How is Your Joy?


It was the day after Thanksgiving, still early in the morning. The question caught me off guard.

“How’s your joy?”

Out of the blue, and not at all the usual morning conversation, I asked for the question to be repeated.

“How’s your joy?”

Tears spilled, unwelcome, in silence, down my cheeks. It seems a little ridiculous now, and I’m sure fatigue was a factor, but two other things were happening in that moment. I was struggling with the waves of emotion this season brings, and I was astonished that someone was taking inventory of my joy. Someone cared about my joy.

Advent and Christmas are not always joy-filled, happy seasons. For many people, they come with heavy emotional baggage, tightly wound with twine of guilt and doubt and fear. ‘Tis the season of perfectionism and performing for love. ‘Tis the season of reconciling all the memories of falling short, of looking for love and not finding it, of dashed dreams. People bring a whole lot sadness into the season of joy.

Despite the ubiquitous commercials hawking diamonds and luxury cars wrapped in enormous red ribbons, this is the season set aside for reflecting on how God met the broken and the imperfect and the sorrowful, and became Hope Incarnate. Joy Divine. It is the season of gifts, to be sure, but there is no need to buy a bow that is more expensive than Christmas dinner. The real gift of the season is the Giver. The gift is God. He is the one who looks upon the broken and the broken-hearted and tenderly binds the real wounds — the ones that spill into tears the morning after Thanksgiving.

It’s such a simple question: how’s your joy?

We try so hard. We want to be competent and nurturing and creative and self-donating. We want to be all the things we know we were created to be. But we also want to be noticed and appreciated and cherished. More than any other time of the year, this is when women knock themselves out trying — trying to be all the things to all the people, and trying to capture the elusive “Christmas magic” and make it our own.

It’s not magic.

It’s grace.

Grace is already ours to have, and with the grace, comes the joy. We think so much about presents this time of year. We have our lists and our budgets and our heartfelt desires to buy the perfect thing, to give the perfect package. Deep down, we really long to be given the perfect package as well. The truth is that there is no bow for the gift He gives, and His gifts are the only perfect ones.


What we really want, sometimes without knowing it, is to be wholly loved by God. The reality is, we already have that gift, but often, we don’t recognize it. He gives us Himself and with that sacrificial gift, He saves us for Himself. Tenderly, He lifts our chins and wipes the tears from our cheeks. He sees our pain — sees the scars of sad Christmases past, sees the broken pieces of shattered human relationships, and sees the tired shuffle of people striving under their own power. He sees it all and it’s in the broken sorrow that He makes His presence known.

This is the season of presence, not presents (though I don’t suggest you leave those out altogether). It is the season of sitting in God’s presence and letting Him present Himself to us. It’s the season of filling ourselves with Him — inhaling His grace. Then, we can be truly present to one another, blowing the breath of peace over our people, whispering genuine joy into the December craziness.

Though never perfect, we are the best gift to one another when we are like Christ. There is joy in presence. Be still with God, then bring that still, steady hope to your corner of the world. And somewhere along the way, in the busy of your days, ask someone, “How’s your joy?”

Slow down and hear the response. Be present and share the gift of Christ.

Stories of Grace for Children


At Take Up & READ, we are so pleased to offer you this labor of love! When you study Stories of Grace this autumn, invite your children to come alongside you. There are two versions of our children's study. In both versions, you will find the same scripture for each day of the women's version. Then, there are some wondering questions for you and your child to ponder together. Later, while you're journaling, children of all ages have room to write their hearts, too. In the primary version, the questions are simpler and the lines are larger. In the big kids' version, upper elementary children have a chance to do some pretty detailed lectio divina, appropriate for the age.  Together, you can memorize the same verses and your children will have the same beautiful calligraphy pages to inspire their Scripture memory work as you do. And, there are puzzles you can all work on together (or your whiz kid can solve before you do;-). 

The team at Take Up & READ loves knowing that this book and these children's journals will find their way into your home this fall and we can all listen closely to the stories Jesus told and hear Him with our hearts. 


Grace for Your Autumn

The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.’
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, 546
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Now Available Exclusively on Amazon

In Stories of Grace, you will find thirty-one days of Jesus' stories carefully collected for you. Along the way, we've provided meditation essays, journaling prompts, space for your notes and drawings, beautiful calligraphy pages, and prayers we will pray with you.

The community study for Stories of Grace will appear at Take Up & READ from October 1- October 31. 

A free children's version of Stories of Grace will be available to download at Take Up & READ  very soon.

A free Group Study Guide is available as a companion to the Stories of Grace journal. Gather a group and study together. You can access the group guide here.

The 7x10, beautifully designed, 148-page book offers more than 4 weeks of Scripture readings. 

This book includes:
• Scripture readings for every day and notes for further reading in your Bible.
• Devotional essays for each reading
• Prompts for you to ponder as you listen to the Holy Spirit
• Beautiful, hand-drawn calligraphy throughout
• Ample space for journaling and note taking and some doodling, too. 

Join us at Take Up & Read this autumn and lean in to hear Jesus share the mysteries of grace. 

On the Feast of Saint Augustine

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This is a prayer I pray every day. I composed it several years ago. Maybe it's one you want to pray, too? Feel free to cut and paste and personalize with a name where I've written "him."

Dear Jesus,

Please chase after him. Bring him close to you. Breathe your spirit into him. Grant him the grace of knowing your wisdom, knowing your truth, knowing your life-changing love. Please Lord, reach him and become his best friend. Strengthen him and show him how to turn from sin and towards all the good you will for him. I beg your mercy for him: give him health in mind and body. Let him shine in your image, Lord, and please, God, let him learn from your unconditional love. Let him see the miracle that is you. Grant him the grace and strength to hear and answer your call.

Saint Augustine, pray for us!


What Have You Paid to Follow Him?


I drove away from Charlottesville a few hours before the tiki torch atrocity. I wasn’t running. The trip there had been planned for months, and I’d actually stayed a day longer than the original schedule dictated. I’d spent the week caring for my father and visiting with my son and his girlfriend. People I love live in Charlottesville, and I’ve long considered it home. Charlottesville is where I go when the world wears me thin; it’s the place on earth where I breathe the deepest.

I admit I cried through much of that weekend. There was dissonance in hearing the name of my beloved city followed by such horrifying details. People texted and asked about my son Patrick. “No,” I replied. “He’s not there. He’s safe in Chicago.” How ironic. My pastoral retreat city was the center of ugly hate. He was safe somewhere other than home. The dissonance clanged in my brain.

And then, I grew increasingly aware of another divide. Please read the rest here.