Branching-Out

Amy Reed

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Fear and Faith

Posted by Amy Reed on Oct 7, 2015 7:00:54 AM

I stayed up way past my bedtime Saturday night watching Lone Survivor. Then I was up for hours with a teething infant. After hearing about the shootings in Oregon on Friday and then watching this true story of a Navy Seal team, I was so grateful to be able to be up with my baby. There are so many men and women who can’t be with their kids—and some who will never be with their kids again. These heroes defend us overseas, and, in incidents such as this most recent shooting, they defend us at home too.
 
Monday morning I awoke to the news of a thwarted attack on a California high school that was to be carried out by four of its students. Also on the news was an alert to all Philadelphia-area schools of a potential threat.
 
I drove my older son to school that morning with my heart in my throat. These attacks are coming with increased frequency, and they are occurring all over the country—how can any of us ever feel safe?
 
When a former auxiliary bishop for the military services, Most Reverend Joseph W. Estabrook, was fighting cancer, he told his good friend Sr. Maureen Colleary—a member of the RENEW International Staff—“Fear and faith can’t live in the same space.” When she told me this, it stuck with me. I think of that phrase often when I’m worried about anything—and lately these worries are about persecuted Christians in the Middle East, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, and other places where we should be safe.
 
I thought about that quote a lot after I dropped my son off. How is that possible? Can you really live a fearless life in today’s world? Did those college students feel fear when they stood up to the gunman and told them they were Christian before he shot them? Did the brave army veteran, on his son’s sixth birthday, feel any fear as he rushed the gunman?
 
The best we can do is to have faith, to trust in God, and to pray as often as possible. We pray for peace, and we pray in thanksgiving for the heroes that help stop these attacks at home and protect us abroad. We are all charged with being vigilant, with knowing our surroundings and exit routes, with seeing something and saying something. If we don’t have faith while we do it, fear will just consume us.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team and a Notre Dame alumna.

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Don’t Miss the Joy of the Season

Posted by Amy Reed on Dec 23, 2014 6:00:34 AM

On my way to work a few weeks ago, I passed a house with four blow-up Christmas characters in its front lawn. Not so strange, you say, it is December. However, these are not your average lawn decorations—this Santa, snowman, reindeer, and Christmas tree all tower over the house they are in front of. They must be 25 feet tall. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I just shook my head and went on my (merry) way to work.
 
The next Sunday at Mass, the priest mentioned that house in his homily. He asked the congregation if anyone had seen that house, as it is just a few blocks from the Church. I turned to my husband and said in a low tone, “I totally have. It’s crazy and I’m glad they’re not our neighbors.”
 
Christmas has really snuck up on me this year. At the beginning of the month, my son started pre-school. So, of course, we’ve already had a double ear infection and a bout of croup. Oh, and I’m about 35 weeks pregnant. My “expectant waiting” in Advent has not quite been a contemplative journey, but rather a race against time and exhaustion. Decorating for Christmas happened in a rush one night after bedtime right after Thanksgiving so I could be sure to get the “perfect” picture for our Christmas cards. Shopping has been done online and half the time with a sick toddler on my lap. I haven’t had time to relish in the season or even begin to explain to my son the true meaning of Christmas.
 
In his homily, our priest said, “How can you not look at that house and smile?” Easily, I thought. But he went on to say how Jesus tells us to look at the world with childlike wonder. So, how, as a child, could you not look at this house and feel giddy?
 
I thought about that for a while. I pictured my son running up to those insanely large blow-up dolls and poking them, then taking a flying leap to bounce off of them, and then laughing hysterically. That definitely made me smile.
 
The priest went on to say that the world was a scary and dangerous place, and if we were too busy to see these small things, and see them through the eyes of a child, we would easily miss some of the joy life has to offer.
 
It’s so true. As a mother, and almost a mother of two, pretty much anything in the news scares the heck out of me. I am constantly worried about my son(s), my husband, and pretty much everyone I know. It’s so easy to miss the joy, even in this season, if we don’t take the time to pay attention.
 
So, in these few days before Christmas, I urge you to smile at tacky blow-up decorations and delight in all the lights in your neighborhood. And remember, Christmas is an entire season, not just a day, so relish in the joy of the greatest gift you will ever receive—God’s love.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team and a Notre Dame alumna.

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Family Vacation

Posted by Amy Reed on Nov 6, 2013 7:00:12 AM

We just took our first family vacation.—like baby-on-the-plane, stay-in-a-hotel, big-deal vacation. With the awesome sleeper than my son is (not), I was super nervous. I packed a suitcase of just his toys and books to give him all the comforts of home. A few weeks before we left, I did my due diligence for the flight and posed the question on Facebook of how best to travel with a baby. My friends are amazing and responded in force with all the best advice. I was feeling pretty good.
 
Two days before we left, my son got the sniffles.
 
The day before we left, his fever rose to 101.5°F.
 
I promptly called the doctor and purchased all the supplies we would need. My husband and I monitored him all night, and by morning the fever was gone. The sniffles had turned to full-out congestion, but the doctor said that was fine, and we were on our way.
 
We breezed through security (thanks to the amazing advice we had received) and my son promptly fell asleep in the baby carrier going to the gate. After another call to the doctor, I sent my husband on a mission to get some medication for me. I had woken up with a scratchy throat.
 
Except for getting antsy toward the end of the flight and a little crying during landing due to his congestion and ears trying to pop, the flight was easy. We were off to a great start.
 
However, the first night was a disaster. Even though he had his own sheets, his noise machine, and his standard bedtime routine, being in a new place and not feeling well was not a recipe for a happy baby. He couldn't settle down, and he couldn't stay asleep. We were all up multiple times for many, many hours.
 
Because of that, we had a pretty low-key first day of vacation. We were all exhausted, and both the baby and I were battling colds.
 
Amazingly, the second night was much better. So much so that my husband and I even felt spritely enough to go for a morning run during his first nap. (My parents were on vacation with us, and always jump at the chance to babysit—sleeping or awake).
 
I had been an avid runner before having a baby. I even ran up to 36 weeks pregnant, although I certainly couldn’t run very fast or far. Being a mother has not afforded me much exercise time anymore, but I try to stay active as much as I can.
 
As my husband and I hit about a mile and a half down the beach, I huffed and puffed (and blew my nose about 100 times—sea air is definitely nature’s saline) and made a beeline to head back. Thankfully, my husband obliged. As I slowed my pace for the return trip, slightly cursing the distance back, I looked up.
 
I looked at the gorgeous South Carolina beach laid out in front of me. I looked at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean with the waves rolling to the shore. I looked at the kids playing on the beach, the dogs frolicking in the sand, the other runners and walkers. I watched my strong husband a few yards ahead of me taking long, powerful strides down the beach. I thought of how he stayed up with our son that first night so I could sleep and try to knock out my cold. I thought of my amazing son who had slept so well the night before and was now napping under the watchful eyes of his Gramy and Grampy. I thanked God for all of these blessings.
 
Sure, we were sick on our first vacation, and who knows what tonight will bring, but life doesn't get any better than this. Nothing will ever be picture perfect. Things will always go awry. What matters is the love and support that comes from family and faith. It's always easier to focus on the negative. But when I stopped and looked up and thought about all the blessings that I had, the negatives just washed away with the tide.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team. A Notre Dame alumna, she and her husband recently welcomed their first child, a boy, to the family.

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The Perfect Day

Posted by Amy Reed on Jun 11, 2013 8:30:24 AM

My son was baptized on Pentecost. Celebrating his first sacrament, and joining all Catholics around the world celebrating the birth of the Church on the same day was an amazing experience. I’d love to take credit for some ingenious planning, but it was the Holy Spirit at work. Two dates in May were available, and the 19th was better for us. When I realized that the celebrations were the same day, I prayed in thanksgiving for such a gift. Of course, the Holy Spirit would always be with my son, but this made it even more special.
 
I started planning with zeal. A lovely, upscale restaurant; beautiful centerpieces; 80 of our family members. I even hired a photographer for family pictures. My son was going to wear my husband’s baptismal outfit. As the day drew closer, the weather forecast called for a gorgeous high 60s/low 70s weekend. Everything was shaping for a perfect day.
 
Then the day arrived. Ever hear the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”? Well, it was kind of like that. It poured rain, and because my son doesn’t nap well, I had to walk him in the rain for an hour in the stroller to make sure he napped before the big event. He had a great nap, and I thought, “Crisis averted.” The photographs? Not a problem. The church is gorgeous, so we’ll just take pictures inside.
 
My husband played with our son while I got ready, and off to church we went. On the way, my phone rang. It was the restaurant. “Are you sitting down?” was the way the conversation started. The fire alarm and sprinklers had gone off in the kitchen as the staff was preparing for the party. They were waiting for the Board of Health’s approval so they could reopen for the party. “Worst case scenario,” she said, “is that we won’t have time to prepare the food and we’ll order pizza.” Pizza? Hours of party planning and we’re having pizza?
 
The ceremony was lovely. The Holy Spirit was alive and present, and I felt great joy. Almost every guest made it to the church, and we were surrounded by so much love. And my son didn’t cry (probably due to the fact that the baptismal water in our church is heated) or poop through his vintage baptismal gown. I was re-inspired.
 
I had missed several calls during the ceremony, all from the restaurant. I called back after the baptism, and they gave me an update. “Change of plans,” she said. “The Board of Health didn’t get here in time, but the restaurant next door has generously lent us their space.”
 
The restaurant next door is a pub. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating pizza in a pub, but it certainly was not the day I had imagined and spent hours planning.
 
Family photos were taken in the church and then we set off to the restaurant. Our guests were already there when we arrived, they were all having a blast, and they could not wait to meet my son. The love and joy I felt at church immediately returned and replaced the dread I felt walking into the pub. Love of family, shelter from the rain, warm food, and celebrating the sacrament of baptism. It was all I hoped and dreamed for the day, just in a different package then I expected.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team. A Notre Dame alumna, she and her husband recently welcomed their first child, a boy, to the family.

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Little Miracles

Posted by Amy Reed on May 29, 2013 12:01:53 PM

Newborns sleep approximately 16 hours a day. That’s what all the books say. I own nothing short of a dozen books on newborn care. Reading all these books when I was pregnant gave me a false sense of what life with a newborn would be like. With all that sleep, I would never fall behind on laundry, I could still get dinner on the table, and, of course, who wouldn’t have time to shower? Sure, the nights would be hard with getting up every few hours, but I could even find time to nap during the day with the baby having 16 hours of                                  sleep.
 
I should have taken my Aunt Lynda’s advice—throw all the baby books out the window.
 
I’m not sure who these amazing newborns are, but my child does not sleep 16 hours a day. Not even close. So the laundry piles up, dinner is often take-out, and I might get to shower every other day.
 
It’s frustrating, to say the least. In fact, after weeks of being up five times a night, not getting anything done around the house, and feeling like a complete failure, it’s downright brutal. What is one of the happiest times in my life also leaves me crying in the bathroom or the basement (trying not to wake the baby). Of course, then that snowballs into more crying because I think: look at this amazing little miracle. He’s perfect and wonderful, and how can I be upset, mad, and frustrated?
 
Talk about a perfect time to talk to God.
 
And I do. All the time. I pray that my baby sleeps to help his mental and cognitive development. I pray that he’s eating enough. I pray that I’m stimulating him enough with books and toys, but not too much to give him sensory overload. I pray that my husband continues to be so patient and understanding when I’m a mess of exhaustion and tears when he comes home from work. I talk to God a lot. Or, really, I talk at God a lot.
 
But at the end of the day, as I tiptoe past the bassinet and slide as noiselessly as possible into my bed, I have the time to actually have a conversation with God. And when I do, my prayers always start with two little words. Thank you. Thank you for this amazing miracle of a child. Thank you for my wonderful husband. Thank you for our supportive families. Thank you for our home to sway and shush and swaddle this baby in.
 
I came to a realization last night after putting my darling boy down at 3:30 a.m. and praying that he’d sleep for at least two hours (which he did not, by the way). There is a reason for everything. God knows what I want. And God gives me what I need. Maybe God is telling me to slow down and enjoy my time with this little infant. He won’t always be this needy and want his mother all the time. While I’m in the midst of it, it feels like eternity, but this newborn stage will be gone in a flash. Laundry can wait; dinner can wait (sorry, honey). I can’t get upset when he wakes up after a brief 30-minute nap and it will take another 20 minutes to get him back to sleep. Instead, I need to scoop him up, cuddle him, whisper sweet nothings in his ear, and soothe him again. And as I do, thank God for his beautiful miracle and the time I get to spend with him.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team. A Notre Dame alumna, she and her husband recently welcomed their first child, a boy, to the family.

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A Timeless Devotion, a New Friend

Posted by Amy Reed on May 6, 2013 8:30:28 AM

Like many Catholics, I have always revered Mary. Her “yes” to becoming the mother of Jesus inspires us to listen and respond to God’s call. Her prayerful life is a model for us to follow.
 
To me, Mary was an ideal, an icon. While I had always honored and admired her, I never really had a devotion to her. I pray to God during Mass, my husband and I say Grace before dinner, and I thank God every evening for all of my
                                    blessings.
 
When I was pregnant, my husband bought me a beautiful picture of Mary. I loved it so much that I promptly put it up in our bedroom. I was nearing the end of my pregnancy during Advent and often thought of Mary because of the Gospel readings. Many nights before I went to bed, I contemplated Mary’s pregnancy. While the pregnancy was divine, she was still human. Did she have terrible heartburn as I did? Could she sleep at night towards the end of her pregnancy? I continued to be in awe of her “yes” to God and what she would endure by being the mother of Jesus.
 
Then I became a mother. For the first few weeks of motherhood I thought of nothing but feeding, soothing, and sleeping. One particular night, as I was rocking my son after a 2 a.m. -feeding, I looked up at the Mary picture. I wondered what kind of baby Jesus was. Did he cry in the night and keep her awake? Did she have to rock him and soothe him in the manger? Probably. Fully human and fully divine, he was just a baby. As I visualized Mary and Joseph soothing Jesus in the manger, I did something more than just admire her. I began to pray to Mary.
 
I was exhausted. I had been crying as I was rocking him, thinking of the long day it had been and the very long night still ahead of me.
 
I prayed to Mary for strength. She was a mother. She knew exactly how hard this was. She knew how much I loved my son, and how badly I needed him to go to sleep.
 
I asked her to watch over him, to protect him, to keep him growing healthy and strong. As he finally settled down, I prayed to her to let him sleep just a few hours so I could get some rest and be the attentive, nurturing mother I needed to be.
 
I put him down, crawled back into bed, and fell asleep saying the “Hail Mary” over and over again.
 
When he woke again, three blissful hours later, I scooped him up and started to feed him. I gazed at the picture of Mary and prayed in thanksgiving for the sleep, for my amazing son, and for my wonderful husband, who would be on diaper duty after this feeding.
 
In this new journey of motherhood, through the rough patches, the perfect moments, and everything in between, I am so grateful that Mary will be there with me every step of the way.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International's Marketing and Communications team. A Notre Dame alumna, she and her husband recently welcomed their first child, a boy, to the family.

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Fruits of our prayers / El fruto de nuestras oraciones

Posted by Amy Reed on Oct 20, 2011 10:02:20 AM

We at RENEW recently celebrated Dominican Sister Marenid Fabre’s Jubilee in honor of her 25 years of religious life. Sister Marenid worked as a missionary in the Caribbean islands and Colombia before her calling brought her to RENEW. Now she trains lay leaders as they foster small communities of faith within parishes using ¿Por qué ser católico?

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Hold on to Your Peace / Que nada ni nadie os quite la paz

Posted by Amy Reed on Sep 29, 2011 9:05:34 AM

“Let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord.”
— Pope Benedict XVI to the young people gathered in Spain on August 16

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Fruits of the Spirit and collaboration of small Christian communities / Pequeñas comunidades eclesiales: Frutos del Espíritu Santo y la colaboración de la comunidad

Posted by Amy Reed on Aug 18, 2011 9:23:48 AM

San Felipe Apostle Parish in the city of Chihuahua, Mexico, has recently started its second year of ¿Por qué ser católico? (Why Catholic? in Spanish) The process began last year with 30 people attending workshops. By the end of that first year, 250 people participated, prayed, and shared their faith. There are now 21 small groups in this parish committed to evangelizing and catechizing their people and to becoming a community of small communities. These 21 small groups are made up of teenagers, young adults both married and single, and even senior citizens . The success of ¿Por qué ser católico? in the parish is due to the great collaboration and coordination of the Parish Team and their pastor, Msgr. Luis L. Padilla.

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