few words of the message, but what I got was important. It was important because the deacon talked about part of that Lazarus story that I had never noticed before (God is pretty amazing at constantly showing us something new, isn't He?). 

It started with this thought: Jesus could have come sooner but He didn't. He knew there was a greater glory to be revealed through Lazarus's resurrection from the dead. But here's where the Deacon took us next (and what I wrote about in my pristine mass journal). That verse about Jesus weeping for his dear friend... He loved Lazarus. It pained him to know that he suffered and died. It's not like all this happened to some stranger and Jesus showed up, brought him out of the tomb and introduced himself. Hey, I'm Jesus of Nazareth, happy to meet you. I'm guessing you're REALLY happy to meet me. 

No, Jesus and Laz (I bet he called him Laz) were friends. They knew each other. 

When you suffer do you ever ask God Why me? I am checking all the boxes. I know you. So why is this happening? It's the age old question, 

Why do bad things happen to good, faithful people? 

Lazarus was a good person. He knew Jesus well. They had a relationship. Jesus loved him. 

It's because there is greater glory in the resurrection than in the moment and that is true whether you just met Jesus yesterday or if you two have been intimately acquainted for what seems like a lifetime. No one is immune to suffering, but the closer you are to Christ, the more He can be glorified through the difficult times. So love Him like Lazarus did. He ALWAYS shows up!

Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Who Do You Look Like?

Every night at dinner we pass at least one question around the table. "What was your favorite part of the day?" The first person answers and then asks another and so on. My older son even reminds the family to do it when we are out to dinner and if guests are with us, they gladly join in. It warms my heart that we actually have a special family tradition!

Sometimes when we are home we throw in a second question from a game called Table Topics (they actually were giving away travel editions in Chick-fil-A's kids meals for a while). It's just a cube filled with question cards, but it leads to some interesting conversations.

 Last night's question was, "What part of you resembles one of your family members?" I saw a look of confusion on my boys' faces so I explained, "Is there anything about the way you look  that looks like somebody else in our family?"

Both of my boys have my eyes, Liam looks like his daddy in every other way and the little one and my mom are basically twins.



But Liam spoke up as the first to answer and said, "My love looks like you."

Confession - I was tempted to correct him and say, "No - I mean physically what about you looks like me or dad," but thank goodness I had the peace of mind to just look back with an inquisitive head-tilt. He said, "When I love I look like you" and he even hugged himself as he said it.

What in the world did I do to deserve a kid like this and how, in all of my imperfection and mom-mess-ups, is this possible?

I am grateful that God has allowed me to experience love in such a deep and fulfilling way. The best part - I look most like my Heavenly Father when I love. I'll tell you what, that moment of shared love quickly became my favorite part of the day!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating Awesome Sisters this Women's History Month - And a giveaway!

When you hear, "Women's History Month" do you think about religious sisters? Honestly, I usually don't. Until now! Here's a guest post from Davis Studio Publishing to share a story and a giveaway!

March is Women’s History Month, and the perfect time to celebrate the contributions of women religious. Theirs is a poignant history of faith-guided compassion toward those suffering. This history needs to be woven into the fabric of women's history and into U.S. history as a whole.  Yes, it is time to examine history and its stories through the lens of kindness.

That would sum up our mission, to give kindness the fanfare and remembrance it deserves.   We call ourselves Davis Studio Publishing, but we are really just six women working diligently in the front room of a tiny...ahem...cozy... house. We've recognized that history's stories so often leave out the role kindness plays. Just think about this for a minute, how often did your history book consider the impact of kindness? 

Currently, we are working to tell the important stories of Catholic Sisters who served as nurses during the Civil War.  We are honored to share their stories of kindness, which have changed our lives. But wait!  We are telling these stories in quite a unique fashion.  At Davis Studio Publishing we are pioneers in storytelling using the digital format of an "app" or application. Imagine immersive books with photographs, movies, music, voice-overs and more, all contained in a very meaningful story.

Our first app story is called Civil War Truce — Remarkable Story of Sister Lucy, SCN. Sister Lucy was a young Sister of Charity of Nazareth, and a musical prodigy. As a Novice, she was somewhat isolated in rural Kentucky, and the possibility of civil war in the United States would have seemed very remote. Nevertheless, when war erupted, it would be Sister Lucy's voice, a songstress voice, which would cut through the carnage and disease of war, leaving an indelible mark. She was so beloved by her soldier patients — well — the rest of the story can take your breath away.

Just released, Willing Hearts is the second app in our series, and was built with the help of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Their Sister-nurses’ service is a remarkable story of faith, kindness and finding joy amidst an angry, divisive time in our country. Yes, within days of volunteering to serve as nurses, Sisters of the Holy Cross found themselves in the middle of civil war, with little or no supplies and in challenging times nearly impossible to envision. It is impressive how the Sisters faced these difficulties head on, and by doing so saved countless lives. 

Before the war, most Catholic Sisters were young women of prayer, with little direct nursing experience. Yet when called they kindly volunteered their service, and their faith carried them through very trying times. Courageously, the Sisters never hesitated to go onto battlefields to succor the wounded and dying.  Additionally, they were not afraid to nurse patients suffering from a multitude of contagious diseases in the “pest-houses.”
                                                                                                                                                              Sister M. Paula (Casey), CSC, wrote about her arrival, “Of course we never knew what war was until that 7 [sic] day of Dec 1861.  Then we tasted it to the fullest extent.” 

In the mid 1800s “nursing” was only beginning to become a recognized profession. The Sister-nurses helped establish protocols and procedures that became the roots of the modern nursing profession.  Those that served on the naval hospital ships became the Foremothers of the Naval Nursing Service.

“There was no distinction of North and South in the wards of the soldiers, and the closeness of death taught the lessons of love.” — Original diary in St. Mary’s Archives

At Davis Studio Publishing, we are grateful that both apps won gold medals from the Illumination Book Awards — Shining a Light on Exemplary Christian Books, awarded by the prestigious Jenkins Group.  Civil War Truce and Willing Hearts apps can be found on Amazon for Android mobile devices and on iTunes for iPad and iPhones. So, take a moment and look through the lens of kindness and give these apps a try. For the first five who request it, we are happily giving away five free copies of our newest app, Willing Hearts. To receive your copy, please email your request to willingheartsapp@yahoo.com and put FREE APP in the subject line. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and to the Sisters of the Holy Cross ministries.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Win Second Place!

My kids run.

Everywhere.

I tell the little one to go get socks. He runs. We decide to go down the block to see my parents. He runs. My older one runs to me to tell me he has to go potty. I tell him to stop reporting to me and go! He runs to the bathroom.

It was no surprise to me last week when, upon agreeing they wanted to play trains, my 5-year-old said, "Let's race!" The play room is about 8 feet away from where the plan originated, so the little one was at a serious disadvantage and had zero time to catch up. Still, he was all in! So the two-second race ended as quickly as it began with one yelling out, "I win first place!"

For some reason whenever the two of them compete, I expect there to be tears from the loser, but there rarely are. What I heard on this occasion brought me joy and a challenge.

"I win second place!"

My three-year-old didn't complain that his big brother won the impromptu race or that he got off to a late start. He just celebrated his grand second place finish.

There's the sad saying, "Second place is the first loser." I wonder how many people don't even try something at which they might not succeed because they are afraid of being the "first loser."

Meanwhile, my little guy, in his wisdom, saw that he was a winner, not because he was the first to get to the finish line, but simply because he ran. How is he so wise? Must be all the calories he burns from running. Everywhere.