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"Bro Time" by Nicole Johnson (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2019 Nicole Johnson. All rights reserved.[/caption] We started our day in cold, unforgiving temperatures, typical of our New England winters. As we made our way south and drew closer to the equator, we slowly began to defrost and ended our day grateful for the warmth that surrounded us like the blankets we had crawled out from under in order to make our annual pilgrimage to FL. Seven days of weather in the 80’s, bright sunshine, nothing on the to-do list, the normal hustle and bustle of life on pause. There was much to love about the week; time with my parents certainly topped the list, followed closely by the more self-absorbed joys of lounging in the sun, living in flip-flops and enjoying a diet focused mainly on the top of the food pyramid. Above all else however, my favorite part of the week away was watching our two boys spend much-needed time together. I was completely taken with this gift and am still in awe of the peace it brought this mama’s heart to see the ease with which they transitioned from their busy lives to absorbing and appreciating one another’s presence. It’s funny, I didn’t realize how much I needed this reminder that these two young men I often describe as black and white, share enough commonalities to have found among them this priceless friendship. TJ and Noah are twenty-three months apart and are now 15 and 17 years old. They were both very different from one another from the moment they entered this world and have continued to grow into amazingly unique beings: one a meat lover, the other a carb fanatic; one a creator of music, the other a consumer of all things beats; one reserved and conservative, the other animated and out there for all to love; one studious and focused, the other holding still only when in creative mode. Thankfully, for the most part, each of our guys appreciates the differences among one another, as do their dad and I. We wouldn’t want this parenting gig to be boring after all; who wants to cook one dinner when they could cook three versions? Why stop at strategies that work with one child when you can be creative and design your parenting around the intricate nuances of each one? (cue eye roll) Here’s the crazy thing; these guys rarely argue -- they didn’t when they were young and they don’t now. It’s a beautiful thing. I guess the truth of being knit from the same fabric is enough to sustain a level of respect among one another. If I give it enough thought, I can certainly come up with some examples of what unifies these guys o’mine. They both think their dad asks way too many questions, but have enough respect for him to put up with it for as long as the information they have suffices. They have their own bro language and can often communicate all that is on their mind with the latest phrase or lingo I almost never understand. Both find the most random things to be hysterical and are overcome with laughter when I think it barely merits a smile. They love their little sister -- selflessly and wholly -- and are her fiercest protectors. They both still let me hug them, a gift I will never take for granted. Memories. They have fifteen years of them with one another that have done much to shape the people they are today and though they will undoubtedly choose their own paths, that foundation will always pull them back together.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:10
"Bro Time" by Nicole Johnson (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2019 Nicole Johnson. All rights reserved.[/caption] Ash Wednesday has officially come and gone and, like it or not, we have been launched into the season of Lent. For forty days we are called to challenge ourselves in some way that will bring us deeper in relationship with our Lord. To be entirely honest, I am awful at sacrifice -- just awful. I considered maybe giving up my second cup of coffee each day, but, wow, I’m just not sure I have that level of self-control. Let’s just be honest -- I don’t. Chocolate is off the table as I’m fairly certain there needs to be a consistent level of cocoa coursing through my system in order to function normally. I could do something extra in place of a sacrifice, but what? As I sat with this question, what was right in front of me slowly came into focus -- brotherly love -- absorb it, focus on it, spread it. Live the truth that we are all knit from the same fabric; see others as the brothers and sisters they are; look past the obvious and often alienating differences and find reason to offer respect. Faith in action.
“Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Funny how God works. I swear this guy has a sense of humor. I was quite literally in the middle of figuring this all out when He gave me an unexpected example -- lesson -- test? My little and I had run to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and upon leaving, I was shocked to find a sticky note on my driver’s side window that read, “You park like a * * * * . Find Jesus and repent.” Wait, what? I immediately checked to make sure I wasn’t in a handicapped spot and I wasn’t. I could see the white lines framing my car (granted, they may have been a tad thinner on the right side) but, what? Just what? WHO DOES THIS? My anger started to rise as I grabbed the note, crumpled it up and headed for home. I wasn’t even out of the parking lot when I was reminded of the opportunity before me with Lent and knew I had to pray for this person rather than stew in my shock and anger with the general human race. It does make me sad to think how angry this person must be with life to have become so upset about something so small and go so far as to do this to a complete stranger. I guess if anyone is in need of prayer, it’s someone who is so blinded with frustration and anger that they can barely see past themselves. Much like bringing ourselves closer to the equator warms us on the outside, bringing ourselves before the Lord warms us on the inside. There’s too much nuttiness in the world to go it alone. We need His presence in order to be surrounded by the grace necessary to choose love. So, with second cup of coffee in hand and chocolate in my diet plan, I’ll commit the next forty days to walking alongside my brothers and sisters in recognition that a little love can go far in finding common ground.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. {Romans 12:10)

Copyright 2019 Nicole Johnson