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. Wait...you 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! 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Come Holy Ghost


Most people know the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. I think what is often overlooked are the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. These are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continence, and chastity.

The great feast of Pentecost is an opportunity to ask for both the gifts and the fruits. One of the fruits that stands out the most to me is peace. God's presence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls, brings the only true and lasting peace to our lives. Peace is the foil to anxiety. I have a feeling it is easier to worry than not to, but harder to be at peace and worry at the same time.

If peace is a "freedom from disturbance" as a literal definition, then the peace that God gives is true freedom indeed. He is the calm amidst the storm and there is not a single person on this earth who does not wish for that calm. What is unfortunate is people often look for it in ways it cannot be found. So if the source of peace is God's grace, then we carry that with us in all moments of our life when our will is united to His. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rearrange as Change


I recently discovered a list of coping skills that are helpful for those moments when life is challenging (which in my case is dealing with grief from losing my uncle). One of these was to rearrange a room, which created a domino effect of rearranging the whole house for myself. It is an idea for adding a little change to the ordinary and making the space feel fresh. I found it really helpful, for one it felt like I had all new furniture, for another it felt like a new day, and still more made me appreciate that change can be a good thing.

It's hard when you lose someone to adjust to the life without that person physically in it. It's like finding a new normal and trying to fill a void that you don't want to have to fill. It's acceptance and denial, finding you trying to rationalize and remember. There's moments where you replay the past to preserve it into the future. There's days when you can almost hear their voice or see their smile, or days when you grasp at memories before they slip away.

So rearranging a room reminds me of having to rearrange my life, rearrange my schedule, rearrange my affection so that it is directed to a person who can see it all when he couldn't before. He can see the new arrangement of the room and I can hear him say he would like the swivel chairs, the family photos, the view of the backyard, and Teddy asleep in the corner. Yes change is good, change is growth, change reminds you that life is passing and we belong in a place above.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Freedom Isn't Free

I wanted to share an excerpt from the first letter I ever received from Operation Gratitude back in 2016 when I first heard of their care packages to deployed Troops.

"On behalf of Operation Gratitude and the heroes who receive our care packages, I thank you for your generous donation. Your contribution will enable us to send over 200,000 'chock full' Care Packages this year to the tens of thousands of brave men and women still deployed overseas in harsh and remote areas; to their children anxiously awaiting their return; and to Veterans, New Recruits, First Responders, Wounded Heroes and their Care Givers. . . . 

As one former Navy Sailor and current New York Police Department Officer recently wrote: 'Every box, every piece of paper, every cloth, every book, every pen, every pencil, every notebook, every brush, every tooth paste, every shower gel, every puzzle, every magazine, every letter, every piece of candy . . . means a lot to us when we are away from home. It gives us Hope, Confidence, Happiness, Strength & Pride that somebody thinks about us, that someone is there for us. Thank You all. God Bless America.' . . .

Thank you again for your thoughtfulness and wonderful patriotic spirit. Every single donation we receive furthers our mission of saying 'Thank You' to those who serve. The recipients of your generosity will remember your kindness forever. . . ."

Last month I received the tenth letter from them with similar words, made possible by your purchases from my shop. Every Memorial Day I like to write a blog post to encourage Americans to support our Troops. Operation Gratitude even makes it easy with an Amazon wish list to send directly to their assembly station in CA. Check out their needed items here! Let's not forget that freedom isn't free. We should think of them as they think of us, as individuals with families and loved ones and dreams that they risk their lives for day after day.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Forever a Friend


"Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you. Until we meet again."

I have never lost anyone so close to me as my uncle. The relation of a niece may seem like a distant relative to some, but not to me. An uncle for me was always that person in your life who made you laugh, who gave you hugs, who met your eye and gave you that twinkle of teasing, who did things not because he had to but because he loved you. That was my uncle to me.

My heart became so united with his by sitting at his bedside for the last eight months, watching a disease slowly steal him away. Not once did he forget who I was. I showed him pictures of my dog, my home, my shop. I said I love you and he said I love you too. He welcomed my kisses, he listened to my stories, he held my hand. One thing I'll never forget is meeting his gaze the week before he left this earth. I gave him a stuffed animal turtle (fondly known ever after as Mr. Turtle) from my trip to the beach. I swallowed hard at that gaze because I knew he was thanking me, even though he couldn't voice it.

I feel him in my moments of Adoration, I see him in the rainbows, I hear him in the sound of laughter, I taste him in chocolate brownies, I smell him in cutting the grass, I hug him in Mr. Turtle. I look for him in my everyday moments and let a tear fall when I feel his absence. But then I remember...

"Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you. Until we meet again." Until we meet again, I will always love you...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Only One Chance


This past week has taught me there are not always second chances in life. That may sound like a depressing thought, but to me it means for the one chance we may have, we have to be all in.

I had never seen someone die before two days ago when I lost my beloved uncle. Somehow that whole week I had a feeling I would be there, which gave me this oxymoron of an uneasy calm. That morning something (or someone) wouldn't let me sleep, a nagging, nagging, nagging thought woke me up and brought me to my uncle's bedside. It was his final moments.

My aunt, cousin, and dear friend/aide were there...my cousin made it within two minutes to say goodbye to her father. The last thing I remember saying to my uncle is that my mother (his sister) was on the phone and said she loved him. I have never seen anything so peaceful, so grace-filled, so remarkably connected to up above.

I watched my family tirelessly care for him in his illness; emotionally, by making his room always a happy place; physically, by medical care down to the nitty gritty of spoon feeding and giving drinks with a syringe; spiritually, by providing him with Holy Communion weekly and the Last Rites; mentally, by keeping him engaged with the family and playing his favorite cop shows, and above all socially by maintaining a constant presence in his life.

This dedicated care and those final moments taught me that you can't go back, you can't turn back the clock, you can't waste time... Sometimes we do only get that one chance not to miss what's truly important. I thank God for every minute I had with my uncle and long to hold his hand once more.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Mystery is Coming

The long awaited third entry into the Amanda Case Files Series is on its way! The hoped for release date is July 26th, the feast of St Anne as the book is dedicated to my sister. After two years since the last installment, this novel is long overdue!

Liz Henley is back once again as Amanda Case to solve once and for all the murder of her beloved parents. She goes undercover at the inn where her parents were investigating and follows clue after clue to uncover the killer. This mysterious bed and breakfast near a lighthouse in Maine quickly proves to be its own puzzle.

Who can Liz trust in this case, when suspects begin to point closer and closer to those she loves? A double agent is in her midst and seems to be tracking her every move. When her uncle, who shared the most vital clue, is kidnapped, Amanda Case must discover long unanswered questions before its too late.

Will Officer Fred McNally, who joins her on this mission, figure out the enigma of the key in the watch? Will her brother Sam, who can't stay uninvolved, wind up as the cook at the inn? Will life long family friend Captain Walker betray her?

Find out in two months!!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Solitary Envoy


The Solitary Envoy follows an independent young woman named Erica Langston on a journey as a merchant in revolutionary times in both America and England. She is dealt a tough hand early in life to defend her family's good name and must stand strong amidst powerful adversaries. An enemy in her eyes, Major Powers, falls in love with the intelligent Erica, and seeks to win her affections. Will love triumph in Erica's life or will it be justice?

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel, a refreshing read compared to most books written in our times. A truly Christian novel with themes of hope against all odds and perseverance in the worst of trials. The characters were dynamic and filled with depth, responding to critical plot points in the most human of ways. 

The idea I took away from this story was that life is a journey, a journey in which we can choose to take alone or rely on the friends God places in our life, even if we do not recognize them as such. There is no greater treasure in life than a true friend, and Erica must decide if that is the road she has the courage to take.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

364 Yesterdays


When a birthday comes around, I love to look back at the 364 yesterday's that were between the birthday last year and the birthday this year. It can be hard to look back at the struggles and trials and sufferings that made you a year older, but somehow those aren't the moments that stick out. When it comes down to it, the days that come readily to mind are the ones filled with triumphs, fun times, and happy memories.

Those moments fill your heart with gratitude. For all the gifts that God gives, the difficulties don't seem to matter anymore. I think that's what Heaven must be like, where there are no tears. Up there, one can only see the purpose those hard days had and they don't seem like a burden at all. 

My uncle is terminally ill, and on my birthday I get to attend Mass in his bedroom. I think that is the greatest gift I will ever receive. It's only happened a handful of times, and somehow this treasure landed on my birthday. He attended Mass twice a day for years and years, and his devotion to the Holy Eucharist was what made me love Adoration, Mass, and the Faith. 

When I look back next year at the days between birthdays, out of all 364 days, this memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. Here's to my uncle, who words cannot describe how he made my yesterdays special.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What God Thinks


So here we are at the start of Holy Week and preparing for the solemn feast of Easter. Some of us may feel satisfied with how our Lent went and some of us may feel disappointed. I think that when we are on the disappointed side, we forget how God thinks. Because what He looks at is if we did our best in the moment. We have all heard the phrase "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." Well it's the same as what our plans were for Lent. We make plans to accomplish certain resolutions, but life happens. 

Maybe we didn't get that extra penance or spiritual work in, but we persevered in our daily duties with a smile. Maybe we ate dessert when we gave that up, but it was to cheer up a friend with an ice cream. Maybe we weren't as patient as we wanted, but we were undergoing physical suffering that was offered to God that tried our patience. Whatever it may have been, what God thinks is the intention of our hearts. It doesn't matter what someone else thinks or what we even tell ourselves sometimes, but only what God sees.

I love these words of Mother Teresa, "People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Our Tastes


Something I found interesting this Lent is how certain things are penances for one person but not for another. Do you think that means our tastes/preferences reflect our personality or something that is uniquely you? Are tangible aspects of ourselves rooted in our souls? I found this a thought provoking concept that I don't really know the answer to, but it makes one wonder.

For example, one thing I chose to do was give up ketchup. Many will laugh at this penance, but for those who don't know my food habits, ketchup will find itself on pretty much anything I am eating. I don't know why I like this condiment so much, but it if it is missing, my food experience is truly subpar. 

So this image of a hamburger with pickles and ranch dressing/dip may look like I am complaining by saying it was difficult to eat, but for some reason a hamburger without ketchup is a challenge for me. Does that seem petty? Well yes, yes it is when put in perspective, but I chose something that I would find difficult but not impossible so as to focus more on the love behind the sacrifice. 

Did I fail at times the last couple weeks? Yes, yes I did, but that made me realize I am too attached to things of this world and need to keep trying, which I think is also a valuable lesson. On the flip side, it also showed me that there is variety out there. I found myself trying/experimenting with other flavors I wouldn't have otherwise tried and it turned out I enjoyed! 

So what is my point about ketchup? I think our tastes show how truly unique each individual person is and the infinite value we are to God. And that should be a reminder as we approach Holy Week, that Christ gave His life for us and thought of you individually on the Cross.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Overcoming Overwhelm


Have you ever seen Father of the Bride with Steve Martin? A true classic in my book. If so, you will recall well this scene when George is overwhelmed by all the wedding preparations, turning his house into a place for the ceremony, and above all "losing" his daughter to her new husband, and can't take one more frustration like not having the right amount of hot dog buns in the grocery store.

George: "I want to buy eight hot dogs and eight hot dog buns to go with them. But no one sells eight hot dog buns. They only sell twelve hot dog buns. So I end up paying for four buns I don't need. So I am removing the superfluous buns. . . . Some big shot over at the weiner company got together with some big shot over at the bun company and decided to rip off the American public because they think the American public is a bunch of trusting nitwits who pay for things they don't need rather than make a stink. Well they're not ripping off this nitwit anymore because I'm not paying for one more thing I don't need. George Banks is saying no! {Grocer: Why don't we just calm down now sir?} I'll tell you why we don't calm down, because you're not excited. It takes two people for a we to calm down, doesn't it?"

Overwhelm literally means to "drown or bury beneath a huge mass, feeling a strong emotional effect from an event, or to defeat completely." I often wonder why the smallest things in life seem to be the ones that upset us the most, but when you think about the fact if you are overwhelmed and you can't go lower than being "defeated completely" the smallest of frustrations can quite simply be too much. 

I think the answer to this question can be found in George Banks realization of hitting a low point when ending up in jail for splitting open the hot dog packages in the grocery store. It is ALL about perspective and taking a step back. Separate in your mind what is important and what is not and let some things drop off. Remember what you want to value in this moment when you look back on it at the end of the year. Find quiet moments for gratitude and a lifting of your heart to God. And above all . . . breathe. By the way it's nice to know they now sell hot dog buns in quantities of eight ;-)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Me Time


I think this phrase "me time" has been given the wrong connotation. People associate that phrase with a selfish form of relaxation--a relaxation that neglects certain duties or obligations. What people fail to think about is the healthy meaning of taking moments for ourselves so we can take a step back. 

It is important to have time, be it ever so short, in every day that is some form of peace. For many this is one's prayer time, for others it could be exercise, still more talking to a friend, or reading a book. In some way, it is the time of day we utilize a coping skill that helps us deal with stress. In taking those moments, we can tackle our duties with more calmness than if we plugged through with no break.

"Me time" is not selfish--it is taking a moment to better our mental health, which is as real or more important than physical health sometimes. We need to have part of each day dedicated to rejuvenating our minds that so often are going in a million directions at once. It is in a way a form of being "unplugged" from our problems for one moment so that it does not consume us.

So this week, take a moment out of every day for you. Make that time the best way to lighten your heart and help you to breathe, especially when it's a hard day. It's a real confidence builder because it reminds you that God is at the center of it all, and He wants us to have calm and peaceful hearts.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

St Joseph's Silence


Every year I love writing about this great saint. He is my very favorite and has never let a prayer go unanswered for me. St Joseph is a very powerful intercessor for any need and a model for all families in all virtues. I love that we get to celebrate his feast on both March 19th and May 1st.

I wanted to focus on his great silence . . . I believe that there are no words recorded in Scripture that St Joseph spoke. He is mentioned of course, but I don't think there are any words by him. I find it interesting that there were none recorded, but maybe he was a man of few words.

I can imagine this great saint being so absorbed in the love of Jesus and Mary that he could hardly help from being in a constant state of mental prayer. He must have been wholly at peace despite any hardship or suffering because there were beside him the two holiest beings that ever walked the earth. That doesn't mean that life was easy...quite the contrary...but the knowledge of God's constant presence must bring tranquility.

Can't we imagine our own lives like this? That God is present in all our life situations as to never leave us alone? We may not see Him in the physical sense like St Joseph, but He is there just as lovingly all the same. And in the silence of His presence, we can be silent ourselves just like St Joseph, absorbed in the peace of our God.

May St Joseph keep our families close to his most pure heart and draw us deeper into the preparation of Lent.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Captain Marvel


So I usually only write a movie review for a film that truly blows me away . . . while this wasn't what would become a "classic" in my opinion . . . it was something that I will most likely enjoy more every time I rewatch it.

I think what struck me about this movie the most was I had no expectations of what it should be. Isn't it the case that so often we walk away more satisfied if we haven't had any preconceptions of what a movie (or anything else for that matter) may do for us? 

The story was both original and suspenseful with satisfying character development and a nice dash of humor. The encouraging message of owning your identity and the importance of becoming who you are meant to be was a powerful thought. I also enjoyed the throwback to a 90's setting.

If you're looking for a lighthearted, action-packed, nice special effects, and entertaining film, I feel Captain Marvel will fit your bill. Brie Larson shines as Carol Danvers, a woman searching to be a true hero for all.

Best quote: Nick Fury: "You know anything about a lady blowing up a Blockbuster? Witnesses say she was dressed for laser tag."

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Miraculous Novena of Grace


A dear friend passed along this beautiful prayer! The Miraculous Novena of Grace can be prayed March 4th through March 12th or November 25th through December 3rd. Great way to begin Lent!

Prayer to St. Francis Xavier
Attributed to Father Marcello Mastrilli, S.J. (17th century)

"Most amiable and loving St. Francis Xavier, in union with thee I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon thee. I thank God for the special graces He gave thee during thy life on earth and for the great glory that came to thee after thy death. I implore thee to obtain for me, through thy powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings--that of living and dying in the state of grace. I also beg of thee to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena. (Here you may mention the grace, spiritual or temporal, that you wish to obtain.) In asking this favor I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul."

V. Pray for us, St. Francis Xavier.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

"O God, Who didst vouchsafe, by the preaching and miracles of St. Francis Xavier, to join unto Thy Church the nations of the Indies, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who reverence his glorious merits may also imitate his example, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen."

Add an Our Father and Hail Mary three times in memory of St. Francis Xavier's devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, and a Glory Be ten times in thanksgiving for the graces received during his ten years of apostleship.

History/Promise: The Novena of Grace, which begins March 4th and ends on the 12th, the day of the canonization of St. Francis Xavier, owes its origin to the Saint himself. At Naples, in December, 1633, Father Marcello Mastrilli, S.J. was at the point of death. The Saint appeared to him and, bidding him renew a vow he had made to labor in Japan, said, "All those who implore my help daily for nine consecutive days, from the 4th to the 12th of March included, and worthily receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist on one of the nine days, will experience my protection and may hope with entire assurance to obtain from God any grace they ask for the good of their souls and the glory of God."

The Father arose, instantly cured. So well has the Saint kept this promise that this devotion in his honor became universally known as the Novena of Grace. Its efficacy is not restricted to the dates mentioned. It may be made very appropriately from November 25th to December 3rd, the feast of St. Francis Xavier. Though any prayers can be said in honor of the Saint, the foregoing are generally recommended. 

~ from My Prayerbook by Fr. Lasance

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Catholic Fairy Tale Kingdoms

Angela Marie's latest novel! Available on Amazon!

Hey readers! I had the opportunity to interview fellow Catholic author, Angela Marie! If you're looking for fairy tale romances with faith based plots, you've come to the right place! Owning most of her books myself, I can attest to their originality, suspenseful plots, dynamic characters, and happily ever after endings! Check out what inspired Angela Marie to become an author, her favorite books and characters, and advice to aspiring writers! Click here to view her books and see her book trailers here!

1. What inspired you to become an author?

My eldest sister always wrote fictional stories when we were growing up. Even before we started using the computer to type, she would have stacks of notebooks filled with humorous and exciting handwritten stories that she would let us read.  I looked up to my eldest sister and wanted to imitate her, so I began writing stories too.  And I enjoyed thinking up new characters and plots so much, that I’ve been writing ever since!  It was my eldest sister who strongly encouraged me to look into self-publishing options after I wrote the first five volumes of the Catholic Kingdom Series as a birthday gift for her in 2013.  Now my eldest sister and I make a great team; she helps me to think of ideas for new stories, along with giving me invaluable input for scenes. She and my youngest sister–my #1 fan–also provide me with indispensable “prayer support.”  None of my writing endeavors would go so well without the continued kind intercession of Our Lady of Good Success, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Jude, St. Michael, the holy angels, and so many others!!

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

Impossible to answer!  I honestly like them all, in their own way.  The Catholic Kingdom Series began my self-publishing efforts, so that makes it rather special. Night Falls Over Sol took a “darker” direction that I thoroughly enjoyed–such a fun mixture of “drama” and humor in that one!, while To Fynde a Husband started out as a little “something” that my youngest sister and I were going to write together.  We came up with the initial characters and the first couple of chapters, and then I got stuck, and I had to set aside that project to work on something else; I later returned to it with my eldest sister, the two of us surprising our youngest sister with a completed book for her birthday.  I really enjoy how that unique, lighthearted tale turned out.  Once Upon a Time Stories marked a new phase in my writing.  I’m extremely pleased with those first two parts and how my writing improved with each new volume of the “fairytales retold” series.  The five books of the Evangelistae Kingdom Chronicles comprise my most “epic” story.  The Catholic Colonies was something quite different from anything that I had been writing up until that point and it was neat doing a “mysterious” plot; I loved the strained relations and conflict between two of the main characters.  Lastly, I consider my most recent standalone novel, The Prodigal and the King’s Daughter, to be my “masterpiece,” Dei gratia.  You’ll soon see why!  It will be officially available on Amazon in mid-April of this year. 

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

That’s really hard; I have so many characters, and they all have their different personalities.  They do fall into certain categories though, and I have to say that I find it the most fun to write the blunt, tactless, short-tempered type of characters, such as Ross (from Once Upon a Time Stories), Macaire (The Evangelistae Kingdom Chronicles), and the Prodigal.  Why?  I think because they add another level of emotion to the scenes, and get to say some of the best lines.  That being said, I love it when all of the different characters interact and react to each other.

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

This is much easier to answer!  My favorite fictional book is Enemy Brothers, by Constance Savery (1943).  I love everything about it: Miss Savery’s excellent style of writing, the plot, the characters, and Dym is my absolute favorite fictional character ever,–never to be topped.  Honorable mention goes to Bond and Free by Jean Connor (1913).  That one’s a gem!

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

My eldest sister, first and foremost!  Then, some of the greatest Catholic authors of the 1800’s and early 1900’s: Eleanor C. Donnelly, Fr. Francis J. Finn, Mary T. Waggaman (Shipmates is another gem!), Meriol Trevor, Fr. Lasance, and the Very Rev. J. A. Keller, D.D. (with special mention of Jean Connor for Bond and Free).  Also, Constance Savery: specifically for, Enemy Brothers,Reb and the Redcoats, and Emeralds for the King.  My sisters and I love to read a lot of “old books.” What I read affects how I write, so I’m always careful about what literature I look at when working on a project.  I often turn to the authors that I mentioned for inspiration.  And, speaking of inspiration, Therese, it was hearing about your latest novel, Act of Hope, which providentially inspired me with an intriguing idea for a plot that led to the writing of The Prodigal and the King’s Daughter.  Thanks bunches!

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

My main reason for entering the self-publishing business was to counteract the many bad, immoral books available on the market with wholesome, enjoyable, and truly Catholic fiction.  There are so many fantasy books that create their own worlds, “religions,” and use magic, excluding Our Lord from the story.  While I know that a book does not need specific mention of the Catholic Faith to be good and moral, I prefer to be a Catholic novelist in the fullest sense of the word.  So, the True Faith contributes everything to what I write!  I am most happy when creating fictional lands set in the “real world,” and being able to share the beauty of Holy Mother Church through situations based on actual supernatural events in the lives of the saints, with a full awareness of God and His Divine Providence, Our Lady, the angels, the spiritual realm present everywhere around us, Purgatory, and the preternatural activities of the devils.  This beautiful quote from Fr. Finn is my main inspiration to write books that are wholly, traditionally Catholic, while still providing a fun and thrilling reading experience: One of the greatest things in the world is to get the right book into the hands of the right boy or girl.  No one can indulge in reading to any extent without being largely influenced for better or worse. 

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

Why do you want to be an author?  If you love to write, then write!  If you think that others would enjoy reading your stories,–that they’re really good and worth printing, and you want to share them with a wider audience, then self-publishing is a great way to make your books available to the public without any hassle.  I have found CreateSpace, now KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), to be the most reasonable, free, and easy to use service provided at the moment; the major plus for me is being able to have full control over my own works.  There’s no harm in trying to show your manuscript to a big publishing company, too, if you want to go with that route.  On a more serious note, I would add: Every word that we authors pen and publish will be marked down either for or against us at our particular judgment.  For the sake of your immortal soul, never write anything that would offend your guardian Angel, ever at your side.  And last of all,–(and this is simply a personal quibble of mine): When formatting a book document, always justify your main text!

Thank you, Angela Marie, for your inspiring interview! Look for her next novel in April!