Month: April 2015

Bring Your Child To Work Day

As we mentioned on TCND #084, our local public school system “celebrated” Bring Your Child to Work Day.  Since this opportunity only applied to our youngest two sons, I agreed to let them both stay home and work with me processing rosaries for Rosary Army.

RosaryArmy.com is the main ministry that I have the privilege of managing from the basement office of our home and these boys only know life with rosaries in it.  Not a bad thing in my opinion.

Post Office TripFirst stop was the post office.  It’s always a fun surprise when we check the mail and find all three types of mail inside: envelopes containing rosary requests, donations and more all-twine knotted rosaries to inspect and prep for distribution.  It’s a great reminder for me to be thankful for these individuals in my prayer life.

 

IMG_6994Before the massive inspection of nearly 1000 rosaries could begin, I figured I’d better boost their morale and treat them to a “business lunch” at our local burger joint.  Gotta have fuel for the journey.  And truth be told, the Reuben wasn’t half bad.  Not New York good, but decent.

 

 

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Time to get to work. Ben was in the zone sorting rosaries by color and making sure the rosaries were made according to our quality standards before any tax receipts can be calculated and presented.  (Don’t worry, I handle the tax part!)

 

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Tommy is hard at work filling out the quality inspection paperwork for each batch of rosaries submitted.  He caught on super fast.  Not bad for an 11 year old!

 

 

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No, these are not rainbow dreadlocks on Ben’s head.  One of our hardworking rosary makers decided to have a little fun with tie-dye and Ben decided to have some fun with her creative work.  Who says rosaries can’t be fun!

 

 

IMG_7002Our Lady Undoer of Knots where are YOU!!! Yikes! There were at least 10 rosaries tangled up in this ball of rosaries.  I tried to think of Our Blessed Mother as Tommy handed this giant knot to me to untangle for him.  It gave me a chance to meditate on how us mammas have the skill and patience to untangle knots in our kids’ lives.

 

After several hours of intense rosary sorting work, it was finally quitting time for this Bring Your Child to Work Day.  For their reward, I dismissed them to the basement for some much deserved R&R time with video games.  Or maybe just plain ol’ R&R.

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7 Ways to Blast Through Dry Prayer


When you’re in the desert, if you remain stagnant and don’t try to make your way out, you’ll wither up and die.

Instead of sticking around in the sand dunes, dive into a faith where there is something new to discover each day, and in that discovery, experience the desire of growing closer to God, and the satisfaction of witnessing the Holy Spirit working through you in reaching others.

  • If you say you don’t get anything out of Mass, what are you putting into it?
  • If you say the Catholic faith is boring, when was the last time you read a book explaining the Eucharist or the lives of saints?
  • If you say you don’t feel the presence of God, or that the struggle of learning about and living out your faith isn’t worth it, then perhaps you’ve never opened yourself to experiencing the joy that comes through suffering, in suffering, and after suffering.

Even Jesus Christ found himself in a desert for forty days, but in the midst of those forty days, he turned to prayer and fasting to dive more deeply into His own relationship with God our Father, he fought through the dryness and pain of temptation to allow the strength of conviction to take hold and withstand the attacks of the devil. Being in the desert didn’t weaken His faith, it strengthened it. When we allow it, the pain and desolation and sufferings we sometimes encounter in life can be transformative periods of intense spiritual growth.

But just desiring to get out of dryness doesn’t necessarily facilitate change, particularly when it comes to prayer.

For times when you find yourself in a place of dryness, or feel that your prayer life has become lethargic, below are seven strategies for blasting through dryness in prayer, improving your time in prayer, and creating prayer routines that will help you when periods of dryness return in the future (as they’re sure to do):

1) Consistency
Pick a time to pray each day and stick to it. For me, it’s first thing in the morning, waking up two hours before I need to leave for work so I can pray, ponder, and then work on creative endeavors that perhaps I was inspired to work on during my prayer time.  Prayer makes my days better, including my weekends.  If I schedule the time for prayer each day, I know my days will be better.  Consistency is the key.

2) Pick a place
Create places in and out of your home that become associated with prayer.  I actually recommend trying to create 2-4 prayer spots. Years ago I’d leave work everyday at lunch and sit in my car in a parking lot, eat my lunch, and then spend 45 minutes in uninterrupted prayer.   For me, I have a dedicated “prayer chair” in a room of our house, and when the weather is warmer, I pray every morning on my front porch.  And of course, developing a routine of going to Eucharistic Adoration helps make your local parish a perfect prayer spot.

3) Have a backup plan
Some mornings I sit and draw an absolute blank.  My prayer is like staring at a blank wall.  When this happens, I go to one of my backup prayer plans.  When my prayer seems like a rambling, incoherent mess, I turn to rote prayers like the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours or simply opening up the Bible and reading for ten minutes.  Some other backup prayer plans including reading the Psalms, listening to recorded audio prayers (like the free audio Rosaries Jennifer and I recorded), or simple journaling out my thoughts.

4) Eliminate distractions
Wherever your prayer spot may be, or whenever you plan your prayer, leave your phone outside of arms reach (and preferably outside the room).  If you’re surrounded by people all day, go for a prayer walk or just go sit in your car to pray.

5) Ask for intercessory help before prayer
This was a huge breakthrough for me.  When I remember to ask my guardian angel to help me to pray, he’ll lead me to ask for the intercession of saints and our Blessed Mother to assist me in my prayer and to make sure I’m focusing on the areas of my life where the Holy Spirit most desires me to grow.

6) Set goals
When prayer becomes particularly routine, I find the challenge praying a novena (such as the Divine Mercy novena or the novena of Mary Undoer of Knots or even a 54-day Rosary novena) will break through dryness like nothing else will.  As a caveat, though, make sure to have a plan in place for what your prayer life will be after the novena is completed so you don’t fall back into old routines.

7) Accept Imperfection
Jesus prays that we may be perfect, but not every conversation with someone is perfect. If your prayer seems dry and pointless, cut yourself some slack.  God cares more about you showing up than what you say when you arrive.  Go back to the first suggestion (consistency) and you’ll eventually break through that dryness in prayer.

What are ways you break through dryness?  Share your suggestions in the comments below!

For more ideas for breaking through dryness in prayer, make sure to check out episode #084 of The Catholics Next Door where we dive deeper into these seven strategies!

For more discussion on dryness, also check out my book The New Evangelization and You: Be Not Afraid!

TCND #084: Tithing French Fries


TCND_084Teaching kids about tithing, Birthdays, Ben the Baker, and Seven Ways to Improve Your Prayer! 888-299-8686 to leave feedback and be a part of the show!
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Unfinished Basements are Awesome

When we lived in Georgia, we always said our house would have been just right if we had a basement to retreat to, make messes in, and generally just have fun.

When we started looking for homes in Colorado, so many unfinished basements seemed full of bad design ideas.

When we got our house, the unfinished basement only had one electrical outlet and 2 very dim lights. After a minor investment of better wiring and lights, we are amazed how much we enjoy our unfinished basement.

We now run New Evangelizers/Rosary Army out of the basement, we podcast from the basement, the kids have a play area (Ben and Tom LOVE spending the night there), and I even have a dedicated corner for painting and my punching bag.

Every once in a while I imagine what it would be like to finish off the basement, but then I quickly remember if we finished it off, we couldn’t do stuff like this:

Roller chairs + unfinished basement = fun

A video posted by Greg Willits (@gregwillits) on


Or this:

Friday night praying for her life.

A video posted by Greg Willits (@gregwillits) on

The Accidental Baker


Ben_HeadOur son Benjamin has been through quite the academic journey in public middle school.  From dealing with the shock of actually having to do his assignments to remembering to turn them in on time, it’s been quite the ride.  But mostly, middle school has been rough on him emotionally.  He just didn’t care to be there.  Middle school was something to endure and nothing more.  It didn’t take long for his teachers to notice how disinterested Ben was from his classes.  They could easily see how profoundly unhappy he was. (Not that he tried to hide it!)  It didn’t take long for his grades to suffer from his lack of engagement.

We tried band. But since it was not possible to get the highly coveted percussion assignment, he was forced to choose something else: the trumpet. He tried and tried, but he quickly began to resent that instrument and found every opportunity to avoid it. Since we had to rent it for $25 bucks a month, I was not too happy to see it unplayed so often.  We tried private tutoring sessions to help boost his confidence, but it just didn’t matter.  He genuinely disliked the instrument and music all together.  The band teacher found a way for him to be transitioned out of that year long class despite the general rules of leaving kids assigned to their original schedules.  We were grateful for the end of Ben’s musical misery and I was happy to get my $25.00 a month back.

Honor_RollEventually, he was allowed to participate in Drama, which showed him that school can occasionally encourage playful and silly behavior without being considered disruptive.  Slowly, he started to feel like a happy kid again. His grades were finally leaving the C and D zone and he was consistently getting more B’s.  By the end of the quarter, he was rewarded with an Honor Roll certificate for his efforts at trying to improve in all his classes.

But the real prize of a class was (the super popular and tough to get into) Consumer & Family Studies, aka the cooking class.  There are never openings in that class.  Students have to be very fast to sign up for it before it gets full.  Because Ben has several teachers who care for his success, strings were pulled in all the right ways and Ben was allowed in.  To me, it was an answer to prayer. Ben needed to know that it was possible to have a few positive experiences in his school.

To our surprise, Ben not only enjoys the cooking class, he is thriving in it.  He is loving the chance to explore new recipes and getting his hands dirty in the cooking process.  This warms my heart so much because Ben has such a beautiful and unique soul.  It hurt so much to see him so sad every day after school.  You see, Ben has high functioning autism and he relates to the world around him in a very unique way.   To date, he has largely felt disconnected from his experience in public middle school.  But cooking has made him connect.

His recent cooking assignment was to tackle the German oven pancake.  The teacher demonstrated it first and the next day the kids would get the chance to make it themselves.  Ben was so enthusiastic after seeing the demonstration that he couldn’t wait for the next day to try making it.  But since he was given the recipe, he thought, “Why wait for tomorrow?  Why not try making it as soon as I get home?”  Ben has never baked like this before.  He is quite adept at using the stove top, and even heating up foods in the oven, but never preparing something so raw from scratch.  I was quite happy to let him experiment and just figure it out.

Ben_pancakeHis first attempt came out very flat, much like a traditional pancake.  But we ate it and congratulated him for his accomplishment.  Secretly, he knew something was not right. It just didn’t look like the one the teacher made in class earlier that day.  He would later learn that he didn’t whisk the eggs enough and after having the opportunity to make it correctly at school the following day, he was ready to dazzle us at home.  And dazzle he did!

We all laughed with delight when he opened the oven door to reveal the new and improved German oven pancake in it’s risen glory.  How appropriate for the Easter season of which we are still spiritually celebrating.

pancake

Ben was happy. We were happy.  And the German oven pancake was devoured.  I highly recommend spreading some tasty fruit preserves over it.  My personal favorite is using raspberry preserves.  Our youngest son, Tommy, was so impressed by his brother’s baking skills, that he requested this pancake for his birthday breakfast this Friday, April 24th.  I think I’ll commission Ben to make this delightful treat for my Mothers’ Day breakfast this May.

Our Ben, the accidental baker, is now experiencing the joy of cooking and sharing. Way to go Benjamin Bunny Faces of Love and Happiness!

 

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TCND #083: Fishing in South Carolina


TCND_083Greg’s whirlwind South Carolina fishing trip, GregandJennifer.com Brand New Site Launch, Marketing Books, Working Teens, and More! 888-299-8686 to leave feedback and be a part of the show!

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VIDEO: Fishing in South Carolina

What started as a video of my fishing trip in South Carolina this past week ended up being a music video for one of our favorite songs, “Home.” Sung by actor Billy Crudup, this is the first song from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film, “Rudderless.” Both the soundtrack and movie are great. Click here to listen to us talk about my trip on TCND #083.

Music is Copyright (C) 2014 Lakeshore Music. Go buy the soundtrack. You won’t regret it.

New Website Launch!

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 11.41.54 AMAfter months of development, Jennifer and I are ecstatic to finally reveal this new website. We still have a ton of new features (AND FREE STUFF) we’ll be adding in the coming weeks and months, but decided to go ahead and launch the site now so you can be a part of the ongoing development.

Here are just a few cool things to check out:

  • Sign up for our newsletter!  This is the first newsletter that we’ve ever produced just as us (Greg and Jennifer).  We want to be able to truly build up The Catholics Next Door community and provide serious and silly stuff, and regular surprises.
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  • Check out the entire back catalog of shows directly from our site.

PLUS, we’re actively working on more stuff for the website including:

  • Videos
  • Free downloads (including the 7+ hour “Life Changers” series that our Patreon co-producers helped fund)
  • Blog content from both Greg and Jennifer
  • A few secrets to be revealed soon!

Click here to go look at the new home page and be sure to bookmark the site right now and check back regularly to discover new content!

TCND #082: Resisting Truth

TCND_082Resisting Truth of Catholic Teachings, Aloha from Hawaii, Audio Rosary and Divine Mercy, Elevator Pitches, Authority of the Church, and Technological Spring Cleaning. 888-299-8686 to leave feedback and be a part of the show!

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Here’s how Greg’s iPhone is currently organized:
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TCND #081: Elevator Pitch

TCND_081Elevator Pitch Evangelization, Colin Hay concert, Problems with Band Aids and Easter Baskets, Imprimaturs for New Media, New Catholic Mobile Apps, and Greg Plays Guitar. 888-299-8686 to leave feedback and be a part of the show!

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Like the music we use in the show?  It’s all courtesy of Popple.  Awesome band.  Check them out and support them.