Life in the Fast Lane

4164 4164_ () 4164 4164 We celebrated Ethan’s SIXTEENTH birthday this weekend. Is your mind blown? Mine is. BLOWN.

People with grown-up kids realize that sixteen is still so young. People with little kids will maybe be thinking I have arrived? That I have the biggest kids there are. Giant kids.

And as is always the case, wherever you go, there you are. I look at families with college kids and marrieds and I realize we are still such neophytes in the kid department. But then I look at my “little” friends who are giving birth to babies two or three, people who are really in the building stages of family life (of course we all are, but you know what I mean — practically adding humans to the mix) and I remember being at that stage and watching families with teenagers and thinking, woah. Just, woah.

Sunday night, as per Ethan’s request, we had the entire high school over for a party. We invited the ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL over and lived to tell the tale. Good thing the high school has fewer than 50 students. But man, it was still a tad nerve-wracking.

As is my custom when hosting, I streamlined the menu as much as possible without being tacky. I did a gigantic vat of chili (with fixins’); hot chocolate; cokes (which ran out 35 minutes into the two-hour party so Paul and my brother Zach ran out for more); a few batches of too-clever harvest mix; cake. We had two fires going, some corn-hole, some bocce, some basketball, some jamming in the garage, some foosball and who knew we had so many options right on the premises?!

I can’t resist sharing the uber-awesome Harvest Mix that I made for the party. Y’all, I got a little carried away on Pinterest. I didn’t take things too far, but I did do a tablescape for the party (oh yes I did) and I made these two vats of munchy goodness. And it was well-receieved. And I was proud.

I got a bit nervous a few days before when twelve-year-old Charlie, upon hearing a description of Ethan’s plans for his party, said, “no offense, but that party sounds pretty boring.”

To which Paul explained to Charlie, “don’t worry. In a few years, it won’t sound that boring at all.”

Ah yes, a 12-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy sometimes have different standards of “fun.”

The party was fun. And the next day we had the family over for a little more celebrating.

I love this picture because to me it captures the joy and teamwork of parenting. Also: many hands to light many candles

What a joy to have so much to celebrate.

4164″ .


The Call to Love

4159 4159_ () 4159 4159 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 12:31

Don’t you just love people? Aren’t they just so easy to get along with? Isn’t it wonderful, at an event at your child’s school or at parish gathering, to walk into a room filled with people and feel an overwhelming sense of love for each and every person you see?

Sometimes, yes. But (more realistically) not always.

People are messy. I’ve heard it said many times, and my goodness it’s true. People are wonderful and amazing and full of beauty — but they can also be hard to deal with.

So many times I feel my heart on fire for Jesus, burning with love for him and certain that I could set the world ablaze for him — only to walk out my front door, encounter other people and have those good feelings gone.

It’s not that people are terrible, but sometimes we as humans can rub each other the wrong way. I’m surrounded by lots of good people (as are you!). But sometimes, being a human (and dealing with other human beings) can be tricky indeed.

I recently followed the recommendation of a good friend and picked up the book Kisses from Katie. It’s written by a young woman who felt called by God to leave her upper-middle class existence (including her boyfriend, sports car and fashionable attire) to teach at an orphanage in Uganda.

Katie soon realizes that her call to serve is not a one-year-commitment and breaks the news to her parents that she wants to stay indefinitely. She eventually adopts children and stays to live among the people of Uganda, their life now her own.

What struck me throughout the book was not her great act of faith or her willingness to live radically by leaving her life of privilege. Those are obviously inspiring components of the book.

What moved me was the way this young woman so clearly recognizes and articulates that while this is a bold move on her part, what God has her doing is something very simple: she is there to love. Her mission is to be Jesus to whomever God has placed right in front of her face. She’s not eradicating hunger or eliminating poverty. She is called to love.

To love. It’s what we are all called to do. We might be called to move to Uganda, or we might be called to stay put. But we are all called to love, to be Jesus to the person that God has put in our path, right this very minute.

What an awesome opportunity! What an incredible challenge!

I was talking about this with a friend recently, someone who also read the book and was equally inspired. And after our conversation, my thoughts turned to another situation in my life that was robbing me of my joy, an interaction that just seemed so hard to handle.

And I realized — the call to love! That’s what God wants from me in this situation. That same mystical love that this young woman has in order to minister to those people in a far off land, that same love is available to me, to use among the people in this land right here.

It’s not just available for me to use — I need to use it. Loving others is not optional.

And to make matters more challenging, who I choose to love is also not optional. It’s easy to love lovable people. I can love those people all day long.

But the difficult people, the prickly pears, the people who don’t seem to need my love (so why bother sharing it!) — well that’s where we get the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus.

I get so frustrated with myself when I can’t seem to love the difficult people God puts in my path. Or maybe sometimes I can and sometimes it’s more of a challenge and then I feel discouraged during those times when loving don’t come easy.

But that’s the path to sanctification — to love. And to love. And to love again. To try to love as Jesus did and when we fail, or when we find it’s hard to do so, we try again. We never give up trying to love.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross. 4159″>


Praise Reports

4155 4155_ () 4155 4155 In which I side-step talk of the election results, for now…

but proof that I did vote!

God is good. He is still on the throne. And I know he’d be on the throne regardless but I’m acutely aware because of a few awesome things of late, particularly in my Swenson family.

1. My brother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week. Scary. He was in surgery the next day and everything came back as clear, no spread, thank you Jesus. (Here’s where I might ordinarily launch into a little monologue about cancer and how we’d rather not be dealing with it anymore thankyouverymuch, and how wonderful it is to have my mom back from its grip. But cancer? I don’t even wanna talk about it. That’s how UNFUN it is.)

2. My sister and her husband GOT THE BABY! It’s a miracle of epic proportion. This time two weeks ago, it seemed like all hope was lost. And then this. Today was the hearing and God is good. God is good.

All the time.

Don’t you forget it. 4155″> .


So Much Awesome, So Little Time

4145 4145_ () 4145 4145 If you check in on me at Instagram, you may have noticed these pictures. Here’s some backstory:

It took me three days to notice that Elliott’s eye was black. I kept thinking I was catching a shadow off his (waaayy toooo looong) hair and then Sunday morning it occurred to me that, no, that’s no shadow. My son has a black eye!

If you’re competing for Mother of the Year, you’d better just drop out right now. Because it’s pretty obvious, based on my three-days-to-notice-son’s-injury, that the award shall go to me.

“What happened to your eye!” I cried, to which my son explained he had performed a mean spin move that resulted in his opponent elbowing him in the face (when he brought the ball down low).

“Did you cry,” I asked.

“No,” said my boy, “but the other kid did.”


Henry was one happy boy when we opened the mail today to discover this little gem from CatholicTV. He was so darn excited about this gift (full disclosure: I thought it was pretty awesome too!).

This photo was taken during our filming of A Very Gistmas Christmas. Y’all, this episode is going to rock. It involves Carolee singing a hauntingly beautiful duet with her daughter (who happens to be eight. Or ten. I can’t remember for sure). And it involves the Gist ladies doing A CRAFT. Yes, you are not going to want to miss.

Here’s the thing with my outfit: we were asked to bring something “Christmas-y”. And for some reason I think of Christmas colors as “black.” Not red and green. But black. Why is this? I’m thinking it’s because that’s what I end up wearing to Christmas events? Little Black Dress? I’m not sure. Truth be told, I did pack a red sweater to wear for the episode but when I discovered Danielle and Carolee were also wearing red, in different shades, I got nervous about adding a third shade and went with black. Which works? I hope?

If it ruins the episode, don’t even tell me.


I found this picture over on Instagram posted by Gashwin, a seminarian for the Diocese of Atlanta (who incidentally was one of the very first Bloggers that I met In Real Life, forever ago at the very first Catholic New Media Celebration/Convention).

Let me just tell you that when I saw the image of this bus, I thought to myself: pick me! pick me! I want to be a Sister Jamming for Jesus!

And I want to be there when Jesus gets down wit his bad self.

I totally do.

I bet you do too. Can I get an Amen?

Go head Jesus. Go wit yur bad self.

On that note: good night. And Happy Voting! Isn’t it exciting! 4145″>