Unexpected Faith-Sharing in the Food Court


Image credit: St. Augustine’s Neutral Bay

It all started with an old coffee grinder that broke during the Saturday morning routine. After checking off the list a long-standing business task, the Hubby and I headed over to the Galleria to catch a sale.

At Macy’s we did a bit more shopping damage than Mike had planned (ok, so maybe I had a couple of things in mind that were all well-deserved tax return investments). Once we secured our new coffee grinder and sweetly discounted King-sized bedding purchases, we were well past the point of digesting the morning whole-grained PB&J English muffin. So I went ahead to scout out the “food court” options as Mike dropped off our large bags back at the car.

I was an easy target — not wanting to get greased or carbed down — the Japanese sample man lured me in with his tooth-picked taste of chicken teriyaki and a $1.00 off coupon. Shaky, Mike opted for the buffet-style food line. As I waited for my Bento box, he went to find us a place to sit amidst the crowded small outdoor seating area.

Somehow I walked past him as he typed away on his iPad and I scanned the tables for him. I circled back and saw him sitting at the other end of a table with an African-American woman eating Orange Chicken out of a to-go styrofoam box.

I sat down, we said a blessing over the food, and began eating. I think I started the conversation with her by making some food-related comment. I quickly gathered that our nearby table mate was open to conversing with strangers. As we continued to eat, I felt that familiar “Holy-Spirit tug” to speak more with her. We easily fell deeper into a conversation to discuss occupations, different cultures, where we were from, and the like.

A teacher originally from Chicago, our new friend whom I’ll call Sheila, shared that she had been recruited a number of years ago to come down to teach in Texas. It’s always interesting to talk to another Mid-Western transplant about their experiences in DFW area. Soon, we began to speak about relationships, and she began to open up a bit about the man she was dating.

Since Mike and I had a pretty quick eHarmony romance – including courtship, engagement, and marriage within about 15-months – it always seems to be an intriguing tale to people who date for many years. As Sheila began to share bits and pieces about her relationship with her boyfriend, it became clear that as woman in her mid-40’s that never had been married and still wanted children, her patience with this 5-year romance was waning.

As we shared our own story, and allowed her to also share hers, her own hang-ups in the relationship began to surface. (H/T: Mental Health degree.)

Sheila grew up with a Bible-based Baptist kind of background, while her boyfriend was Catholic – and just so “happened” to attend St. Ann’s (our Parish!). She really didn’t have much experience with Catholicism, didn’t understand it; yet she wasn’t bashing it either – even in her observations that we were more “quiet” as Mike jokingly pointed over to me as the obviously-not-case-in-point.

As this conversation started to come to a crux, my Hubs interjects, “Let me ask you a question.”

This is always my favorite part of the conversation: When the ultra observant-prayerful-introvert goes in for the kill.

“Do you pray together?”

Sheila began to travel down a long winding path with lots of information about spiritual conversations based on movies and such. She even shared a beautiful dream that her boyfriend had of receiving a blessing to marry her from his deceased Mother. But the bottom was that:

  • They really didn’t pray together
  • Neither of them had ever been to worship in the other’s Church
  • She was actually quite surprised by his Catholicism

Two spiritual people are 5-years into a relationship, and have never worshipped together? WOW.

So I suggested that she ask him to come to her Church. And we rolled out the red carpet and invited her to come to our Parish.

Beyond that, there were a number of factors causing some forms of doubt. Thankfully all cited hang-ups were based on an internal struggles to overcome – nothing she said revealed major red flags of being treated her badly or disagreement on the relationship must-haves.

As we began to wind down our probably half-hour conversation, a comment from Sheila blessed me greatly.

“Thank you. This has increased my faith.”

We all recognized it at that moment: Something supernatural happened over a freakin’ Bento box at the Galleria. Honestly, our faith was increased as well, just by being ready to share the reason for the hope that we have in Christ and allowing her to do the same. #mindblown

Have you ever had a deep conversation with someone that you just met that increased your faith? Please share your story in the comments!

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Whole-Hearted Living Is Not for Sissies

InTheHandsofTheLordA few weeks ago, I reflected on how the heart will not be silent. Since then, a friend introduced me to the thought-leadership of Dr. Brené Brown — a ground-breaking researcher on shame and vulnerability, which now has named the life approach that really resonates with me: Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, a beautiful-yet-sometimes-gut-wrenching way to live. Give yourself a tremendous gift, click that link to Dr. Brown and watch her videos if, like me, you had taken up brief residency under a rock causing you to miss her breakout 4 years ago.

Amidst all of these heart-ponderings (literally), a passage in my morning meditation one day this week caused me to stop and sit with it:

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it whatever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1

A stream of water… Water is a powerful symbol. Considering it is Lent, my thoughts encircle the Catholic Liturgy, where we often draw upon that symbolism. One such way is during Baptism, where the water demonstrates the action of the Holy Spirit, and so is a sacramental sign of new birth.

“Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (CCC 694). 

Although it’s a longer passage, this is a profound illustration of the similar characteristics of water and the Holy Spirit, from one of the early Church Fathers — St. Cyril of Jerusalem. It’s also part of an excellent reflection of images of the Holy Spirit by Msgr. Charles Pope here:

“But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.” (Cat. 16, De Spiritu Sancto 1, 11-12.16: PG 33, 931-935. 939-942) –St. Cyril of Jerusalem

As we know, water is essential for all living things, and even though it remains unchanged – each creature responds to it differently, using it according to its needs. St. Cyril compares this to the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us (if we allow it).

Stop and reflect on that for a moment: There is one Spirit, unchangeable, yet His actions adapt according to the specific needs of each particular person…. #mindblowing

So while I’ve not done my few weeks of exegesis on this text (sorry, Dr. Scott Hahn–my beloved Scripture professor from back in the day), I’m going to still take a stab at pulling this all together:

  1. A King is a leader.
  2. The heart is our lifesource, our center, our core.
  3. Water is the action of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Where does the center of this action reside? In the hands of the Lord. What better place is there to be, then safely tucked in the hands of the Master of the Universe?
  5. “He turns it whatever he wills.” Oh boy…let’s talk about that one.

There’s a couple of ways to view, “He turns it whatever he wills.” To the adventurous souls, it’s the opportunistic promise that the Christian life will never be dull, and to keep in the flow of the stream of the Spirit. To the cautious souls, it’s an invitation to deeply trust whatever way He turns where your heart and the Spirit will lead you.

And for people like myself, that feel like they reside somewhere between those two descriptions depending on the day: Keep seeking the Lord as your helper, and then try and enjoy the ride, as whole-hearted living is not for sissies!!

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What I’ve Learned About Prayer

Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous. When you have God, you don’t have to know everything about it; you just do it.”
― Mother Angelica

I had just made the move south to Cajun country Louisiana a few years ago. After attending a political event with my new ‘work’ family, with it getting late and a half-hour drive still ahead of me, my Boss invited me to stay over at her family’s home. Since I didn’t have any of my things with me, she made sure I had what I needed to settle in for the night. Without a contact lens case, she gave me two drinking glasses and some contact solution. I washed up, left my cup o’ lenses in the office, and settled in their country home for the night.

In the morning, she was making breakfast when I awoke. As I headed in to take a shower after we ate, I quickly mentioned that I left my contacts in the home office. Turns out I should’ve been a little more deliberate about that statement, as the cups were gone when I returned.

Half-blindly, I moved towards the kitchen, where she was dunking dishes in her soapy water-filled sink to load into the dishwasher. I think I asked her if she had seen my lenses probably around the time that she put a couple of small glasses in the top rack.

Her face dropped, and she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize what you meant about the glasses! I just rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher! I’m so sorry!”

As I felt my way over to her, with her profuse apologies, I assured her it was going to be ok. We proceeded to do the two woman-hunt for those small, clear objects that love never to be found once they’ve fallen from your fingertip. We searched and searched…nothing.

It was time to call in the big guns: St. Anthony. We asked for his help, and I promised him if he helped me find my contacts, I’d share my story with others.

Standing by the sink, we had both been feeling around in the dirty dish water for sometime. She turned to me and said, “In faith, I feel like we’re supposed to take the plug out of the drain. I know it sounds crazy, but…”

If I had thought about it, I would’ve hesitated, and logically I would’ve explained our way out of it. But, the preface was IN FAITH. So, as I went to pull the stopper out of the drain, I felt something. There IT is – one little contact stuck to my hand. What?!

Moving to do it again, boom, the other contact lens. We both were giddy.

Prayer can feel at times like you’re reaching into a murky mess, feeling around, searching for that answer. Maybe it has been for 10-minutes, or maybe it has been for 10-years — when you feel like you keep sending out an SOS signal and nobody is responding or seeing it.

That’s a lie. No prayer goes unnoticed or is unimportant to God. He doesn’t have selective hearing to tune you out with, nor does He make you feel like you’re not a priority because there’s bigger problems in the world. We need to be cautious not to ascribe our humanness to God’s Divinity.

As we prepare for Lent, there are some good reminders I’m receiving. Prayer requires a few things that are really hard, for me too: Faith, patience, and surrender.


My Dad would gently remind me in some prime moments of stubbornness: “You’re praying and asking God to do things, and then as He does, you’re saying, ‘No, not that way, like this.'”

Prayer requires our faith to ask it, our patient hope to wait upon it, and our surrender as to how He will answer it. And there is an answer EVERY time – whether it be no, yes, not yet. As many times as I’ve been through this, I still am amazed that nearly 10 times out of 10 it is never how you imagined and in the end better than you could’ve planned.

It may look and feel ridiculous at times — especially as you surrender to remove the drain that you feel is holding everything together. But what’s the alternative: To be blind and keep doing what hasn’t been working?

P.S. Don’t ever wash your lenses with dirty dishwater. Never. Ever.

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Because We All Could Use a Laugh

As I drove to the airport to pick up my Husband last night, I was trying to properly channel the many thoughts interlacing somehow in my spaghetti brain. I knew he’d be tired and hungry when he arrived home from his West Coast business trip – I felt the same at 8:00 pm – so what would perk him up?

A good ol’ BURGER.

Yep, just like my Mom did, my Hubs reaches a sublime state when burger consumption is involved.

“Oh yeah,” I remembered, “I have those Groupons I bought for MOOYAH, and it’s kind of on the way home.”

Driving, still, with my iPhone safely docked on the windshield on the left-hand side of the steering wheel, I attempted to bring Siri into the mix at a light. I had to make sure MOOYAH would still be open before I suggested it.

Holding the button down, “Siri, what are MOOYAH’s hours?”

She proceeded to show me some movies concerning eyes. Apparently there is a market for that.

Chuckle. Still waiting at light, “MOOYAH website.”

Siri then took me off in some other completely non-beef related direction.

Let’s try this again. “MOOYAH Burgers.”

Still not getting it.

Not so much chuckling when I reached try #5.

As the light is about to turn, I grew desperate impatient. I felt the urge to resort to “call tree mode”: After a really bad customer service experience for the 3rd time, and my voice grows louder, slower, with strong overtones of condescension, as I continue repeating the same three words to the automated teller. [And yes, eventually, she’ll stop saying, click click click, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that…” if you push her hard enough].

While I didn’t go full Delta Airlines on Siri (those were my latest 2 experiences), I admit that I did have a tone in my voice, which grew a bit louder as I repeated, “MOOYAH, Mooyah, MOOYAH!!”

Here is what Siri responded:

Siri fails

Seriously? If she could have found a restaurant named Lilliott Vieudelou Ya Lilliott, eat my dust Mooyah. I bet the Crab Bisque would have been delightful.

But here’s the rub: I can’t even recall what she sounded like saying that gibberish?! So, I like to reimagine it done as  the Swedish Chef. And then chalk it up with other funny Siri fails.

Since I’ve met “Siri” before, I should tell her two things: 

1. I’m sorry for getting snippy with you. I know you were just trying to do your job, and you really thought I actually said, “Lilliott Vieudelou Ya Lilliott”.

2. Thanks for the belly laugh. I really needed that.

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The Heart Will Not Be Silent

heart door

You can bury it, push it down until you feel the hurt won’t threaten to break you.
Press it down by keeping busy, busy, busy on top.
Roadblock silence by pushing your earphones in.
Post filtered pictures of a wonderful facade.
Put that nose to the grindstone, late hours and weekends, getting after it.
Numb it, sniff or shoot whatever fix you can get.
Place everyone else’s problems as your priority.
Keep that smile ready for when someone checks in on you.
Still, the heart will not be silent.
But, He’ll never let you go.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
-Proverbs 3:3

Celebrating Birthdays in Heaven?

My Mom would have been 67 today. I’m sure her sunny Florida day would’ve involved something kind of like this, with her delicious frozen Margaritas, going to dinner with my Dad and their retired pals.

frozen margaritas

lady lake floridaThis is Mom’s 3rd birthday in Heaven, which has me pondering, “Do they celebrate birthdays in Heaven?”

Hmmm….I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, because it’s Heaven and well, I’m not there (yet!). I mean if you’re in Heaven, you’re infinitely joyful and there are only memories of your time on Earth, right? Standing in the Beatific Vision, seriously, would it even occur to you to celebrate something from another lifetime?

Perhaps they celebrate their birth into new life, into Heaven? In which case, that’s only 2 days away for my Mom…

At any rate, I’m going to do my very best this week to try and celebrate the life we shared with Mom. I’ve made a few plans with friends to keep people close to me who know and love me. I also have some professional development seminars that we’ll be attending, and I’m sure they’ll keep my brain active and occupied. Three years later, the emotions and that missing ache are still real, but so is the love and gratitude for a life well lived.

Do you think they celebrate birthdays in heaven? Let me know what you think…

Inspiration for the New Year

new years day quote

“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.”
― D. Simone

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Christmas Card & 2013 Year in Review

Taking this 5th day of Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family, to share our Christmas letter and card from our family to yours…

2013 Christmas Card

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

If we could only use three words to describe this past year, explore, dream, and discover would be a pretty reliable synopsis. There are times in life where everything lines up to take you in a new direction: Passion to pursue a dream, ripe circumstances, formation through experience, a window of opportunity, solid discernment, a supportive spouse, a willing spirit seeking God’s will, and just enough faith to leap into the great unknown. After this alignment occurred at the end of 2012, in January, Lisa plunged into our entrepreneurial endeavor full-time. Ever since, our noses have been to the grindstone, busy in the process of laying the groundwork for illuvint (e-LOO-vint), our small business.

It’s humbling to see how the trust walk of 2013 has remarkably unfolded. There was no colossal launch filled with fanfare, as it just was not what our CEO (GOD) wanted – but rather a lean and deliberate process of showing up and speaking with the right people at the right times, and taking each of the steps laid out bit-by-bit before us.  We are convinced that if you never want to be bored or complacent again, start your own small business – especially one focused on serving the needs of other start-ups, small businesses, and ministries – those often faced with the challenges of limited resources. At the same time, what an honor to collaborate with some of the most passionate, creative, inventive, and scrappy go-getters we’ve come to know!

Eager to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, we were thrilled when our Lafayette, LA friends, Ann and Julie, came to visit in early February. It was a weekend devoted to brainstorm, share about dreams and small business endeavors, and seek growth and healing. Reunited the following weekend, but in Lafayette this time, Lisa and Julie, co-hosted one helluva Mardi Gras themed Bridal Shower for dear friend, Kelli, as her “Matrii”, or Matron and Maid of Honor.

The end of February brought an exciting business trip: We both went to Anaheim, CA, for the Los Angeles Religious Educators Congress (40,000+ attendees) to manage Social Media, and capture photos/videos of the event for our friend, Curtis Stephan, the singer/songwriter commissioned to write the conference theme-song.  What an incredible event and time to reconnect with, as well as meet, many amazing people involved in various ministries. We even enjoyed a little side trip to beautiful Santa Barbara before we returned home (upper right 2 photos above were taken on the Pier there).

After the Congress, in March, with the help of some trusted, incredibly generous friends, our professional team really started to take shape: A 1st-Class team of web designers/web developers, graphic designers, English + Bi-lingual marketers, copywriters, speaker/blogger folks began assembling. It was phenomenal to begin to discover our network and collaborations, which we are continually seeking more of, but it all began falling into place with very little effort!

At the end of March, Mike got away for a guys weekend and some fishing on the Lake when he hosted a Bachelor Party for Marcelo. A month later, we got to stand up in our 1st wedding together for Kelli & Marcelo, during the lively Festival International weekend in Lafayette. After returning home, Lisa went to Florida to be with her Dad during his Heart procedure. Dad fared well, and is doing better, and Lisa enjoyed a bit of time to also visit with her brother, Jeff, too.

At the end of May, we took a trip down to South Texas to visit Mike’s family.  Mike was honored that our nephew, Dustin, asked him to be his Confirmation Sponsor.  We also took some time to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary a bit early, as well as Rose’s (Mike’s sister) birthday, by renting a condo near the beach on South Padre Island, not far from where our Wedding reception was. There’s nothing like the beach to unwind a bit.

We ventured over to Austin in mid-July. A nice visit with cousins, Thomas & Claudia, we attended the Tech Symposium that Thomas moderated, and saw old college friends, Aaron & Kate.  A long-time dream of Mike’s to live in Austin, we spent time talking with locals, scouting neighborhoods, partaking in the sights, sounds, and flavors, as well as praying about where we’re supposed to be. We’ll see what happens!

At the end of August, Mike went to Costa Mesa, CA on business. When the trip got extended, Lisa joined him, continuing to enjoy the mobile, flexibility of running our own business!

We heard some sweet music and enjoyed the company of a couple of dear old friends in September. Lisa was front and center at the Audrey Assad concert (one of her favorite female artists), debuting her new album.  Fr. Joe O’Connor, our long-time friend + the Priest who married us, visited, and on a whim, shone the light of Christ on us by replacing our burned out fluorescent kitchen lighting with fancy track lighting.  The next day, we saw Mike’s favorite musician, Josh Rouse, in concert. To ice the cake, our Best Man, Tim, drove in and pulled off a killer surprise on Mike when he sat down at our table right before the show. Well played.

Mike was back in California for work in October, which was extended out to 3-weeks. Ouch. Lisa was really grateful for a girls night/sleepover at Kelli’s house when Julie came back to visit during that time!

Omar, our nephew arrived, in mid-November. Never really having traveled outside of Texas, we surprised him with a Thanksgiving Road-trip to Florida! In 8-days, we spanned over 3,000 miles, from New Orleans, to Dad’s in the Villages, to Jeff’s in Hollywood, to the Summer Estates of Henry Ford/Thomas Edison in Ft. Myers, back to Dad’s, stopping in Jackson, MS, and home again on Dec 1st. Whew – what a great whirlwind!

Currently, we are down in South Texas – the Rio Grand Valley – enjoying the holidays with Mike’s family. Undergoing surgery on December 18th (all went well, thank God), it’s been good for Lisa to heal and recover while taking a couple of weeks of downtime all at once.

2013 sure was packed, and we’re so grateful for all the opportunities to explore, dream, and discover! We’re especially thankful for all our family and friends – this of course includes our clients and illuvint team members.  Our lives are blessed and better because of your love, support, prayer, and belief in us!!

Our goal is to have our company website up for January 1st, www.illuvint.com. All visitors, feedback, and sharing is appreciated!

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Meeting Steve Wozniak & What He Really Thinks of the Movie Jobs

As Apple Geeks, the highlight of attending this week’s Dallas Digital Summit 2013 hands down was the closing keynote by Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. That, as well as the fact that my Hubby actually snagged a photo with “The Gentle Giant”!

Steve Wozniak Apple

I’ve always found people endearing that possess brilliant minds and are still so personable, nice and down-to-earth: This is definitely how “The Woz” comes across in real life. He’d sit with other conference attendees at tables near the back of the room during sessions and was very gracious to chat and take photos with the masses.

The Hubs scored us front row seats during the closing Steve Wozniak interview done by Brent Herd, the Director of Southeast Twitter. Listening to Woz talk about the early days of Apple, what Steve Jobs was really like, being a jokester, and even Dancing with the Stars — he certainly had the whole room captivated.

I was really interested to hear what he really thinks of the movie Jobs, since Mike and had seen and enjoyed it. Here was his candid response:

Well I didn’t get to meet the Great and Powerful Woz myself, I still got a photo opp with an Apple legend in her own right. I shared a Toblerone and a photo with our friend, Shi Ji, and Susan Bennett, known as the voice of Siri. Yes folks, us Apple Geeks are sitting pretty this week!

voice of siri

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The Best Hot Chocolate Ever (yeah, it’s Spiked)

I figured that since our plans got turned all around by the ice storm in Dallas today, we might as well enjoy it. What says warm and cozy like Hot Cocoa? Since we’re all big kids here, I went ahead and kicked it up a notch to an “adult beverage”. Oh me oh my, this was the best hot chocolate ever!!


This Hot Chocolate Recipe is from food.com. I noted the tweak I made to it in the directions below

Teddybear Hot Cocoa                   

Ingredients:                                      Units: US | Metric                          Servings: 1
8 ounces of prepared Hot Chocolate
1 ounce Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua
1/4 cup Whipped Cream
Green Creme de Menthe


  1. Prepare your Hot Chocolate using Milk, as I doubt this would taste very good made with water.
  2. Pour Vodka & Kahlua into a coffee cup.
  3. Pour in Hot Cocoa.
  4. Top with whipped cream. (It was a Snow Day and I didn’t have whipped cream, so I used the Espresso Maker to froth Half and Half to dollop on top, which turned out very yummy as well.)
  5. Drizzle with green Creme de Menthe.
  6. Serve immediately. Boom.

This Hot Chocolate is off the hook, so I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did! Stay safe and warm, friends!

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