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:

THE CHAPLET OF CONVERSION

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
Music by JOSEPH A. BURKE
  
FIRST VERSE

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.

SECOND VERSE

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.
  
CHORUS

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 is...in 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. 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.