Monday, October 24, 2016

"i will love"...

I saw this quote recently on a friends Facebook timeline and it just spoke to me...

"Many are called to do great things, but few do great things. Why? Because very few will take the responsibility for the call. It doesn't end with a call... First comes the call, then comes the work, then comes the sacrifice, then comes the never giving up, then comes the going all the way through." 
- Joyce Meyer

Y'all, I left my job with the church three weeks ago and in those 21 days I have never worked harder in my life. Since we are now living on one income again, my family continues to sacrifice so that I can follow this calling. I have felt like giving up every single day as I struggle to find the words to complete future talks and two books I am currently working on. I continue to be amazed at God's daily provision. Truly, He is so very good. 

This past weekend, I spoke to a large group of high school students at our Diocesan Youth Rally. My talk was called "What is a Life Worth?". It addressed not only the scourge of abortion but also the new horror of legalized Physician-Assisted Suicide. I spoke of my life with Courtney and how we must care for and protect our most vulnerable citizens. 

I felt like Courtney was smiling down on her Mama while I spoke. There were a few emotional moments for myself and those who attended as I spoke of my daughter's last days here on earth. Even the boys had tears. I couldn't make eye contact at that point or I would have lost it. 

Afterward there were hugs and words of encouragement given to these young warriors who are on the front lines everyday, fighting to defend their faith and what it teaches. It's hard to be a teenager today in this culture that values instant celebrity over authentic friendships, death over life, and skepticism over faith. 

The Diocesan Youth Ministry theme for this coming year is "I will love" a direct quote from Mother Teresa (now St.Teresa of Calcutta). Bishop Loverde gave beautiful homily at Mass about taking up this challenge, one day at a time. It's a challenge he himself has taken and his personal encouragement to 600 plus teenagers was incredibly moving and I have no doubt it landed on very fertile soil. 

As I looked around that auditorium, I was struck by the joy and openness on the faces of the teens. They are so hungry for the truth and I was incredibly humbled to be a very small part of the truth telling experience that afternoon. Let not your hearts be troubled my friends. I have seen the future of the church and it is beautiful my friends. 

It made all the hard work of prayerfully finding the words and crafting the talk worth it. Every moment of doubt, gone in 20 minutes. Thank the good Lord for his bountiful mercy and grace these past few weeks and for your prayers as well my friends. I don't know where I would be without either.  

There are more talks to write and more truth to speak my friends. This new career path is not going to be easy but God is good ALL the time. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

our litany of saints...

Gina Fensterer is a busy mother of 6 kids, a pretty amazing graphic artist and a fabulous human.

I have followed her instagram for the past few years and am always amazed at what her creative brain comes up with. I have also dropped a dime or two purchasing prints from her fabulous easy shop other side of the fence. Her shop is filled with beautiful prints, quotes from the saints and stunning photography. I am also blessed to call her one of my Blessed is She sister's, as we both write for that ministry. 

Recently, she reached out and floated a new design idea she had. Creating a family "Litany of Saints".  How cool is that? She asked for a list of the saints our family asks to intercede for us and she would take it from there. I happily handed over our favorites and waited (rather impatiently) to see what she would create. 


When I opened the package, I cried. It's a perfect rendition of our families litany. 

Gina chose colors that have meaning to me. Courtney's colors. She even included our sweet girl in the litany. So very sweet. 

I love it. I absolutely love it. I cannot wait to hang it on the wall in our prayer corner. 

I think you need one for your family too. After all All Saints day is fast approaching. Gina has also arranged that the first 10 orders receive free shipping, no code needed. Head on over to her etsy shop won't you.  

Sunday, October 9, 2016

a sunday in october...

I love fall.

It's my favorite season of the year followed closely by winter. I am a cold weather lover, a sweater and leggings girl with a side of hot cider.

I love the changing color of the leaves, revealing the depth and richness of God's palette. It's the season of apples and pumpkins and beef stew. There are long walks in the woods, football games all weekend long and don't get me started on how much I love to hang my laundry out on the line.

So much love for fall.

Today was a rare one spent with my beloved husband.  First Mass, then a birthday party for a sweet five year old, then a HUGE pot of chili at home, windows open and corn bread fresh from the oven. It was just what my soul needed. A true day of rest and rejuvenation.

Thanks be to God for this beautiful Lord's Day.

I really needed the breather. I feel like I am always behind these days. Creating a new life is not for the faint of heart. I have never worked harder in my life and I am just getting started. My brain hurts before lunch time most days but I know it's what I am supposed to be doing so I shall just keep doing it.

This week brings lots of writing, office organizing and maybe even a little pumpkin bread making. Then there is the regular homemaking that needs to be done laundry folding, bathroom cleaning and meal making. I am trying to find the rhythm of my days and I know that will take time.

There are still pools of grief to swim through as we approach the two year anniversary of Courtney's death in December. It's getting easier but the pain runs deep and when it bubbles up from those crevices, I need to stop and sit with it for a time. I find that if I honor those feelings, allowing them to roll over me, they don't drown me like they used to. I am learning to breathe through them, remembering the joy and the pain of loving my daughter all the way to the end. I smile more than I cry at those memories these days and that is progress.

I miss my girl, every single day. But I know without a doubt that she is doing some amazing things in heaven. Absolutely Amazing. I think of St. Terese of the Little Flower when she said "I will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth." I think my Courtney is doing something of the same.

Tomorrow there will be hot coffee and pancakes shared with my beloved to begin the day. Not bad for a Monday. Gotta love three day weekends. They don't come along near enough for me.

Happy Fall Y'all,

Monday, October 3, 2016

creating space...


Hello Dear Friends, 

Thank you for your patience as I have begun walking this new path. I know I have not been very present here but I promise that will be changing here in the next few weeks. There are so many things to share and I am excited to do so. For now, I just wanted to pop in and share a little bit of where things are. 

In the last 30 days, I left my job as the Liturgy Co-Ordinator at my parish, after serving for the last eleven months, I traveled to Minnesota to attend a Blessed is She Retreat with 30 of my fellow writers, hosted company for dinner every single week, had professional head shots taken (couple shots too), celebrated my 49th birthday, wrote the first rough draft of a book proposal (then deleted 3/4 of it),completely emptied out Miss Courtney's room which had basically become a storage room, and now I get to carve out an office from the de-cluttered space. 


There is paperwork to go through, clothing to donate, shoes to put away, a desk to set-up, and ALL the things that go into reclaiming a space from physical and emotional clutter.  I feel almost desperate to have a place to write and create. I have so missed this creative process over the past eleven months. I have spent so much energy serving others, with joy, that I find myself quite empty of words and ideas. 

Sounds like a perfectly great time to start a speaking career don't you think?? timing has always been awesome. 

(not so much)

All I can say in my defense is that God said jump and I did. Right into a big pile of memories and emotional clutter that I can no longer run from. 

Face it?

I shall. 

Work through it? 

For certain. 

Create a new life for the third time since Courtney's death? 

Yep. That's the plan. 

Stay tuned in the coming days to see how it all comes together won't you? 

Thanks for hanging with me y'all. Truly amazed that anyone even stops by anymore, but gosh I sure am glad you do. 

What's going on in your world? Would love to re-connect with you guys. Leave it in the comment box...

Friday, September 2, 2016

hey,hey it's friday...{SQT}...

It has been forever since I have participated in {SQT} with the fabulously awesome Kelly @This Ain't Lyceum. Let's see what's happening at Chez Lenaburg shall we...

Tomorrow I get to actual spend time with the splendiferous Kelly Mantoan of This Ain't Lyceum as we are both speaking at the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference in Front Royal, VA. It's gonna be a party and I can't wait to see some of my peeps. It's been too long. 

The hubster and I are the leads for our parishes Labor Day Picnic. It is the 158th year for this picnic so the pressure is on. It has been an exhausting process keep all the moving parts from crashing down on our heads.

Today, all the food arrived and the most important pieces of the weekend...

What follows is Jerry's Instagram post that accompanied the above photograph (and yes, it's a real bible verse): 

grouchy_historian Ok. As far as I'm concerned the most important delivery of the day is complete. 💩 "You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. " Deuteronomy 23:12-14 #smoslabordaypicnic2016 #picnicking #shouldhavethepatienceofjob #standingonmyverylastnerve #yupiwentthere

While we were waiting for the 1100 chicken halves to arrive at the picnic site, Jerry and I took advantage of the lull and did a little fall grave clean up by our sweet Courtney's head stone. I chose purple, orange and yellow this time. By the time we were done, the Cisco truck had arrived. It made me smile to see everything looking spiffed up again. 

Sunday's a BIG day in the church. The awesome and spectacularly wonderful Blessed Mother Teresa will be canonized becoming Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Imagine, my Courtney is hanging out with her (and all the other saints) in heaven. I wonder what they talk about. 

After checking out Grace's post on furniture painting, I am now inspired to get going on my own furniture projects. Only a few more weeks at the church and then it's home again for this chick. Well, for a few days anyway. Then there are talks to give and books to write. 

Looking for a quick summer meal...I'm here for you my friends. Check out this little diddy...

Barefoot Contessa's Crunchy Noodle Salad
I have made this at least once a week the entire summer. Never a complaint to be heard my friends. It is so freaking good. 

One more gram from the hubster's feed. Yes, he is this funny every day. Yes, I am a very lucky girl. Oh...he is kind of cute as well.

Monday, August 29, 2016 ~


It's a grand adventure.

Sometimes you are in a valley and can not see the light. 

Sometimes you reach the summit of the mountain and survey all the awesome wonder God has made. 

Most times we are heading up that mountain or on the other side heading down. 

God has a purpose for each season and each challenge we face within that season. 

Courtney has been in Heaven for 20 months now. 

I don't cry every day anymore. I don't even cry every week. I save it for special occasions, like her birthday or a day when I need to just sit in the grief for a bit, mulling over my loss and allowing myself to go that dark cavern, way deep in my heart where I keep my pain and loss. 

One does not "get over" losing a child. 


One does however, learn a few new dance steps, so that one can move through life finding some joy and happiness again. 

Over the past three months or so, I have been wrestling with my life goals and dreams. I am approaching my 49th birthday in a few weeks. This has made me stop and really think about what I really want out of life. 

You notice I said "I wanted" right? 


God noticed as well. 

When I was in Portland, Oregon last week, for the Catholic Women Rejoice Conference,  God and I got to spend some quality time together in the quiet of the Franciscan Sister of Our Lady of Sorrows Convent. He has spent the last year leading me out of heavy grief and into a new dance, demonstrating each new move with patience and grace, allowing me time to adjust and get used to the new choreography. 

My sweet daughter has been with me in every moment of these lessons. I thought that it was all about what "I wanted" and while there, I may have learned another thing or three thousand. 

You see, we celebrated Courtney's birthday while on the west coast and that night in prayer I felt led by the Holy Spirit to ask God the Father to speak to my heart, peel back my fear, and show me where He needed me to be. I asked Courtney to intercede for me during this time so that I would really listen and hear His voice if He chose to speak to me.

my inspiration and my heart <3 - 2013

Note to self: do not mess around when asking Courtney to intercede for you. My girl does not play around.  

Oh did he speak...

Courtney taught me many things while this side of heaven but one of the most precious lessons is one I had set aside for a time, but no more. 

Life is short. 

Time is precious. 

Love fully, holding nothing back. No regrets.

Live everyday as if it's your last one. 

Because it just might be. 

My daughter's life was filled with strife and difficulty, BUT, God always brought so much joy and hope to us no matter what was happening. It came through ALL the love and support you all gave so freely. It came from family members who moved mountains when needed to help us meet whatever need existed at the time. 

When it came to living in the moment, our daughter was the bomb dot com. Things would literally change on a dime, but, she still smiled and laughed and allowed us to love on her with wild abandon. I am so very grateful for that sweet gift. 

God brought these memories forward in my heart and mind last week, reminding me that He still had work for me to do for the kingdom. 

I have long held a dream of one day speaking and writing full-time. I have made many mistakes in my lifetime but in each and every one, I have found God's forgiveness. Not only that but He has encouraged me and loved me through all the insanity. I have never been alone for one moment.  

As I stood on a stage in front of 250 women, the Lord spoke directly to my heart and said "I want to give you the desires of your heart Mary. You see these faces? Speak to them from your heart and share my love for them with them. Dig deep my Mary. Be vulnerable and don't be afraid to expose your deepest hurts. I have forgiven them and healed them. Help draw these women to me, so I can heal them too."

I put my notebook down and spoke straight from my heart for 50 minutes about how God has made all things new in my life. I spoke about my husband, son and daughter, our ups and downs, our failures and triumphs. I spoke honestly, exposing the bruises in my life without fear. I told these beautiful women about the Lord's love for them and how He wished to heal them if only they would open the door to their hearts. 

It was beautiful. 

There were tears and laughter. 

In the end there was an embarrassingly long standing ovation, followed by hugs and whispered secrets, prayers asked for and given and so many blessings. I was blown away that so many women followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and headed to confession. God must have been so pleased to have so many souls reconcile with Him that day. The Holy Spirit showed up in spades and I was witness to the wonder of His overflowing grace.

I get goose bumps just thinking about it. 

It has happened this way every time I step out and give my redemption story. You think I would have gotten the message by now that maybe He had different plans for me but no. God is so patient with me. 

When I went to bed that night, I knew what new challenge God was calling me to. I knew that it was time to step out in faith of His provision for me and my family, and jump off the cliff trusting him with my landing. 

I came home filled with peace and a little bit of excitement. I chatted with the hubby, we prayed about it for a few days and then decided it was time to make some changes. 

At the National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows - Portland, Oregon

After a year of serving my local parish family with love, pouring myself out to assist families burying their loved ones as well as all the other jobs that go with being the Liturgy Coordinator, it's time for me to step back from that job and answer the call on my heart, placed by a loving God who needs me to walk in a new direction. 

September 30, 2016 is my last day on staff at St. Mary of Sorrows Church. I ask for your prayers for my pastor as he interviews and makes a decision on who my replacement should be. This will not be an easy thing for him. I'll add my prayers to yours. I have no doubt God will show up in a HUGE way. After all, He said leap, so He will cover the hard parts with mercy and grace. I have no doubt.

I am going into full-time ministry speaking and writing all about the love God has for us, no matter what we have done in our past. jerry will remain gainfully employed so we can eat and have a place to lay our heads at night. 

I'm going on the road to give retreats and talks all about letting go of shame and embracing who God made you to be. About accepting whatever cross God gives and wringing out every ounce of joy you can in honoring that gift. About finding joy after devastating loss, trusting God to renew and restore your heart. About letting God be sovereign in your life and walking with him. About keeping your eyes on him, never losing hope no matter what comes your way. 

About so many other things as well...

I have one devotional book three quarters done and a memoir almost half way done. 

Life is short and time is precious.Courtney's and my story needs to be shared. Life needs to be celebrated. The dignity of the human person needs to be honored. 

God gave me an awesome gift this past year. He allowed me to step out of grief and into service, showing me that I am capable of doing more than ever thought I could. He spoke through my pastor, urging me to love so many. He is now urging me further to step outside my comfort zone and bring His message of love and acceptance to as many as I can, all while letting go of the financial security of my steady salary. 

It is daunting. 

It is exciting. 

It is terrifying. 

It is the answer to a decade long prayer and Courtney is right in the middle of it all. 

Every time my stomach rolls or I break out in a sweat thinking about what needs to be done and how crazy this all sounds, I talk to my girl. "It's your fault I'm here so you had better intercede for me, moving mountains girl. Your momma needs you now more than ever." She has yet to disappoint. 

There you have it my friends. Life is beautiful. Life is short. Time is precious. It is time to leap and go forth and teach. Won't you cover me in prayer for this new adventure?  Cover Jerry too since this requires his to really trust in the Lord's provision for our family. Pretty please?

Here we go we go.

If you are looking for a speaker for your retreat or a single talk at your parish, give me a jingle won't you? I can be reached at ( I am totally willing to go wherever and the subject matter of each talk is individualized for my audience, wherever and whomever they are. 

It's time for new beginning #1,034 don't you think? 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

pushed to the edge...

One of the biggest life lessons I have learned is that when God pushes the limits of my comfort zone He is getting ready to talk me into leaping off a cliff with him.

Y'all I am not a thrill seeker in life. I don't ride roller coasters or jump out of perfectly good airplanes. I do enjoy a good surprise from time to time but in general, NOT looking to leap without knowing where I will land.

Well the Lord has recently answered a few long standing prayer requests and ALL of the answers, involve leaping without knowing what is coming. He is asking me to trust him in a HUGE way with my future.

There are so many thing to share with you guys!! So much has happened in the last two week, but I need you to be patient for a few more days. If you would do me the honor of holding me and my family in prayer until then, I will be back on Monday with some fabulous news that I think you will be excited about.

Y'all are just the best!!

See you Monday!!

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