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Inspiration | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother
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Flying Forward, Leaving Baggage Behind

Don’t let yesterday’s garbage block your adventures today.
My children still teach me this lesson.

A lifetime ago, during my unhappy childhood, my dad had a pilot’s license and flew recreationally.  In my book He Uses It For Good, I describe the role flight took the day my childhood ended.

When I was 9, my dad went out one Saturday morning for a solo flight. A funny thing happened on the way to the airport; he took a wrong turn and left.

That turn was the first step in my losing most of my childhood – our home, friends, dignity, possessions, and any sense of stability.

So for a lifetime, recreational flying put a bad taste in my mouth. My dad’s small plane misadventure left me with a lifetime of emotional wreckage to clear and rebuild, as I wrote in my book.

And now I have a daredevil daughter. She loves every amusement park ride – the scarier the better. When she flies around the corners, or up and down a roller coaster, I see sheer delight in her eyes.

And she wants to fly, to get her pilot’s license.

For her birthday, we paid for a single flight lesson for her. This week, she took it. Richard and I went with her to the airport – I knew nothing would happen but needed to make sure there weren’t any wrong turns this time. They invited me to sit in the back of the 4-seater, but I kept my feet firmly on the ground, camera in hand.

I snapped photos as they climbed in the plane and began their adventure. She loved every moment of her flight. I felt better  once they were safely back on the ground.

One day, she will get that pilot’s license and fly on the wings of eagles.  She doesn’t carry my baggage and will soar to places I’ve never imagined. She has a great father and will never know what a dad gap feels like.

As I stay on the ground cheering both her and her brother on their life journeys, God teaches me how true the tag line for my book He Uses It For Good is:

2nd chances and happy endings are possible.

And more: when we face forward, we can leave yesterday’s heavy baggage behind.

Our Family Bible Read-Aloud Challenge

Gaudete! Rejoice!

On this Gaudete Sunday, we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent and rejoice that Christmas is near. This year, that rejoicing takes on a special meaning for my family.

Today, we reached a milestone in our family Bible read-aloud challenge.  Family Bible study has been central in our home life since our daughter started kindergarten. When she was 5, we organized our Bible study a little more, reading a children’s Bible a story a day every morning, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation. Each year, we completed a different version of children’s Bibles. Since different versions focus on different stories, we learned a few different details each year.

When our kids reached their teen years, I wanted something more. Before my daughter started her freshman year, we changed our routine and took on a family Bible Read-aloud Challenge. Our challenge was to start with Genesis and read the Bible, two chapters a day, together as a family. As my teens grew busier, and our lives became more complex, that was sometimes harder. If anyone were out of town, we put the challenge on hold until everyone was home together.

We started at first reading a chapter daily in Genesis and a Psalm daily. This helped in case one reading were depressing or more detail than story-oriented. We didn’t skip any of the begets, begots, or don’t forgets – as in religious precepts.

I didn’t anticipate when we started how long it would take with our delays as our family’s schedules grew more complex. Nevertheless, when we were all home at mealtime together, each day, we read 2 chapters from the Bible. Finally, in my daughter’s senior year, we have completed the Old Testament. For our second readings each day, we had already worked our way through Matthew and are in the middle of Mark.

Now, we will continue the gospels, a chapter daily and also read a chapter from the letters daily. Our goal is to complete our challenge before our daughter leaves for college next fall. I think we’ll make it.

I never imagined, when we started, how struck we would be with the beauty and majesty of the Bible’s prose. Reading the actual text, in chronological order is one of the most stirring, remarkable experiences of my life. When we finish, we will find a different form of Bible study.

In this process, besides Divine inspiration, I hope our children have learned that it’s possible to achieve huge goals if you take them on a little at a time and keep going, not quitting when the going gets tough or tedious.

I will neither forget nor regret our goal of reading the entire Bible together, as a family, before our children left for college. After just over three years of delving indepth into the Old Testament, we’re ready for the good news of the New Testament.

Just as we lit the 3rd pink candle this morning and rejoice that Christmas is near, I rejoice that in our readings, we have wandered through creation, original sin, wandering in the desert, reform, captivity, and reunion, and are now ready to celebrate Christmas – the birth of Christ. Wherever we are or were on the journey, there can be a happy ending.

Gaudete! Rejoice!

How Tri-State Women Turned My Life Upside Down in a Single Year

At Thursday night’s Christmas party with Tri-State Women, I shared how they had changed my life in a single year.

A year ago, I went to their Christmas party, when Cheryl Mochau, a visitor, spoke about her book He Knew I Would Tell. She had recently published it to share stories of God moments in her life and those of others. Because I had been to a Living Hell to Living Well retreat earlier that fall, hosted by TSW’s founder Kimberly Delcoco, where I had set a goal of writing a book within 5 years, I was intrigued.

So Cheryl and I made an appointment for a 1:1 over coffee, just before a January meeting of Tri-State Women.  Cheryl shared that she felt called to write a book and prayed to ask how to fit time to write it. She woke up early and realized God was giving her the time.

Always ready with a wisecrack, I told her that when God was ready for me to write a book, he would wake me up early to do it. I told her when it happened, I would write “Good morning” on her Facebook wall, and she would know what it meant.

Cheryl told me, “Don’t joke like that. God will take you seriously.”

The next morning, I woke up at 3 a.m. I realized it was time and started writing, getting up early and writing daily for a month. At the end of that month, my book He Uses It for Good was written. It took a lot of the rest of the year to work through the publication process.

But in that full circle of life, this year, it was my book I was talking about at Tri-State Women. After I told how my book began, Kim added insights I have to share.

It wasn’t just what happened to me that changed my life this year. It was my listening to God and saying yes when called. It was about Cheryl and me – and the other women like us – who encouraged one another and worked to inspire each other. In the process, that made an impact on our own lives, the lives of our friends, then our community, and beyond.

What I never expected after finishing my book was the tremendous relief born of sharing a story I had held inside for a lifetime, waiting for the time to be right to tell it. As I wrote the story, I prayed at each step for God to close doors and stop me if the time were wrong or if I should stay silent. Every single time, He pushed me forward.

And I said yes.

With that yes, my whole world is a little brighter – sort of like seeing the colors in the land of Oz after spending a lifetime in Kansas. I can open the door in the morning, hear birds chirping, and get so excited I call my family to the door so they too can hear their music.

Now I see that I had to tell my own story before I could write those of others.  This was not an end but was a beginning – future books will include a cookbook, a children’s story book which I hope  my husband will illustrate, and a book of meditations inspired by great hymns that sustained me for a lifetime.

Once I said yes to God, whole worlds of possibilities presented themselves.

And I learned that when you surround yourself with kind, compassionate friends who encourage you to aim higher and try new adventures, great things happen.

Thanks, Tri-State Women, most especially Kim and Cheryl.

Whats & Whys for the New Mass Responses

Decades ago, I tutored a girl learning English as a second language with her English composition class. In an essay, she wrote, “My brother pulled my legs off.” I explained to her the difference between what she wrote and the cliche which would have been, “My brother pulled my leg.” Translations are more art than science, and we both laughed after I explained the difference between what she wrote and what she meant.

Some translations are better than others.  Good things happen when we work to improve a translation; we think through what words really mean and what we are saying.

We often say that we are what we eat; we are also what we speak. The words we speak and the thoughts we think work together to impact who we are and what we do. 

One of the ways my parish prepared for the new responses was hosting the first of many workshops on whats and whys for the responses. We learned how Latin helped the spread of the early Church. Paul asked to go to Rome because it was the center of the Empire. As he shared his message and was martyred there, he witnessed to many who spread the Word to the far reaches of the Roman Empire. All roads lead to Rome, and those roads at that time led to the evangelization of distant lands.

As the evangelization spread, Latin became the universal language used for worship. In my own parish, which hosts a Spanish Mass in addition to English masses, when we had a bilingual Mass, our congregation united when we sang some responses in Latin. The Latin united us in a way that neither English nor Spanish could. That said, responding in the Mass in our native tongue gives us opportunities for full participation.

I like the new responses because they give us an opportunity to think about what we are saying, to learn more about the Bible, and to deepen our faith. The new responses are intended to lift our thoughts and our language higher, aimed more towards God, just as the buttresses and windows in Gothic cathedrals pointed up to direct us heavenwards.

Parishes need to offer workshops on what we say and why we say it so our Mass responses are more intentional. Parishioners need to attend those workshops; if you haven’t made the time to study the whats and whys of the new responses, then don’t complain about the changes.

Examples of my top 10 new Mass responses that I like:

  1. “And with your spirit” – I only missed this response once last Sunday with an “And also with you.” When we say this, we are recognizing the work the Holy Spirit does in our priests and how the Holy Spirit transforms the priest’s heart. We’re also more closely remembering Biblical references of  Galatians 6:18, Philippians 4:23, and 2 Timothy 4:22. This more closely reflects the Semitic greetings (see Ruth 2:4 and 1 Chronicles 22:11 for early precursors) and those of the early Church. St. Hippolytus of Rome wrote of this exchange in The Apostolic Tradition in 215 A.D.
  2.  “I believe” now begins the Nicene Creed instead of  “We believe.” This puts our translation of the creed in line with other languages who have always said “I believe.” This makes our declaration of the creed a personal commitment and binds us more closely to what we are saying.
  3. “Visible and invisible” – In the Creed, we now say we believe in things “visible and invisible” instead of “seen and unseen.” I can’t see the other side of the planet, but we all know it’s there. When we instead say visible and invisible, we acknowledge the spiritual realm which is not visible but which directly impacts us all. When the Vatican Collection toured art museums in 1998, the title of the exhibit was “The Invisible Made Visible; Angels from the Vatican.” The exhibit brought the Vatican’s greatest artistic renderings of divine and angelic intervention to museums across the United States. Now, when we say the creed, we can better recognize that spiritual realm. This refers to Col. 1:16.
  4. “Consubstantial with the Father”  - Before in the Creed, we said “one in being with the Father.” Now, we say “consubstantial with the Father.” Jesus is both God and Man, which means He has a human and a divine nature. “Consubstantial” (with substance) gives us the opportunity to recognize His divine nature. This gives us a chance to review Church history and why the Council of Nicea (which produced the Nicene Creed) was called in 325 A.D. The Council was called to review and refute the Arian heresy: that Jesus was human but not divine.  As I increasingly see the Arian heresy again rearing its head such that good people misunderstand that Jesus was human and divine, I think this change is very much needed.
  5. “Was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”  – The previous statement was “born of the Virgin Mary.” We are all born. The new phraseology recognizes that Jesus was not merely born but was made incarnate, with the Holy Spirit, and He was both human and divine from the moment of conception. This helps us again recognize His divine nature.
  6. Gloria thanks – in the former Gloria, we used 3 verbs: worship, give (you thanks), and praise. Now we use 5: praise, bless, adore, glorify, and give (you thanks). This hammers home the rejoicing of the Mass and makes it deeper. Just as the Eskimos have more words for snow than we do, as we use more verbs here we more fully reflect our worship.
  7. “Lord Jesus Christ” in the Gloria – The previous version included in our praise “Lord Jesus Christ, only son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God.” Now, we will sing, “Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.” This reminds us of John 3:16, that Jesus is the son of God.
  8. “You take away the sins of the world” in the Gloria. Before, we sang to Jesus, “you are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer.” Now, we sing, “you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You are seated at the right hand of the father, have mercy on us.” So we begin our Mass with a more direct thanking of Jesus for taking the sins of the world and a prayer asking for His mercy.
  9. “For many” – the new Roman Missal includes in the Eucharist: “which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Previously, it said “for you and for all.” Christ’s salvation is open to all, but not all choose to receive it. This more accurately reflects the Gospels in the Last Supper, Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24.
  10. “under my roof” – In the earlier Mass, we said, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word and I shall be healed.” That was beautiful, but I like the new version more, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Read the story of Jesus and the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) who came to Jesus asking for his servant to be healed. The Roman centurion told Jesus, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof,” after which he asked for healing. Jesus said yes. This story gives me comfort – I was a centurion, an outsider, who asked Jesus under my roof so my soul would be healed. As I say that every time I attend Mass, that will remind me of the miracle of my salvation.
The new Dismissal Rites do not include an option for “Y’all come back now, ya hear!” They do call us to go forth and live the Gospel. And we will still respond, “Thanks be to God.”
So we have a new challenge: to update our Mass responses and in the process review what our faith means and renew how it applies in our lives.  What greater challenge is there for a new liturgical year?
Let’s go for it!


Roman Missal Resources – links to several excellent resources by Our Sunday Visitor

Welcoming the Roman Missal - by USCCB

Catholic Lane – 10 Good Reasons to Get Excited About the New Mass

Catholic Lane – “And With Your Spirit”

Catholic Lane – A Fresh Encounter with the Liturgy



Catholic Lane – The Mystery of the Eucharistic Union


Catholic Lane – There Will be Blood


Catholic Lane – Focus on Christology


This is Your Story

What’s your story? Not your parents’ story, not your siblings’ story, not your friends’ story, and not your neighbor’s story. Play the video below and keep reading.

YOUR story.  Your story is one of a kind – with unexpected twists. In the entire history of our planet, no one else has ever been born in your circumstances to meet your challenges.

After I finished writing my story – so far – in He Uses It For Good – I asked friends to read and critique it. One of them returned the manuscript to me and asked, “Why didn’t you describe such and so?”

The answer? “It’s not my story. It’s someone else’s. This book, this time, was about my story.”

The good news is that so long as there is breath in our bodies, our stories have a chance to have a happy ending, to get a second or a third, or a hundredth chance.

“Blessed Assurance,” a hymn from my childhood, includes lyrics:

“This is my story. This is my song. Praising my savior all the day long.”

The older I get, the more I feel the rhythmic gospel sway of those words. Not all parts of the story are happy. And that’s ok. Those are the parts of the story that make the good parts that much better. The rough, rotten patches were used to shape and form who I am today. Each of the parts of my story can fit together to build into a song, which I happened to put into book form.

YOU have a story. YOU are uniquely made, and the many different parts of your story can be woven into a song starting right now, today.  Suffering is the forge that tempers a human heart with strength and fills it with compassion.

What’s your story? Embrace it, seize it, and make the most of what it brings you today.

Sandy – or the Making of a Pearl

When I was in 4th grade, I wrote my first short story. My teacher was the first in my school who wanted to try a “creative classroom.” After we finished our assigned work, she had stations we could go to with extra projects. One included story starts. I took one of the cards and wrote a story, illustrating and writing it many times over that year.

It was the diary of a grain of sand who enjoys ocean life until the day he is snagged by an oyster. Inside the oyster, “Sandy” goes through excruciating tortures. Layer upon layer is added onto him, and he cannot understand what is happening. He wonders if the suffering would continue forever or ever end. Finally, one day it does end but he still never understood what had happened and missed his life on the bottom of the ocean.

Later, the oyster is captured, and he is taken from it. He had become a pearl that was beautiful. All the pain and suffering was part of the process that made him who he had become. It was worth it.

I wrote and rewrote that story for 3 years, never realizing the story I was writing was my own. The only copies of the story that remain are in my head and heart.

To put the story I wrote in context, when I wrote it, my father was a missing fugitive whose name was in area news headlines.  I lost a piece of my childhood at a time that year, ventured to Louisiana the next, and spent the rest of my childhood fighting with my mother & siblings to survive after we lost everything we thought we owned.

I was the grain of sand under horrible pressures. It took a lifetime to realize that’s how God refined me. The rest of the story is in my new book, He Uses It For Good.

Now I see that the moments you feel the most like there are too many pressures, sorrows, and struggles are probably the ones where God is working hardest to use those experiences to help you become something better.

Let Him.

Leadership Lessons from The Help

“You’re smart. You’re kind. You’re important,” Abileen often tells Mae Mobley Leefolt, a toddler in The Help. When things don’t go well or Mae is upset, Abileen reminds her of these 3 most important qualities.

What would happen if leaders shared that same message with those they know? We could move mountains.

That simple affirmation validates the other person’s intelligence and worth while inspiring them to be a better person. If we all felt that way and encouraged others to do likewise, imagine the problems we would solve and great things we would achieve.

So my challenge to you is this:

From now till Thanksgiving, every single day, find 3 people in your life and affirm their worth with Abileen’s simple words:

You’re smart. You’re kind. You’re important.

Try it. What do we have to lose?

Great things happen when we affirm the worth of those around us.

Waiting for Monday

“You’re too young to have enough experiences to write about your life,” I was told last week by a lady who had just met me. Part of me wishes that were true.

If things go well, I”ll have copies of He Uses It for Good available for sale Monday evening.  We’re waiting on the books to arrive. I want to make sure the books actually arrive before I schedule events to sell the book.

As soon as I have books in hand, I’ll post information on how you can get copies.

I’m waiting with a mixed bag of excitement and nerves. As I wrote, I opened the deepest closets of my heart and shared them – the good with the bad. I’m a little scared of what people will think. We all have a story with happy and sad parts. I’ve never shared some of the sadder parts of my story. Until now. 

I hope it celebrates the best of the American dream – the hardships we deal with, whether as children or adults, do not have to define or destroy us. They build us, and they make us stronger.

And I hope it shares my faith and what I have learned – whatever happens in life, if we give it to God, He can use it for good purpose.

Time and again, I’ve been hit with challenges that should have destroyed me. Yet here we are. God carried me through those times so I could share that story and inspire others to keep going, to never quit, and to see how God can use all things for good in their own lives.

Each day that I wrote, I asked God to guide my words. After I finished, I asked Him to confirm that it was time to tell my story. He confirmed it in a remarkable way that was added to the book’s end.

If you want to know more about how God carried me through challenges, buy my book.

Watch the Ball

When I was pregnant with my son, we both nearly died. The last month of his pregnancy, I was on bedrest, in Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in St. Louis, Missouri. My family visited on weekends. Each day presented challenges, including blood treatments with terrible side effects, early contractions, and more. But I knew that each hour and each day we delayed his birth increased his likelihood of survival.

How could I handle being alone, in a private room, on bedrest, in a hospital 100 miles from home, for 5 days each week? My husband helped me focus on the end game priority. We put a baby boy outfit on a hanger, on that wall, complete with get well cards from family and friends. When I got sick, tired, or discouraged, I would look at my wall of hope.

We managed to delay his birth a month by the grace of God. He didn’t spend a single hour in NICU.

There are life and business lessons in my experience.

  • Decide on your big, end game goal and put a reminder of it where you can see it. 
  • Surround yourself with encourages who love and support you. There are some who would rather argue with you or distract you in other directions. They can’t distract you if you watch the ball. Mentally remove them from your sphere of attention. The more you pay attention to the negative naysayers who would rather fight than build, the less likely you will win the end game.
  • It is easy to get distracted by small inconveniences.  Keep your eye on the ball, look for the prize, and don’t get distracted. The more you focus on your real goal, the more your actions and decisions will reflect that goal, and you’ll be likely to attain it.

Life is too short to waste it on distraction. Spend it going towards your goals and building loving, healthy relationships that respect boundaries.

Build your team with players who want to win the big game and will work together.

Oh – and if you want to hear more of how we survived that pregnancy and what happened, by my book He Uses It For Good when it’s released next month.


Discovering Jesus on Vacation Adventures

When my family visits other parishes during our travels, we’re touched and uplifted spiritually. If I copied Geoffrey Chaucer and his tales of Canterbury, I could call them Biever Tales. But then people would think of something else, and my purpose would be lost.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, many pilgrims share stories on their journey. In their stories – some funny, some profound, each as unique as those on the journey, I see Jesus – a Jesus who came to save an imperfect world and loves us, flaws and all.

When our family travels, I research Mass Times to find parishes where we can worship. Then I find a Mass time that meets our schedule and map our way to the parish. Sometimes, our schedule is tight.

  • This summer, we went to Mass at Holy Rosary in Indianpolis just two hours before my daughter went to Washington, D.C., for a week of workshops.
  • Last month, when my son returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., we raced to St. Monica parish in Indianapolis, running a few minutes late. In that case, I had my Mass times folder, complete with times and maps to 4 different parishes, depending on what time his bus got back.
  • Our travels have taken us in recent years to St. Anthony in Indianapolis, Our Lady of the Springs in French Lick, and St. Thomas Moore in Mooresville.

Each time we follow those maps to visit a parish, sight unseen, I pray we won’t get lost and something remarkable will happen. It does. When we’re out of our comfort zone in a new parish and city, we still enjoy universal Mass responses. Being out of our comfort zone jars us from complacency and helps me discover Jesus in unexpected ways.

  • Worshiping in the tiny parish where the young child who’s just learned to talk says “Amen.” At least 20 times in a row.
  • Listening to a youth praise band full of young people playing with all their hearts and souls.
  • Hearing church bells in a parish that feels like it was lifted from the hills of Italy and brought to the Midwest.
  • Meeting priests who recognize us as guests and make a special point to make us feel welcome, thanking us for visiting them.
  • Visiting a parish where we’re in the racial minority and everyone there makes an extra effort to welcome us.
  • Being invited for coffee and donuts after Mass in new places.

Yesterday, as we visited a tiny parish on a hillside in French Lick, Indiana, during the readings, I grabbed my husband Richard’s hand. The priest had just shared a profound insight about God’s love and wedding feasts. We both saw Jesus again in that moment.

Just as in Chaucer’s time with a band of diverse pilgrims, no two parishes are the same. Nevertheless, they are united in the Eucharist. Each, in its own way, teaches us a new facet of God’s love and introduces us to Jesus all over again.

So each week, wherever I am, I can stop the bustle of my schedule, meet Jesus for a very important occasion, and remember how much He loves me and all of us.

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