Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird

It’s Friday morning here where I am in the United States and I’m sitting here drinking a cup of coffee and marveling at the fact that 72 hours from now we’ll be in 2024.

I remember when I was a teenager feeling like I’d never be an adult, and now I’ve gotten to the point where three of our five kids are no longer even teenagers themselves!

2023 certainly passed by quickly, and I have to force myself not to focus on the things I didn’t accomplish, but focus on the things I did.

Critical? Me?

If you listen to our Adventures in Imperfect Living podcast, you probably know that’s not an easy thing for me to do: focus on the good. I can be overly self-critical at times (as my wife will attest to), and it’s something I constantly have to take to prayer and struggle to offer up.

One of the biggest downsides of being self-critical is that it makes it harder for joy to flow out, and for that joy to positively impact the lives of others around me. Joy and happiness don’t come easy to me. It was only a few years ago that I started to admit that openly. Before then, I tended to just suck it up, put on a happy face, and fake it til I made it.

That only made me even more unhappy.

Interestingly, it was when I started to admit that I struggle with happiness that I started to feel more happy. It was in acknowledging the pain that the pain began to heal. It was in acknowledging my struggle with being joyful that I have been given more grace to experience joy.

Furthermore, in 2023 I think something changed in me.

A big part of this was in the amount that my trust in our Blessed Mother has grown this year. Ironically, I’ve been running this Rosary Army for her for more than two decades now, but I have to admit even still I struggled to fully understand her role and place in my life.

I know Jesus gave her to me, as He gave her to all of us from the cross when He told the disciple whom He loved, “Behold your Mother” (see John 19).

Still, these words were easy to understand logically but harder to comprehend in my heart. Somehow, I still felt like Mary’s motherhood wasn’t meant for me.

Learning to Trust Mary

In the first few months of Rosary Army back in 2003, when we first began our mission to make, pray, and give away all-twine knotted Rosaries and to teach others to do the same thing, we were invited to have a display table at the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Eucharistic Congress.

In prayer, I felt convicted that given this was Rosary Army’s first big public appearance, we needed to give away 5,000 Rosaries to the upwards of 25,000 people who would be in attendance.

One problem:

At the time I was pretty much the only person making these Rosaries to give away and I had maybe twenty on hand.

I mentioned this to our parish priest and he boldly yelled, “Trust Mary!”

I still remember how his voice cracked when he said her name: “Ma-ah-ary!”

He was very confident that Mary would take care of this new apostolate of hers.

Over the next month, I scrambled. We had t-shirts made up for the first time, created a tri-fold display, and enlisted others to help me make as many Rosaries as we possibly could in the few weeks before the Congress.

Each day, I heard our priest’s confident warcry in my head: “Trust Ma-ah-ary!”

A week before the Eucharistic Congress, I got an email from some nuns who saw my urgent pleas for Rosary-making help on our website. A few days later, three thousand all-twine knotted Rosaries arrived at our door.

That weekend, we gave away every single one.

We didn’t have the 5,000 Rosaries I thought we needed, but we had exactly what Jesus and Mary sent our way.

You’d have thought I would have learned my lesson, wouldn’t you? I can be a slow learner, though.

Years ago, looking for books to help me improve my writing, I read a book by Anne Lamott called “Bird by Bird” which is often described as a compassionate guide for writers, urging small steps, embracing imperfection, and overcoming self-doubt with personal anecdotes and humor.

It’s been probably twenty-five years since I read that book, but the core lesson (from which the title of her book comes) has stuck with me ever since.

The Lesson of Bird by Bird

The phrase “Bird by Bird” in Lamott’s book serves as a metaphor for approaching tasks, particularly the writing process, one step at a time. It comes from Lamott’s anecdote about her brother struggling with a school report on birds and feeling overwhelmed. Lamott’s father advised him to take the task “bird by bird,” emphasizing the importance of breaking down challenges into smaller, more manageable parts. The phrase encapsulates the idea of tackling complex endeavors incrementally, focusing on the immediate and doable rather than becoming overwhelmed by the entire scope of a project.

This past year, as we launched School of Mary, I will admit that I rarely could see where we were supposed to go. The idea of creating a free 100-page workbook, video prayers for each day, as well as additional video reflections, all seemed overwhelming.

But in February, before the School of Mary website even started construction, my wife Jennifer and I just kept reminding ourselves that we just needed to take it “bird by bird.”

We started recording our all-new Consecration to Jesus through Mary resources and several weeks later we had produced over 70 videos to help people through this amazing process.

It was in the production of these resources, after twenty of years of Rosary Army, that I believe our Mother Mary removed scales from my eyes that had been blinding me for years.

I’ve been praying my Rosary every day for years now, and I’m constantly diving into a deeper understanding of the liturgy and teachings of our Catholic faith, I’ve produced hundreds of hours of Catholic audio and video, but in so many ways I was still blind.

In all of this, I didn’t trust Mary as much as I should have.

And in failing to trust Mary, I’ve failed to trust her Son, Jesus.

Again, I’m probably being more self-critical than I should be (it’s a hard habit to break, for sure).

But over the last couple of years, I know for a fact that Mary and Jesus are working powerfully in my life and this ministry.

A year ago, when we first tried to raise $200,000 for this ministry’s 20th Anniversary Giving Campaign, that priest’s cracking voice echoed in my head once again:

“Trust Ma-ah-ary!”

Do I trust her? Do I trust her Son?

I was terrified to ask for what we did, but at the same time, as donations came in, I bore witness on a near daily basis to the faithfulness of Jesus and Mary. In the end, we raised just under $150,000.

Again, we didn’t raise what I thought we needed, but we got what Jesus and Mary brought us. And as a result, we got everything done this year that needed to get done:

  • Creation of an all-new Rosary Army website
  • Development and launch of School of Mary
  • Upwards of 50 podcasts in both audio and video formats
  • Thousands of all-twine knotted Rosaries given away
  • Tens of thousands of additional downloads of our free audio Rosaries
  • And so much more.

As we’re now just two days from ending our annual giving campaign, it’s a little easier this year to accept that we probably won’t reach our goal once again. We’ve tried to raise $200,000 once more, and have so far raised $136,039.

Still a long ways to go.

But I know that, even if we don’t raise what we think is necessary, Jesus and Mary will provide for us everything that Rosary Army truly needs to continue this mission for the Kingdom of God.

My trust in that area has grown considerably this year.

Thanks for reading.

Pray your Rosary every day, and do whatever it takes to be holy.

P.S. And yes, we could still use your help to get closer to our goal, bird by bird. You can use the form below if you’d like to help, or drop a check in the mail (postmarked by December 31 if you’d like tax credit for 2023) to:

Rosary Army Corp.
258 Beartooth Pkwy.
Suite 100-150
Dawsonville, GA 30534