Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 6

Grace 117

Written on September 16, 2017

I’ve been looking through pictures and found this one of Grace at our beloved ocean. I wonder what she was thinking then. When we visited Sister last April, we could tell something was different. The visit was awesome for so many reasons. We were fortunate to be able to fly. It was not a busy time at the Carmel. The weather was beautiful. We laughed and talked and sang Ed Sheeran’s What Do I Know to her. We’re weird like that and she hadn’t heard it, of course. This made Cash teary-eyed listening to us. It’s my favorite memory of that visit.

During our visits in the speak room, we noticed something interesting. She would say things like, “Do you guys hear that bell? That means it’s time for such-and-such prayer.” Another time, “It’s 11:00. I should go. I’m not going to ask for more time since Mother gave me extra time yesterday.” And, “I think I hear the Sisters going to the chapel.” The older ones of us were thinking, “Are you kidding, we want all the time we can get!” Something almost unnoticeable had changed in her. We sensed in her a desire to want to be back in the monastery doing what she does. A lot of what she does is pray. Our pastor, her spiritual director before she entered, was able to visit her recently. His report was simply that she seemed happy. Very happy.

It’s wasn’t a total surprise, then, when we learned last week that Sister will make a First Profession of Vows on October 13. We are so happy for her. But in speaking with Mother, I learned how serious this vow is. I thought it was just the next thing, another step on the way. An invitation to make this vow is with the expectation that you will make it to Final Vows three years later. It’s like a wedding and the vows taken this day will be repeated on special anniversaries.

When I speak about Sister I almost always preface it with “if she stays” because I’ve known that we could get a call at any time saying to come and pick her up. While she could still come out, it is now less likely.

We prepare for another trip east. To a place we’ve come to love. To see our girl in Carmel. But it feels different for us now as well.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 7

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Written on October 16, 2017

Sister made her Profession of First Vows. Each time we visit Carmel, I notice more of the beauty that is there. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by beautiful, quiet farmland. But this time it was the chapel.

We sat in the chapel on Friday afternoon, us, my sister’s family, our pastor, and forty of our friends, all who had sacrificed time and money to be there. It was quiet and dark. These vows are made somewhere in the monastery and not at the grille like her Clothing last year. About half way through, the bells rang out loud and clear to announce the Vows had been made. It was beautiful and overwhelming. A Mass of Celebration and visit in the speak room followed the next day. Every family present got to have a private visit and then we all crammed in together. My daughter, the Carmelite, spoke words of wisdom and encouragement. I was proud of her conviction and when her voice faltered because of the seriousness of it all, we all cried too.

It was amazing, all of it. But my heart is strangely heavy. After all had gone, we had our family visits. They were good. So good. She is sure this is her vocation. But she shared some of her sufferings and feelings about how hard this is. Driving away in the dark, I am thinking this was our hardest visit and goodbye yet. I am determined to pray more (not a strength) and make little sacrifices for her and to not forget what she has given up in answering this high call.

The joys, the sufferings, the heartache of separation, the great blessing of being a part of this wondrous Carmelite and cloistered life. God-willing, she will make a Final Vow in three years. For now, I’ll be thinking about the next letter and the next visit.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 8


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Written on January 30, 2018

It’s late on the west coast on this day in January remembering Sister’s entrance at Carmel two years ago. A lifetime ago. I have spent the last hour looking through pictures and, wow, did this girl take a lot of selfies! So many smiling, happy, beautiful pictures. But this is the one for today. Her serious and contemplative look maybe matches my mood today. Because, friends, this cloistered business is hard stuff!

Since her first vow in October, there has been an acceptance, a settling. Like this is it. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is. We started the simple prayer and penance for priests and religious at the beginnig of this month and on cue the devil did his messing with our girl. After talking to priests and religious, these struggles, these valleys and peaks she’s navigating are normal, they would all say. And then follow up with something like, but the cloistered, that’s a whole other level. We saw so many of these beautiful men and women at the walk in San Francisco and, after the tears, because, gosh, I can’t see a sister in a habit without crying, I felt such a deep appreciation for what they give up and the sacrifices they endure. What a gift they are to the Church and to the world.

We have been doing affirmations for years. We choose a person, usually on a special day or because we sense someone needs it, and everyone goes around and says what they like about that person or things they do well, etc. Words of affirmation. That’s what Sister needed from us. So instead of long letters filled with the happenings of our crazy days, we sent her affirmations. Instead of a hug or a hand held or a tear wiped, we shared words of encouragement. And we pray. That’s all we can do. Ultimately, this is between her and God, and like my oldest said, we can barely understand the sacrifice. I am so proud of her for following what she believes is God’s calling for her. So in awe of what she is doing.

Two years. A lifetime. But I remember every single second of that day. ❤

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 9

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Written on March 6, 2018

Happy 21st birthday, daughter of mine. In keeping with my other kids’ 2018 birthday posts, here is one of Sister looking a bit sad eating her cake (best one we have) and one in our beloved Sierras the summer before she entered.

I promised @hallielord and her listeners a lighter post about Sister. These are a few of the funny things. 😊

There were things that happened that made us wonder if Grace had a vocation, but she was too young for us to take them seriously. After our crazy 2013 when we adopted a baby, nearly lost a child, and sent our oldest off to college, we should have collapsed. But Grace was a Junior and I told her that we needed to think about college and the SAT. She, not my most communicative child, said something so important, so big. She said, “Mom, I don’t think I want to go to college, I think I have a vocation.” And I said, “Oh no, you’re going to college. You can work out your vocation at college.” Yes I did. She didn’t speak of it again.

About five months later, one of our priests, young enough to be my kid, caught me after Mass. He started by asking if we knew that Grace had been talking to him about her vocation. I bet she had since I pretty much shut her down. He shared some things and the seriousness of it all hit me. I started crying. He was probably regretting that he hadn’t caught Cash instead. After sharing, he ever so gently asked, “so about college…?” He is the best. I blubbered something along the lines of who cares about college!

Fast forward and she had visited a monastery and had a plane ticket for another. She’s a senior at this point and on track to graduate early. I remember being in church and her showing me in the missal that St. Therese entered at 15. I’m all let’s see how old St. Teresa was and said that I would make her finish high school! Then somewhere in there she kind of panicked and started saying things about having a back-up plan and taking the SAT and applying just in case the orders might tell her she needed to. Then I panicked thinking we had pretty much slacked off on most things academic. I was doubtful she could even get in.

She signed up for the SAT and I had to force her to study, say things like you are 17 and I am your mom so you must sit at the computer and take practice tests! My homeschool mom pride was all we’re not taking this and failing. But she was miserable. She groaned and moaned sitting there. Then I’d catch her in her room in the evening sitting on her bed surrounded by literature from various orders and notes from different Mothers. She would be glowing! I pointed this out but she was still so confused. Finally at one of our family meetings a few days before the big test, she broke down and dad said the right things and we made the decision to simply postpone the SAT. Instant peace. She flew off for a week-long visit and when she returned college was back off the table. She never took the SAT.

She would graduate, make another monastery visit, and go on an incredible pilgrimage to Lisuiex and Rome before she entered.

This got so long! Happy birthday, Sister Marie Elizabeth! I think I’m going to share these posts with her at our next visit. 😄

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 10

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Written on March 20, 2018

Do you have a child with special needs? This is a letter Sister wrote that I think you’ll like. It’s July 2016. Sister is a postulant and has been in Carmel for six months. The rest of us will attend an amazing family camp for families with children with special needs. We had been asked to be the speakers, actually, but things got complicated when someone decided at the last minute that he didn’t want to speak. I’m the sharing one, not him. I knew our kids could help with the talks and then wondered if maybe our Sister sister had some thoughts too. Feeling a bit desperate, I left a message at Carmel explaining the situation. The day we were to drive to camp, a letter arrived. She addressed it to the families at camp and I simply read it aloud. Sharing today because tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day and it seems like a good time to do so.

“The main way adopting a baby with special needs influenced my vocation was from seeing my parents and siblings and really our whole community of friends and family fully accept God’s will for us. Adopting a little baby with Down Syndrome wasn’t something we were searching out, Rosie basically just fell right into our laps. Like when a mom and dad find out the baby they’re expecting has a special need. How could they know beforehand? But there they are. God specifically gives that person to you. He chose your family out of all the other families to give that child with special needs to you as His gift. It’s not an accident or a mistake or something that could have been done differently. It’s His will that our sister has Down Syndrome, your daughter has autism, your brother has cerebral palsy. And I found that that’s similar to how it is with vocations. God gives everyone their vocation as a gift. It’s His will that your parents are married, your brother is a priest, your daughter will be a religious sister. And He gives us every grace we need to be the happiest and holiest we could be, because we’re doing His will. Since adopting Rosie, the truth in that has been so evident, it’s beautiful. Fist of all, she brings us so much joy. Even when we’re 2,000 miles apart she still brings me joy. When I think about her little face and all the goofy things she does, I get so happy. And second, I feel like our family is so much more open to Our Lord’s will because of the initial yes. Of course, along with the joy, everyone can probably agree that it’s not always easy. There are hard days, too. But because of the initial yes–yes to life of the baby with special needs, yes to an adoption, yes to a vocation–all of these yeses after that become easier. If it’s His will, God will always give us the grace. So when it came time to say yes to my vocation, I could look at the model of my parents and family and accept God’s will for me as they had done, with all the joys and sufferings. I will keep you all in my poor prayers during the camp. I wish I could be there with all the angels and their families! How lucky are we all? Never stop thanking Our Lord for them.”

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 11

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Written May 21, 2018

“Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might
Be exactly 
Like we were before we realized
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
When we were young.”

The months leading up to Sister’s entrance to the cloister were spent sorting and packing treasures, saying what-if-she-stays-forever goodbyes, and sneaking snapshots of the everyday things we wanted burned into our memories. She’d always roll her eyes and protest but we didn’t care. What if. What if she went in and didn’t come out.

When we left her after her first vows last October, we thought, okay, so this is it. Instead, the past many months have been unexpectedly rough. Our girl has struggled. I want to fix it and make it better, but it’s not my battle. We pray and we encourage and we share. All vocations are hard. And we try to let go and let God do His thing. She’s the strongest person I know and when she tries to tell us that she isn’t very pius we just laugh. Maybe she isn’t. But she’s given up everything to do something our pastor thinks is as difficult as what the Navy Seal Team 6 guys do.

At this time she seems to be doing much better. A dear, holy man from church told us to tell her that the devil must think her vocation is worth attacking. Maybe all of this will make her vocation that much stronger. Only God knows. We can’t wait to talk to her face to face with only the grille between us. I need to hear her voice and look into her eyes and know she is okay.

There are a number of songs that make the tears flow freely. It’s the words or because they were what we were singing along to on that first drive to the monastery. I might be walking or driving, but especially driving. If you’re local and see me, know I’m missing Sister fiercely in that moment.

In case it was the last time.
I photographed her in that light.
That we might be,
Exactly like we were.
In my memories, at least.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 12

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Written on May 31, 2018

Carmel is such a beautiful, peaceful, holy place. We say good-bye again, but our hearts are not heavy. Sister struggled, but she is good. It was a very good visit. Sometimes I worry that all of our sharing and showing makes Sister sad. This time it was ballet and jitterbug dances and the boys’ soccer act from the talent show. We even brought costumes. We can be loud and silly and rambunctious inside the speak room. She delights in it all!

We also talked about hard things and hard times and cried way too much. So inspired by her great sacrifice, we left wanting to be better people, better parents, better siblings, better friends, to do harder things. She is amazing. They all are. We told her how proud we are of her and how beautiful she is. We tried to remember all of the messages people told us to tell her. A very holy priest simply told her to persevere.

So persevere, dear daughter. You answered God’s call to do something incredibly hard. You said yes and you keep saying yes. Your great sacrifice will continually be in front of us as we go back to our day to day. And we’ll start planning our next trip where we will all be together once again.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Part 13

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Written on July 3, 2018

The day before we left San Diego to take Sister to Carmel, we went all over taking pictures at our favorite places. It was fun, but bittersweet. I look at this picture often, taken at a beach we love, trying to remember what it all felt like, remember what she felt like, remember everything. So many different feelings these past two and a half years. Disbelief that one of my kids discerned a vocation, an incredibly hard one. Relief knowing she is in such a good place in this crazy world. Happiness. Sadness. Pride. Sometimes it is just a deep missing her and her presence in our home and all the crazy things we do. If you know us in real life, you know it just never seems to not be crazy. We do them without her and while we’re still doing what we do, making memories and making plans, there is an emptiness. It is a loss, not the same as death we know, but a dying to the world and a dying to a life lived in such a big, fun way. She was fun and awesome and cool! She still is.

I’ve been thinking so much about her and the great sacrifice the women and men in cloistered monasteries make leaving all of this behind to answer a call to something greater. And the sacrifice their families make. There are so many things I could write and that I want to share, so many funny stories she’s told us and pictures she’s drawn for the boys. This latest letter had a hilarious drawing of the cow she milks. She’s a really good artist. I’ll save more of that for another post. 😊

It is incredibly humbling that so many of you enjoy reading these posts. I know I need to get them to a blog so that new friends can find them all easier. We are blessed beyond measure by your prayers for her and for us. Thank you. ❤

February Prayer and Penance for Priests and Religious

Prayer and Penance for Priests and Religious ~ 2018


February 2018 St. Michael Prayer At dinner, sit in your chair without leaning back

(or a variation below)

Prayer for Priests and Religious

(Page 2)


Variations on Penance/Sacrifice – choose another meal, choose another sacrifice, continue January’s penance of making bed upon rising, do both bed and chair (our family will try to keep adding rather than changing)


St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


O Jesus, our great High Priest, hear my humble prayers on behalf of Thy servants.

Give them a deep faith, a bright and firm hope, and a burning love

which will ever increase in the course of their life.

In their loneliness, comfort them.

In their sorrows, strengthen them.

In their frustrations, point out to them that it is through suffering that the soul is purified,

and show them that they are needed by the Church;

they are needed by souls;

they are needed for the work of redemption.


O Loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests and Religious,

take to your heart your children who are close to you

because of the power which they have received to carry on the work of Christ

in a world which needs them so much.

Be their comfort, be their joy, be their strength,

and especially help them to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.