Novena for Healing

As many of you may know, especially all the wonderful moms that we have met at Mary’s Garden Party Camps, Behold Publications is a family-owned company. My son, Joe, the oldest of our ten children, and I partner together to co-own the company. We have many helpers that aid us in getting products and materials together, as well as help with the camps. Those helpers are primarily the Little Flower creator, Rachel Watkins, her daughters as well as my own daughters. We homeschool our children, so I typically work only part-time since I still have three left at home. My son, however, works full-time, and then some, to meet your needs and the needs of your groups.

Our company has been such a blessing to our family, and I hope our products have been a blessing to you. I would like to share with you and ask for your prayers for my husband, Bob, who is battling stage 4 aggressive neuroendocrine rectal cancer since July, 2018. He has had two major surgeries, three different lines of chemo and radiation and is on his fourth line of chemo (actually a targeted therapy). The cancer continues to spread aggressively and rapidly.

We were able to take a Pilgrimage to New Orleans to the Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos over his Feast Day weekend (Oct 4-6). Blessed Seelos is known for his healing intercessory powers and we were able to attend a very powerful healing Mass, where my husband received a blessing from Blessed Seelos’ first-class relic as well as the Sacrament of the Sick.

We picked up a Novena booklet in honor of Blessed Francis Seelos while in New Orleans and decided to start a novena of healing for my husband October 23 so that it will end on November 1, All Saints’ Day. If you would like to join us in this novena, we would be most appreciative! You can find the Novena prayers here:

Blessed Francis Seelos is very special to me since I wrote a book for children about him (Willy Finds Victory). If you are interested in learning more about Blessed Seelos, you can go to or click on the image of the book below to take you to the children’s story about Blessed Seelos.

If you are unable to pray the entire Novena with us, any amount of prayer would be greatly appreciated. We would also ask for your patience during sometimes difficult days when I have to take Bob to the specialist an hour and a half away for his infusions, or research the best way to deal with side-effects. We have ten children, five boys and five girls, ages 33 to 11. We have been married 35 years and have run this company for about 25 of those years.

If you wish to read more about Bob’s journey and details about his specific cancer, here is a link to his Caring Bridges page.  Thank you all for your work in the vineyard and especially thank you for your prayers.

Bless you in your work for His work!  Joan Stromberg

Don’t run out of gas!

I was out doing some errands and I passed the spot where I ran out of gas – literally – ran out of gas while driving in my big 15 passenger van with a few kids. Seeing that infamous spot got me laughing out loud.

Some time ago, we were headed around this corner and without any warning (ha! ha!), my van began slowing down despite my foot on the gas. In a small panic, I was able to pull off on the shoulder. I turned the van off, turned it back on and nothing!

Blessedly, we were close to home and I called my dh, described the situation and asked, ‘what do I do now?!?’. He asked me to turn the van back on and check the gas level.

Yep – my level was way past E – I had run out of gas! I was stunned. Honestly, without wanting to sound dimwitted, I sort of thought you couldn’t run out of gas.

Not really, of course, but both Matt and I are really good at keeping the gas tank full. We normally do it without really thinking of it. Matt often will top off my tank any time he drives my car. But, during the week of this public embarrassment, we both had been busier than usual and we hadn’t noticed the red light or the gauge falling below E. We were both too busy to notice the signs that our tank needed refilling.

He laughed without any sarcasm and told me he’d be right there. We happily waited knowing help was on the way.

Remembering this story made me think of how we can let neglect other areas of our life and run out of gas, in particular our prayer life.

If we aren’t regularly (read this as daily) putting fuel in our spiritual tank and soul, we will run out of what we need to get through the day. We will find ourselves feeling abandoned by God, jealous of other’s good fortune and, by association, more prone to anger and impatience with our spouse, children, friends and strangers in the store.

In other words, unless we work to keep Jesus in our souls, it is next to impossible to reflect Him and give Him to others. We cannot grow in holiness unless we are getting the fuel to do so.

How do we do this? Here’s some ideas:

  • Morning Prayer – use a prayer book, an app on your phone or a prayer written on your bathroom mirror. Wake each day with a prayer of thanksgiving to Jesus for another day as a reminder that He is always with you.
  • Daily Mass if possible; spiritual communion if not.
  • Gospel reading either as a part of Mass or on your own. Again, from your home Bible or an app or Daily Readings via
  • Daily Rosary – not to repeat myself but there are apps, videos at YouTube and you probably have a rosary (or 20) somewhere around the house
  • On-line Adoration – here’s my favorite site:
  • Prayer before you go to bed. Say goodnight to Jesus and your guardian angel, thanking them for another day.

And on and on and on – grace before and after meals, the Angelus, good spiritual reading, a favorite saint or novena, meditation with the help of a statue or art piece, bedtime prayers as a family and more. Our faith has a huge treasury of options for prayer!

Going back to my running out of gas story, it was made extra silly as I pass no less than 5 gas stations when doing my regular weekly errands. My town has gas stations on almost every major intersection. There was no reason I should have run out of gas except that I didn’t make it priority.

Make your daily prayer a priority. Keeping in touch with your Creator and Savior is something your soul needs every day even with no red light or gauge line to warn you that you risk going through life running on empty. But, how you are feeling and your attitude towards others is a great indicator. If you find yourself short-tempered, full of doubts, fears and worries think back on the last time you prayed – one on one – with Jesus. There is a direct correlation between getting the grace you need for daily life and the amount of time you spend in prayer. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have’.

We are not religious who are called to hours of prayers but that doesn’t mean we aren’t called to no prayer. Consider how much time you spend on wasting time vs. prayer time (and the irony of reading this vs. praying is not lost on me). Find a balance between necessary obligations, responsibilities, amusements and idle time AND time spent with the God who made you and loves you.

Jesus is ready to hear your praise, your thanks, your worries and complaints. When you take time to be with Him you will find getting through every day life easier.

Keep an eye on your soul’s tank and keep it full so that your life is full!

Happy Feast Day to all of us!

St. Therese, Immaculate Conception, Elkton, MD

I always think of today as not only St. Therese’s feast day but the birthday of our little apostolate. Just 25+ years ago, the first Little Flowers met in my rowhome in Baltimore. Now, under the watchful eye of our Blessed Mother and through the intercession of St. Therese, we are now around the world in schools, parish basements and around kitchen tables such as yours.

Thank you for your work in the garden!

And, in case you didn’t get any roses during her novena, may I oblige?

Novena to the Little Flower

I am sorry for not posting this over the weekend but the first Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux’s novena began yesterday. Please join me in praying this – especially for the intentions of the Stromberg family.

We know from the little way to holiness (God is full of love and mercy and we can never be perfect) that God will not ignore a fervent pray based on a date on a calendar!

Read more at:

Feast of St. Peter Claver – We are all called to do something!

Today we celebrate St. Peter Claver, a slave to the slaves of Cartagena in the years following his ordination in 1610.

I was struck by his life this morning while reading my Magnificat which says, ‘that while he could not free the slaves, he ministered to them….’.

Think on that for a moment – he could not free the slaves as he did not have the power or the funds to do so, but that did not prevent him from doing what he could. The problem of slavery was too complex for him to solve but that didn’t mean he couldn’t help. He did what he could.

Too often, I can find myself feeling helpless when confronted with a big, complicated situation and instead of doing what I can, I do nothing. From Hurricane Dorian to human trafficking I fight against feeling helpless and try to do what I can – pray and sacrifice – and leave the heavy lifting to God who can do all things –

Our responsorial psalm of today reminds us of His power and presence,

“Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him;
God is our refuge!”

So, don’t get discouraged when the tough stuff hits the headlines or lands at your doorstep. St. Peter Claver is there for us and will join us in our prayers. Once again, he climb down into the ship’s hold to be at our side, doing what he can do – offer prayers, give comfort and remind us of God’s deep and abiding love!

All my ladies, where you at?!

My name tag and collection of charities! Tie-dye shirt made at VA camp

Labor Day, the unofficial end to summer, is right around the corner. Facing the reality of school starting and leaves falling, I would like to say a huge “Thank You” to all the Moms, Grandmoms, and daughters who came to our camps in VA, MN and KY.

Both my daughters and myself had such a good time. All the activities, conversations, food, games and songs (see title above) filled my soul with grace, my heart with love and my mind with memories.

I am so very grateful for everyone who gave up a weekend at home to come and share themselves with us. ‘Where two or more are gather, God is there.’ (Mt. 18:20) Well, I am bold enough to say the Blessed Mother and LF saints were there as well.

Surely, they laughed as we played the Catholic Game and competed in Trivia Night. They joined us in the saying of Rosary around the campfire and stay with us even now as our summer fades and the responsibilities of autumn begin.

Alcohol and Sharpie
T-Shirt from MN

While we don’t know what the future holds in regard to next summer’s camps, we know God holds our future, so let’s remember to keep each other in prayer as Summer 2019 fades and the Feminine Genius Academy closes its doors.

Here’s to a good week!

These greeted me as I went to Church this morning and offered my Mass up for all of you!

“If your day can’t be perfect, at least give it purpose.”

I heard this recently and it gave me real encouragement on this Monday as none of my days are perfect. So, I need to remember to give my days purpose!

Such was the life of John the Baptist whose birth we celebrate today. His purpose was to announce the arrival of the Messiah. Everything he did was to that end and that end alone. “So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:29b-30)

We all know the tradition of ‘offering up’ something, it is laid out very clearly in 1 Thessalonians 5 where we are encourage to: cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, rejoice always and pray without ceasing among other ‘suggestions’. For me, I think of these as spiritual presents for someone I love. They can become gifts of praise back to God for someone in need, be it a family member, a friend or a need in the world.

Everything we do – from our prayers to our daily activities. We have the drudgery to the pleasures that can be offered up for an intention or merely a shout of praise to God. Mentally wrap up everything you do, put on a tag with someone’s name and place it before the throne of our King. He will know exactly what to do with it!

Make a list if you need to, log it in your prayer journal or write it on the mirror in your bathroom. It will become a reminder to you that while your day isn’t perfect, it had a real purpose!

Do you have an inner room for prayer?

No? Me, either. But in today’s reading, Jesus tells us to go there to pray (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18), so it must be important. After all, He does say, “when you pray”, not “if you pray”.

If you check out pinterest for prayer rooms you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed (or inspired or jealous) about what you will see. Some people have spectacularly beautiful prayer rooms while others are more humble.

Perhaps you know the movie, War Room (2015) which highlights the clearing out of closet as a spot dedicated to powerful prayer. Also, a very neat idea and back over at pinterest, you’ll find some of these along with more than a few prayer corners in well-used, quite full closets!

However, you may be more like me, living a house where space is at a premium and having a dedicated space is more of a luxury and just isn’t working out.

BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t have an inner room. In fact, we all have an inner room. Our own hearts and minds will become that inner room, that prayer room Jesus tells us to visit if we make it happen.

Here’s the plan – pull together your favorite prayer books, a Bible, a prayer journal (if you like those), favorite prayer cards, Rosary along with an image of Jesus and/or a crucifix. Put them all in a basket, or bowl, or even a shoe box (decorated or not) and you now have your inner room.

Then, setting your phone somewhere away from you (and perhaps, even off) as well as turning the TV off and other distractions; close your eyes and put yourself in your perfect inner room. Quiet your mind, picture yourself with Jesus at the seaside, maybe working along His Blessed Mother or in one of those lovely rooms you saw on pinterest. Ask Jesus to make the space you are currently occupying into your ‘inner room’ and He will.

Then begin to pray! Let Jesus know how much you love Him, write in your journal, share your problems, maybe read a chapter in the Bible. Just be with Him as your best friend and as Matthew 6 reminds us, “And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

The nice thing about such an inner room is that it can be pulled out easily if you are sprinkling your prayer time amidst children, laundry or any of the other many tasks of parenting. Prayer time throughout the day is just as effective and delightful to God as a committed longer time. We may all hope and desire a quiet 1/2 hour or so, but we all also know that some days even that is a luxury.

You can even make a second one to keep in the car when you are waiting for a child, stuck in traffic or at the doctor’s office. I made myself a ‘prayer purse’ which I keep in my car so just such moments.

My ‘Prayer Purse’ that stays in my car for Daily Mass and other times of prayer away from the house.

In other words, you need nothing more than a committed heart for prayer to create a lovely ‘inner room’ to spend some time with God. Of course, the prayers uttered in those beautiful prayer rooms or closet corners fill God with joy but so do the prayers whispered in the playroom, at the poolside and as you fall asleep. After all, where ever you are, He is also there, just waiting to hear from you.

Would you like to come camping with us?

We have three camps planned this summer:

Leesburg, VA – July 12-14, 2019

Pine Island, MN – July 19-21, 2019


Crestwood, KY – Aug. 24-25, 2019

We would love to have you and your daughter(s) join us for friendship, laughter, s’mores and more. You will have a memorable time together, meet other LF’s and their mothers, along with me and my daughters (VA & MN).

We always have so much fun as we work on badges, learn a bit more about the Church and a few saints but take some time away to remember that our faith has a real dimension of fun and joy! Camp can help revive our weary souls, give us courage to face the days ahead and help us become the evangelists Christ asked of us – ‘go and make disciples’ – at His Ascension which we celebrate this week.

Follow the link to make your reservation today!