There’s a song every Texas school kid learns as they take their first steps into an educational building.
“The stars at night, are big and bright
(clap clap, clap, clap , clap clap)
Deep in the heart of Texas.”
It’s one of those songs that as soon as the melody starts playing, your heart smiles and your memory pulls out the old Elementary School File.
You think of the 5th grade performance and that silly costume you had to wear.
You think of old friends and the ones you’ve somehow been lucky enough to have kept along the way.
You think of art class and was it, Ms. Daley? What a terrifying, wonderful woman.
Usually childhood memories bring comfort and joy. If you live far away from where you grew up, they mean all the more to you.
When the rain began relentlessly pouring down over Houston; those memories came rushing back with deep sadness and hurt.
Hurt for your family and friends that were living it and hurt for the places of your past.
Houston will be different, but Harvey will not change the heart and soul of who we are.
We are the Astrodome, Jeff Bagwell, J.J. Watt and Hakeem Olajuwon (Clutch City, baby!), Brother’s Pizzeria, HEB, Lupe Tortilla and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where all artists are invited…from Selena to Boys II Men to Garth Brooks.
A full beach trip can be made in a day and rockets get sent into space from our H-town.
But more than anything, deep in the heart of Texas, is goodness.
Good, God fearing people that desire to hurt right alongside their neighbor.
People that were lucky enough to have a dry living room did not hesitate to throw all credit and gratefulness to God. They considered it a blessing from above and intended to go right out and become a blessing themselves to those that did not have a dry floor.
Since the floods, all eyes have been on the fourth largest city in our country.
The world has watched my class mates, just regular good ol’ boys, jump into bass boats and monster trucks to go save some stranger’s life.
Doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe…you need help…you grab my hand, get in and let’s go rescue some more people, buddy.
And shoot, Mattress Mack isn’t just a local legend anymore, that beautiful catholic man’s gone viral.
I don’t know why this happened to my hometown, nor does it matter.
What I do know is that God brings good things, real good things, from the bad.
Another thing we all know is that these times we’re all living in, are crazy.
We’ve all gone insane.
I’m not sure there’s a person out there that isn’t scared or concerned to the core about what kind of future our children will have to face.
But, take a moment to look at Harvey and all it has done.
Take a look at the faces of southern Texas.
Do they look like they all come from one place? They don’t.
They look like your family and mine.
They look like that picture in schools where the Earth has those stick people of all kinds holding hands around it.
There’s another song every single Texan knows by heart, and please, hold the eye rolling until all Texans have at least finished tearing down the dry wall.
The song is called “God Blessed Texas.”
Today, those verses have taken on a deeper, close to home meaning.
“First, He let the sun shine
Then He made the waters deep
Then He gave us moonlight
For all the world to see
Well everybody knows that the Lord works in mysterious ways
He took a rest, then on the very next day…
God blessed Texas
With His own hand
Brought down angels from the promised land
Gave 'em a place where they could dance
If you want to see heaven, brother, here's your chance
I've been sent to spread the message
God blessed Texas.”
Here’s the thing, and P.S., I don’t mean to be controversial in these extra sensitive days, but…God didn’t just bless Texas.
The pictures of unity you are seeing are not because the hurricane happened to hit a state where people know how to love.
If disaster would have hit Nebraska, Alaska, Colorado or any other state…the pictures would look exactly the same.
We’ve seen this time and time again.
People being there for each other.
People picking each other up off the ground and simply loving.
Whether we like it or not, deep in the heart of our country, is love for our neighbor.
It shouldn’t take horrible natural disasters or terrorist attacks to show us.
We need to stop acting like a tantrum throwing little two year old, guys.
Quit the talk of “we want unity!” and actually unite!
Are we not all tired? How are we not all exhausted?
Let the media do its’ media thing.
Let’s, the rest of us, do US.
So, how ‘bout this for a game plan…
Deep in the heart of the United States, we really do love each other.
It’s just time we start acting like it.
Text ©Stephanie Stovall 2017
A couple of winters ago I was pulling out of my driveway attempting to convince myself that arriving at the gym instead of Chic-fil-a was a much better start to the day.
In the midst of my inner debate, catholic radio caught my attention.
I ignored the fight going on between #3 and #4 in the back seats and turned up the volume.
The program host was interviewing a doctor that used to perform abortions back in the day. He was sharing his conversion story and I came in when he became emotional while recalling all of the abortions he had been a part of.
You could hear the pain and disgust for himself in his heart as he spoke.
I turned up the volume some more.
What I heard next completely threw my world into a whirl.
The doctor began to talk about how he hadn’t just been a part of the abortions that occurred in his office, he had been a part of possibly thousands.
Huh? Without knowing? What do you mean?
Doctor: “ I realized that I had been an active participant in all the abortions that occurred through my prescribing of birth control. I was sick. I had to get to confession.”
Me to car radio: “What is he talking about?!”
Then the radio host and doctor start talking about how birth control can act as an abortifacient but people are not aware of this facet. Then they dove deeper into the details of how the pill actually works.
It was then my turn to feel sick.
I had never heard this before.
In all of my life, I had never heard that birth control could act as an abortifacient until I turned on my radio that morning. I was shocked and disgusted with myself.
My husband and I had been on and off the pill in between kids.
We always felt guilty, we always knew better. But, it was so much easier than any other option!
We’d use it for about 6 months and then decide we were either too guilty to stay on it or ready to be open to another baby.
Yes, everything I knew about Catholic teaching on contraception should have been enough to make us dedicated NFP-ers.
The problem was, I could not trust God with all of it. I just couldn’t.
(I still have trouble with this, PS. But am relying on His grace day by day.)
I had very recently thrown away my birth control because I couldn’t stand going against God anymore. But after hearing that radio segment, there was no way I could go back to using the pill.
So, all of this brings me to…why aren’t the words “WARNING: The pill can act as an Abortifacient!” seen all over the place? They should be on billboards and all over social media! Shoot, why isn’t it in bold red letters on birth control packets?!
It’s one of the best kept secrets of our time.
Doctors will fight you on the truth of the pill. Many are not even aware themselves of how it truly works.
I’m telling you, best kept secret.
Should it be the one fact that keeps Catholics away from using the pill? Nope. However, for those stubborn ye of little faiths (ME) it could be just the thing to turn them back to living the faith.
I have to tell you, ever since this conviction came and God gave my husband and I the grace to be obedient to His desires, our life has changed immensely.
Is NFP challenging and hard and sucky at times? Yup. But, it has opened our hearts to hearing God like we never have before. I feel so much closer to my husband and I feel so much closer to Jesus.
Guess God knows what He’s talkin’ about after all.
Text Copyright 2017 Stephanie Stovall
When was the last time you let yourself go deep in thought about how much you love being a Roman Catholic?
As wives and mothers our hearts send our thoughts down sporadic love paths for our husbands and kids.
I’ll be nursing, looking into my infant’s eyes and completely forget about the world going on beyond my couch and Boppy.
I sit in the passenger side and glance over at the hubby carefully weaving through traffic with the whole family in tow and my heart melts as I remember glancing over at that same man, driving us to our first date.
Our deep love for our families give us little “love bites” throughout our days.
Does love for your Catholic faith ever give you some love bites?
I sure hope so.
We are so stinking lucky to be Catholic.
Just think about it for a second. All of your fave Catholic things.
What’d you come up with? I’ll take some guesses…
How about our Holy Mother? Yeeeessss! I know I wouldn’t be in this wonderful place of life right now if it wasn’t for her.
Which brings me to my next guess…
Novenas and all other Catholic prayers.
I love that when I am so overcome by emotion that I can not put a prayer into words I have “go to prayers” to offer up.
And also, novenas are just wonderful. Something happens, you need help, you find the perfect novena and bam! Your hope in the prayer begins to ease your soul.
One of my favorites are the statues. I love me a good religious statue.
One time on vacation my family was walking down the Riverwalk area of San Antonio trying to find the church we were attending for Mass that day. On the way we passed a skinny woman laying on the ground, pregnant tummy exposed to all. I wasn’t sure if she was begging for money or simply resting from the Texas heat, because I had quickly looked away.
A few minutes later we had arrived at the church and right on the side of it was a statue of “Homeless Jesus.” He was laying on a bench in a way that was so strikingly similar to the pregnant lady I had just uncomfortably walked past.
I reached out and touched Jesus’ head in forgiveness for my heart of stone.
It was a powerful moment. But it didn’t stop there.
As I kept walking towards the entrance, I see one of my boys had stopped at the statue. It was my six year old.
He stops, reaches into his pocket and places the precious penny he had been so excited to find just moments before, right by Jesus’ head.
What a moment.
I am so grateful that our church acknowledges we are tangible creatures that are moved by objects we can touch and see.
Part of that story holds another one of my faves.
I love that our church truly is a universal church. I know that at 9 am on a Sunday morning there are many others doing the same exact thing I am.
We’re all praying the same exact prayers and kneeling at the same time.
We are all calling up to God in this one, universal way.
How beautiful. I mean really, how beautiful.
I love our magnificent cathedrals and how we have men and women that commit their lives to God as priest and nuns. I love that we are the faith of Scott Hahn, Mother Angelica and Fr. John Riccardo. I love that we are “obligated” to attend Mass every single Sunday because receiving the Eucharist, visiting God in His house is just that important. I love how deep the faith is. I love the rich history we have. I love our traditions, how they’ve been passed down just like any family’s traditions. I love that Jesus…Jesus Himself (!) started our church and gave us an apostle as our first Pope. I love our hymns. I love that we put the Bible together and I love that we have guidelines on how to interpret scripture as well as Lectio Divina.
I love that every single thing about being Catholic enriches my faith life and brings me closer to God.
Watching people walk up and receiving the Eucharist gives me the biggest love bite for our Catholic faith. It can bring me to tears.
Fall in love, truly FALL IN LOVE with being Catholic and be excited!! We are SO STINKING LUCKY to have been called into this faith. Jump for joy, guys!!
Take some time and think…what gives you your Catholic love bites?
Text Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2017
There’s an article with the title, “11 things to do in your 20’s to become a millionaire by 30.”
The article is shared and praised by many as a great rule book for life.
Now, I am not one that hates money. I am a slave to it in many aspects. I dream of the lavish vacations to Europe. I think it would be so fun to order that super expensive bottle of wine on a date night with my husband.
Shoot, I’d like to simply know I will be able to send all five kids off to college loan-free!
Money is not a bad thing. When your life’s arrangements revolve around money, your social status and everyone else’s worth is based on how many dollar signs follow them around…that’s a whole other story.
As I was reading the article, I thought about how each suggestion would play out in an article titled, “ 11 things to do in your 20’s to become a Saint by 30.”
Let’s take a look at these “11 things” …
1. Focus on earning.
1. Focus on the end goal, holiness. Train yourself to focus on the heart of God throughout the day.
2. Develop multiple streams of income.
2. Develop multiple ways of feeding yourself spiritually. Don’t just go to Mass. Attend bible studies, pray the Rosary, schedule a Holy Hour of Adoration.
3. Save to invest, don't save to save.
3.Grow spiritually not only for yourself, but also for others. Become a Christian that is active in their faith. Be the missionary you were meant to be- whatever that may look like. Make your faith one that grows much fruit.
4. Be decisive.
4. Learn discernment. Learn how to hear God’s voice when He speaks to you through scripture, other people, in the stillness.
5. Don't show off — show up.
5. Don’t show off how great of a Christian you are- live it! Be God’s love- don’t just talk about it. Live what you preach. Let your faith be visible in your works and attitude.
6. Change your mindset about money.
6. Change your mindset about money! Have a holy outlook on money. Don’t let it be your driving force.
7. Invest in yourself.
7.Take care of yourself spiritually. Exercise your faith. Make time for God and His Word.
8. Ditch the steady paycheck.
8. Don’t settle for the relationship you have with God right now. Your relationship with Him can always improve. Always be working on getting to know Him better.
9. Set goals and visualize achieving them.
9. Set realistic goals for your faith life. Read the bible more, pray more - always reach for an improved spiritual life. Make it a goal, work towards that goal.
10. Start hanging out with people you admire.
10. Have a solid group of Christian friends as your backbone. Surround yourself with people that will lift you up, hold you accountable and support your beliefs and values. But! At the same time - be open to relationships with all types of people. Do not pick and choose who you hang out with based on their social status. Remember, Jesus hung out with all.
11. Shoot for $10 million, not $1 million.
11. Shoot for Sainthood, don’t sell yourself short! Remember the universal call to holiness. You were made for heavenly greatness; don’t settle for just being a good person. Become best friends with God and let Him shape you into the best version of yourself.
“We were made for greatness, not for comfort.
Take a moment and really read those words.
Think about your life and that thing God has been asking of you.
That thing that keeps popping up in your heart… maybe mostly during your prayer time, or while at Mass or a bible study.
Is it a hard thing He is asking you to do? Does it make you a little queasy?
Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air and a queasy feeling in the stomach
Let’s go to our Blessed Mother at The Annunciation.
I wonder, hours after that conversation, was she jumping up and down in excitement for what the angel had just told her?
Did she rush to post on her Facebook status how pumped she was about the gigantic, life changing task ahead of her?
We know she was humbled and ready to go.
Didn’t matter what she wanted, she was on earth to do God’s will and God’s will alone.
No matter how scary…or uncomfortable.
These days us Christians are a bit nutty with our theology of how God works.
Everyone wants to “feel good” about what God calls them to do.
And, if suffering is a part of anything at all, well, it must not be God’s will for me!
We are wrong. So, so wrong.
God never promised us easy. Exactly the opposite was promised, actually.
Yet, whenever we are discerning a potential call from Above, do our own feelings about it all cloud the Truth of what is being asked of us?
I know I’m guilty of this.
That’s a great idea God, but…I don’t have the money for it, that’s totally out of my comfort zone, I don’t have the time right now, I don’t have it in me but so and so- they would be great at it- call them!...and the list goes on and on.
Now, what if there is potential danger within what you are being called to?
Let’s say, for example, ohhhh…death.
Well, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you decide to take that trip to Target? You need mascara, milk and maybe a new shirt (the kids have been awful lately, you deserve it).
You could get in a wreck and die. Dramatic, yes, but true.
Do you still decide to take that trip? Yup.
Simply going to the scriptures we see time and time again God calling the simple to huge tasks.
Tasks that got them in a lot of trouble and were no fun.
But, these people that said yes, these Saints, knowing the negatives said yes anyway.
They knew God didn’t put them on earth for warm fuzzies and lots a fun.
He gave them a mission, and they were going to get it done no matter the cost.
Jesus on Good Friday.
Meant for greatness, not for comfort.
So, at the end of this Lenten season, make it a goal to open your heart and mind a little more to that crazy thing God is calling you to do.
Your reward will be great and wide for that little “yes.”
The reward of knowing you are working hand in hand with Jesus in this life is the greatest feeling of all.
Let your “yes” to God bring you your warm and fuzzies.
On Wednesday, you received the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes, reminding you that you came from the dust and to the dust you will return. It’s a pretty sobering thought. I always think of Old Testament sackcloth and ashes kind of stuff. The penitent person, shouting to the world he’s wrong and he’s sorry by smearing dirt on his head and wearing an itchy shirt. I hope you’re not just now figuring out that I’m no biblical scholar.
Well, I must admit that I did not go to Ash Wednesday Mass for the first time in years. I always went as a child, missed a few years when I thought I was too smart for God (another story for another day) and have relished in every Lenten fast and liturgy since finding my way back to the church. So, when exactly five of my five children were vomiting all over every surface in my house, I did something uncharacteristic and I sacrificed my place in church so that my husband could go.
Now is where I really confess. I found it extremely difficult to skip Ash Wednesday mass. (Yes, I know it is not a holy day of obligation.) Mass would have meant a break from the sickness and I’ll take the holy smells of the Sacrifice of the Mass over the funky breath of my kids any day and especially on days they have emptied the contents of their stomachs all over the couch. More than needing a break, my pride was making it very difficult to make the decision. It went something like this (in my head of course), “I am a good catholic. There are people who think I’m a faithful person. Since I’m overweight, dress poorly and have greasy hair, it is important that I keep that good reputation intact. It’s all I have left!”
And that is how I realized that I’d been wearing those ashes for many years like a badge of honor. Rather than the sackcloth and ashes that they mimic from the Old Testament, I was walking up the aisle ready to get my medal. Recognizing that disgusting pride, I offered to stay home and care for the sick kids. I deserved it.
It was with a spirit of recognition of my sins that I entered into Lent and it was with that same spirit that I was truly able to hear God speaking in His Holy Word on the first Sunday of the Lenten season.
The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
God created us out of dirt. Out of nothing He made man and woman and without God in my life, I am nothing. Without God, life is meaningless. The only way for me to truly live is to ask Him to send his Spirit to breathe life into me. To ask Him daily to walk with me.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a hospital room (seems like a common theme with me) having a dialog with the Lord. Really, I was ranting. I was upset, I was tired and I was on the verge of despair, but not quite there. At that moment I was just angry. “Lord, why? Why us? Why me? We are doing your will!”
I was like a crazed pre-teen ranting to her father over the injustice of it all.
“You SAID it would be okay! This is NOT okay! We stopped contracepting! We are open to life! We followed our conscience to do your will and we were rewarded with Lily Gianna who died before we heard her heartbeat. We were devastated but comforted knowing she was in your arms. Then we waited in anguish to conceive again because the doctor said there was a chance of having cancer. I faithfully got my blood drawn each week and, yes, we cheated a little bit and began trying to conceive a tad earlier than the doctor would have liked, but we knew you were still in our corner and my numbers were perfect. I wasn’t even that upset about having gestational diabetes this time around. Spending several hours in the hospital getting an IV because I was dehydrated was tolerable, but now you’ve crossed the line, God. You’ve asked too much of me. You misled me.”
I had spent the night in the ICU after what turned out to be life-saving surgery to unblock my kidney and stop the infection that was working to destroy my body. Both baby and I had survived the ordeal, but I was stuck in the hospital recuperating and concern had turned from me to the baby. The doctors thought the baby’s heartrate was dipping too low at times and I was under the threat of an emergency delivery. I was broken and tired of it all and I lashed out. I shouted at the Guy who loved me so much that He willingly suffered humiliation and torture. I was accusing Him of being a liar. I might as well have been in the crowd that day, yelling “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Such was my anger and disgust.
Then I was silent. And in that silence, I felt His presence. I felt Him telling me that I was okay.
I immediately did what any pregnant woman would do when she is a ball of nerves and confusion and has just done something really embarrassing. I began to laugh hysterically. “Okay God, you’re right. You said it would be okay. You didn’t say it would be easy.”
Lord, help me to follow you in the midst of my suffering. Help me to say yes to your will, even when it is painful.
My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity. Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous. Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.
I’m all about reminders. I regularly make lists so I don’t forget important tasks. I put activities in my calendar app and set alarms to remind me of important events. I set the timer on my phone to remind me to pick up a child from somewhere or take the food out of the oven. I’ve forgotten to do both of those things before and let me tell you, burned rolls are no match for the mental anguish you feel when you realize your child has been at art class for nearly 45 minutes past pickup time and you were just hanging out with grandma, said child the farthest thing from your mind. And of course the sweet teacher is telling your child all the while that she’s sure her mom didn’t forget her, she probably just got stuck in traffic. No, darling, mom straight up forgot. Insert defeated emoji.
If you’re anything like me, you need reminders of your faith in the everyday. I mean, if I could forget my own, living, breathing flesh and blood minor child, how am I going to remember to keep Christ, whom I can’t physically see, at the center of my life? I do that in my home with art and other sacramentals. A crucifix above the kitchen light switch helps me remember that Christ is the light of the world. A fresco of the Last Supper blessed by Saint John Paul II hangs in my dining room, reminding me of the Eucharist and Christ’s great sacrifice. Saint Joseph graces our mantel and to me is a great reminder of the dignity of work. All of these items are a call to prayer and a call to do the work of Christ.
I would like to share with you a little printable I made for my kitchen to remind me to call on the Holy Spirit throughout the day. Please head over to the FREEBIES page to download and print your own copy.
I’m supposed to be writing, but I’m just standing in my office, surrounded by piles of stuff. Books, instead of being nestled snugly into place on the shelf lay haphazardly on the floor. Piles of papers that were once necessary action items are now ugly reminders that I’m behind on everything. An empty camera bag that I don’t need sits forlornly on top of a basket of cords and who knows what else. I usually avoid this space because it makes me uncomfortable. I sink into the swiveling office chair and slowly scan the room. All these items are shouting at me, telling me I’m not good enough. I’m lazy. I don’t deserve such a nice home or 90 square feet of space to call my own. I see rough mountains of junk and think to myself, “Don’t you want a nice tidy space? Don’t you want to be able to enjoy a project in there? Don't you want to pay a bill quickly without having to search for 10 minutes for a pen or to move piles just to find the space to write a check?”
And my answer was classic.
Yes, I want those things but I don’t have the time to work on it now. Yes, but I really don't know where many of these items go. Yes, but I don’t have the proper storage yet. Yes, but the kids will just mess it up as soon as I get it done. Yes, but before I start cleaning, I need to make a decision about how the room should look when I'm done. Yes, but I need a babysitter for a weekend to tackle a project like this. Yes, but I can’t get rid of those half empty packages of specialty paper because I might need them again. Yes, but I need to work on the laundry, it is more important right now.
I really WOULD like a tidy office, so why do I put off the task of making it nice? I’m avoiding the cleanup because I’m avoiding CHANGE. I’m avoiding making decisions about what to keep and what to toss. I’m worried that it’ll be too hard to decide what to keep. And worst of all, what if I don’t like how I’ve arranged my shiny new space?
This is exactly how I often respond to God when He calls me.
When asked to create this space online I said yes, but I’m not good enough. Yes, Lord, I want to, but I can’t because I’m not equipped. Yes, but there are a million people in the world who can and are doing this very thing you want better than I ever could, why don’t you ask one of them? Yes, but not right now. Yes, but that sounds scary and hard and what if I fail? Yes, but I don’t like change so show me how you can keep my life exactly the same and still let me accomplish your will. Sound familiar?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told God yes, but… How many times have I locked myself into the upper room, like the disciples, scared to death of meeting some horrible or humiliating fate if I followed God’s plans?
I’m in a lovely study group with some amazing moms from my parish. At a recent meeting we were asked how we experienced the Holy Spirit. Was it like the fire in the upper room? A rush of wind? Or a tiny breath? I responded, “The Holy Spirit usually just slaps me in the face repeatedly.” Only now, I realize I am the one doing the slapping. The Holy Spirit has gently breathed on me and I use the guilt I feel over my disobedience as a battering ram. He sends loving reminders in the form of kind friends saying just the right words and I beat myself up because I am still saying “Yes, but….”
Instead of walking out of the room and soothing myself with some mindless social media scrolling I prayed.
“Come Holy Spirit”
And guess what? He showed up. He provided. I stepped out of that muggy upper room and let the Holy Spirit do the talking and my fingers do the typing. How liberating it is when I don’t have to make all the decisions. I’ll probably fall. I’m still scared that I don’t have everything figured out. Growing is usually painful, but I can be confident that I won’t be alone and that he is leading me to a place that will be better than any I could have imagined on my own.
Are you stuck in the upper room? Just ask for that little breath to guide you.
Come Holy Spirit.