A Receptive Instrument

On a busy Sunday evening just before Mass began, a woman approached me in the narthex and asked if I was Barb. I responded that I was, and she got teary eyed and whispered that her daughter was deeply into drugs. She could no longer hold back her tears, I said that I would pray for her and try to contact her daughter. What more can be done at a moment like that?

I remember a call I received from her daughter one morning last year.  Distraught and crying, she shared with me how she had been drunk the night before and was raped by three guys. This was her senior year of high school. I went to the school and waited with her until the police came.  It broke my heart to think of what she had endured at such a young age.

As a youth minister, there are many encounters where teens, young adults, and parents deposit themselves in my office, or stop me in the courtyard, and speak about a difficult moment in their life. I try to always ask God that I be open to His inspiration at that moment in time. I pray that my words are His words of hope and healing.

Another mom whose daughter attended one of our retreats last year, pulled me aside a few months ago, and shared how worried she was about her daughter. I told her I would try and make contact and would also keep her in my prayers.  When I next saw the girl my simple “hi” opened the floodgates as tears rolled down her face. I asked her if she wanted to talk and found a quiet place amongst the chaos. She said she couldn’t possibly tell anyone what she was doing because it was so horrible that even “God could not forgive her…” I reassured her that there was no sin that God could not or would not forgive.

God places us where we can be His instruments to his children in need. I don’t believe there are any random coincidences, but rather God’s guiding hand in everything. St. Teresa of Avila said it so wonderfully in her prayer,

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Pope St. John Paul II, wrote about spiritual motherhood and fatherhood. Each time that I am available to listen, counsel, pray or be present to another, I am being a spiritual mother to them.  It is part of how God designed and gifted all women, but it is also very much a function of our priests who are spiritual fathers to literally thousands of souls.

I feel honored to not only be a mother to my own five kids, but a spiritual mother to hundreds more. I am humbled and privileged that God placed me in my secondary vocation first, as a youth minister and now, in marriage ministry. Being available as His instrument to hurting parents, couples and teens is daunting. Our families are broken. They are often disconnected and longing for acceptance and authentic love, as the old song says they are, “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

I encourage you to be open to your fellow brothers and sisters who are placed in your sphere of influence. Be instruments of God’s healing love. First things first, pay attention and notice the hurting souls who are all around you. It is easy to look right through them. Second, be willing to reach out.  There is a song I love by Brandon Heath called, “Give Me Your Eyes,” The chorus goes like this:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

The Almighty gifts us and we are obliged to share those gifts for the benefit of all.  Imagine what our world could be like if each one of us did this. We cannot wait until we are President or Prime Minister or even Pope, to begin to influence change. It must start today, one person at a time, even if it only means a smile.

Look around and don’t be afraid. Christ is there beside you, guiding you, and inviting you to reach out to a world in need of hope.

Be the change. Be His instrument.

Sunday Sideshow

I can remember back to a time when I was the blessed mother of five kids, all under the age of seven. The looks and remarks I would get were priceless. Of course, there were always the comments from kindhearted souls who would often say, “Don’t you know what causes that?” Or, the always popular, “Them all yours?” I would always smile benignly and offer some witty remark about how fun that many kids really were. All the while, I looked like a crazed lulu bird with iridescent questionable matter on my shoulders, bright yellow you know what from a diaper oozing down my skirt, and as I ran after the one that got away, they could catch a glimpse of the fresh dribble rolling down my back.

I mean really, who would voluntarily take other people’s kids to the grocery store for an hour of public humiliation?

When asked how many kids I have, my response often elicits this reaction, “Wow, you don’t look like a mother of five!” I have always pondered that statement. What does a mother of five look like in their world? Maybe the mommy gets larger with every child? Maybe she becomes totally unable to articulate in full sentences and only babbles?

While having five is a larger than average number, I have several friends with twice that amount. I have found them to be women who are patient, flexible, loving, and very organized. They are incredible witnesses of the power of womanhood to others and most especially to myself.

A friend of mine who has six children shared with me something her oldest son, an eighth grader, told her one evening. It seemed Ryan loved to sit near our family in church. Apparently, we were so entertaining for him that mass just seemed to whiz right by.

Each week I would try to secure the area where there was an aisle break between the pews. I found it would leave plenty of room for the girls to make carpet angels, the boys could be somewhat separated, and we would be far enough back to not make this Sunday’s edition of the Most Embarrassed List.

In my day, if I got pinched at church, the message was painfully clear…shut up, sit still, and pay attention.  I tried the pinch trick on my own kids one Sunday. What was heard loud and clear, was their loud pleas to stop hurting me mommy.

If we tried to take one of them out for a little come to Jesus chat, they would scream all the way down the aisle, “NO! No! Please don’t spank me!” We had parishioners who either wanted seats for the 10 am Lishko Show or those that wanted to sit as far away from us as possible.  On many weekends when my husband was away on business, the cast and I wouldn’t even make it past the homily.

We actually tried the Cry Room …once.  It was a circus in there. Yes, it was far worse than the act we had going on inside church. Kids were juggling cheerios and juice boxes; toys were flying, and the parents just sat there smiling blithely. Perhaps they were already in heaven. Either they had found a way to have an out of body experience and were actually present at the mass or they had found their happy place deep inside their minds and didn’t resurface until the recessional song.

I pray that I shall still have the honor to observe them as parents. My husband and I can sit in the choir loft and watch from above as their own little angel’s wiggle and squirm. From what I have observed thus far, they are way tougher than we were, but they are raising their own future saints.

Eyes on Me

Throughout the various physical challenges that have plagued me of late, I have grown spiritually. This is “good” fruit. Perhaps God knew the “Martha types” like me, need to slow down to actually listen and become more of a “Mary type.” My references are of course, to the wonderful story in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10:38-42.

              As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Yes, that Martha.

I’m a doer, and I know I am not the only one out there. The problem with us doers, is that it’s the lens through which we tend to measure productivity, value, and worth. Yet Jesus says what Mary is doing by sitting there attentively listening to Him, “is the better part.” 

Really? Then we are all going to get very hungry eventually, if we all become Mary’s?

I believe it isn’t either/or. It’s both/and.  It’s a delicate balance of both. This is what I am learning, and I believe more than ever in this tumultuous time, we need both. As humans we can hyper-focus on productivity, work, success, climbing the ladder, being the best on the team, or first in the class. Sadly, these efforts may be to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

Some of the restrictions due to the pandemic, are meaningfully good for us on several levels. Let me explain. Many events have had to cancel, from school to sporting. We’ve been asked to stay close to home. We aren’t used to so much togetherness or lack of activities to distract us. These activities are not bad in themselves, but like Martha, we can get consumed by them and lose sight of the one thing necessary: The One Person necessary.

It’s easy to push Jesus to the background, He will understand. He gets it. He knows that in my heart I’m just trying to provide for my family with all these late work nights. He knows that by putting in all these extra hours at the gym I will get a scholarship and recruited to a pro team. He understands it’s just too crazy with the kids and their activities to go to Mass or even attempt to pray together.

When we are slowed down, and have less to distract us, there is often nowhere to look but up, and acknowledge our mortality. We are being invited into relationship. When we are thrown into confusion and worry due to an outside force or illness, we start to realize what is important and what is not.

In the dark of the night, when all is quiet and I am awake in pain, it is easy to focus on myself and all that befalls me. This feeds the monster of fear, and anxiety grows. Everything becomes larger, harder, scarier. It can overwhelm. In my heart a voice simply says, “Eyes on Me.”

Eyes on Me. Look to Me. I am here. I am near.

Jesus knows each one of us so intimately. He knows how to calm the storms of our lives, the storms in our minds, the storms thrust upon us.

Eye’s on Me. I Am, here.

By intentionally refocusing from self, to Savior, to surrender and trust, we allow Jesus to calm the storm within us and bring us peace.

I invite you to use this precious time wisely. Don’t grumble it away or waste it. Reconnect with those you love or lost touch with. Play together, laugh, relax. Walk and pray. Go and sit at the feet of the Lord. These are positive ways to deal with this storm. Jesus light of the world, have me


I am one of those souls that schools, charities, and hospitals love to see coming. I have a condition, which prohibits me from saying no to most requests for help.  I have said it before, and it bears repeating, I am pretty sure that I wasn’t born with the ability to say no. The strange thing is it seems most apparent to those who are in need of volunteers.  I don’t know whether there is a visible aura that surrounds my being, a blinking sucker sign on my forehead or just the invisible, “Ask me” tattooed on my forehead. I can do about anything but math, which leaves so much more space in the brain for creativity.


Seriously, I really can do a large variety of tasks from apple pies to yard work and most jobs in between. The exceptions in my case are the math related tasks. I stopped being able to help my kids with their math homework by fourth grade. Knowing how to do math, requires an enormous part of gray matter. I have all that awesome space available for a surplus of other cool tasks. Who needs math anyway when you are married to the human calculator?

My volunteering career screamed into high gear when our kids entered elementary school.  I began helping in the classroom and graduated to running parish festivals for thousands.  At one point, parishioners kept asking if I catered. Eventually I took their queries to heart and put my well-earned volunteer experience to practical use. Not having the NO-gene is a hazardous lifestyle for a caterer. Basically, my slogan was, I could do anything, unless proven otherwise.

In an attempt to illustrate how fanatical I am when it comes to saying yes, I will share one of my more memorable adventures.  Good friends of ours had a community bank they were opening and asked if I could cater the shareholder event.  They were expecting about four hundred in attendance. Up until that point I had only catered events for about forty. The yes in me popped right out figuring, that which didn’t kill me…well, didn’t kill me.

 I prided myself on the fact that I made everything from scratch. Chocolate turtles from start to finish including gold dust on the top, took days.  Spending this amount of intense labor on a vast array of desserts and appetizers took its toll on me and the precious time remaining before the event. Did I mention the one thousand sugar cookies I promised for the Grand Opening, two days later?

I asked four friends to help out the day of the event.  On that chilly March afternoon, we were outside grilling chicken on a propane grill.  Kathy had been at it for over an hour, while we finished up inside. Suddenly, we heard screaming and ran to see what was happening. A slow-motion surreal moment transpired before our eyes. A woman slowly driving by the house had a frightful look on her face and had pulled over to view the impending catastrophe. Kathy, still screaming, was pointing to the propane tank which sputtering fire, had lodged itself under the gas tank of our parked car.  We all screamed as we kicked at the tank to remove it.  Slowly it rolled down the driveway and tucked itself under the gas tank of another car. More screaming!  Visions of our children being orphans danced through my head. My husband had just gotten home from work and came to the rescue, bravely reaching in to turn off the gas before we blew up the whole neighborhood.  The woman, who had paused to watch, left after the finale shaking her head.

That incident pretty much aged me ten years and the party hadn’t even started yet.

The occasion God used to finally get my attention in the, you are doing too much department; was when I agreed to do a custom cake for a friend’s daughter. I had an inkling that I should have said no…but not having experience in that department, I agreed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was working full-time as a youth minister, and a mother of five busy teenagers. Forty eggs later, two additional trips to the store at 4 am…I got the message loud and clear.

From that moment, I learned a valuable lesson and began using the “no” word with some degree of conviction. I hold out great hope for the day an immunization is found for my condition. Not so much to completely eradicate it, but to help control my yes impulses. Yes, we women can have a lot on our plates at once, but there is a moment we must ask ourselves, how much of this craziness and exhaustion that I am feeling is self inflicted?  I pray you are better than I in knowing when to say yes and share your gifts, and when to say no, and save them for yourself and those you love for your own self-preservation.

Why Think of My Life As a Gift…

The easy answer to that question is because it is, but so is yours. We each are so beautifully, uniquely one of a kind. A precious and irreplaceable jewel.

As an exquisite priceless jewel there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease your value. You are gorgeous just being you and shimmering in the light of the noonday sun. We are however so much more than an inanimate sparkly object glistening in the sun. As humans made in the Image and Likeness of God, we have innate dignity, value, and worth. There is a purpose for me and for you, exactly where we are.

As humans we can think, imagine, wonder, care, act…we were brilliantly, perfectly crafted and called to make a difference in this place and time in history. We recognize beauty, truth, and goodness when we see it and hear it.

  • How will those in our sphere of influence be better having known us?
  • How can I, in an act of unselfish love, chose to make someone’s load a little lighter, or day a little brighter; just by being the me I was intentionally created to be?

When we chose to look outside of ourselves and our own situations, and seek to make a small difference in the world of those around us, we are being gift to them.

If we all begin to do this, the world is incredibly impacted and filled with love. It becomes the world we want to live and work in. The world we want to raise our families in. But it must start somewhere, it must start with you and I.

I have been pretending to be a writer for years and have gathered a collection of my stories on various topics; some profound, some spiritual, some humorous, some just my goofy view of life. I hope you will enjoy them and see your experience in there somewhere too.

Be blessed. Be who you were created to be. Be a gift.