Mad for…Will

Day 75 of 365: Will Oberndorfer

Author’s Note: In 2017, long before I began my “Mad for 2019” challenge, I wrote the following entry about a then high school senior, Will Oberndorfer. Will is now a Boilermaker, a freshman at Purdue University. Will is a very funny and faith-filled young man who blogs himself and I’d love to put the link here but I can’t seem to figure it out. When I get it, I will update this entry. Will is also the co-founder of Diabetes Will’s Way, and you can find out more about that incredibly charity and the work they do at He’s a handsome, athletic, kind and incredible young man whose love of the Lord guides him always, and he’s tremendously inspiring to me in many ways. The story below still illustrates his essence better than I can do otherwise. We should all be so lucky as to have a character filled friend of this quality. Will, I am grateful for you, kid, because who you are makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE to so many people. If you don’t know him yet, you should. For those folks, I hope you enjoy learning more about Will. –ST

Will Oberndorfer, at center, with his family at his high school graduation last spring. Yes, he was Valedictorian, and yes, he gave an incredibly moving speech that day. In addition to being a big smarty pants, Will is STILL the real deal!

[Please enjoy the story below, an entry from 2017]

Ummm…Drew?  Did I hear the doorbell ring at 11:30 last night?

Yeah, Mom.  You did.   All you need to know is that Oby is an amazing friend!  I gotta go!!

Ok, then.  Have a great day, D!

The above conversation was one of those “I’ve got no time and I am running late so make it quick, Mom” moments.  Every mother of an 18 year old knows what I’m saying.  In this case, my middle kid had gotten very little sleep.  He had played his basketball game and gotten home about 10pm the previous evening.  He arrived home starving, so I shoved a sandwich and some apple slices at him.  Then, he hustled upstairs to work on homework.  I knew he would be up until all hours.  His academic load is significant— by his own choice.  He’s a bright kid and a hard worker but I do worry about him.  It’s a mom thing.  Is he getting enough sleep?  Is the insane IB homework load just too much?  Would it be better for him to have more time for just being a goofy kid?  You get it.  All of us who have kids constantly have this little interior chatter.

This particular day stands out to me, because as the day wore on, I learned more details about the late night visit of one Will Oberndorfer.  It was a God wink.

Apparently, in the new world of electronic everything, there are online quizzes and apps you must have operational, plus midnight deadlines for assignments….all sorts of things I cannot imagine as I compare my son’s academic experience to my own.  I don’t even pretend to understand any of it, and I am truly thankful to God that I was born in 1971.  Pencils, paper and dogs that ate homework were all actual things back in the day.  I digress.  Anyway, on Tuesday night after Drew had his sandwich and a shower, he began his homework marathon later than normal.  It was pushing 11pm.  Shortly after plopping down at his desk, Drew realized that there was a glitch causing his computer to be unable to run some application he needed in order to successfully complete a required quiz by midnight.  He texted his friends—the other crazy young people who are also up half the night, every night, trying to finish their own work.  He was wondering if any of them knew a way to fix the computer issue.  None did.  His friend Oby offered to let Drew come over to his house and use his working computer.  Drew didn’t want to bother his buddy so late.  He then just thanked his friends anyway deciding he would have to just take the zero this time.  He would take his computer into the Guerin Catholic IT folks in the morning for a technical assist.

Then, the doorbell rang.  It was 11:30pm.

I don’t want you to take the zero.

There was Oby.  He had an operational computer for Drew to borrow to take the quiz.

Was it just a small act of kindness?  Yes.  Did it feel small to Drew?  No.

This week, God used a terrific teenager named Will Oberndorfer to remind me, again, how we can all effect positive change in this crazy, wonderful, and sometimes breathtakingly desperate world.  It’s done one kind act at a time, right in the place where you live.  Simply put:  BE THE FRIEND EVERYONE WISHES THEY HAD.

If we’re all working to be the face and hands of Christ, pretty soon it’s going to be incredibly difficult to go anywhere and NOT see how much we are ALL deeply loved by our truly awesome God.

Atta boy, Oby!  You are the REAL DEAL, kid.

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.  –Mother Teresa

Mad for…Clay

With my own voice I will call out to the Lord, and he will answer me from his holy mountain. (Psalm 3:5)

Day 74 of 365.

The handsome college freshman in the center of this trio of great guys is Clay Hepp. Clay is a 2018 graduate of Guerin Catholic High School and he now attends the University of Dayton. Having him back in my house this week has been a great gift as he always leaves me, Tom (and my sons) feeling joyful. This is a sharp, gracious, and sunny young man. He’s witty and he’s kind.

I was going to wait until later in the year to write about Clay, as his birthday is in the fall, but right now is when this young man needs all of our prayers, so I’ve decided there is no time like the present to give a shout out to this terrific kid! When we put God first, all other things ten to fall into their proper place in our lives, and it seems to me, Clay is working very hard to do just that. You see, currently, Clay is going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process at UD. He’s a Candidate, converting to the Catholic faith with his older brother, Cole, as his sponsor.

So today, I chose a little bit of the third Psalm as I started to write a little about this faith-filled young man because I hope he will always remember that the Lord is available, and when we call He answers. It’s not always the answer we expect or the one we hoped for but He’s trustworthy and He can be counted on– for now and forever. God always wills what is best for us because He is love itself. Join me in prayer for Clay as he rounds third base and heads towards home on the RCIA journey, that as he embarks on his new adventure in faith this Easter, the Lord will draw him ever closer, and that he will always know God loves him no matter what!

This young man is already an incredibly loving and attentive son and brother as well as a caring and thoughtful friend. He’s gifted, honest, and articulate. He sparkles. This is a young man who is absolutely a blessing to all who know him. However, I predict an even brighter version of Clay is about to shine forth…and I am so happy for him! I cannot wait to wish him a Happy Easter as the sacraments and all their grace are opened to him.

Clay, thank you for always being a good friend to Drew and a good example to Zach of what an integrity-filled friend looks like. Your big, silly smile and fantastic laugh have always been a great joy to the entire Thieme clan. We love you, Clay Hepp!!

Mad for…Gachia

Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. (Hebrews 13:2)

Day 73 of 365.

Do you see the joyful mother and wife on the left here in the photo above? That’s Gachia Hoefer. She’s one of the most genuinely friendly and welcoming souls I have ever come across. For this reason, I think the little bit of scripture above is a perfect choice as I attempt to honor her today with some positive words. I’m quite sure that when and if an angel crosses her path unknowingly, they will have been treated as hospitably as humanly possible. It seems to just be who she is and what she does.

Long before I began to attend mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, I would make fairly regular visits to the parish office. I was uneasy, unsure, and completely self-conscious about my presence there. Gachia was the face that greeted me on nearly every visit I made. After a while, she began to recognize my face, and she was very consistent. She smiled, she welcomed, and she put me at ease. I suspect it was the exact thing she did with countless others who came in lost, lonely, scared or searching.

Gachia’s a face I recognize and a name I know, but we are not really acquainted at all. I have her on my mind today because I happen to know she’s on a long car ride from Colorado back to Indiana at this moment. I learned about them being stuck out west during the Colorado blizzard this week and how they have had to bob and weave from their original plans, driving back in less than ideal conditions. I’ve been praying for their safe travels.

With the Hoefers on my heart today, I was reminded of a time that my appointment at the office at OLMC was delayed. Pastor, Fr. Richard Doerr, was to meet with me, but he was running behind. I wondered if I should go and come back another day, but Gachia waved off the idea and invited me to pray with the office staff while I waited. She drew me in. It was just one tiny example of what she spent many years doing…introducing random strangers to the love of God with her kindness and her smile.

Gachia, the Lord loves your welcoming ways, and so do I. I so wish that I had stopped in to say so in person, or even written a note of gratitude when you retired from your post as parish secretary. You are an amazing, lovely and faith-filled woman and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to get to know you just a little. The witness you provided me means that even now when I see you at a distance at mass, just spotting you in a crowd is a wonderful reminder to me about how I’d like to treat others with the same joy and care! THANK YOU for your service to the parish and for your kindness to me over several years. I think you are a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

Mad for…Georgia

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! -1 John 3:1

Day 72 of 365.

I chose this scripture verse above to honor a very special woman named Georgia today, because it’s a good respresentation of what it really what it feels like to me to have had her in my life these many years. There she’s been at every event of consequence through the years, cheering me on and supporting my family. It’s like God telling me how lavishly I am loved. She’s what I call my “back up Mom”. I spent every single summer vacation of my youth with her and her amazing husband, Chuck and her son Ted, who truly is like a brother to me. The Dykhuizens and Stumpfs were pretty much a perfect vacation match. Those are memories I will always treasure.

Georgie’s a retired English teacher so I’ll share this appropriate bit of Shakespeare as well. You’ll “find though she be but little, she is fierce.” Standing around 4’11, there’s nothing quiet or introverted about Georgia. She’s generous with her thoughts and absolutely lacks any filter when it comes to the asking of whatever curiosity enters her mind. It makes me laugh and keeps everyone on their toes who is in her orbit. This special feature of her personality was somewhat disturbing during my teenage years while I was dating. “Has he kissed you yet?” Questions of this ilk were very commonplace. Mostly, I can’t help loving her authenticity. She’s 100% genuine.

Georgia has a beautiful smile and when she gets laughing, it’s completely contagious. More than once, she’s gotten me laughing so hard that I can no longer breathe and I am left fanning myself for oxygen. She’s joyful, and she’s kind.

Here’s the thing. I know if I called for her help or advice even today, she would sweep right in with her love and scoop me up. She’s an amazing woman who I truly love and TODAY IS HER BIRTHDAY! Happy Birthday, Georgia. I am so truly thankful for you and I love you very much!!

Mad for…Msgr. Laughlin

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. –Thomas Merton

Day 71 of 365.

Meet Msgr Laughlin. He’s a retired priest with family in the area and he often presides at daily masses at nearby Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This morning was such an occasion. He spoke to us this morning about prayer, and he referred at some length to the famous Thomas Merton prayer I’ve shared above. I have always found it incredibly comforting, and in fact I had it displayed for several years on my fridge.

I am told the Msgr. is in his mid 90s. This fact blows my mind, mostly because he’s so incredibly coherent and filled with such wisdom that nearly every time he is there saying mass I end up digging for my phone to quickly jot down something he said. I’ve more than once gone into the adoration chapel and found him kneeling in prayer there. Let’s be honest, the chances of many of us being physically able to do either of those things in our mid-nineties is slim to none, am I right? He’s quite clearly a holy and prayerful man, and I feel grateful he has chosen central Indiana as the place he is spending his retirement.

Some time ago, he shared a sentiment similar to the one above written by Merton that settled on me in a meaningful way. It went something like this. If someone trustworthy tells you a movie is terrific, hard to watch at moments but just has a great ending and to stick it out…you would, right? It’s the same attitude we need with God. He has a plan for us, he’s worthy of our trust. If we stay with Him, it all ends well. Beautiful truth, spoken simply.

Today’s gospel message about the importance of praying to glorify God and trusting Him with our lives struck me as incredibly filled with wisdom and meaning. So, this man of God, well into his retirement years, is STILL the face of Christ to others by his witness and his words. Thank you, Lord, for Msgr. Laughlin and all your holy priests!! I am so grateful for them, every single one.

Mad for…Tim

May the light of the Lord shine upon you and grant you happiness on this birthday and for many years to come!

Day 70 of 365.

A long, lanky guy who stands about 6’4, Tim Houze is a good man who has a big heart that matches his stature! Today’s birthday boy is both compassionate and warm, and he is always ready to share a genuine hug and an encouraging word!

I met Tim when he began to date my close friend, Lisa, many years ago. At that time, she was a single mom raising her beautiful son, Christian. When Tim joined them, it just seemed to me that they never missed a beat. I was always incredibly impressed by how he took instantly to the role of Dad. He has proven to be a loving and terrific father to both Christian and their younger son, Malcolm as well. The boys adore their Dad, as well they should.

Tim is a generous and faithful guy and an active member at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church. He’s made numerous mission trips to Mexico over the years with some amazing men from his parish to help provide housing for the poor– a commitment of time and talent that always leaves me incredibly moved. What’s not to love about a group of men behaving so selflessly?

In recent weeks as I had some medical drama, Tim showed up at my front door with his sunny smile to visit. He just wanted to check in on me in person and make sure that I know I’m loved. Mission accomplished, Timmy! As you left, I could only think of the famous quote by St. Thomas Aquinas, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” It wasn’t long after that, and my dear friend Tim Houze suffered a little drama of his own….a fall which resulted in 8 broken ribs and a punctured lung among other injuries. As I type this, Tim’s still got many weeks to recover before he’s back to full strength. However, you can’t keep a good man down for long! He’ll be back and stronger than ever very soon.

Tim is a just, upright and respectful man who I am proud to call a dear friend. When I see him, I know I can count on being greeted with warmth and genuine love. His presence in my life and the lives of my sons and husband is an utter blessing from the Lord. We love you, Timmy, and your life is one which should all be celebrating today on your special day! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TIM HOUZE! LYMI!!

Mad for…Mireille

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play. –Henri Matisse

Day 69 of 365.

She loves life in such a contagious way that, as you can see, it even comes through in a photo of her! Meet Mireille Wannemuehler. She’s a wife, mother, mother-in-law, and a friend to many…to name a few of her most important roles.

I met Mireille when she was teaching. Now retired, she spent many years as the art teacher at St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School. Make no mistake about it, Mireille is as joyful in person as she looks in this photo and also she is a creative genius. She’s a truly talented artist who generously has shared that gift with her parish family over the years!

Mireille is the owner of an infectious, welcoming smile and one of the absolute best laughs I’ve ever heard. It’s just so incredibly genuine. She’s beautifully gentle and compassionate. She sees the very best in others, and she’s just the most loving mother who raised very impressive young women! She’s charming and she’s one of those people who is the barometer of goodness. Truly.

Mireille is faith-filled. Her love of the Lord oozes from her without any effort whatsoever. Perhaps without even knowing it, Mireille is the face of Christ to all in her path. I’ve long admired her and have failed to say so….until today!

Thank you, Mireille, for being a beacon of sunshine for my boys and all the children for all those years at SLDM. Also, though, I find myself grateful for the great gift of being the recipient of your smile so many time….in Fishers and also when we’ve run into you in South Haven, Michigan over the years. You are a truly fine human being and my life and that of my family are so much better for knowing you!!