Mad for…Lisa

Most of the time, holiness is just about doing the ordinary things of everyday life really well. -Matthew Kelly

Day 35 of 365.

I’m not going to lie. It appears I can be bought for the price of one very oversized piece of “celebration” cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. The big hug and the front door dessert delivery this afternoon might be the reason I chose TODAY to write about Lisa Oberndorfer, but let’s be clear….she was going to appear in this column during 2019…that’s a fact!

Lisa is a mom to three BEAUTIFUL young adults (Jordan, Kelsey and Will) and the wife of a pretty fantastic Boilermaker fan named Jeff. There are so many examples of her goodness that I could share, and I have only known Lisa more intimately for what I consider to be a fairly short span of time. Here’s the thing about Lisa. She’s an utterly compassionate and very funny woman who has the courage and humility to present herself to the world full of hurting people. Probably, she isn’t even aware that she’s an exceptional example of what Pope John Paul II called true holiness.

“True holiness”, he said, “does not mean a flight from the world, rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school, at work, and in ones social environment.” Lisa shows up with her big heart and her gift for knowing when to offer a listening ear. She instinctively grasps that it’s about attention over giftedness, its about setting aside oneself and choosing the needs of the other. She realizes life may not be perfect, but she sees the blessings and she IS DYING to pass some light along to the next person. She’s a pay it forward kind of gal.

When my oldest son was an angst-ridden freshman at Xavier University, she offered up her experienced Muskie, Kelsey, to encourage him. When I was getting a little too testy at the high school basketball games, she winked at me and handed me a sucker…which she called a “husher”…to make me laugh and quiet myself. Let’s be clear, she needed to do this repeatedly, for an extended number of weeks. Ha? We all behave better while we are laughing at ourselves with a fist full of sugar? She showed up at the house with delicious muffins when she heard I’d had a recent cancer diagnosis and lent an ear and some sage and prayerful wisdom. Also, she showed up with CELEBRATION CHEESECAKE when the diagnosis take a turn for the better. She’s been present for so many people at a time in their lives that it required great humility to show up and offer her care and concern, not sure of the response she might receive, but wanting to do the work of the Lord. THAT is everyday holiness.

I’d be utterly remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing work Lisa and her son, Will, have done with a charity they founded called “Diabetes Will’s Way” shortly after Will was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes as a 6th grader. Will’s Way serves underinsured young people who need assistance with supplies. They provide grants for durable medical equipment like insulin pumps and glucose monitors, and emergency grants too for families needing help with daily diabetic supplies. Lisa told me it was out of selfishness– intense love for her own son– that she began that great work. That made me laugh aloud. The poor woman has been “duped” by our good and gracious God!! I mean….this would NOT be the first time the Lord used the love of a mother to shower His grace on others…am I right? Hahaha!!! You’re in excellent company on that one, my friend.

Thank you, Lisa, for being a wonderful witness to me of what it means to minister to others in so many important ways, but especially the gift of physical presence. Showing up is everything, and even better if you can pair it with a side order of quiet attentiveness. I so appreciate the reminder! You, my fellow Boilermaker, are a rare and beautiful gem! Your faithfulness, love and sense of humor must certainly be causing a big smile in heaven as your mom watches down over you. In your grief, you still showed up to minister to me. I noticed, and I’m taking notes. I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP!

Incidentally, if any of you would like more information or to make a donation to Will’s Way, visit!

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