Rice Bowl recipes connect us with our global family

Janet Dusek, administrative assistant for the Office of Marriage and Family, and Sheila Reineke, Natural Family Planning program coordinator for the diocese, enjoyed the lunch — which included two Rice Bowl soups — at the retreat.

Yesterday diocesan employees gathered for our second all-staff retreat centered on StrengthsFinder, a program that we’ve been using to learn more about our own strengths and those of our co-workers and to assist all of us in exploring how we can best minister together as a team. Leisa Anslinger, a national leader in StrengthsFinder work, parish engagement and stewardship, led the retreat. We had a great day with team building activities, collaboration, self-reflection and prayer.

Iraqui lablabi (chickpea soup) and Haitian vegetable stew were on the menu at the February 21 Lenten retreat for diocesan employees.

Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl played an important role in our day, too. Two of this year’s meatless Rice Bowl recipes were featured at lunchtime — vegetable stew from Haiti and chickpea soup from Iraq. Both soups received good reviews from those who attended the retreat!

CRS Rice Bowl is a Lenten program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services that helps parishes, schools and families learn more about its work around the world and the people it serves. Participants are urged to put the money they save from eating simple, meatless meals into a symbolic “rice bowl” to be donated to CRS. Perhaps you have saved the Rice Bowl pullout section from our February 9 issue or have viewed the section online. This year’s theme is “Who is my neighbor? Called to be companions on the journey.”

Kateri Mancini, who has recently been named the new director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, coordinated the preparation of the Rice Bowl dishes with staff of The Visitor. Kateri has worked as the coordinator of mission education at the St. Cloud Mission Office for the last 12 years. (The Mass collection taken at the event was earmarked for Rice Bowl.)

This year Rice Bowl offers recipes for cheese soup with fritters from Nicaragua, bean cakes from Burkina Faso and vegetables with rice from Malawi in addition to the Haitian stew and chickpea soup.

Perhaps you remember a Rice Bowl recipe you’ve enjoyed from past years or would like to explore other meatless options during Lent — or any other time. Recipes from 2013 to the present are featured on their website. One that I want to try soon is the bean soup with squash and rice from Honduras. It is a Rice Bowl favorite of our editor, Joe Towalski and his wife, Dianne, Visitor multimedia reporter and graphic designer.

Here’s the recipe for the Honduran bean soup with squash and rice. I hear it’s delicious!


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”




Musicals, comfort zones, and other things that scare you

“Do one thing every day that scares you” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Can you believe Lent is here already?! I can’t believe how much it has snuck up on me. It feels like yesterday we were putting the Christmas decorations up!

I have been spending the last couple days really praying and trying to figure out what I am going to give up and do for Lent. One word that keeps coming to mind is “different.” This Lent I want to be different.

The song “Different” by Micah Tyler explains this perfectly:

“I want to be different, I want to changed, ‘til all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright the whole world can see, that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.

I don’t want to spend my life stuck in a pattern, I don’t want to gain this world but lose what matters.”

Something that I have been trying to do lately and I am going to do throughout Lent is stepping out of my comfort zone to do things that scare me. A perfect example of this occurred just this past weekend: performing in front of over a hundred people each night in our performances of the musical “Guys and Dolls”! I never would have imagined myself in a musical if I am being honest!

St. Peter’s Church put on the show and my sister Nikki and I were asked to be in it. I immediately wanted to come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t do it, but I felt a nudge to go for it, and was cast as General Cartwright. Even though this opportunity was incredibly out of my comfort zone, it was such a rewarding experience. Not only did I meet some awesome people and gain life-long friendships, but I also realized how capable we are of things we put our mind to. Our comfort zones are just that—comfortable—but comfort can often keep us reaching our true potential. Like St. John Paul II said,

“This world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness!”

So this Lent I am going to try to step out of my comfort zone and be different. I want people to wonder why I smile when things aren’t going my way and why I am excited to go to church. I challenge you to be different this Lent and to do one thing every day that scares you.


Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Most People are Good

17 dead. When will these senseless mass shootings stop? Parkland Florida, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook… the list goes on and on.

When I heard another shooting took place, I immediately got super angry. How can someone think they have the right to end someone else’s life? Or was it a mental illness that went untreated that caused them to act this way? As I have been reflecting the last couple days on not just this shooting but all the past shootings, I thought about the shooters, how lonely, angry, or hurt they must have been to do something so horrible. I thought about each of the victims’ families and how horrible that moment must have been when they were told they would never see their son/wife/sister/etc. again. Then I thought about each of the victims and the split-second decision they had to make to be either selfish or selfless. In a moment when they could have been just victims, so many of them stepped up to be heroes.

  • Aaron Feis was the football coach and security guard at the school in Florida. He died shielding students from bullets.
  • Sonny Melton was killed while covering his wife during the Las Vegas Shooting as they were celebrating their first wedding anniversary.
  • Firefighter Steve Keys was shot while performing CPR on a woman in Las Vegas.
  • Fire captain Mark McCurdy carried his sister-in-law to her hotel in Vegas after she was shot and ran back into the danger zone to see if any more help was needed.
  • Jonathan Smith, 30, saved about 30 people before he was shot in the neck in Vegas.
  • First grade teacher Victoria Soto from Sandy Hook hid her students in closets and cabinets. When the gunman entered her classroom, she convinced him the students were in the gym so he killed her and left.
  • Jose Martinez was saved by Christopher Hansen and Carlos Rosario in the Orlando shooting. One held onto Martinez’s rosary while the other stuffed a knotted bandanna into Martinez’s two gunshot wounds to save his life.

As hard as it is to focus on the positive in situations like this, it is very comforting to know that even though there was one ‘bad’ guy, there were countless selfless and generous people involved. These situations show us that in the times when the worst of humanity comes out in its cruelest form, the best of humanity is sure to emerge in its wake, stronger than ever.

“I believe this world isn’t half as bad as it looks;

I believe most people are good

I believe if you just go by the nightly news,

Your faith in mankind would be the first thing you lose.”              – lyrics from the song ‘Most People Are Good’ by Luke Bryan


Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

The Zipper Resolution

I remember Lent as a kid and it was always about giving something up. Usually it was candy or sweets.  Other kids, braver and stronger than I, would give up TV.  Now Lent is different. I still try for the candy thing, but I try to look beyond food in conscious choices to do or be different.

Lent always sounds like New Year’s Resolutions and often we joke about those, and how quickly those are broken. I am happy to say that I do much better with Lent than New Years. I take that as a good sign in terms of my Catholic faith.

Some time ago, I taped a picture to my computer screen at work. Many have seen it, but only one co-worker has asked me about it. The college students who work with me probably just take it as confirmation that I am odd. It is my resolution – for Lent and really for every day.

What does it mean?

A picture of a zipper Sheila keeps on her desk.

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? If not, zipper (as in my mouth, as in be silent, as in walk away). There are cool looking Pinterest things with this, but my purpose is not décor for the office, or to remind others. It is for me. Quiet. Subtle.

In researching the origins of this, I found out in ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates spoke of it and it was called the Triple Filter Test (Truth, Goodness/Intention, Usefulness/Function).

This, however, is not one of those resolutions where if you fail, you give up. Because I fail often, repeatedly. It is too important, however, to give up. The little reminder puts me back into a place to try again. Following it makes me a better person, better colleague, better friend. Giving up candy has good consequences as well, but that is between the weight scale and me. This resolution, I think, centers my life with God. My relationship with Him is reflected daily, even hourly, in my exchanges with others. My simple “T, N, K” makes me pause. Sometimes it helps and causes me to filter. Sometimes I say things anyway. This resolution helps me recognize my failings.

On the other side, “T, N, K,” also serves as an inspiration to be bold, but on the side of affirmation. Speech is all too often associated with hate and bullying. Negative stuff, but I can use “T, N, K” to lift people up. How many people need that boost? How many people get it? If it is true and it is kind, odds are it is necessary and someone really needs to hear it. Be the light in someone’s otherwise dark day.  That is why my picture is open at the top. I need to find the times when opening my mouth is important and necessary.  Why is this harder for me?  It shouldn’t be.

At the end of each day this Lent, I am going to spend a minute and ask myself “Today was I as quick with my compliments as I was with my complaints?”  If not, I resolve tomorrow to do better. Maybe at the end of the 40 days, I will be able to say “yes” more often than “no.” I know it won’t be every day. God knows that too.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

If I but touch the hem

When a common theme comes up in your prayer time or the Scriptures, do you hear it? Do you stop to listen and take heed?

I’m certain that such recurring themes are not usually coincidence. Especially not when they fall within a time span of less than one week. When those promptings happen, they tend to stir the heart and get the gearboxes in my mind starting to move.

Consider these recent Scripture passages (emphasis mine):

“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  Mark 5: 25-34

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them,”Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”   Mark 5:38-41

“Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6: 56

 Reading these over again kind of makes me appreciate the Gospel of Mark with new fondness. When I sat in the pew on Sunday and Father Sudhansu (a priest in themSauk Centre parish cluster) in his homily spoke the sentence that I had been contemplating for several days, my husband and I did a sideways glance and smiled at one another. Father Sudhansu said,

“Those who are in need of healing want to just touch Jesus.”

 These people in the scriptures lay aside everything in order to be near Jesus, meet him, just touch him. This is what we seek, isn’t it? We walk by faith and sometimes it’s only the thread of hope that we grasp. Our bodies and souls are in varying degrees of a need to be healed. In the darkness of the night, I too feel it.

“Jesus, I need you. There is this area of my life, a relationship, unforgiveness, anger, fear, hurt, despair, that I cannot move away from. I cannot fix on my own. Come near me, Jesus, let me just touch your cloak.”

 As Father Sudhansu also mentioned in his homily, just as Jesus felt power go out from him when he was touched, there is a strength and energy that leaves each of us as we hug another person, “Like 1,000 horsepower of electricity!” While Jesus sees our need for healing and He offers that healing to us, He may also send that healing to us through the embrace of a human touch that we can feel and see, or send us to deliver that healing embrace to another for him.

 Maybe now is the time that Jesus is passing by and saying, “Arise! Your faith has healed you, my child.” Let us ask Jesus for strength to walk forward to a path of healing that draws us closer to Him. Now is the time. Arise, my brothers and sisters!

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Visitor Venture

Each year, the Catholic Press Association celebrates the Catholic press in February. As members of the association, The Visitor is excited to celebrate what we do all year long in bringing the latest in Catholic news as well as inspirational stories to the people of the St. Cloud Diocese.

Part of the fun this year includes “Visitor Venture,” a treasure hunt of sorts, which encourages participants to check out all The Visitor’s print and social media platforms to find a series of six words.

From Jan. 25-30, the “Word of the Day” can be found in the paper or on one of our digital sites:
– Website: www.stcloudvisitor.org
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSt.CloudVisitor
– Twitter: @SCVisitor
– Instagram: visitorphoto
– From the Heart blog: www.fromtheheartmn.org

Check the sites daily and collect all six words for a chance to win lunch for two with The Visitor staff.

The winner will be announced Jan. 31. Prizes will be given randomly throughout February to those who follow, like and/or comment on our social media sites.



Living authentically

It seems to be a new catch phrase, “live authentically.” Yet, as a Catholic, sometimes that is harder than it appears. For me, this time of year is especially difficult. It has nothing to do with Christmas. Next week we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. It is not news to anyone who knows me well that I am a practicing Catholic and I do not hide my faith. I have encouraged Confirmation students to wear their faith like a coat. Not like a Sunday coat or Wednesday night coat (because you have to go to religion class), but every day. This is hard advice to dispense when I, myself, find myself not necessarily wearing my coat when talk around office, on the street, in the store, or wherever there are conversations and debates that split society and, in cases, split Catholics themselves.

I often go back to another question. “If you were on trial for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I got started thinking about this after a homily on Sunday where a visiting priest told us to remember that someday, in heaven, we will see someone and we will remember that we could have done more. I think this applies to individuals, as well as our faith. There is always more we can do to defend our faith, our beliefs – even those hard ones – where we are challenged. In my case, it is not doubt in what I believe, but lack of confidence in the face of belittlement, shaming, and implications about a lack of intelligence, as though Catholicism, especially certain teachings, are ignorant or misogynistic. Though I do not understand how believing, fundamentally, that life begins at conception qualifies for those labels.

We all have a faith unique to us and our process of discernment is a continuous process. Our ‘action plan’ for our faith evolves, as opportunities come up and changes force us in a different path. But is that path always moving in the direction of God? We can’t jump on and off the Catholic bandwagon depending on the issue. We can’t be on God’s team only when it is winning. This isn’t football and the Minnesota Vikings. (Speaking of which, imagine if we showed that same level of enthusiasm supporting our Catholic “team.” Wow!)

Our faith defines us. Are we authentic or are we putting on a show? Are we the same person in church as we are in school? You don’t need to be an evangelist at every opportunity, or a saint, to be a faithful Catholic. You can be you. That is enough for God. At the same time, are we speaking up to defend what we believe?

Matthew 5:14-15 says “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Regretfully I admit to covering my faith with a bowl to avoid those difficult conversations. Yet, even if you do not have faith bold enough to stand on the top of a hill with your light, it can be shared. I have done so more quietly, in my own way. I know that is not enough. It is not truly authentic. We have dark corners to light. We have truth to share.

Rather than hiding it, I think we need to remember that our faith may have an impact on another. It is a deeply personal thing, but if you own it and really wear it, it will touch the people around you and it will make a difference in your families, to your friends, to complete strangers. God gave us a voice, to sing (though my case not very well) and to speak. To declare our belief that January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court got it wrong…very wrong.

This new year I am going to try harder to wear my coat, not just Sundays. I am going to try to be found guilty of being a Catholic at every opportunity. I am going to focus on that prayer we say often, but perhaps do not consider closely enough. Where we consider and ask for help “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”

To my friends who are bold, who are walking proud in the March for Life, thank you for using your light. You have my admiration. I want to be as guilty as you of being Catholic.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

The Strength of a Woman

I came across a blog by Abby Johnson a while back that really struck a chord with me. It was titled “7 Things I Learned at the Women’s Convention About Feminists and Abortion.” There were a lot of crazy things she encountered at the convention as a pro-life feminist (in the truest and best sense of the word), but the truth that has been resonating in my heart since reading the blog was this: that the abortion industry, now more than ever, is playing on women’s fears and insecurities in order to convince them that they’re not strong enough, not ready enough, to be a mother. Abby wrote:

To them [the abortion industry], being able to kill women in the womb is totally pro-woman. Being able to exploit women’s fears of not being strong enough to be a parent is empowering. But pro-choice feminists know nothing of women’s empowerment.

“Oh, you are pregnant and in school? Well, there’s no way you are strong enough to finish your educational goals and be a mother. We will capitalize on your fear, make you feel weak, and give you an abortion.” Or maybe, “Oh, your boyfriend just left you and you are pregnant? Well, there’s no way you are strong enough to be a single mother. Let’s just get this abortion taken care of so we can keep convincing you just how weak you are.”

Pro-life feminists refuse to choose. We can be mothers and have careers. We can finish our education with children in tow. Is it a challenge? Yep. But women are made for challenges. We are strong enough to handle the challenges presented to us. It’s what we were made to do.”

Women are made for challenges. Can I get an amen?! This article has really made me start to think about what it means to be strong as a woman. What, at the very core, is the strength of a woman?

I think the feminist movement (in its worst form) has distorted what it means to be a woman so horribly that “strength” is often be equated with physical power or intimidation or ‘lording it over’ men, or even just trying to be like men and proving that we can do everything they can do. But if God made us male and female, He obviously had a reason!

Women weren’t made to live for ourselves—we’ve been given such an ability and desire to nurture in a maternal way, even if we’re not physical mothers. The feminine heart wants to love intensely, even when it’s hard and scary and there’s the risk of that heart being broken by loving broken human beings. But we were made for this challenge, for the challenge of loving with everything we are.

I think of the strongest person I know—my mom. She’s physically strong, born and raised a true farm girl, but her deepest strength lies in her love, giving herself totally to others and allowing her heart to be broken out of love. I think of Mary, the ultimate example for all women, allowing her heart to be broken by love, courageously suffering the incomprehensible agony of watching her son die the worst kind of death. The strength of a woman lies in this kind of love—giving ourselves completely and risking the pain and demands of love. I once heard that our capacity to suffer is in direct proportion to our capacity to love, because when we love another person with everything we are, their suffering becomes our own. What a beautiful gift— and a daunting challenge! It reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis from The Four Loves that pierces to the heart of what it means to authentically love:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

This is true strength. This is the strength of a woman. It’s not “strength” to abort a child in order to avoid the messiness and demands of love. Selfishness is the antithesis of strength. Let’s stop trying to convince women otherwise. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are enough. Don’t be afraid to let your heart be broken for others—It’s what you were made to do.


Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

‘Jangling around gently’ and other words of wisdom

On this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was looking at The New York Times Book of the Dead, a cherished gift from last Christmas given me by my most cherished niece. It is a collection of 320 obituaries that ran in The New York Times.

As I paged through, I came across the obituary of Satchel Paige (July 7, 1906-June 8, 1982), one of the greats of baseball’s old Negro leagues, and indeed one of baseball’s greats of any league.  In those days, because of the ban on blacks in the major leagues, blacks had their own league.  Many of the best of these players played baseball year-round, in the U.S. in the spring, summer and fall and in the Caribbean and Central America in the winter.

The NY Times obituary tells us that Paige pitched in his lifetime some 2,500 games, had 55 no-hitters and “he once started 29 games in one month in Bismarck, N.D., and he said later that he won 104 of the 105 games he pitched in 1934.”

When Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier in 1947, Paige was already in his 40’s.  This didn’t prevent him from pitching most of five seasons in the major leagues.  He pitched for the last time September 25, 1965, at the age of 59, the oldest ever to appear in a major league game. “Joe DiMaggio called him ‘the best I’ve ever faced, and the fastest.’”

The NY Times obituary ends with what they called Satchel’s “master’s maxims” as a reason for his longevity.  When I read them, it occurred to me how wise they still are.  Let me share them with you.

  1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
  2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
  4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
  5. Avoid running at all times.
  6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

Pretty decent points of wisdom, I’d say.  Dieticians, spiritual directors, psychologists all can find something to their liking in that list.  Maybe, even, it’s a good list, still early in this year of 2018, to adopt as a guide for healthy living, especially that thing about ‘jangling around gently as you move.’

(Find the obituary in The New York Times Book of the Dead, ed. William McDonald, 2016, p. 616-617).

Word of the Year {Part 2}

This is the second in a series.

Right around the same time that baby Joy entered my world via a computer screen, another face also joined hers. This one was slightly familiar, but only by name and photo. Her name was Mallory. Another Facebook post from a friend led to Mallory’s Caring Bridge site and her story which was just unfolding. I had connected with Mallory’s mom several years prior when both of us were just blogging moms whose paths happened to cross. I met Lori twice in recent years and found her to be a faith filled woman whose smile and kind heart left an imprint. Now her family needed prayers as Mal was diagnosed at Christmas time (2016) with rhabdomyosarcoma, a fairly rare malignant pediatric cancer. After a few initial procedures, an MRI and then a CT scan were ordered, and it was confirmed that a cancerous mass was in Mal’s left nasal cavity.

Feeling inadequate, being limited by miles and connection with the family, our family started to pray. It was all that we knew to do in order to help in some way, just as we were praying for baby Joy at that same time as well. With each Caring Bridge update and photo posted, even from across a screen something still came through in great prominence. Mal’s family motto during her hospitalizations and treatments followed a theme, that of St. Padre Pio: “Pray. Hope. And don’t worry.” Their own persistence in prayer and faith began to lead and deepen my own. While I’d always been prayerful, it became evident early on in our following Mal’s journey that God had more in store. Our family became constant prayer warriors for Mal, along with sending words of encouragement and love as often as we could during the months that followed. We connected deeply with this family whom we barely knew, celebrating the triumphs of cancer treatment and hopeful prognoses, along with the heartbreak of new challenges Mal faced.

Photo taken Oct. 30, when Mallory was visited by Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Through it all, Mallory’s faith never faltered, she never saddened or lost hope in God. And one day as I stared at the screen captivated by the face I saw there, I realized what it was that I was seeing. JOY. As if for the first time, I recognized it. My word for the year wasn’t for my own happiness in what life was going to bring me in 2017. Joy was something I was going to learn. It was being shown and taught to me by following the example of a simple teen whose focus was on Christ while she traveled down an unexpected path. Throughout her suffering, she still shared joy and a smile. She was showing people like me how beautiful life in Christ really is and accepting that He would use her as an instrument for others. From what I’d read over all those months in comments and journal entries, it sounded like young and old alike found joy through Mal’s life and the faith she lived out daily, even before a cancer diagnosis.

Mallory with Sarah’s daughter, Gianna.

In September, our family met up with Mal’s family in Duluth while we were in town for a few days. It was a surreal encounter for all of my family and being able to touch the person and spend time with the family for whom we’d been praying for months. I think I still feel her embrace and playback her gentle smile. While that was both the first and the last time I’d touch her physical body, it will not soon be forgotten. Not two months later, on November 7, Mallory’s earthly fight was over and her eternal life began.

At Mass on the Sunday after Mal passed away, I remembered how much Mal loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. After communion I had this overwhelming sense of the joy that Mal was feeling as she beheld the throne of God and the unexplainable magnitude of heaven. It was the first time in days that I caught a glimpse of some meaning behind Mallory’s passing. Her place in heaven was prepared, she was ready and she no longer needed to go through the earthly pain.

Sometimes with joy also comes sorrow. Had I known when JOY was placed on my heart what it truly would mean, I wouldn’t have imagined it quite the way that it ended up. God’s intricate weaving is like that sometimes, creating beauty within a tapestry of sadness that our human minds cannot grasp.

You can read Mallory’s Caring Bridge journal and share in her story at her site by clicking here.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.