Sunday, September 6, 2020

To Everything There Is A Season

 

Life is so much about seasons. St Bernadette wrote, "If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces...never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again. That's the beauty of being alive...we can always start all over again. Enjoy God's amazing opportunities bestowed on us. Have faith in Him always." 

It has been nearly five years since I first started this blog. It has been a real joy to share these ramblings of blog posts, as well as my novels, with readers and hope that God may use them to touch souls. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have prayed and supported me throughout the years, and know that you will never be forgotten. This may sound like a good-bye, but as I said in my last post, I believe only in saying, "until we meet again."

There are seasons....and after much prayer and discernment I believe it is time to step back from maintaining this blog. God is opening other doors for me to go through in life that are vocational, and it seems fitting to let other things be put aside. Sometimes it appears that God asks us to give things up that may be very hard, but rather I have come to understand that He instead fills our heart with things that matter more...and namely hopefully Himself!

If I were to leave readers with any thoughts to ponder it would be this: "If a bird were to carry away one drop of water from the ocean every thousand years, there will come a time when he will have emptied the entire ocean, but that time is less than the shortest moment compared to eternity."

This life passes so quickly, so let us remember that "adventure awaits" and "the only real sadness in life is not to become a saint."

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Until We Meet Again

 

I absolutely hate "good-byes." There is a finality to them that doesn't ring true. Because we have immortal souls, we have the hope that partings are not forever, be it the loss of a loved one, moving away, or simply that your life passed through another's never to pass by theirs in this life again. After all a "good-bye" should really mean "farewell" and "godspeed" to express well wishes to the wayfarer on his journey, for as St Therese says, "the world is our ship and not our home."

This, while true, does not usually make the "good-byes" any easier. We may assent to this truth intellectually, but the heart is another matter. The loss that comes with a parting can be one of the most painful experiences a person has to go through. I think this is because it is an adjustment to life without a particular person or particular people in one's day-to-day, and this may carry such a heavy weight because of exactly that...the weight, the magnitude of that person's influence was such a presence to us. 

I have a picture frame whose caption reads, "some memories we never forget because our lives are forever changed." In it is a photo of my uncle who I lost last year, who was one such person to me. It has taken me more than a year to realize the simple truth that he is more present to me now than he could have been on earth. When our lives are changed because of a particular person, it means that their presence will always be a part of who we are, and that is extraordinary.

Sometimes the unexpected "good-byes" are easier and sometimes they are harder. It doesn't seem to me that the preparation or lack thereof for that change makes it any easier. The strongest consolation for this comes in the Irish blessing: “May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind always be at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.” 

For the knowledge that you will meet those you love again fills your heart with anticipation rather than loss because there will come a time when there will be no more partings, no more "good-byes," no more farewells, but only joy in each other's presence within the Presence of One Who will "wipe away every tear." 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Rainy Days

Some people love them and some people hate them. There doesn't seem to be an in between opinion on rainy days. I wonder why that is particular to that kind of weather. I'm on the side of loving them. Not necessarily thunderstorms or having to drive in bad weather, but the soft kind of gentle rain that falls lightly on the earth, almost without a sound that makes the whole world seem still. 

It's that dreary gray sky that makes home feel so cozy. It's that chill in the air that makes the fireplace so inviting. It's that wetness that clings to your skin that makes coffee or tea so soothing. I believe herein lies the answer. It's almost as if the rainy weather pushes us towards the opposite. We seek refuge from the rain and that refuge is in the happy things of our home. It keeps us "in." In a world that's bustling and in constant motion, the rain sort of creates a pause.

Snow does this too. The hush that surrounds nature when there's a crisp layer of fresh snow can be deafening. There really is no more peaceful landscape than a walk through a forest after it snows. Weather can be on both ends of the spectrum...destructive like natural disasters and harmonizing like a sunset. I think either way it shows majesty . . . and something majestic is something with power both to hurt and to heal.

Next time you look out your window on a rainy day, let it remind you that "life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about dancing in the rain." 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Thinking On Him

"The more I contemplate God, the more God looks on me. The more I pray to Him, the more He thinks of me too." ~ St Bernard of Clairvaux

This quote really struck me because the saints often talk about we receive from God as much as we hope for. If you don't ask for help, how do you expect to get it? I think we feel when life gets overwhelming that God is less present, but the classic "footprints" poem reminds us that He carries us through those difficult moments. Sometimes the fear and uncertainty don't go away, sometimes we have to do things while we are afraid.

There's a quote from the classic show "Full House" that goes, "if you never try new things, you'll never know what you're missing out on." Do we want to feel comfortable all our life, or fly by the seat of our pants and have adventures? It's so easy to cling to what is familiar and known rather than launch out into the deep. Many people live quiet lives and are content with that. I wish I was one of those people. It's almost like that itch to experience new things is a thorn in your side, but without it who knows what "might not have been" in the words of Chesterton.

I have always liked the end of the Hobbit movies where Thorin tells Bilbo to return to his books, his armchair, and plant his acorn. I love that acorn. It's become my own little icon for adventure, home, and the journey. I love the quote he says about his acorn, "one day it'll grow. And every time I look at it, I'll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad...and how lucky I am that I made it home."

Let's take our acorns with us, our experiences, our joys, our sorrows, and keep going, always moving forward, and never to forget to enjoy the journey, knowing that the more we keep looking toward God, He keeps looking on us and smiles.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Expectations

 

We all have them. Ideas about how situations are going to go. When they don’t go our way then we are put out. Why do we expect things to happen according to our plans? It’s nearly impossible to look back on a single day in our life that everything we expected to happen took place. 

Expectation is different from hope. Hope looks for a certain good to come about, but is perfectly content if the outcome is different. Expectation demands. It does not accept other results, or at least not results that we didn’t anticipate. We need to instead mold our expectations to be accompanied by abandonment.

In a way it goes hand in hand with patience. We become impatient when something went the way we didn’t expect. It’s because we don’t look at every moment of our lives as from the hand of God, and when it’s unpleasant as an opportunity to sacrifice and surrender our will to that of God’s and to at least accept that He allows certain things so that we can grow.

Growth is the essential element of a healthy life. If we aren’t growing spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically (as in taking care of ourselves), then we are standing still. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an elevator because the purpose of an elevator is to move up or down. The standstill of an elevator is infuriating. So it is in life that we are either progressing upwards or downwards. 

The saints progressed upwards because they loved whatever God did in their life, trusting that even though they could only see the back of the tapestry that the other side would be beautiful. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

About Face

Have you ever had it happened when you are going through life minding your own business and all of a sudden your plans take an about face? Unexpected turns come up all the time and it can throw us for a loop, but the thrill of knowing adventure awaits tempers the change that inevitably comes.

We often fear the unknown because we can’t control it. Control gives us a sense of security, but when we actually think about it there is not much that we have control over. The unknown future really isn’t unknown. We have to trust that the experiences that have shaped us through life have in fact prepared us for what is ahead, even though we can’t anticipate everything that will happen. 

An “about face” simply means a new direction. A new direction holds so much potential. Potential means there’s a reasonable chance of success...and that’s what we’re looking for right? We don’t want to take chances unless we believe we can succeed, but failure all depends on how you look at it. If we don't see anything in life as a failure, then we have learned something.

I think when it comes down to it, the regret will lie not in making a change or taking a chance, but in sitting on the fence and wondering what it would be like to get off on one side or the other. For after all, “life is a canvas, not a tightrope to walk on.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Screen Time


I think 2020 has easily seen the most screen time this world has ever known. With the quarantines and work from home requirements, technology has stepped in to save the day...but has it really saved it? What has been the cost?

I find it interesting that the smart phones, which are the serious time suckers themselves, are the ones with "screen time reminders." They keep track of our usage and limits can be set to monitor the amount. Do you ever stop and look at how many hours a week are spent on your phone? Outside of what work requires of you, how much of your life is being stolen by screens? 

I am not against technology in the least, and am the first to take advantage of it. For one, I would not even have my self-employment if it were not for technology and e-commerce. Yet, do you ever notice the difference when a phone is not present in the room? I think it's good to revaluate how much we make our phones our priority. Sure they are the means to connect us to other people, but do we really want to spend the majority of our lives glued to a screen?

Think of all the amazing things we miss when phones take over. The average person picks up their phone 150 times a day, while on average a person only laughs 15 times a day...why is there such a big difference? Do our phones really make us happier? Another stat claims the average person will spend 5 years of their life on social media...five years...

"All things in moderation." It is good to set limits. Try cutting your screen time by at least 30% and see what your life looks like. You might surprise yourself at how much more is out there.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Peach Pie


Last year I got all of 6 peaches from my peach tree...but this year it was easily over 200! So...besides randomly sharing bags of peaches with friends and family, I attempted peach cobbler, peach kuchen, and peach pie. It was quite the baking extravaganza! Here is a recipe to enjoy, which you really could do with any fruit. I've tried with blueberries or cherries (with a 21 oz can), but this was my first try with fresh fruit.

Peach Pie:

Pastry:
~ 1 1/2 cups of flour
~ 1/2 t salt
~ 1/2 cup butter (softened)
~ 1/4 cup water

Mix ingredients with a fork and roll out two round circles for pie crust (or get creative with a lattice top!)

Filling: 
~ 7-10 large peaches sliced in 8 (I actually used 20 little ones from my tree!)
~ * OR one 21 oz canned fruit *
~ 1/2 cup brown sugar
~ 1/4 t vanilla
~ 1/4 t salt

Coat fruit with sugar, salt, and vanilla and pour on top of bottom layer of crust in a 9" pie pan. Cover the fruit with the second layer of crust and slice a few air holes. Bake at 375 degrees F. With fresh fruit it only took 45 minutes, but with canned it usually takes closer to 60 minutes. Serves eight!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

At the Crossroads


Life is full of them. They stare you down, challenging you to choose. Giving you two perfectly good options to start at, but not telling you where they end up. There are infinite possibilities in either direction and you can't go both ways. You have to give up one chance for the chance at the other. How do you turn?

If I had the answer to this question, I wouldn't be writing this blog post. It is something only God can know. We are presented with countless decisions every day, some more important than others. Oftentimes there are no wrong choices, and others are black and white. I think this is where trust comes in. We pray, we deliberate, we choose, and we hope for the best! I am a firm believer in "gut feelings." Maybe there really is nothing to that. It could just be an old wive's tale. Yet frequently we do have an instinctive reaction to situations that maybe should not be ignored.

It is always the hindsight that reveals the most. When we do take a direction and get to the end and look back, then things have more clarity. Maybe they still don't make sense, but usually there is a lesson we gained from the experience. Life lessons are invaluable. Our experiences show where we've been and who we've become. No matter what the crossroads present to us, it is the person who is walking that road. The value is in the one walking it, whether they are walking a hard or easy road at the time.

When we find ourselves at a major crossroads, I think the question that matters most is which road is drawing me in a peaceful, positive, and happy direction that will serve God and others, which may be challenging, but rewarding at the same time? If it's a road that leads in that direction we cannot choose the wrong path.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Getting Ahead


Mark Twain said, "The secret to getting ahead is getting started." I think what sometimes prevents us from accomplishing things is that we focus too much on the end result or the long road to get there. Anything good that happens started with a small beginning. A brick house with the first brick, a road with the first pour of asphalt, a person from a tiny place in a mother's womb. It is getting started that sometimes requires the most courage, but once it gets going, the grace is there.

It's funny....the things we feared often never happen and the things we expect to go well often go awry. This means, while it is good to plan, we have to be open to life just happening, for those can bring about some of the greatest gifts. Who would want to live in a world with no surprises? That would be extremely boring. Our favorite stories are the ones that we could not predict and that twisted along the road to bring a satisfactory conclusion. The way to get ahead is by taking the first step. 

First steps can be terrifying...but also exhilarating. Life becomes a great adventure and as one friend once told me "life is a canvas to paint on not a tightrope to walk on." I think what we will regret most at the end of our days is not areas where we might have failed, but all the moments that we didn't try or didn't take a leap of faith. You don't want to always wonder what something would have been like if only you had taken the first step. 

If there is something in your life that you have been pushing away, but feel really drawn to do, then muster up courage and go for it. It's the unknown that holds the most opportunity for possibility.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Nine 1st Fridays



One of the great devotions of the Church is the observance of nine 1st Friday's. This request was asked of Our Lord to St Margaret Mary with the promise: "I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant all to those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."

All that is required is attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion, and making a good confession eight days before or after, on the first Friday of each month for nine months in a row. It is a beautiful devotion to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it is a good reminder during this month of the Sacred Heart to persevere in this observance.

Our Lord to St Margaret Mary: “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in the Eucharist. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me that treat Me thus. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart, by communicating on that day, and making to It a solemn act in order to make amends for the indignities which It has endured during the time It has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart will expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor It, and cause It to be honored.”

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Ten Ways to Eat Ice Cream


We just hit the first day of summer and it's hot...but reasons to be excited are swimming, barbecues, fireworks, and picking veggies and fruits from the garden. Now...who doesn't eat ice cream year round? But, I thought a fun summer post would be featuring every kind of ice cream to enjoy this summer and where to get it!

1. Milkshakes

I personally am a huge fan of Chick-fil-a's milkshakes. Their flavors of vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, and strawberry offer a decent selection, or you might try their frosted lemonade or coffee. They are the sweetest refreshment to slurp on!

2. Popsicles 

There's only one place you can go for popsicles and that's Steel City Pops (for those in the South). They are creamy, melty, soft, and delicious and even natural/organic, which can be topped with cookies and drizzled. Doesn't get any better!

3. Blizzards

Of course there's your hallmark DQ blizzards with inexhaustible options of flavors. With candy classics like Reese's and Oreo, limited time only like Wonder Woman Cookie Collison, royal options like NY cheesecake, or seasonal like S'mores, there is a flavor for everyone. Or try out their signature sundaes with hot fudge and sprinkles!

4. Sno Balls

Hands down the best New Orleans creation...you might get lucky to find a food truck near you that sells these, but sno balls are the best mixture of ice and syrup known to man. Find something you've never tried like the mardi gra king cake sno ball flavor!

5. Frozen Yogurt

The obvious choice for frozen yogurt is Orange Leaf, which I haven't found near me yet! They offer countless flavors that melt in your mouth. If you can't find an Orange Leaf, head over to Yogurt Mountain or TCBY, they're at least second best ;-)

6. Custard

Gotta go to Freddy's for the custard. They have the most unique creations of custard that will whet your appetite. The toppings range from sprinkles, to m&m's, to gummy worms, to chocolate chips, to fudge syrup, to fruit, to nuts...or grab yourself a malt or a shake!

7. Floats

The classic signature root beer float that everyone remembers growing up with can be found at Farm Burger. You simply can't have a good float without root beer, and theirs is local, like most anything on their menu. It is wholistic and delicious and you can't go wrong!

8. Sundae's

If you're just looking for plain old ice cream that's like your classic kind in the store, Hershey's Ice Cream stores are the best. They make the best sundaes with all the classic Hershey's candy for toppings, and provide a nice selection of cones. 

9. Slurpee's

7 Eleven is the creator of the best drink on this earth. If you've never had a slurpee, you've frankly never lived, so track one of these down and . . . slurp! The blue raspberry is out of this world. Try to go on Slurpee Day (July 11th) and get one for free!

10. Sandwiches

Searching for a traditional ice cream sandwich? This one is easy to get . . . go to Trader Joe's and buy a box of Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches . . . vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies and rolled in mini chocolate chips . . . need I say more?

Well, here's to a great summer, readers, and I sure hope you found one of your favorites on this fun list! And of course with it being Father's Day, take your dad to one of these fantastic spots, he will thank you later :-)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Wedding Days


This weekend I had the privilege of being in a dear friend's wedding party. I wanted to write about the beauty of a traditional wedding ceremony and the Nuptial Mass. I have been to a few, but not in a couple years and this time I was really struck by the beautiful prayer that is recited for the new couple. Here is part of it:

"O God, who, by so excellent a mystery hast consecrated the union of man and wife, as to foreshadow in this nuptial bond the union of Christ with His Church: O God, by whom Woman is joined to Man, and the partnership, ordained from the beginning, is endowed with such blessing, that it alone was not withdrawn either by the punishment of original sin, or by the sentence of the flood: graciously look upon this Thy handmaid, who, about to be joined in wedlock, seeks Thy defense and protection."

There are so many beautiful blessings given to the bride and groom to set out on their new life together, and this particular blessing stands out to me that marriage is something so sacred that it has endured throughout the ages as established by God . . . and because of that fact God defends and protects the couple who seek to establish their marriage in Him, that it may reflect His love of the Church. 

The witness of the gift of the bride and groom to each other, and ultimately their gift to God, should inspire us that a loving sacrificial commitment for life is an example to us all that holiness is achieved by a daily commitment to die to ourselves. It is so moving to experience the exchange of vows, and then even more so to watch the new married couple attend their first Mass together, the Nuptial Mass, one that is specifically designed to pray that the two become saints. May God bless my dear friends and all those preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Top 5 Things to Do in Orange Beach/Gulf Shores


1. Walk the Beach

Hands down the best part about a trip to the coast is walking along the water. Our time at Orange Beach found us collecting tons of seashells, watching sunsets, and listening to the waves. Certainly the easiest way to relax on your trip!



2. Bike the State Park

A close second was renting bikes and exploring the paved trails of the Gulf State Park. You'll pass through mossy woods, lakes, and boardwalks, making your excursion very scenic. There are over 20 miles of trails! (And make sure you get a mountain bike instead ;-)



3. Visit the Bay

A delightful place to enjoy a picnic is at a dock on the bay. The water is calm with the occasional boats passing by, and you'll hopefully get to watch some pelicans fishing. A less crowded place to catch some sun.



4. Grab a Snack

Everyone discovers a favorite food place on vacation. The one that sticks out for me is the Hershey's Ice Cream shop. It has lots of wonderful flavors and options of cones, sundaes, and floats! This by the way happened to be in Florida, right on the border.


5. Explore the Pier

Finally, a popular place to explore is the Pier. While we didn't take advantage of the option to fish, many people did and it looked like lots of fun. It was a neat place to see all the same and a good photo opportunity, which is something I always (too much so) take advantage of!

Hope you get the chance to visit the Gulf!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Be Content


If you're like me, you look to change as a way of moving forward. A new job, a new place to live, a new stage of life...as if always looking to the next thing brings happiness and contentment. Creating constant change could be indicative of avoiding seeing life as it is. It takes a constant reminder for me that peace of soul is not dependent upon circumstances or external things. We can find God in whatever situation we find ourselves, or rather He remains with us through it all.

I picked this photo for this blog post because sometimes we can only see our life in our own little jar and forget to look beyond that. Our jar is filled with lots of little beautiful lights that we need only to turn on, and when we connect those lights to the bigger ones our world doesn't feel so small. We need to remember that the small ordinary parts of life that make up so much of life are the ones that carry the greatest power. Like if you forget the baking soda in cookies, they will be completely flat.

I've had several people give me good advice recently to "be content," which defined literally is "the state of happiness and satisfaction." It's easy to feel dissatisfied when we want something we don't have. We can be grateful for what we do have and that reminds us of what we find fulfilling in life, yet it's ok if being content doesn't come easily to us because we have big dreams for our lives. Even though it doesn't come naturally, it should be a good reminder that if we haven't reached e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. yet, that's a good thing! If you accomplished all the things at once in your life, the rest of it would be rather boring.

Sometimes it's nice to "take time to coast" or that "doing nothing leads to the very best of something," in the words of Christopher Robin. This doesn't mean we shouldn't keep up our goals and routines of life, but maybe just maybe being content with life is to stop looking and let life take its own course because the surprises along the way are the very best of all.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Three Moving Tips



On thinking back the last couple years, I moved in both 2018 and 2019 to two different towns. They weren't as challenging as a move out-of-state, but they were places I hadn't lived before and moves I did on my own. They were different than moves for the convent, or moves for college, because those were moving to a community. The two moves I made were to a new home. While it's unlikely I'll move yet again in the year 2020, I have learned never to say never, but I would like to think that I learned something from both moving experiences that hopefully are helpful!

1. Explore.
If you have the opportunity to visit the new place multiple times before the move, try to explore some restaurants, tourist attractions, or drive through neighborhoods to get a feel for what everyday life is like. You could even go to Mass at a church you might end up attending and try to meet some parishioners. In short, picture what it would be like living in that place for the long term. Familiarizing yourself with the new place ahead of time will make the transition smoother.

2. Clean Out.
One thing I learned on both moves was that I had a lot of stuff I didn't need. It is so much easier to move if you go through your stuff before the move. Sort through your clothes closet, organize holiday decor, even clean out your pantry. Anything that makes your move lighter will help in the long run. You might not have enough time if the move is a quick one, but even as you're packing, if you think you won't miss the item, then it's a treasure for someone else by giving it away!

3. Change of Address.
Most people think to change their address for their utilities, their friends, their credit cards. But don't forget places like an Amazon account where you might ship a new item you are really excited about to a house you no longer live in! There's lots of little things that can easily slip your mind when you're moving, so it's helpful to think about your most frequent mailings and change your address a week or two in advance.

No matter how you look at it, moving is one of those top life stressors, so try to round up friends and family for a moving party either at the old place or the new place to help you pack or unpack and make it fun with pizza and milkshakes or whatever makes you happy!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

West of Yesterday


You recall back in November a post where I interviewed Lena Donellan about being an author! Well, it is only fitting to write a book review of her novel that I was privileged to read! 

"To a grieving man, he's a murderer; to an abused boy, he's a savior."

Characters: West of Yesterday shines with its character development. I followed the emotions of the main characters as if I were seeing them in person. Alan Bledsoe, a man struggling with accepting his past, rescues a boy named Scott from an abusive uncle. The two discover an unlikely connection with each other that has each realizing they possess a strength they did not know was there. Wade Belanger is searching for what he believes is justice, which includes capturing Alan. The sheriff in Ayer, John, wants to piece together the different puzzle pieces of each character's story to arrive at the truth. And finally my favorite character, Matt, who accompanies Wade, shows loyalty, dependability, and a search for truth that made him a noble person in my book!

Plot: The story had me captivated from beginning to end. I like to think I am good at predicting how a novel will unfold, but I was truly kept in suspense! I did not know how it would end and was kept guessing. I think I was most surprised (without giving anything away!) by one villain's change of heart and another's hardened heart...the contrast in what can create hope about a broken person and what cannot made you realize that people can change. There were definitely plot twists and a lot of excitement in a small western town. The different points of view served to create colorful pictures in your mind of each character's perspective.

Literary devices: The use of symbolism struck me as well with the name of the town being Ayer, which means yesterday, and in the end certain characters are able to head west of Ayer, as if they are leaving "yesterday" and all the past behind them. I loved the literary use of flashbacks and a gradual revelation of important events through the characters' memories. It blended the past, the present, and the future into a cohesive whole that was powerful. I also appreciated the analysis of grief and how it affects people differently, and that in working toward acceptance a person can ultimately find peace.

West of Yesterday is about a quest for self-discovery, understanding what it truly means to forgive, and sharing the hope that no matter how broken a man is there is a chance for redemption. If you are looking for an enjoyable summer read, then order a copy of Lena's novel here!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

What's in a Mom



On reflecting on Mother's Day, I think there are a lot of ways to look at motherhood. There are many who desire to be natural mothers, but perhaps are not able to have children, have not met that special someone to marry yet, or who feel they are not called to marriage even if they love children. That usually brings up the topic of the beautiful reality of spiritual motherhood, that St Therese frequently emulates, which is to pray for souls, to be a mother of souls, to imitate Our Lady in sacrificing for souls. 

As beautiful as these truths are, I think "what's in a mom" are the virtues of a mom. While not everyone may be a natural mother, anyone can practice the virtues of motherhood, which in turn would be good practice to prepare for such a gift! The essential virtues of motherhood, after the obvious one of charity, in my opinion, are self-sacrifice, joy, and diligence.

A mom should strive to sacrifice herself for her children (and her husband), but as a mom she will have to constantly deny herself and her needs for the sake of others. She should not neglect herself in the process, but she should try to put others before herself. This self-sacrifice imitates Our Lord on the cross and helps a woman to give generously and unite her offerings to those of Christ. By practicing self-sacrifice in general, it will make getting up in the middle of the night to a baby much easier!

Joy should radiate a mother's being. To be a mother is one of the greatest gifts. You are that person in a child's life that nurtures and fosters their development and surrounds them with the greatest love they will find on this earth. If a person has joy, it reflects the fact that their soul is at peace. Peace is what makes a child feel secure and comforted. If a woman can find joy in the midst of suffering and day-to-day trials, she will prepare to be a mother who gives her child that first taste of God's protection.

Then there comes diligence. Being a parent is a big responsibility! You are the primary educator of your children, in spiritual and material life. If a woman looks to be practical and keep order in her home, she will have developed a habit of diligence and be more ready to take care of a family . . . and of course she will have help in these matters from her husband. Yet she will most likely spend the most time with her children at home. She doesn't have to run her house like a navy ship, but having some organization will give children stability. 

So if you are not yet a mom but are looking for ways to become a good one, seek to practice virtues now that will foster a beautiful family life in the future! For developing habits in your single life, will build a solid foundation for motherhood. Happy Mother's Day to all those self-sacrificing, joyful, and diligent mom's like mine!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Three Cheers to Four Years



I never imagined that making a few scapulars and listing them on Etsy would lead to a business of four years and 150 items. I have so many favorite moments from being a part of your lives, but if I could only share one memory that left a lasting impression on me, it would be receiving a personal thank you from a solider. Because of your support, we have sent thousands of items to our Troops overseas in our quarterly care packages.

"You have no idea what these packages mean to service members around the world."

When this greets your inbox, you realize that ideas are not small. Putting ideas into action is powerful and by our willingness to take chances, God supplies the grace. Suddenly it isn't about what you can do, but what God can accomplish because it is bigger than you. I have been touched by the lives of so many wonderful people through this shop and for that I am eternally grateful!

It's been a crazy ride of wearing all the hats from designing product lines, to obtaining sales tax licenses, finding steady suppliers, expanding to shipping internationally, to the basics of packaging an item so each box feels like a gift to the receiver . . . and I wouldn't trade any of it. Running a business has been the best learning experience I have ever had. 

It has been four years of connections to amazing people, who make my shop worth running day after day. I love my customers and pray for them daily. It is a beautiful thought to know you have touched my life and I have touched yours . . . through an e-commerce store where we never met! 

In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." I hope I never take for granted the gift God has given to make a simple idea on May 1, 2016 become a business of four years. Here's to many more!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Little Less Hurry


I made an interesting discovery this week. I tried to fix some issues on my laptop by myself since Apple stores are closed...and I ended up virtually crashing my computer. I completely freaked out and thought I would never recover all the documents and files stored on there, let alone the fact that I could not do anything for my business, not even fill orders. Was this a temporary problem? Yes, it could be fixed or replaced, but that didn't seem to calm the initial shock. So I asked myself, why did it bother me so much? In hindsight, it really wasn't that bad, the problem was fixed in a couple hours with phone support. 

I learned that I was way too attached to both technology and my work. Is the computer absolutely necessary for my job? Yes, yes it is, but even if we cannot do our job....which many people are unable to do in these times....it should not take away our peace. I still had my family, my friends, my health, my home, my dog, my faith....this only affected one small area of life (granted an important one) but it was still only work. I tend to put a lot of importance on work, and I realized...too much importance. Work/life balance does not come easily for someone who works from home, it's takes constant effort, but temporarily "losing" my computer forced me to take a step back. 

With the upcoming feast of St Joseph the Worker this week, reflecting on the dignity of work is a good thing. But I'd like to imagine that although St Joseph was very dedicated and diligent in his carpentry, the moments that gave his life the most meaning were those afterwards at home with Jesus and Mary. I think when we come to the end of our lives, we won't wish we had done more work, even though that is what we try to accomplish every day. I have a feeling it won't be as important, for the greatest work is that of prayer, union with God, and charity toward others. 

The "crashing" of my computer was actually one of the best things I could have experienced this week. It made me see that even if it all was taken away, and work was no longer part of my day to day, there's nothing wrong with a quiet life, a less hurried life, and a life filled with a little more laughter...and that maybe that could be a better part of work life too.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Triplets


I never imagined that one day our family dogs would all be rescues. They each have a unique story. Daisy (on the right) was abandoned in the woods and found my brother. Teddy (in the middle) I met at a rescue adoption weekend at PetSmart. Scotty (on the left) showed up at my parents' doorstep nine months ago and still hasn't left ;-) They all have unique personalities, but they are the three musketeers. 

I think having a pet in your home is one of the most worthwhile ventures in life. Sure, it can tie you down a bit, make travel plans have a little more planning, and is something that requires responsibility. But having a dog is enriching. It's having someone greet you every time you walk in the door, having someone to take care of, and sharing little moments that make you laugh when they do something incredibly cute.

Dogs have a sense of how people are feeling. They also force you to get outside too with their need for exercise. Besides, you are giving a dog a good home where they will be loved and cared for and happy. It goes both ways! I love the quote: "a house is not a home without a dog." 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Stone


"And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" [Mark 16:3] I heard a sermon once that took note of this line in Scripture as very significant. That it shows us things we think are impossible to overcome or accomplish, God has already taken care of. For when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was already moved, when they had been so concerned who could do so.

There are so many areas of our lives that we feel have "immovable stones" because there are countless aspects of situations that we cannot change or have no control over. Easter teaches us that Christ is more powerful than any difficulty we may encounter. He may not always move the stone from our lives, but during the time that the stone was in the way Christ was behind it. So if there are "stones" that we are stuck behind, Our Lord is there behind the stone with us too.

It kind of gives you a sense of peace when you accept that God is the one in control, and He will make things right according to His plan. He of course expects us to move the stones in our life that we can change, but when we can't He wants us to realize He can. This Easter season should be one of renewing our confidence in God, knowing that He cares about us so individually that every aspect of our lives matters to Him.

I pray that this holy season will be a time of much grace for us all, and I wish all my readers a most Blessed Easter!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Count Your Blessings


I think one of the biggest traps in life is getting caught up in negativity. Most people do not like when people are happy all the time. Don't you think if you walked around all rosy every single second like there were no problems and you couldn't stop smiling, people would throw invisible daggers your way? Why is it that people are happy to be unhappy? It's like we are so bogged down in our own problems and worries that we can't see others move beyond theirs...because it forces us to realize that we are part of our own problem. We are our own worst enemy in terms of happiness. We can choose to either focus on the positive or the negative.

You always hear the phrase "it's the little things." Aren't they worth getting excited about? It's easy to forget to count your blessings. Gratitude is at the heart of joy. When we appreciate all the gifts God is giving us, we are suddenly happier because we see life for what it is . . . a daily opportunity to love. Here are simple joys most people can experience right now...sitting outside in beautiful weather working from home, catching up with friends on the phone who live far away, quiet visits to the Tabernacle, making home made dinners, preparing for holiday celebrations . . . being still. I think what this world forgets how to do is to be still.

There's something about slowing down that makes you see the blessings around you. When life moves at a pace where one day jumps over the next, you are so busy trying to keep up that you look at where you are going rather than where you are. This is one of my favorite quotes about writing, but can also be applied to life, "writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

On this Palm Sunday when all hail Christ as King, count your blessings and thank Him for them, remembering in the words of St Therese, "Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude."

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Chocolate Chip Cookies


I can't believe it is nearly four months into the new year and I haven't blogged about a recipe! I have been on the search for the best chocolate chip cookie, and I think I found it. I love cookies and I especially love baking cookies, so this was a real treat! Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients: 

~ 3/4 cup vegetable oil
~ 1 cup brown sugar
~ 1 egg
~ 1 t vanilla
~ 1/2 t baking soda
~ 1 t water
~ 1/4 t salt
~ 1 1/2 cups flour
~ 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions: 

Mix ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes a dozen cookies!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Remember to Smile


This is a challenging time. It's like stepping into a parallel universe, a sci-fi novel, or the Twilight Zone. What we don't want is for the difficulties to rob us of our simple joys. It's always better to look at what you do have, rather than what you don't. To remember to smile so we don't forget that there's a bigger picture. I heard a priest say in a talk recently that 99% of the universe God created is spiritual, meaning there is so much more supernatural than material aspects of creation, and God is present in so many ways that we can't even fathom it. We need reminders like that when we are deprived of spiritual benefits in these times of suppressions of Mass.

Something that I think helps when nothing is how it should be is to keep your life and schedule as normal as possible. Maybe you are working from home when you haven't before or all the places you would normally visit are closed, but you can still keep a routine, or modify your usual routine. Grab onto something that's normal, like walking your dog, reading your favorite book, or drinking your go-to coffee or tea. The little things remind us that "just because everything's changing, doesn't mean it hasn't been this way before," to quote the song "The Call." What we are facing may not have been exactly the same in history (and certainly seems unprecedented), but there are similarities and people made it through.

We don't want to look back on this time later and only see panic, disease, and restrictions. We want to remember birthday's and sunshine and conversations . . . in short, things that make you smile--we want to remember the smiles through the trials. This is not to say that it will all be rosy (most of it is not), but in dark days we need to focus on something that lifts us up, not what drags us down . . . because that's easy to feel (and get stuck in) in crisis moments.

Above all, these times shows you the importance of being able to connect with people. To be separated from congregating in public makes you realize what social creatures we are. So keep up your connections as best you can and especially your connection with God Who is present always.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Chicken Little World


I think the topic of this current virus is one of much controversy and debate. There's truth to it and people are legitimately sick and for that we must pray, but something that strikes me about all this is the hype and hysteria that is following the wake of illness. Illness can be a terrifying thing, it can take over our lives or the lives of those we love, and it brings us down a road that can often be filled with unknowns . . . but it is not the end and things may very well not be as bad as they seem.

It is becoming a chicken little world, in the sense that someone is saying the sky is falling...and the result is utter chaos and confusion. People are forgetting to be calm and rational about it all, even if there are unknowns. I love this quote above, "when it rains, look for rainbows, when it's dark, look for stars." Even if the sky is falling, there are still positive things to focus on. 

I listened to a talk recently where a priest said one of the devil's tactics is to turn a person's focus on "anything but God." Are we turning to God during this time, are we praying more, are we trusting that God is bigger than our troubles? It seems that the focus is on worry, calamity, and suffering, rather than on God. I don't want to belittle this situation as simply a distraction, but it kind of is. It's giving the problem more power than it deserves.

So, find a rainbow amidst the rain and a star lighting up the sky because that forces you to look up and beyond what is below.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Firehouse Subs


I am a big fan of trying new restaurants. There's something exciting about a new food place opening in the city that shows growth and community. Food brings people together and creates a connection where there might not have been one. 

This week I made my way to Firehouse Subs, a sandwich joint I had been wanting to check out for some time. They have a variety of signature classics like Hook and Ladder, New York Steamer, and Firehouse Meatball, all of which looked delicious. I tried my hand at the Club on a Sub, which had turkey breast, honey ham, pepper bacon, Monterey Jack, and served "Fully Involved"--their phrase for mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles.

I gladly give my sandwich a five star rating, both for taste and size. I chose the medium, which was about an eight inch sandwich, thinking it would be small, but I had half left over for the next day with their generous portions. Plus there are combo options with chips (or a cookie!) and drink, side menus of salads and soups, or kids' portions.

One noteworthy part about Firehouse Subs is their support of first responders. A portion of all their sales goes to buying equipment that firemen, policemen, EMT's, and paramedics need to do their jobs well. I personally love supporting businesses that give back, and especially toward a cause that means so much.

So if you're looking for a great sandwich that supports a great cause, make your way over to Firehouse Subs and enjoy a meal that leaves you satisifed!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

In the Midst of Noise


We are at the first Sunday of Lent and this season is a reminder of the silence that is necessary to prepare our hearts for our Risen Lord. It may not be possible to eliminate all the distractions and occupations of our life that hinder a sense of quiet, but we can still find God in the midst of them. That is what makes the quiet--the presence of One who reveals Himself in the "still, small, voice."

The literal definition of quiet is "making little or no noise." In the midst of noise we cannot hear anything but that, unless we direct our hearts outside of the noise. If our hearts are quiet and making no noise, then our very bearing will reflect a tranquil spirit. It will be easier to find God in the middle of the busyness if we are at peace.

At the same time, there are aspects of our lives that we do have control over in eliminating noise. There are things we choose that are not always conducive to fostering a quiet life. Maybe we aren't even looking for a quiet life because the thrill of noise tempers some suffering we are trying to forget. Not that all noise is bad, we want activity and laughter and conversation. It's when we don't make any time for silence that the noise will become deafening.

So in the midst of noise, find God. Make His voice more persistent in your thoughts than anything else, and you might just find yourself hearing Him as if for the first time.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Golden Arrow

"May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen."

If you are looking for something to do this Lent that will be simple enough to persevere in for forty days, but still be truly meaningful to add to your spiritual life, then consider praying the Golden Arrow prayer. It's something you could tape to your fridge or mirror or desk that you would glance toward throughout the day to remind you to pray this often.

Our Lord told Sister Mary of St Peter that blasphemy injured Him more grievously than all other sins and was as a poisoned arrow continually wounding His Divine Heart. He gave her the Golden Arrow which could touch Him delightfully so as to heal those other wounds inflicted by the malice of sinners and grant graces to those who recited it. 

Lent is about drawing closer to the Lord, and what better way to do that than by honoring His Holy Name? Blasphemy and using God's Name in vain are common sins of our time that need reparation, so this would be a great way to prepare our hearts for the Lord at Easter. 

I am not the best at adding multiple penances and resolutions for Lent because more often than not I start strong and end . . . well wanting. So if you're like me and need something you can manage to keep going through a crazy busy ordinary life, this might be the prayer for you as a fruitful Lent idea!