Sunday, December 8, 2019

To Decorate is to Create

One of my recent posts was about renting versus buying a home. Whichever of the two is your story, either way one of the highlights of your own place is the ability to decorate. Not only to decorate for the everyday and arrange furniture and items as it makes sense to you, but especially at times of the year like this when you can add your flair of holiday creativity.

When you're on a budget, holiday decorations are commonly found at WalMart, Dollar General, or Hobby Lobby. It doesn't take a lot of money to make a space look wonderful, just a resourceful mind. Some great ideas for Christmas decor are: obviously a tree, garlands with lights, a festive tablecloth, a wreath, decorative plates, fake or real poinsettias, scented candles, nutcrackers, a nativity scene, an Advent wreath, an Advent calendar, spray snow for the windows, and the list goes on and on. Choosing only 2-3 of these would bring life to your home.

I truly think that decor reflects personality. Your tastes are unique to you and affect food, clothes, home, travel. You should feel proud of how you create a space. For after all, having a welcoming home is like telling all your friends and family they belong there.

What are some of your favorite Christmas decorations? (Mine are definitely snow globes!)

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!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

You Just Know

Does that phrase ever frustrate you? "You just know." Like, how did you realize that person was the one you are meant to marry?" "Oh, you just know." Well, that idea frustrates me, not because I won't know it when I see it, but I don't think it will be a feeling that "you just know."

The closest I felt something like that was when I moved to my new place. I had the feeling that it was "mine" when I first walked in. BUT, it was still a hard decision and there were many factors that led me to make it. My new home was the right size, the right location, the right layout, the right price, etc. It wasn't perfect, but I wasn't looking for perfection...just the right fit for me.

Now for meeting someone special, there has to be a similar thought process, don't you think? They have the right morals, the right personality that fits with yours, the right ideals in life, the right ways to finance, the right relationship with their family. Now by "right" I don't mean it's exactly the same as you, but that it fits with you and you fit with them in these and other ways.

I've had priests or nuns in religious life tell me the same thing about their vocation. "You just know" you fit in a Community. But when I entered the convent, it wasn't because I had some feeling of knowing, it was that I was looking for certain aspects of religious life, had prayers answered in novenas, and doors were opening for me. 

Whether it is for a vocation or other life change, it's about discernment which means weighing pros and cons. While feelings do come into these decisions, they aren't the only basis. So all in favor of eliminating the phrase "you just know" from the English language, raise your hand. I'll "just know" you agree.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Solider's Rosary

"The word rosary means 'crown of roses' that is to say that every time people say the rosary devoutly they place a crown of one hundred and fifty-three white roses and sixteen red roses upon the heads of Jesus and Mary. Being heavenly flowers these roses will never fade or lose their exquisite beauty." ~ St Louis de Montfort 

A really beautiful thought on the worth and significance of praying the rosary. I thought as a tribute to Our Lady of the Rosary's feast day tomorrow, I would share this moving song I found about a solider and his rosary.

A Soldier's Rosary
Lyrics by J.E. DEMPSEY

A mother's last words to every soldier
"kneel down at night and say your prayers."
But he's so weary,
Thro' days so dreary,
After all his trials and cares,

Don't worry mother,
He serves his Maker
when he serves his country's needs.

No matter where
each act is a prayer
and they form the links
upon a soldier's beads.


When bells are tolling Our hearts consoling
we seek the chapel o'er the way
When cannons thunder
Would we I wonder,
Ever take the time to pray,

The foe before him,
No shelter o'er him
over head the cold stars shine.

His Maker knows
as onward he goes
that his pray'r is better far
than yours or mine.

For his thoughts keep turning homeward
and their pray'rs come drifting back
that's his chaplet and his guide to victory,

But bullets are his beads
and on his knees he pleads
that each one will help to end the misery,

Ev'ry shot a pearl,
each pearl a pray'r
he fights until he falls,

Lost in action comes the message o'er the sea.
And while the nation mourns his loss
his dear old mother bears the cross
that's a soldier's rosary.

Copyright 1918 by A.J. Stasny Music Co., 56 W. 45th St.N.Y.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Centurion's Wife

It is funny how this book came into my hands. I was collecting a bunch of Janette Oke novels, ordering them in used book lots, and some of them I received were written in collaboration with Davis Bunn. I had never heard of this author, but I have truly enjoyed his Christian novels. The Centurion's Wife in particular really struck a cord with me.

The novel centers around the two main characters of Alban and Leah. You read their lives in separate accounts for the first half, discovering that they are both searching for peace and answers. Alban, a Roman centurion, is commissioned by Pontius Pilate to discover the truth of the events following Christ's death. Leah is a servant in Pilate's household and is sent by Pilate's wife to find similar answers. Alban and Leah are arranged to be married by Pilate, Alban looking forward with eagerness and Leah with dread.

The research brought into this novel is captivating. You truly feel as if you are walking the earth at the time of Christ. The political turmoil, the greed of many leaders, the awe and confusion of those who are searching for the truth about Christ, all make you realize what people at that time must have felt. It brought alive how truly powerful the Resurrection is and was, and what that would mean to someone hearing it first hand at the time.

With dynamic and interesting characters, this novel connects you with Alban and Leah, having you desire a happy end between the two as much as if you were there. I recommend this story for anyone looking for a light, faith-filled, historical, and romantic read. On to the sequel, The Hidden Flame!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Be Reasonable

Goals should be about balance. If we are "under" achievers or "over" achievers we are not achievers at all, or if we are doing something for the wrong reasons, then we really didn't accomplish much. We should strive to achieve balance and "be reasonable" about goals and deadlines and lists.

It is good to have ambition, determination, motivation, but not if it is at a cost to something more important like happiness. A goal should not rob us of our peace. If you find it hard to relax, like myself, and fill your life up with work, let me tell you from experience, it only makes you restless. 

Why? Because there is always more work. You will never be satisfied because there are always reasons (aka excuses) to bury oneself in work. It might be your way of coping with something, of staying busy, or avoiding something else. Whatever the reason, work doesn't give you answers. 

The goal in this situation is to search for hobbies. Something that brings peace and joy and isn't done for the sake of being productive. Leisure is being productive by reminding us that work is a means to an end, whereas true "rest" is an end in itself because it parallels eternal rest. Our greatest work will be union with God and loving prayer to Him.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Triumph through Tragedy

Gifts sent to our Troops
A couple years back I wrote a post on our experiences of 9/11, where we were, what we felt, how it affected the country, remembering those who were lost. This year I want to focus on the aftermath. Maybe its because I've experienced personal loss this year to loved ones, that 9/11 hits home this year more than others. It has made me realize that even 18 years later, grief still lives, but grief does not triumph. 

Death does not have the final say. There will be tragedy, there will be loss, there will be suffering...but not forever. 

I think it's important to reach out, not just on anniversaries like this, but throughout the year to those who are suffering. Reaching out to our Troops, to pro-life organizations, to the poor. We have to let tragedy transform into triumph, that even though we are knocked down, it spurs us on to greater gifts.

We don't want to forget days like 9/11, but more importantly we don't want to forget the people who are still suffering from that day now. They should ever be in our prayers, and our nation's needs should ever be in our hearts.

For to triumph means something had to come before...a struggle, pain, grief perhaps. Aftermath generally means the suffering that comes from a tragic incident. Sometimes you feel like you are in a hole. Advice I was recently given was that you can build a ladder out of that hole. Make the rungs things that can help, be it family, friends, prayer, hobbies...and soon you'll be taking that step up one at a time and feeling that triumph.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Come Rack, Come Rope

Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson is the author of many notable Catholic novels, many of which I would love to cross off my list of read books. I personally have only read two of his English martyrs novels, By What Authority and more recently Come Rack, Come Rope. Both were very inspiring and historically accurate. 

Come Rack, Come Rope, are words taken from Edmund Campion, who after being tortured in the Tower of London reaffirmed he had not revealed any secrets that would compromise the Faith, "come rack, come rope." As written in the preface, the novel could more rightly be called non-fiction, rather than fiction, save for the two main characters. The events center around the sufferings of Catholics under Elizabeth's reign in the late 1500's, when it became high treason to be a priest in England.

The story follows the characters of Marjorie and Robin who are Catholics in love. However when Robin's father apostatizes, Robin is presented with a new inspiration to pursue the priesthood rather than marry Marjorie, which he well knows may mean eventual death. Edmund Campion makes an appearance in the novel as well as Nicholas Owen, the priest hide creator and Richard Topcliffe the infamous torturer. The plot realistically captures the stealth, courage, and heroism of the priests who risked their lives to provide the Sacraments. 

This novel reminded me of the great love and appreciation we should have for the Mass. It is sobering fact that Catholics risked their lives to attend Mass in those times, and this is a privilege offered to us daily at no inconvenience to ourselves other than our time. We should long to be present at the Holy Sacrifice to receive Him Who comes down from Heaven for us. At the end of the novel, Heaven is described as that place where "the Crucified Lamb of God would talk to him as a man talks with his friend." Let us here on earth talk to Christ as our dearest Friend.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

What's in a Friend

What's in a friend...the very word brings a smile to your lips and laughter in your heart. It floods your mind with happy memories and the names of wonderful people who have touched your life. It's a reminder that you are connected to special someones, whether they live next store or thousands of miles away.

What's in a friend.... someone who understands you without words, listens to your stories with as much interest as you listen to theirs, laughs so hard together you both cry, connects with you on a spiritual level, shares the worst and the best with you, sticks by your side through thick and thin. In short, they are "the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life" :-)

When I think of my dearest friends in life, I am filled with gratitude. Grateful to have met such fantastic individuals and been blessed to call them by that name of "friend." Grateful for the laughs, the advice, the growth, the support, and most of all the moments together that are ingrained in my memory forever. 

One cannot put a price on friendship. It is something to be treasured above all else. I think you realize the value of a friend when you can't imagine your life without them.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Out for the Count

There's nothing like a bad bout of bronchitis to knock the wind out of you. It's not the first time this coughing monster attacked me, but I must have blocked out how truly menacing that monster can be. Not that I'm complaining...thankfully I had lots of opportunity for rest....which brings me to this post.

The art of learning how to be unproductive is lost on me, one which is a very necessary art when illness strikes. Rest is the best medicine for beating a bug, but for the personality type like an "energizer bunny" this presents a challenge. Rest is the very antonym of work, but something I'm learning is that both are redemptive.

Our work can be offered to God and our rest can be offered to God. Sometimes one can be more meritorious over the other if we are not inclined to it. For most that would be work, for myself that is rest. I don't know why it's hard to rest because I do enjoy having fun and leisurely activities, but maybe because they are activities. Being sick is the most inactive form of life I think there the physical sense.

In the spiritual sense, being sick can be the most active state there is. And this got me thinking. Impatience often creeps up on us when we feel like we are "wasting time" or simply can't wait. We are never wasting time if we are united to Our Lord at every moment. Be that work or rest, suffering or pleasure, it is redemptive when we offer it up.

So even when you're out for the count and feeling like sickness is eating away at your valuable time, an interesting perspective is that may be the most valuable time you are given, a chance to accept what comes to you and give it back to God.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Listening Ear

Anyone who knows me knows that if a problem is presented to me my first intention is to try to "fix it." It has taken me awhile to understand that that is not always the solution a person is looking for, and sometimes they are not looking for their problem to be fixed at all. 

This is where the concept of "a listening ear" comes in. Often all a person needs if for you to listen. They may need to vent about their troubles, or talking it out gives them their own ideas to fix their own problem. They may just want someone to confirm their own convictions, or they need a sympathetic word or kind remark. 

For ultimately you are not responsible for trying to "fix" someone else. God is the author of our stories and we are the pens to write them, but we cannot be the pen in someone else's book. We can write our own pen in their book, but we cannot be their pen. (Bear with my writer analogy...occupational hazard).

After all, being the listening ear is what helps the most anyway. It doesn't help to try to change someone or change the sufferings of someone. It is important to do everything we can to be their support system and maybe suggest ideas to alleviate their problem, but we can't fix their problem. There should be a great peace in that because listening means you are giving your full attention to that person, which very well could be the one thing they need most.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Miraculous 54 Day Rosary Novena

"Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary and three novenas in thanksgiving." ~ Promise of Our Lady of the Rosary

One of my very favorite devotions is the 54 Day Rosary novena. I have prayed it many times over the years and always received some sort of answer, sometimes in very clear ways for big decisions and other times just the comfort of subtle graces received.

The history behind this devotion stems from a vision of Our Lady to Fortuna Agrelli in 1884. The young girl had three illnesses that doctors declared incurable. Her family prayed a nine day novena of rosaries without success, until Our Lady appeared to the girl with the Child Jesus and a rosary in her hand. 

Fortuna said, "Queen of the Holy Rosary, be gracious to me, restore me to health. I have already prayed to Thee in a novena, O Mary, but have not yet experienced Thy aid. I am so anxious to be cured."

Our Lady replied, "Child, you have invoked Me by various titles and have always obtained favors from me. Now, since you have called Me by that title so pleasing to Me, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, I can no longer refuse the favor you petition; for this name is most precious and dear to me. Make three novenas, and you shall obtain all."

After following Our Lady's instructions, Fortuna was cured from all three illnesses. The rosary prayed for 54 days in a row is a beautiful devotion to honor Our Lady. If begun on the feast of the Assumption (August 15th) it will end on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7th)!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

He Who Prays Most

An inspiring quote I came across for the feast of St Alphonsus was "he who prays most receives most." The reason this struck me was not necessarily the length of prayer but to focus on quality. To pray the most means to be united to God in everything. We receive so much more if God is a part of our whole day rather than a piece of it because His presence transcends each moment.

It is also how you look at things. Those who want to see God working in their life can, if they only look. There are so many times I have been delayed when traveling, only to pass by a recent accident on the way that could have been me. Some could argue that's insignificant, but if someone wanted to see God's protecting hand on those moments they could. 

God is always creating in nature...rainbows, sunsets, snow flurries...always beautiful. How much more beautiful is He acting through our lives and forming a breathtaking creation of a life lived well? We receive from God as much as we hope for, an extension of the idea, "he who prays most receives most." Because if prayer is simply lifting our hearts to God, as St Therese would phrase it, and God cannot be outdone in generosity, then how much more is He lifting His Heart to us?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Leave a Trail

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

The characteristic that precedes the ability to leave a trail is courage. Forging your own path in life is a brave thing to do. It is not an easy road. There is the unexpected, the challenging, the mistakes...but after those moments are the triumphs, the glory, the successes.

A lot of people today are becoming cogs in a machine, following set social patterns and trends. It only takes a glance at social media to see that society struggles with individuality, which also means that people are searching for identity. 

Self awareness is an important thing and it isn't found by comparing oneself to others. It is found in trying new things, taking chances, and discovering who you are through the big things in life we have to face. Knowing who you are and feeling confident in that allows you to leave a trail that others want to follow. 

Making changes in your life to get where you want to be is the first step. And as you go through life taking one step at a time and being consistent, before you know it you've left a trail.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Build a Door

Oftentimes we are waiting for that opportunity to come along to move forward with some aspect of our life. It could be waiting for the right house to buy, waiting for the right person to marry, waiting for the right job to come along, or any number of other things. It gives us the feeling that we are not going anywhere and wasting the time that we have.

I recently received very good advice that "God doesn't drive a parked car with discernment." It may feel like we aren't moving forward, but we are. God is guiding us and using this time to form us into saints. Each day is a gift and how we use each day will reflect the person we are now and when we are in a future state. Society creates an atmosphere of a humming bee hive, as if activity is the only productivity. It isn't. I love the quote, "be still and know that I am God."

My sister recently told me that this phrase fits me, "if opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." I like to find solutions to problems and if there is no solution to create one. If we are waiting for an "opportunity" we may very well be missing what is right in front of us, if we simply looked for it. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Reaching Routine

"Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?" Peter Pan
Is routine something you struggle with? Are you trying to find a balance between having a schedule and doing spontaneous things? There's a fine line between keeping everything in line and drawing outside the lines. It's a constant challenge and probably something everyone finds difficult at different times of their lives. I don't think there's a secret for success in routine, but just putting in the daily effort to be both productive and spur-of-the-moment with our time.

Routine literally means "a sequence of actions regularly followed." The word "regularly" suggests "for the most part" or "usually." It doesn't say "always," leaving room for the unexpected. Having a routine simply means trying to organize the day. There might be a different way to organize it each day or each week, but it helps to have structure, something that is actually quite challenging to me working from home.

Yet anyone who knows me knows that I'm a list person. I make lists for the month, the week, the day, even the morning and afternoon, for to-dos, for groceries, for trips, for gatherings....and yet I still have trouble with routine. I bought a whiteboard, calendars, planners, and nice felt pens to write the routines on, and I still have trouble. I set small goals, large goals, and try to accomplish something by a certain time and I still have trouble. 

It made me realize that in trying to establish a routine, I was trying to predict/plan for how the day was going to go. We can't always do that. Something inevitably always comes up that is unexpected. There are longer lines in the grocery store. You forget to get gas and that's now on the list. A family member asks for help. A friend calls. Work deadlines creep up on you. You get sick. Etc, etc, etc. But it is in these unexpected moments that we find God and we find joy because we received opportunities to be patient, to be kind, to be helpful, to be responsible, to be the best version of ourselves in the moment.

For in those moments that didn't go according to your plan we discover God's will. There's a comfort in knowing that God knows how the day will be, and He will give you the graces to meet each challenge as it comes. Routine is good, even excellent for trying to make the most of time, but our time is in God's hands and having a break in schedule leaves room for Him to step in.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Lemons Can Make Orange Juice

"If life gives you lemons, make orange juice, and leave life wondering how you did it." I found this quote online and it made me smile. It makes me think of all the curveballs life throws at you and with that the challenge to hit them out of the park. Sometimes when we're dealt a hard hand, it feels like nothing good will come out of it. That's when we have to try something different and maybe unexpected.

The hard things don't always have to be turned into lemonade, sometimes they are just hard. And it's not in the changing or taking away of the hard things, but in the working through it that makes us heroic. I liked this quote because not everyone follows the same path. There are days we don't want to make the lemons into lemonade. We want them to be turned into orange juice. Not by laughing at reality, but proving to the world that God can overcome anything.

I think this quote says, it's ok to be sad sometimes, not to dwell in it, but if you're grieving or went through a traumatic experience, some people expect you to be happy anyway or pretend like you're doing ok. But it's ok to walk that hard road and some days just getting through with one smile will be the greatest triumph you could achieve.

I personally like orange juice more than lemonade anyway. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Trip Sense

There are as many ways of packing for a trip as there are personalities and people. Everyone has a different style and system of going on vacation and what needs to be packed. The items that come along reflect in a small sense what is most important to that person or on the other hand shows what they can live without. 

Whenever I leave home, it strikes me about how simple life really is. You can only fit as much as will fit in a suitcase and a couple other bags, especially if you are flying. To me that emphasizes the saying "you can't take it with you." A vacation is a journey like life is a journey. You realize how little "things" or "stuff" matters when you see how simple life can be without them.

I recently bought a beautiful drawing of a ship, and the quote above is by St Therese, "The world is thy ship and not thy home." It reminds us that we are pilgrims on this earth, on our way to our eternal home. We should make the most of life, not in the sense that we fill every moment with pleasures, but that each moment is lived to the fullest. Like my little red suitcase that has been to England and back, pack light so you have more room for souvenirs. Because even though "you can't take it with you," you want to be able to hold onto a piece of the memory, for that makes up a part of you.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Monastic Minimalism

"Live simply. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Love generously. Leave the rest to God." This is a great rule for life. It gets to the heart of the matter that if we are seeking to serve God, we should trust Him with all our needs, while doing our part to be vessels of charity. 

I like how it starts with "live simply." For if you try not to accumulate things, you are living for the next world. When I was in Carmel, our cell had simply a bed, bench, and a cross on the wall. It was a monastic minimalism so that our lives were fully concentrated on God. In the world, we do need a few more possessions than these, but it is a reminder of the importance of detachment. 

To be detached is not to be "cold" or cut yourself off from others. It means to own things without our hearts being ensnared by them, or to separate our affection from the thing itself. The less our hearts are caught up in the things of the world, the more free they are to attach to the things of heaven.

This is what attracts me to "monastic minimalism" or simply put poverty of heart. There is a freedom that comes with having nothing. For our hearts are filled with God, Who is Everything. Yes we need to have certain things to have a comfortable life, and this is good. It is easy to accumulate however and the religious life reminds us: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Lifestyle, Not a Diet

That moment you lost the weight you were lifting every day.
I hesitated writing this blog post because I didn't want to sound like I'm patting myself on the back, tooting my own horn, or achieved anything of importance. I felt inspired to share this little 30 day journey I had with you because I think it's encouraging to know that things are not as impossible as they may seem. I didn't think it was possible to overcome what I joked was my "sugar addiction." I have been a stress eater on and off, finding food to be an answer to problems. It was something I looked to in order to alleviate suffering...whether it was stress caused by studies, deadlines, family illnesses, loss, loneliness, or anxiety. 

Food should be something to enjoy and a pleasant part of our lives, but I started to feel like it was taking over my life. Ever since I was in the monastery, I felt like I had to eat a lot at each meal because you had to wait till the next one to have something, and it might not be that much when you got there. Even though that was seven years ago, I don't think I ever shook that anxious feeling that came sometimes when I was hungry. 

Then I started to do some reading and learned that stress eating is a form of alleviating negative emotions. I have negative emotions? I found this very interesting and realized I needed to make some changes in my life. Changes not just in eating habits, but changes to bring in those positive emotions. So I called it my "feel better" program. I didn't follow a specific diet because I knew I would give up. I didn't cut out everything that was unhealthy because I'm too chicken to go cold turkey. (See what I did there?) When it came down to it, I knew I needed a lifestyle not a diet. 

My story included three simple things: exercise, food, and recreation. I set my own goal to lose 10 lbs in 30 days and was determined to achieve it. Not just because I wanted to lose a little weight, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could live a different way. I could change my lifestyle. I could be someone who found ways to overcome a problem I was struggling with. That I was the one who made the decisions rather than my anxiety.

Exercise: I exercised every day, mostly 30-45 minutes on a stationary bike and read books while doing so. This is my preferred exercise because it helps the arthritis in my knees (which seems crazy to be talking about at my age). Or I would supplement with walking my dog two miles for about half an hour to change up the scenery. I would also lift (pathetically) 5 lb weights 30 times and did some sit-ups. Starting my morning with these routines helped me both physically and mentally. Now I actually look forward to that time because it jumpstarts my day on a positive note. 

Food: I personally found a high protein/low carb plan to be fruitful and cooked at home. Note, high and low, meaning I still ate carbs but just not as much. Yes, I cut out processed foods and sugary desserts. But here's what I still ate. Breakfast: yogurt and a piece of fruit, or bacon (yes bacon) and an omelet. Lunch: homemade grass fed beef hamburger with pickles and ketchup (except on Fridays ;-). Dinner: pork and asparagus, eggplant parmesan, tacos, chicken and zucchini, or spaghetti and meatballs.  Snacks: fruit (sometimes with whipped cream) cheese, or yogurt. Drinks: sparkling water, black tea, chamomile tea, and water. I also tried intermittent fasting between 5pm and 9am, which is really helpful to reset your system. lost weight eating your favorite foods? I believe it is more what I wasn't eating (like processed sugar) than what I did eat, which still could be healthier. I admit I found it important to cheat once a week with a hot fudge sundae to keep me going ;-) A shoutout to Urban Cookhouse for my sometimes getting healthy meals out!

Recreation: This was the most important to me. I started to create a regular sleep schedule of about 8-9 hours, as well as a routine for myself during the day--a harder challenge when working from home. I would do something relaxing in the evening (not on a screen) like reading or doing puzzles or socializing. I utilized coping skills that I found helpful at stressful moments (one of which was rearranging my whole house). I prayed a LOT. I planned meals ahead and tried to only buy what was on my grocery list. I spent time with supportive family and friends (one of whom was my accountability coach and inspired me in the first place!), and ultimately tried to keep things in perspective.

So what's the point of all this? That if you find yourself struggling with something similar and feel it is unachievable, I want to say you can do it. Goals are possible. That cliche saying of "you can do anything if you set your mind to it" is so true. You just have to want the goal more than what you are giving up.

So do I still go out to eat sometimes? Yes. Do I still eat that occasional hot fudge sundae? Yes. Was it hard to get through the 30 days? Yes. But! Does being hungry bother me like it used to? No. Is food still the answer to my stress? No. It was by filling my life with positive outlets that gave me the answer. Then food became a part of my life rather than my life. I hope I am the better for it.

May this journey of mine helps readers out there in some way!