Sunday, January 21, 2018

Twain's Triumph



Mark Twain's words about this work say it all: "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none." I agree with his statement, "it is the best." I've read this book twice and never get tired of it. Perhaps I'm biased because Joan of Arc is one of my favorite saints, but Twain really brings her story to life. He portrayed the narration as Louis de Conte so remarkably that many at the time didn't know Twain was the author.

This post will be pages and pages if I really told you all the great things about this book, but you will have to read it for yourself. In short, the work is divided into three parts. The first "In Domremy" and the life with her family. The second "In Court and Camp" and her epic battles. The third "Trial and Martyrdom" which Twain puts as "among all the multitude of biographies that freight the shelves of the world's libraries, this is the only one whose validity is confirmed to us by oath."

The third section is perhaps the most moving. There is nothing compared to the dialogue of Joan of Arc at the end of her life, including perhaps the most famous line, "if I be not in a state of grace, I pray God place me in it; if I be in it, I pray God keep me so." Also, her answer to the question of why her standard had been at the king's coronation: "it had borne the burden, it had earned the honor."

I think what moves me most about Joan's life is her willingness to serve God in whatever way He wished and the remarkable courage and fidelity to the mission He gave her. It is a wonder to me that discovering the rich spiritual depth of a soul like Joan of Arc that Twain never became a Catholic. Still, he does great justice to the life of the Maid and shows what a hero she really was. (Note: the film of Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman is not bad and follows along fairly accurately with her story as well).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ride of Life


So, I'm not one for the really big roller coasters. The most advanced I've been on is a ride not more than 35mph......and I didn't realize it went backwards until it was too late. But do you ever feel like life is just like the big coasters? They go fast, turn you around, make you feel like you're flying, and if you let go a little give you the time of your life. 

Life is like that to me. It has it's ups and downs, it's dash of the unexpected and unpredictable, but at the same time the happiest moments, the thrill of adventure, and sharing all that experience with others. So much so that you don't want the ride to end and have to re-ride it over and over to relive those great moments.

But like my experience on the backwards coaster--you can't get off the ride until it's over. Time never stops. Moments pass so quickly and we want to hang onto them. Are we letting life pass us by and not enjoying the ride? I love this quote: "While you are busy making a living, don't forget to make a life."

The best part of coasters to me, be they small or large, is not riding them at all, but the excitement built up beforehand. I love the anticipation of "am I actually going to get on this?" And then deciding to do it. Life is like that--you don't know what the future will bring, but you take the leap and jump in, excitement and all. Before you realize it, you're having the ultimate adventure.

Monday, January 8, 2018

It Makes a Difference


I recently discovered this little story and now it's one of my favorites: "One evening a squall on an ocean left the beach scattered with starfish. A child noticed this walking along and tried to return the starfish into the waves. A passerby remarked to the child of the impossibility of making a difference since there were countless starfish. The child looked thoughtfully at the starfish in his hand before returning it to the ocean and answered, "Well it makes a difference to this one."

Do you ever feel like what you try to do in your life just doesn't seem to matter? That nothing is bearing fruit? That efforts fall short? But even if you don't see it, efforts do bear fruit and everything you do matters. I heard a great sermon at Mass yesterday for the feast of the Holy Family, and the priest spoke a lot about merit--how when we make the choice to fulfill our daily duties well no matter how monotonous, we are storing up merit in Heaven. For the Holy Family lived a very simple life: Our Lady cooked, cleaned, sewed....St. Joseph worked, constructed, built...and Our Lord "was subject to them." He lived a hidden life, but such a rich life! Do you ever feel like those who appreciate a life detached from the world discover something so much deeper?

The story of the child and the starfish is how I feel about my writing and my shop. If I reach even just one person, touch one heart, help one soul, it is all worth it. What we do makes a difference. How do we know that a providential smile, glance, or word of encouragement, was not what one person needed to continue on in their struggles? You could be the person whose simple act of charity was the one that made someone turn to God or persevere to the end. Let us not think that because there is so much that can be done, that nothing can be done, but rather not miss any opportunities....since "it makes a difference to this one."

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Writing the Next Chapter of Life

Happy New Year 2018!
Everyone desires that a new year will be better than the last--that wishes will come true, dreams will be achieved, and hopes will become a reality. And why shouldn't we feel that way about the year ahead of us? A fresh start as the old year closes and the new year begins gives us a reason to try. It's good to have goals because if we aren't shooting for anything, our life will be rather stagnant.

Where do we see ourselves at the end of 2018? Did we miss a lot of opportunities during the course of 2017? What can we do to make the most of every moment of each day that God gives us? These are some questions that make food for thought. Instead of wasting the night away with late parties, we should be grateful for the blessings of the previous year and think about what we want to do with the prospects of the new year.

I'm a writer so the way I look at New Year's is a whole year unwritten with lots and lots of blank pages. Each day is a page in the next chapter of our life, and God is the author of our story. Don't be a pen that runs out of ink! Be a pen that writes your life perseveringly, honestly, happily--filling the pages with triumphs in difficulties, endurance in suffering, charity toward all, and joy in family and friends. "Life is what you make it" is not such an untruth. God is in control, but He asks for our cooperation in His plan for our life as fulfilling His will is all that matters. 

St. Teresa of Avila says: "Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing."

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas All the Year


No doubt many a family reads or watches A Christmas Carol this time of year. It is one of my very favorite stories. There is a reason why some characters become iconic or plots become classic. Some just manage to hit home more than others because they touch your heart and make you see life differently. 

I especially love the quote: "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year." Christmas all the year. Christmas is not simply a day, but a season, and not just a season, but a spirit that we should carry all year. I think it's so sad when we have to take Christmas decorations down . . . maybe because we think the joy and peace goes with them. Sometimes I'd like to think we should keep up a small tree with lights just to remind us that the spirit of Christmas should live in our hearts all year long.

Christmas has to be my very favorite holiday. Externals like Christmas trees and cookies help make things feel festive for sure, but the special graces that come to our souls from the celebration of Christ's Birth are the moments to be treasured. Our Lord wants to bring us that joy and peace every day. He is present in the smiles in our families, the laughter in our friends, the peace in our hearts. 

To keep Christmas all the year means to love the Infant Jesus in every moment and in loving Him, sharing that gift with others. For when we look hard enough, we may find that the Christmas spirit can be found all year, if only we let it reign in our lives. Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tapestry of My Life


Tapestry of My Life

"I wonder what the other side will be, when I have finished weaving all my thread. I do not know the pattern nor the end of this great piece of work which is for me. I only know that I must weave with care the colors that are given me day by day, and make of them a fabric firm and true, which will be of service for my fellow man."

"Sometimes these colors are so dark and grey I doubt if there will be one line or trace of beauty there. But all at once there comes a thread of gold or rose so deep that there will always be that one bright spot to cherish or to keep and maybe against its strand of darkest hue it will be beautiful."

"The way is held in place by the Master's hand. The Master's mind made the design for me; if I but weave the shuttle to and fro and blend the colors just the best I know, perhaps when it is finished, He will say, Tis good, and lay it on the footstool of His feet."

My grandmother made this plaque many years ago, and I always liked reading this little poem. It speaks for itself....to remind us that God is present in every moment of our lives, whether we feel we are weaving dark or bright strands of threads....day by day....just the best we know.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Cheer for the NICU


Looking for a great way to spread some Christmas cheer? Apple Mill Bakery is sponsoring a cookie drive! If you've never heard of the NICU, it's the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where premie babies have to spend a few weeks to a few months post-delivery, depending on the complications they may experience. 

My godson was a premie baby and I visited him several times during his stay in the NICU before coming home. It was a very moving experience to see such tiny infants fighting for survival (sometimes they're only 1 or 2 pounds!). They are connected to lots of tubes and sleep in an "incubator" with little human contact because they are so susceptible to germs. You have to "scrub up" sometimes to go inside the unit, and if you are allowed to hold the baby it is usually for a short time.

One of the hardest things to witness is how much the families go through whose child or sibling is in the NICU. The parents have to worry every day if their child will be able to come home with them. The baby can be in the hospital a long time, and they have to make daily visits to the NICU in order to be with their newborn. Worst of all, sometimes the baby doesn't make it. 

But YOU can help make their Christmas a little merrier! Visit applemillbakery.com and click on the listing for Christmas Cookie Drive for Children. Order a can of cookies and they will be given to a family with your name on it! What a special way to comfort parents and siblings of a little baby in the NICU.

Place your order now before Friday December 15th! The children will thank you.