Blessings dear Catholic moms and other-faith readers. You came to mind when I was doing early morning prayer today. This is prayer before dear wife (Dee) and sweet dog (Holly) start to percolate. This is prayer done on a favorite chair in morning stillness – quiet time doing Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) and reviewing needs and intentions that are on my heart. Yes – you were there dear moms. Let’s see -- is your name Margaret? And Joanne? Helen? Cindy? Ah, yes, Cindy with the 2-year-old girl – you have (temporarily?) given up a career so you can stay at home to be with Maggie. Bless you that you are able and willing to do this. Pray for those who cannot.

My vision as I prepare this column is that you, dear mom have a cuppa – and your young ones are gifting you time to read this. And the column is about something we’ve both wondered about ‘since forever.’ What would it be like to spend a morning with Lisa Hendey?" Have no fear cause here’s the scoop…

Just weeks ago, wife Dee & I finished family visits to Newport Beach and the Bay Area of San Francisco. And so, we headed towards Fresno to meet with this prolific person. We over-nighted in a comfortable La Quinta, and the next morning, headed towards a first-ever meeting with Lisa Hendey. It was a sunny weekday morning in this farming yet vibrant area in California. We met on the front steps of the neighborhood parish, St. Anthony of Padua. How fitting and holy to start with Mass -- a reverent and holy liturgy led by the pastor. It was a prayerful, peaceful start to our day.

This may sound strange to you. I had told my wife that I would likely cry when I first met Lisa. So much has she touched those ‘places in the heart.’ (Do you remember the movie Places in the Heart? We’ll have to talk about that some time.) Well, on meeting Lisa, those tears didn’t happen. Why? THAT SMILE struck me… that special smile of hers. It’s something we know because it also radiates out from her voice. If you’ve listened to Catholic Moments or heard her on other shows -- have you noticed that voice of hers? How many people would you say you know where you ‘hear’ a smile in their voice? It captivates. It’s magical. That’s Lisa Hendey.

Next? Oh my gosh… the FRECKLES! She (still) has the freckles of the wholesome girl next door. Have you noticed? She often talks about age… or about aging… or the youth of others. But this Catholic Mom is and will be the one whom every guy would like to have been best friends with. (Husband Greg – you are such a lucky guy!)

Before Mass, we met youngest son Adam: good looking – intelligent -- so filled with promise for the future. I remember as he left to head towards school, there was a slightly awkward but important kiss from mom to son – a quick hug of her love and reassurance for his day.

After Mass, we drove to a favorite neighborhood café. We sat outside and shared and talked… We asked questions of her that have probably been asked by so many others. Did you ever see your early work as the beginning of this mini -empire you’re now involved in? (Ans.: No – not at all). How did you get started with this?

(Ans.: With a lot of those books for Dummies.) How do you manage to do Catholic Mom, Catholic Moments, Faith and Family Live columns and all the rest? (Ans.: I stay very busy – and sometimes things don’t get done as they should.) How do you get time to exercise and do Bible Study and be a wife and mom? And how could you fit us in this morning? Does your husband know about all this that is happening in your world? (The answer to that: Well, sort of, but not completely. We talk – I tell him I’m going to be interviewed here or there. He’s got his busy career and I’ve got mine.)

We talked about things she likes to do. Now as a deacon, I’m not bound by the seal of Confession; so I can report to you: there is ‘sin’ in her life. Lisa plays mahjong with lady friends. And Lisa has been known to sometimes lose upwards of 35 cents… but please don’t tell her husband or her priest.

We talked about places she loves to go (San Francisco… well, any travel is great!). We talked about her husband’s conversion to the Catholic Faith. Deacon Tom is a student of, and loves faith conversion stories. As I remember the conversion ‘moment’ starting – it was who should bring up this ‘possibly becoming Catholic’ thing first? God’s grace knows special ways and moments in each and every life where it is at work.

There is a ‘fan’ (friend) of Lisa’s who lives near Fresno. She heard that we were going to be meeting this morning.

And so, Melissa B. and her sweet daughter joined us. What an added treat to meet someone else whose life has been touched by Mrs. Hendey!

Time slips by so fast. All too soon, my wife and I place our hands on Lisa’s shoulders. I prayed a deacon’s blessing for and upon Lisa and her family. And upon those she loves and those whose lives she touches. We hug… a hug that’s held for extra moments.  And then Lisa jumps into her Tahoe and waves as she reenters her busy world of being a faith-filled Catholic… a wife and mom… a web junkie, a writer, an Internet broadcaster, a blogger, and a developer of new methods of evangelization in this 21st century.

My guesses? She’ll probably be an author some day. She may even wind up on EWTN – the Catholic television network. And wherever she goes – people will talk about the SMILE… the smile on her face and the smile in her voice. And the freckles.

The one question – the one thing I didn’t get to ask Lisa was: "Do you know how very much we all have come to love you? You are such a joy to our hearts… and to so many others – even around the world. You are in our prayers."

Blessings from Deacon Tom