Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Spinning Screw

I went to the chapel recently to pray after feeling rather frustrated with one thing or another in life. I put up the kneeler and there was a loose screw. I tried to get it to tighten, but it was stripped so it just kept spinning no matter how much I turned it until I finally realized I couldn't do anything about it.

Ironically, this suited my state of mind perfectly. We often are spinning our wheels trying to navigate through problems in life and it seems like we are unable to change things no matter how hard we try. It's as if God is telling us just that. Sometimes we can't fix things because they are out of our control. For someone who likes to fix things, this can be a difficult reality to accept.

God wants to take those spinning screws from us.

We take on burdens that God would gladly take on for us. We should let Him be our Knight in shining armor Who would like to see us rely on Him more and not try to struggle along without His help. Often the best we can do in any challenging situation is pray. 

When we feel like we can't see the path we are supposed to take, be it for something small or big, we should be at peace with knowing if prayer accompanies us we will not misstep, even if things don't always go the way we planned, or when we reach the end of a path it led us somewhere we didn't expect.

Because the reality is, life is filled with twists and turns. If it was a simple straight road, we would look behind us and the person standing at the beginning of the road would look the same as the person at the end (meaning you won't change in any way). That person looks like a spinning screw because they stayed exactly the same.

If there were hills and valleys, dark and light patches, meandering and falling, the person who made it through that comes out really different than the first example if they didn't give up. Their screw held the kneeler together because it was anchored on prayer, and they triumphed despite all odds.

On this first Sunday of Advent, let us turn to God and let Him ease our burdens. That's what He is asking us this Christmas season.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Renting vs Buying

This topic is subject to much debate. There are pros and cons to both renting or owning a house, and one or the other often works better for certain stages of life. I have lived in all sorts of scenarios. I've lived at home (obviously), I've lived in a monastery, I've lived in a dorm room, I've rented two houses, I've bought one house . . . pretty much every kind of living there is. Of all of them, I miss dorm life the least and home life the most, but the most practical for me has been owning a home.

While renting, you often cannot change a lot of your environment, or if you do (such as painting or gardening) it is ultimately benefiting your landlord more than you because your time there usually will have a cap on it. You are paying for lodgings that you will never own and investing in a place that is temporary. On the other hand, there are a lot of expenses that don't fall into your lap. You don't have to fix or replace major appliances or heating and cooling systems, you don't have to pay for homeowner's insurance, and you don't have to make improvements or updates to your home.

While owning, you will take on all these responsibilities and expenses on your own (or with your family). You call in repairmen, you cut the grass, you have property taxes, a mortgage for some period of time. Yet, you are investing in a future. You (hopefully) will make a return on your home when you sell, you can change anything you want to the place without asking anyone, and can truly call it yours. There's a sense of planting roots and feeling settled with owning that gives a sense of peace that renting doesn't. It is a nice thought not to wonder each year will I continue living in this rental?

So, it's a hard decision which option is more financially sensible. Renting is a fee each month you will never get back; owning has repair fees and taxes you will never get back. As I said, it truly depends on your stage in life and where you see yourself down the line! In the long run, you'll probably be glad to own, but either way you have a place to call home.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"Give Me a Story to Tell"

For our 200th post in almost four years of blogging, it seems appropriate to hear the thoughts of another fellow author in her journey of writing! I had the great pleasure of interviewing Lena Donellan this week, who is the author of Paint Everything Blue and West of Yesterday. You can also check out her blog here where she shares her beautiful stories! Enjoy the inspiring interview below :-)

1. What inspired you to become an author?

I always wanted to do what my older sister was doing, so when she started writing stories, of course I followed suit. I guess I was around eleven years old then, and it’s been something I’ve loved to do ever since!

2. What is your favorite book that you have written and why?

Of course you love every story you’ve come up with, but my favorite book I’ve written would have to be my most recent, West of Yesterday. I always considered it my dream story to write someday: a triumph of human brokenness finding healing and wholeness, of very strong darkness being overcome by even stronger love and light. I’d call it my favorite because the central character of the book and his theme always felt the most dear to my heart of any of my ideas.

3. Who is your favorite character from your novels and why?

This is a really hard question…but again, I’d have to say my favorite would be the main character of West of Yesterday, Alan Bledsoe. Alan is a man who has both suffered tremendous injustice and has committed his own share of wrongs, and I’ve always loved the contrast of violence and gentleness that comes to a head in his character. In spite of his flaws he can’t resist his own goodness when he encounters someone who really needs him. He’s a victim, an antagonist, and a hero all rolled into one. His character has always enchanted me.

4. What is your favorite book that you have read and why?

The Fool of New York City by Michael D. O’Brien was among the finest novels I’ve ever read. I think I loved it so much mainly for the excellent telling of the main character’s journey through his own broken manhood to wholeness, mainly through the friendship of the story’s unexpected hero. Also, in the romance department, I think it did a great job of contrasting real love with infatuation and purely emotional attachment. It was a wonderful read and I’d highly recommend it!

5. Who has been the most influential author in your writing?

Wow, what a question! I feel like so many have contributed to how I hope to write: Tolkien, O’Brien, Rumer Godden, Mitch Albom, among many others. But I think the people who have the most direct influence on my writing are probably my sisters, who are way better writers than I am! They’re always the first to read and give me feedback on my writing.

6. How does your Catholic Faith contribute to your writing?

My Faith provides me with the main reason I write anything: namely, in the hopes of glorifying God. Whether what I write is specifically Catholic fiction or not, the morals and truths of the Faith always seem to find a way into the heart of the stories as honest themes of light, love, mercy, and hope. Of course my faith also keeps me striving to always please God in what I write and avoid anything offensive to Him.

7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author?

If you have a story to tell, tell it firstly out of love for God, and then out of love for the story itself. Write so that even if you’re the only person to ever read the outcome, you will be satisfied because you have brought that story from a vision in your heart to something real, and have made yourself happy doing so! If you try to write with that attitude, you’re far more likely to create something genuine that will please readers more than something you wrote just trying to please other people’s taste! I’m not sure why art works that way, but in my experience it does!

Thank you, Lena, for your wonderful thoughts! Order a copy of West of Yesterday here!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Reflections from an Airport

It's time to travel again. It's always a challenge for me to shake the itch to go on an adventure. Usually, when on a trip, I think about the comforts of home, but once home my mind reaches out for the next place to explore.

It's been a year though since I have traveled by plane, and airports truly fascinate me. Every day there are different people going to different places to see other different people and do different things. There is no day that is exactly the same in an airport. No ticket that will resemble another. Lives will cross and most likely never cross paths again. A chance conversation or encounter could leave a lasting remembrance.

I love the “people watching” that happens when you wait for your flight. What luggage someone has, what food they are eating, what outfit they are wearing. Are they traveling with someone? Traveling for business? One way or round trip? The questions are endless and rather unanswerable, but it is fun to guess and create a story in your head.

You never know how connected you are with the people who board the airplane. Those who were on U.S. Airways flight 1549 on January 15, 2009 never could have guessed. Sometimes we don't realize little moments are significant, but each one is. Each moment is significant like the people that fit into them. Each person may be going about their business, following their schedule, reaching their destination, but that person touched your life in those moments, and you touched theirs.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

City Life

I used to write posts about country life, but it's about time I wrote one about city life, or I guess more like "suburban life" but who wants to get all technical. Having lived near the city for nine months now, I think I have a solid comparison now between that and rural living. A lot of people think the kind of setting they appreciate is linked to their personality, but I think that anyone could live anywhere.

How? Because there are beautiful aspects to each way of living that a person could find if they were truly looking. The country for its quiet, the suburban for its activity, the city for its convenience . . . but you can discover quiet in the city, convenience in the suburban, and activity in the country.

What I enjoy about more urban areas is the people. Well first of all there's more of them ;-) but it's exciting to me to watch the world go by and see the diversity of those who live there. There's restaurants to try, events to participate in, stores to window shop, parks to walk, new people to meet. There's city skylines and public transit. There's landmarks and tourist attractions. In short there's history and the future.

Even though anyone can live anywhere, I prefer the city. Yes it has its traffic and noise, but it's energetic like a bee hive and there's a corner of contentment each individual bee finds that flowers under the sun. Too poetic? All right, then how about words from Whitman, "Give me the streets of Manhattan!" 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tips for Working from Home

A lot of people tell me, "you have the dream situation working from home." There are some ways that is true and some ways that it isn't. For those who have never worked from home, it often appears like the easier option. For those who have always worked from home, it often feels confining. For those who have done both, most would say you can't beat the flexibility, but the work/life balance is a lot harder at home.

Think about it. Your "off" hours and your "on" hours take place within the same vicinity. When you work outside the house, it is much easier to leave your work at work, but the stress from your job at home is in the same place that you live. So here are some tips that might help! (This particularly applies to running a business, but could be for any work at home position).

1. Take your work elsewhere. Go outside, go to a coffee shop, go to a friend's house. Maybe you can't do this every day, depending on what you are doing, but once or twice a week it is good to take your computer somewhere outside the home and work. It gives you a fresh perspective and makes the home office less confining.

2. Create a separate workspace. Make sure you have an office that is not in the same room you unwind after a work day. Speaking from experience this is the worst pitfall you can fall in. "Out of sight, out of mind" is so true in this situation. It is important when you are home and not working that your mind turns off work, otherwise you will burn out. Your computer and supplies should be in a different room than where you relax.

3. Stick to a routine. You need to give yourself set hours and reasonable goals. Be like normal people and grocery shop in the evenings or weekends, instead of taking a chunk of the work day and then working at night. Don't set too high standards for yourself. Yes make goals, but put 1-3 things on your list for the day and be proud if you even only accomplished one! If it's hard to stay motivated, try to eliminate things that cause distractions like your phone from your work environment. Consistency is key!

Now that I wrote all these tips, I need to take my own advice! 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Gifts of Prayer

Adding a new item is always a process over in the shop! You have to design it, create it, photograph it, list it, and share it! And for this holiday season, we added 50 new ones! Head on over to check out the gifts of prayer here but we wanted to feature one of these products on the blog today. October is the month of the Rosary, which Our Lady asked to be prayed for the conversion of sinners. The Chaplet of Conversion, a unique devotion, was also asked by Our Lady to be prayed for those who have lost their way. Here is how you pray this beautiful sacramental:


For the first four beads pray one Apostles’ Creed for unbelievers, one Our Father for conversion, one Hail Mary honoring our Lady, and one Hail, Holy Queen.

Repeat the section below five times.

On the first bead pray: “O Holy Mother, I join thee at the foot of thy Son’s Cross to implore mercy and conversion for the souls of the world. With thee I offer the wounds of thy Son Jesus to the Father in atonement for the sins of the world, past, present and to come.”

On the five beads pray:
“Through the sorrowful, bleeding, Immaculate Heat of Mary, and in union with the suffering of her Son Jesus on the Cross, I implore from the Father the grace of conversion for the world.”

At the end of each set, pray one Hail Mary in honor of Mary’s tears of sorrow, followed by this invocation: “Holy Mother Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, obtain for us from God the conversion of the world.”

Conclude with three Glory Be’s in honor of the Blessed Trinity and one Hail, Holy Queen.

This chaplet was requested by Our Lady for the conversion of souls in the world during these difficult times. She gave it to a chosen soul in Ireland, but asked that it be prayed widely.

So if you're looking for a beautiful item to add to your prayer life, click here!