Posts filed under Marriage

Finding wings, remembering how to dream, and making changes...

Sometimes, a girl forgets how to dream.

I don’t mean passive dreams such as “Oh, I wish I would win the lottery!” or “I would have loved to be a ballerina.” Those are plentiful enough! I mean beautiful active dreams that get your blood pumping with purpose.

Like the ones you had during your engagement.
Before you had a bunch of beautiful kiddos...
When the bill-paying jobs, and the life sorrows, and the fatigued body and soul convince you that dream-building is for the “lucky.”

Sometimes we just have to put our noses to the ground and do the hard work; sometimes for years or even decades. But please, Jesus, help me never forget how to dream! Even St. Therese of Lesieux kept dreaming big even as disease slowly took away her physical ability. First she dreamed of being a missionary, then when sickness interfered, she dreamed of a new place in that mission field and lived that life passionately, albeit from her sickbed.

When my health was restored several years ago, I still kept my nose to the ground like a good mother and wife. But I was so used to clinging to the earth that I did forget to look up...and to give my old and battered wings a try.

Throughout my life, God has reformed the dreams of my heart. It is always startling. Always difficult. And always incomparably beautiful.


I stepped away from this blog several months ago because I was completely saturated by all of the little diversions (not obligations) in my life which were draining me....

Social Media
Christian ministry

I had nothing left to give to my family and to myself. So tired. So discouraged. So needing to step away and find the courage again to give the next 20 years of motherhood the same passion that I had given to the first. I was more discouraged in homeschooling than I have ever been in over 15 years. Something had to give.

For the first few weeks, I detoxed from the internet beast and experienced alternating feelings of isolation and self-recovery. Ah yes… I remember how to think for myself! I remember how to allow space that isn’t given to every little and big cause, product, friendship, breaking news story. All of so good in many ways and also so fatiguing in mind and soul.

I don’t believe that God designed us to absorb the sorrows, joys, and busyness of the entire world. That’s His job! Rather, in the example of Mother Teresa, we are asked to expend ourselves serving those 1) with whom we have been entrusted, and 2) with those whom He sends directly into our path.

The internet sends EVERYONE into our path. That’s way too many someones. I needed to recover myself for His service in my vocation and I have done that somewhat. And it is from here that I share some major life changes with you.


It was a true detox. I struggled. I felt the weight of my own isolation and was forced to face the reality of my internet “addiction.” I experienced heavy disappointment when I found that quitting so much seemed to bear so little immediate fruit in my daily life.

I didn’t have more time or energy. Because there are always more dishes, more laundry, and always more people needing those precious minutes and hours. Every time I reclaimed 10 minutes from a diversion, it was quickly consumed by the great work of my life.

So I fought through and learned to ignore the irritating scratching of the mundane on the chalkboard of my emotions. I slowly began to recall the key to any success and to embrace it:


So I worked and worked and slowly began to recall gratitude and peace in the moments of my vocation. My dishwasher broke (and remained broken for months) and I spent hours just standing at the sink, thinking, praying, talking to my oldest daughter. I let go of all outside aspirations and ambitions and just let God work on my soul. There was a lot of work to do… and there still is.


The most important realization during that time however, was how deeply I missed my husband; my hardworking best friend who gives of his time down to the last crumb in service to his family. I was no longer absorbed in distractions that helped fill the void of his absence while he worked to support our family. I was focused on his home… and on him… even while he was away.

I felt the heavy weight of homeschooling and caring for 8 children without the regular presence of my hard working soulmate. And that is really when I hit bottom. I always thought that when finances got tight enough, that we would just tighten our belts, eat cereal for dinner, and be fine. I thought that cost of living increases and saving money would always be enough.

It was true to a point. But…

I never really thought that the price of financial security would mean that I would have to sacrifice the life I dreamed of with my best friend. His presence. My husband. My love.


As I examined my life, it struck me that I had much more to give that I hadn’t been giving in the right places. I am ashamed to say that there have been times in the past when I’ve given upwards of 40 hours in a 7 day week to kids’ sports practices and events/tournaments. I’ve given countless hours to my hobbies such as sewing, blogging, crafting, reading, exercising. All good things to a point.

But if I could do it over, I would reclaim many of those hours and pour them into supporting my husband so that we could realize some of the dreams of our early years. My husband's brother died this year... and he was only 4 years older than my husband. I can't continue to hoard the gift of my life and longer. 

What that means right now…

I’m taking all those gray-area hours and am going to be pouring them into my dream: the restoration of our home to first things.

I’m giving up Blossoming Joy and will be slowly transitioning over to a new site. The new place will allow me full freedom to pursue financial blessing for my family and also share the tremendous gift of healing which I have experienced mind, body, and soul in the last five years.

Blossoming Joy was starting to turn in that direction anyway but I’ve always had some scruples about monetizing this place. It is not my desire to nickel and dime the Catholic world with hobby projects. Which is why I need to move beyond. I am ready to work and to serve with no gray area.

The Essential Mother will be a place of service to my family and to my readers. It will remain authentic and Christ-serving. I pray that it blesses. It is for you, for me, and for every woman who is caught between a passionate desire to serve in her vocation and the need to heal and rest and rise. 

My readers have taught me SO much about what kind of support women need. I have read your emails and comments and talked to many of you personally. My new efforts will have one focus: HEALING and restoration. For you and for my family.

We are definitely shaking things up around here and embracing the new adventure. I am going to be a homeschooling, working mother - something I never thought I would hear myself say outside of a desperate situation! It is a new season and I embrace it.

For my homeschool. For my husband. For my children. For myself. For my Jesus.

I will keep Blossoming Joy up indefinitely while I find a home for my writing and memories (many of which will find new life on the new site). And I humbly ask for your support as I enter into this new season.

If Blossoming Joy has ever blessed you or someone you know, will you please consider following my new site as well? You can follow me through your blog feed, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, by signing up for my email letter (which will be packed full of practical tips for a renewal of joy and health), or sending my name to someone looking for a speaker. And if you have a business and would like to collaborate, please send me an inquiry. I deeply desire to lift up and support other family and small businesses if I can. 

If you don't like my new digs, you can always unfollow later! But perhaps just for this moment… walk with me while I get comfortable in my new wings. If I wait until I'm ready, I'll never begin... so here we go!

God bless you all. For all that you have done for me. All the prayers you have offered for me. For your emails, phone calls, and letters. And for giving of yourselves so completely in the service of Love. You are amazing. You have blessed me. Thanks be to God for who He made you to be!

Posted on May 10, 2017 and filed under blogging, Family Life, Marriage, Womanhood.

How the Love of Another Man Pushed Me Into My Husband's Arms

  Photo courtesy of the beautiful Jeannette Ayoob-Urban

Photo courtesy of the beautiful Jeannette Ayoob-Urban

The man stood alone among over 50 women, speaking to them about their own womanhood...

Imagine a weekend retreat with all those women women attending with only that one man, a priest, to dilute the beautiful conflagration of estrogen. I was there and it was awesome. The positive feminine energy was a wonderful balm for my soul. So many "little mothers" to nurture and support!  And oh yes, the healing tears flowed.

Yet as much as I acknowledge the unique role that women play for each other in life (indispensable, really), I also returned home with a renewed appreciation for the role of men in how we come to see ourselves as women... and how we learn to draw closer to Christ through their steady witness.

It doesn't seem like it should have worked out well at all; a lone man speaking about womanhood and motherhood to a bunch of women (mostly mothers) who have 100% more life experience as females than he! But Father's words were more powerful for me than those of any woman I have ever heard speak. They challenged and pierced and illuminated the treasure of my femininity in a new way. And there's a growing part of me (not the former strident feminist part) that marvels and wonders what it is about a man that has the unique power to do just that. 

This experience of masculine speaking to feminine about the feminine was marvelous and unlike some male Catholic speakers who try to understand the "feminine genius" through their masculine lens and misapplication of JPII's marvelous Theology of the Body

I have taken the whole experience apart in my mind a dozen times since I've been home. Without analyzing too much, here are a few points I've been pondering... 

  • The complementarity of man and woman goes well beyond the sexual and does not even need a sexual context or metaphor to be true and powerful. We have been given to each other in service by God and we have been made for each other. The sexual context is singular to the married vocation. I am only married to one man... and yet that complementarity with all other men still exists in a completely beautiful and non-sexual context. I am a bride. I am also physical and spiritual daughter, sister, and mother to many.
  • The priest is consecrated and celibate but still fully male. His masculine gifts put him in a position to lead woman but also to be upheld by her. It is why we kneel for a blessing before him and why he clings to Mary and is upheld by the Spiritual Motherhood which is so honored by the Church.

  • The authentic words of affirmation and confidence given by a man have a powerful impact on a woman... perhaps even more so than another woman can give. As Pope Saint John Paul II said so perfectly:

    "God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman." 

Father's priestly counsel pierced my feminine heart all weekend. I was impacted not only by his words through his priestly office, but also by who he was as a person.  And my appreciation grew, not as a fangirl but as a spiritual daughter/sister being led to greatness in Christ. When he looked at us women and told us that we were beautiful in who we are and within the context of our vocation, I believed him; but instead of being drawn to his side, my desire for home steadily ignited. 

  Fr. Nathan Cromley {Photo courtesy of  Jayme Orn Photography }

Fr. Nathan Cromley {Photo courtesy of Jayme Orn Photography}

That is what every man should do for every woman... Point her to vocation, to her greatness, to her spouse, to her Lord. That is what every woman should do for every man... Show him his capacity for greatness in Christ at home and in the world.

The nearer Father led us to Christ, the stronger that desire grew until it was a flame that became a blazing fire. I was enjoying the retreat and yet I longed to see my husband. To serve him. To be held by him. And a repeated daydream (that also became a dream during sleep) took hold of me there...

I imagined that my husband and I were holding hands and walking up the center aisle of the chapel toward our Eucharistic Lord exposed in the monstrance. And when we arrived in front of Jesus, we knelt together and received His blessing.

It was a physical longing and gripped me so tightly that it surprised me. 

Each time I heard my spiritual Father speak, that desire for my both my husband and my God increased. One man leading me closer to another man, my spouse... through Christ.

Many words have been written about the need in our Church for manly priests; men who not only understand their priestly identity but who understand it in the context of their masculine nature. It is not just an exercise in pastoral speculation... But a true need.

I not only reject the idea of women priests from a theological standpoint but also from a natural one. We need these men, these soul lovers who have taken up the cross of service for our salvation. We need not just what they do but who they are. Their masculinity is a gift that we cannot set aside as some random assignment of biological pieces. 

A woman needs men who will look into her eyes with their strong, confident, gentle love... and communicate to her the matter of her dignity. It is often said that culture will be restored by the heart, the woman. But...

Woman needs man to lead and to teach her through his words and love about her own dignity.
Man needs woman to support him as he carries his cross in the world.
He finds his own dignity and home in the heart of the feminine.
She finds her fortress and fire in the masculine.

It is my fervent prayer that the men of the Church will learn the significance of that role and take it up. Oh, how they could change the world! They are inclined to take it by might and sheer effort but do not know their own potential as soul-lovers.

I left the retreat a little early and went home late Saturday night, missing the two remaining hours on Sunday morning. I wanted to stay and continue to drink deeply from the retreat experience but I also wanted to be able to go to Mass with my family, to be able to sleep a little more deeply (even a quiet retreat stretched my physical limits during this pregnancy), and to hold my littlest girl who was missing her mommy. But mostly...

I wanted to see my husband.

He texted me a response to my invitation saying: "Whatever you want to do is fine. Stay as long as you like. If you want me to come early, I will." I replied:

"Come and get me!"

... and I felt like a school girl while I waited. I also felt a little like a young bride waiting to see my groom before our our nuptial Mass. My eyes filled with tears when he walked through the door. He got bonus points for the roses that he brought me (husbands, take note!) but I would have rejoiced regardless.

After we arrived home, we imprudently but joyfully stayed up with the children until 1:00 am just being together before family prayers. My toddler fell asleep curled up on my lap and I fell asleep on the couch so quickly that I didn't even kiss my spouse goodnight.

It's not a story of glamorous romance. We are messy, we are weak, and we are broken... And we fall asleep when we don't mean to.

But the more attentive I am to my Lord, the more my heart is drawn to my home. And sometimes, it takes another man to remind me that to be fully who I am in Christ means to draw closer, not to the activity of my vocation, but to the souls with whom I have been entrusted.

The last time I went on retreat (over 11 years ago), I came home ready to change my husband... to form him more perfectly to my (stunted) vision of holy. That was partially (or largely) my immaturity and partially the questionable direction from the priest who essentially told me that my apostolic work was more important than the heart of my husband. And... it was kind of a disaster. I disrespected the treasure that my faithful, prayerful, hard-working, generous, amazing man that my husband always has been. I don't know if he was nervous about my return home this time (he was nothing but encouraging) but he would certainly have been justified! This time however, Father said something (among many things of value) that helped me correct that former error:

Jesus doesn't need new ministries, He needs lovers.

Instead of coming home with an agenda, I came home with a gentle fire. Instead of coming home to make changes to my family members, I came home to love them. Instead of coming home with a list and a massive plan, I came home with the courage to just begin again in steady charity. I also came home with a dozen red roses and a renewed appreciation for the irreplaceable role of the masculine presence in the feminine life. 

To any men reading...

Please lead the women in your life to Christ. Love them, give them courage by your own example, forgive them, make sure they have what they need to be well, and help them see their own beauty and dignity. 

To the women...

Let them. And then serve them with faithfulness, confidence, mercy, and joy. For those who suffer in that holy work, I share a few more of Father's words:

“When your heart is pierced, when your tears flow... Blessed be God! There aren’t enough tears in the world.”

To my husband...

I have no words for the gift that you have always been and continue to be in my life. You married a bratty teenager and you've loved and nurtured her into the woman that I am. Full of weakness and holes and sinfulness, yes... but also so happy. You have poured yourself out to give me life, hope, joy, and Jesus. You have tempered my wayward estrogen with the gentle strength. You have served even when there was no obvious return on the investment. Twenty years ago, you were the one who answered my questions about Christ and then set about to show me... and you are still leading. What all that means to me is inexpressible and touches an intimate part of my soul that knows no adequate expression. But I thank you. And I renew my commitment to our Christ-centered eternal love. 

Thanks be to God!

“Allow yourselves to hunger... Fall in love with Jesus.” {Fr. Nathan Cromly}
 We are fast approaching our 20th wedding anniversary. May Blessed Mother continue to lead us united to her Son.

We are fast approaching our 20th wedding anniversary. May Blessed Mother continue to lead us united to her Son.

 Retreat jewelry craft led by artist  Andrea Singarella . Roses from my husband. Name tag from the  Arise retreat.

Retreat jewelry craft led by artist Andrea Singarella. Roses from my husband. Name tag from the Arise retreat.

 Photo of the attendees of the Arise Retreat. Over 50 amazing women... and one Fr. Nathan. { Photo courtesy of  Jayme Orn Photography } My deepest gratitude to  Brooke Taylor  for running with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make this event happen and to every woman there who said yes to that same Spirit by attending. 

Photo of the attendees of the Arise Retreat. Over 50 amazing women... and one Fr. Nathan. {Photo courtesy of Jayme Orn Photography} My deepest gratitude to Brooke Taylor for running with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make this event happen and to every woman there who said yes to that same Spirit by attending. 

  Photo of our walking Rosary courtesy of  Jayme Orn Photography

Photo of our walking Rosary courtesy of Jayme Orn Photography

Posted on March 16, 2016 and filed under Faith, Marriage, Spiritual Life, Womanhood.

The One Word All Men Should Know...

The couple and their two adorable young children rolled past me through the Target aisles saying the most hilarious things to each other along the way. I kept my ears wide open and wasn't disappointed by the steady stream of fun. The husband was astonished by how expensive men's underwear was. The wife was weighing the pros and cons of preshrunk cotton. The babbling children let loose a marvelous torrent of comments about pretty much everything. (Is it still eavesdropping if the subjects of interest are in a public place making no attempts to conceal?)

We crossed paths in the shoe section and again in the toys and then for one final adventure at the ladies' dressing rooms. I was no longer at a safe snickering distance as I sat waiting for my oldest daughter to try on clothes. Instead, I had a front row ticket to a scene I shall not soon forget.

I arrived at the dressing rooms first and was seated on one of the round orange stools at the entrance. I was waiting... waiting for my daughter to try on her clothes and model them for me. The entertaining couple arrived shortly after and the young wife marched forward with an armful of clothes and through the door directly in front of me. A couple minutes later, she emerged, dressed in a long grey maxi skirt. I couldn't help but notice. She was about 3 feet away from me and I found myself the monkey in the middle between the spouses. She looked over my head at him and said loudly: 

"Wow. This skirt makes my thighs look MASSIVE! Don't you think so, Honey?"

Now, this may simply be my personality but in that situation, the inclination to stare straight at her thighs and postulate a verbal response was strong in me. She did ask a question after all. But I immediately looked away in order to protect all of us. It was an almost impossible feat since she was directly in front of me so I craned my neck beyond reasonable function to look down the hall, hoping desperately that my daughter would appear. I could not hold my awkward pose of feigned obliviousness much longer. Then she spoke again...

"I mean... don't you think that this just really makes my thighs look TOTALLY FAT?"

I looked. I could hardly help it. I took just a little peek while I rested my neck. And then quickly returned to my daughter-searching, wishing heartily that the woman would release me from my strange dressing room prison. I couldn't keep the ridiculous neck turn going any longer and swung myself completely around on the chair. I was no longer looking at the woman, but alas, there stood her tortured man directly in my line of vision.

I knew that skirt was not particularly flattering. She knew it. He knew it. Yes, it did accentuate her fullness of leg. Yes, it did make them look rather larger than they had previously looked in her shopping attire of basic blue jeans. And this man... this poor man... what could he possibly say? I held my breath and waited. I could see no escape for him. He would either have to flat out lie or... or... I simply couldn't think what he might say. And then he said it...

Mmmmrrrrr..... Mmmrrrr.

And that was all. I don't know what it meant. I don't think anyone knew what it meant. Regardless, it was genius and it saved his neck. She threw up her hands in exasperation and said...

"I don't even know WHY I asked you. Men know nothing about fashion."

She turned on her heel and headed back into the dressing room.  I could not look at her husband. No, I could not. No good would have come of it at all. But I did hear him release the lungful of air that he had been holding ever since he last spoke, and I made haste to get my child and scram.

I learned some big lessons in those two minutes outside the dressing room and I'm sharing just because I think you ought to know:

1) Husbands have a tough job.

2) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has a modern day counterpart (although rather dumbed down) and all men would do well to learn it. And finally...

3) If the husband says Mmmmrrrr... don't buy the skirt.

Posted on May 17, 2015 and filed under Family Life, Marriage.