Category : Life

Kid Triathlon Finish Banner
Action, Grace, Hope, Human Dignity, Humility, Joy, Leadership, Life, Love
0

Going the Distance: On Heartbreak, Hope, and Love

My kids, ages 8 and 9 1/2, were registered to do their third Kids-Triathlon.

Kids Tri 2014

First Tri in 2014

Kids Tri 2015

Second Tri in 2015

And then three weeks before the race this year, my youngest, Max, broke his arm (for the second time in 8 months–this time while playing the-floor-is-lava).

IMG_4595

IMG_4596

He was disappointed that he couldn’t do the tri, but understood.  There were tears, but Max has a positive, fun, jovial disposition.  While others might sulk, he had a moment of sad, then moved on to joking and cheering… until the night before the race, when he started to cry.  Overcome with disappointment, he cried, “I weally wanted to do this twiathlon…”
IMG_4680

 

I had a choice: I could tell him to simply chin-up and deal with the consequences of his broken arm, I could join him in his devastation and call off his brother’s tri, or I could meet him with compassion and find a way to help him work through it.

It was heart-breaking.  But Max embraced his role, cheering his brother and their friends on.  We prayed.  Others prayed, and he cheered his friends on.  You never would have known Max was the least bit upset.

Kid Triathlon 2016-5

Alex, my oldest, started his race as expected: confident, nervous, excited.

IMG_4699

His 100 yard breast stroke was steady through the cold waters of the freshly drawn pool.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-9

He ran through transition with a double dimpled smile, blowing a kiss as he ran by.

He sped out of transition on his bike with confidence.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-11

And we eagerly waited his return…

After a while I knew something was wrong; it was taking too long.

Finally Max spotted him off in the distance.

As Alex got closer, he was going too slow.  My Mom-Spidey-Senses were going off and I ran towards him.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-15

Tears streaming, Alex wailed that his chain had been broken for the whole, entire 3 mile bike.  It had fallen off three times; a volunteer helped fix it the first two, but not the third time.  So he had to walk/scoot it in, incredibly frustrating and costing him buckets of time.

IMG_4745

Crying, he ran his bike through the end of the course, into transition.

Disappointed, Alex started his run strong… but the frustration overcame him and he began to just walk, crying.

Kid Triathlon 2016-24

Tingling Spidey-Mom-Senses, I see my son.  He hasn’t given up.  He’s discouraged, but he hasn’t given up.

Kid Triathlon 2016-26

All he can see is the failure.  The failure to accomplish the bike as he knew he could.

Kid Triathlon 2016-18

He couldn’t see the tenacity.  He couldn’t see the determination.  He couldn’t see the strength.

Kid Triathlon 2016-19

He could only feel the pain and disappointment, which were real… which were huge.

Kid Triathlon 2016-20

I saw my son cross the finish line against all odds.  But I couldn’t cry with pride, because he was simply devastated.

Kid Triathlon 2016-21

So I took him by the hand and walked him over to his coach.  A multiple Ironman, multiple ultra-marathon (100 mile) finisher, who coached kids at the YMCA for free, just to share his love of the sport.  A grandfather, who loves kids as much as he loves the sport… who is one of the best examples of coaching that this professional educator has ever witnessed in her life.

Kid Triathlon 2016-22

And this Ironman Coach Grandpa explains to Alex that his determination to finish–that he didn’t just give up–was one of the most inspirational things he had ever seen.

Still, Alex couldn’t understand.  Still, Alex couldn’t comprehend.  So Coach Grandpa asked if he could take a picture and post his story on Facebook.  Because he was certain that there were other Triathletes that would find inspiration from this 9 year old.
Kid Triathlon 2016-23

We packed up and headed home.  And I insisted that Alex read the comments on Coach Grandpa and my own Facebook posts.  For some reason, when he started to read the comments of strangers who were moved by the fact that he still finished the race, things started to shift for him.  “Wow.”

Why is it that we doubt the words of those who love us, but accept the words of those we don’t know?

Regardless, those words were heard.  The affirmations of strangers were heard.  The encouragement of his Coach was heard.  And Alex started to look at his Triathlon in a new light.

Where he once saw failure, he started to see determination.

Where he once saw frustration, he started to see success.

And I finally let myself cry, but not for hurt, or pain, or disappointment.  Rather for pride.

What may have been my son’s worst experience ever may have been the proudest Mom-moment of my life.

Because he finished.

Not because he won, but because he didn’t give up.  He finished.

My son faced adversity, felt the full brunt of it, and said to himself, “I could quit, but it’s only another 1/2 mile.  I can make it.”

And he did.  He finished.

There are so many lessons I take from this experience.

  • From Max who at 8 years old allowed himself to feel intense disappointment, yet didn’t let it consume him… rather, he chose to cheer on his friends.
  • From Alex, my tenacious 9 1/2 year old, who didn’t give up.
  • From perfect strangers who not only found inspiration from Alex’s story, but who took the time to applaud his tenacity.
  • From a man who volunteers his time, talent, and treasure to help kids find success with and develop a love of his sport.
  • From my husband who sees the moments of real, in-the-trenches-mothering, applauds them, and captures them on film.

When Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you… this is what he meant.  Yes, my kid did a great job at overcoming adversity, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without you and me. When Jesus said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me,” this is part of that.

As a Mom, when I love my kid in his time of need, I’m being Christ to him.  As a community, when you reach out to someone with encouragement and love, you’re being Christ to him.  You are loving one another as Christ loved us.

This is it.  Right here, right now.  And we did it.  He finished.  And he’s proud because of you.  So thank you.

IMG_4744

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Leaders guide and 3 copies of Continuing the Journey
Book, Conversion, Evangelization, Faith, Friendship, Life, Small Faith Sharing Groups, Spirituality, Transformation
0

5 Keys for Effective Faith Sharing Groups

Adults crave quality connections with other adults, where we can have good conversations about the things in life that really matter.

For a variety of reasons, we don’t always have the opportunity to do this; to have these quality connections and conversations. Our schedules become busy with kids, work, commitments, activities, sports, responsibilities, and so on.  We often find ourselves socializing with the people who keep similar schedules in similar spaces. We talk about the things we do or the things we see, but not always what’s going on inside our hearts.

Sharing the yearnings of our hearts–our hopes and dreams, our joys and sorrows, our brokenness in pain and suffering–takes trust, vulnerability, and love.

Trust, vulnerability, and love aren’t characteristics easily found in today’s impersonal, fast paced, technology dependent world.

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Yet trust, vulnerability, and love are at the heart of true spirituality, discipleship, and Christian community. Or at least, that’s what Jesus had intended, that’s what St. Paul wrote about, and that’s what Acts of the Apostles describes.

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. (Acts 2:46-47)

The experience of quality conversations and connections is invigorating; these moments fill our hearts with love, peace, and joy. When the topics touch upon spirituality, discipleship, and Christian living, these conversations are evangelizing–kindling our passion for God.

So when, and where, and how can we find quality connections and quality conversations with other adults?  In today’s Church, we can certainly find this within small faith sharing groups.

My last post explained what a small faith sharing group is.  This post begins with a vision for what kind of experience we want (quality conversations and connections) and will focus on How to implement small faith sharing groups.

Five Keys For Small Faith Sharing Groups

Just because you get a group of people together and give them a topic does not mean you’ll get these fantastic evangelizing conversations and quality connections.  Have you ever been part of a never-ending meeting that goes nowhere?  Or one that devolves into either a therapy session or venting and complaining?

Beyond the logistics of who, where, when (and what to discuss), there needs to be a great deal of attention dedicated to how. I suggest Five Key C’s to cultivating evangelizing conversations and quality connections:

  1. Confidentiality – the atmosphere of the small faith sharing group needs to be one of trust, vulnerability, and love.  Whatever is shared in these conversations must not be repeated in any other context.  This is a confidentiality based in agapic-love, willing of another’s good… the only exception to confidentiality is if someone’s life is in danger.  Care and concern for the well-being of another always takes precedence when someone’s life is in danger.
  2. Conversation – participants enter into small faith sharing groups with the expectation of conversation.  Good conversations extend from mutual respect.  To get to a place of mutual respect, sometimes “ground rules” need to be made explicit, such as:
    • encourage laughter and joy… but never at the expense of another.
    • express concern for one another… but not by offering advice, criticism, or judgment of others.
    • recognize and validate emotions… but resist the temptation to counsel, advise, or solve problems (unless specifically asked for).
    • honor one another’s time with both brevity (when sharing) and patience (when listening).
  3. Coordination through Facilitators – a good facilitator is a good listener and servant/leader.  More than a host or a coordinator that plans the meetings, a good facilitator knows how to:
    • invite everyone’s participation in the conversation… but not force it; no one has an obligation to share.  Some folks are natural talkers who easily share; others are introverts that need time to think and process.  A facilitator’s job is to prevent “conversation ball-hogs” by making sure that everyone has a chance to speak and contribute.
    • be patient as participants share their stories… but also be attentive to staying focused on the discussion topic and keeping the discussion within the time allotted.
  4. Conversion and Application to Life – it is easier to talk critical analysis–what you think about a topic–than it is to consider how the material applies to your life.  It’s easier to talk about concepts or other people’s stories than it is to consider how the wisdom of Scripture and Tradition is personally calling you to conversion in your own life.  Faith sharing group discussions are concerned with:
    • How you currently experience [the topic] in your life – whether with success or struggles.
    • Ways in which you feel [the topic] is calling you to live your faith differently or better… a call to action of sorts.
  5. Centered on Prayer – Faith sharing groups always need to be centered on our Life-giving, Loving God.  We need to remember to:
    • begin by inviting the Holy Spirit into the discussion.
    • choose discussion material that helps us focus on how the wisdom of the Christian Tradition applies to our lives today.
    • pray over, for, with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling through difficult times… even if it is in the middle of the discussion.
    • end with a prayer of thanksgiving and/or petition.

One last thing to keep in mind when working with adults in a faith sharing group setting: busy adults don’t always have the time to read and prepare.  Or sometimes they do read and prepare, but then time passes, life happens, and they forget.  In a classroom setting, it makes sense to emphasize coming to class prepared.  In a faith sharing group, the focus is on evangelization; quality connections and conversation about faith and life.

Catechesis is an essential “moment” in the process of evangelization (General Directory for Catechesis, 63).

To help adults focus their conversation, it’s always a good idea to offer a summary that reminds participants about the key points in the material before opening the discussion.

Faith Sharing with Continuing the Journey

You know what material easily lends itself to small faith sharing group discussion?  That’s right!  My book, Continuing the Journey: Cultivating Lived Faith.

Even more, you know what will help with the Five Key C’s of cultivating evangelizing conversations and quality connections?  My brand new Leader’s Guide.

LeadersGuide_BookCover
I believe so strongly in the value of small faith sharing groups that I am offering the Leader’s Guide as either a free PDF (click here), or a hard copy can be mailed to you for $5.99 with free Prime Shipping through Amazon.

Note: all Amazon links include my affiliate link, which means Amazon gives me a couple of extra pennies from your purchase.

Go forth and share your faith!  And let me know if I can be of any help in the process.  In addition to these resources, I am available to offer trainings and workshops for small faith sharing group facilitators.  Just email me!

Blessings and peace as you continue your journey!

Love Julie



Sign-up now and receive the 68-page PDF Leader’s Guide to Continuing the Journey.


If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Crowd of People facing sunset
Book, Evangelization, Life, Small Faith Sharing Groups
1

What is a Small Faith Sharing Group?

Have you ever been on a spiritual retreat and witnessed that profound change in a person?  Maybe you were on the Team giving the retreat.  Maybe you were a participant.  Maybe that person was you.

That change–that shift–is the work of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a transformation in faith.  And it’s such a privilege to witness… it’s why I do what I do.

It’s the “AH-HA” moment that teachers live for; when we get to be a part of someone making a connection between what they are learning and what they are doing.  They get it… they really get it! In religious education and on retreats, that AH-HA moment is filled with the grace and joy because we have the privilege of participating with the divine.

For it is in giving that we receive.

So we see this transformation in faith happen on a retreat.  We see retreatants come to the end of the retreat on fire with the Holy Spirit, receptive, vulnerable, open, and joyful… and asking us how to continue that retreat experience.

That receptive, vulnerable, open, joyful person on fire with the Holy Spirit is why I wrote Continuing the Journey: Cultivating Lived Faith.  I wrote it for adults to read, reflect, and journal on their own, and then come together to discuss their answers in small faith sharing groups.  It’s not that a person can’t read it on their own–they certainly can!  It’s more that those retreatants on fire with the Holy Spirit need something–deserve something–that can help them keep that fire alive as they return to daily life.

That something is lived faith.  That fire is evangelization.  And a fantastic way to do this is through a small faith sharing group.

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Family Mission
Action, Life
0

Intentionally Living Out Your Values

In this Season of Advent–as many families are preparing for Christmas–there have been a few families that have made some big, intentional decisions about how they will celebrate this season.

There’s one with what’s called a “click-bait” title that you may have seen (click-bait means it’s an intentionally provocative title that baits you to click and read) called: Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas.” It was picked up by both the Today Show and the Washington Post.  Despite the title, it’s a good article: the parents decided to reject the cultural consumerism of the secular holiday season and instead, focus on service to others.  Their biggest motivator in doing so was battling the sense of entitlement that they have begun to notice in their children.

Then, in “The Secret to an Intentional Christmas,” Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diaries reflected on a conversation she had on her Sirius XM radio show with another Catholic-mom-blogger, Kendra about her post “Seven Reasons My Kids Don’t Need Toys This Christmas.”

What I love about what Kendra is doing is that she’s questioning key cultural assumptions about what it means to celebrate this season — even some of our most deeply-entrenched assumptions, like the idea that there should be toys under the Christmas tree.

Emboldened by her example, I’ve started to look at every single thing we typically do during Advent and Christmas, and I ask myself two questions:

  1. Do we really have to do this?
  2. Does doing this reflect the values that are most important to us as a family?

I talked to Kendra on my radio show about this this week, and one of the interesting things that came from the discussion was the realization that you can’t choose activities that reflect your family’s values if you haven’t taken the time to clarify what your family’s values are in the first place.

Let’s say that again: you can’t choose activities that reflect your family’s values if you haven’t taken the time to clarify what your family’s values are in the first place.

Before we married, before we had kids, both my husband and I read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  While we had found its insights useful in our professional and personal relationships, the application of Seven Habits to our family is worth noting.  Putting the first three habits into practice—being proactive, writing a mission statement, and prioritizing our time, efforts, and energy—made a tremendous difference in focusing us into the kind of family we want to be, and the kind of children we want to raise.  In a word, it helps us be intentional.

Our family mission statement began as a list of words that reflect our values: love, respect, responsibility, learning, playfulness, fun, joy, quality family time, creativity, passion, care, generosity, integrity, gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, service, and communication.  In and through each of these values—guiding and sustaining them—is faith and hope.

At first we brainstormed our list at the dinner table, transcribing them with a sharpie onto a piece of scrapbook paper. 
040
Initially the boys were too young to really participate in the conversation, but as we have added to the group of words over time, the boys have also contributed to the mission statement. By working on it together, we make sure it reflects all of us.  Eventually I painted the words on a canvas with a nice background. 
IMG_0682

Our family mission statement hangs in our dining room, reminding us of who we are and how we will be with each other and the world around us.

As different negative, unhealthy behaviors come up, we have pointed to our family mission statement and reminded the boys that’s not who we are; that’s not what we are about.

Likewise, the Family Mission Statement reminds us that we are committed to playfulness and fun, so we are sure to make time to play a family game, or go on a bike ride to the park, or drive over to the Kemah Boardwalk and ride the roller coaster.

Try it: grab a sharpie and a piece of pretty paper.  At dinner, talk with your family–or your spouse or yourself–about what your guiding values are.

The next step is to put it into practice and make sure that how you spend your time, efforts, and energy reflect your values.

  • Have you given thought to expressing what your values are?
  • What is one way that you practice living out your values on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
  • What is one thing you could do this week to be more focused on living according to your values?

 

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Christmas Tree Decorating
Advent, Life, Love
0

Rejecting Perfectionism and Embracing the Beauty of Life and Love

I love decorating the Christmas tree.  I relive the memories associated with each ornament – remembering special moments with friends and vacations with family.  I turn on Christmas music, I have a glass of wine, and I enjoy the memories.

A few years ago, my husband wanted to try doing a time-lapse photography of our Christmas tree decorating.  Photography is one of his hobbies, he already had most of the gadgets, and was able to borrow the one piece of equipment he didn’t have (an interval-something).  Afterwards, he’d take the hours of pictures and edit them into 2 minute video clip set to music.  All it required of me was to decorate, so I agreed.

I have to admit, the Tree Trimming video turned out so well that it became a tradition.

The thing is that every year, I struggle with the Tree Trimming video drawing my attention to all that is less-than-perfect.  This year we got our first artificial tree, and despite my attempts to spread out the branches (as evidenced in the first full minute), I notice at least three gaping holes.  My boys love helping, and I know it’s important to share the memories with them… but they move faster than my stories do, and they don’t spread the decorations… they clump them together.  So I spend much of my time re-locating their efforts (as evidenced by minutes 2-3:45).  At 3:05, you’ll notice that glass of wine.  At 3:18, my older son knocked it over and I spend through 3:27 cleaning the stain out of the carpet.

“Who told you that you were naked?”  –God (Genesis 3:11)

I don’t want to be so focused on imperfection that I fail to appreciate my blessings.  I don’t want to shape my children’s memories of me by pointing out everything that is wrong.  I also don’t want to create some sort of passive-aggressive dynamic where boasting my inadequacies pressures others into telling me how wonderful I am.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.  (Psalm 139:14)

On the one hand, my attention to detail serves me well as an author and editor, as a problem solver, and as a doer-of-things.  On the other hand, if I allow perfectionism to dominate my interactions, it will interfere with loving myself, others, and the God who created me.  Perfectionism is alluring because it offers the illusion of control.  But that control comes at a price–it almost certainly costs us peace and usually wreaks havoc on our relationships.  Moreover, it is asserting a level of control that comes close to violating the First Commandment.

I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

So on my path of preparation this Advent season–in this time of preparing my heart for the hope and joy of the coming of Christ–I will open myself to choosing the beauty of life and love.

This means that I will choose to embrace the cuteness of minutes 1:18-1:24, where Alex reads the meaning of the Twelve Bride’s Tree Ornaments while Max and I hang them.  Or at 2:25 where I get my 8 1/2 year old to pause for a kiss long enough to capture it on the time-lapse.  Or 3:37 where Max suggests “a family hug,” followed by dancing.

Rejecting perfectionism isn’t easy for me, but it’s something I must do as a matter of faith and a matter of love.  It’s not that I’m not aware of these imperfections… it’s that I am invited to release them so I can experience the fullness of life.


  • What do you need to let go of to prepare your heart for the hope and joy of the coming of Christ?

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
1 2 3