Sunday, January 26, 2020

Life After the Convent

This is a topic I have considered writing a whole book about for the last couple years, because I don't think that there are enough resources out there about this. This week we celebrate the feast of St Agnes (actually twice), which inspired this post as my religious name was Sr Mary Agnes. I put together a few thoughts for those who have experienced having to leave a convent (during formation stage) in the hopes that readers understand what a challenging reality it is. I do have to say, I am no expert on this so take what I say with a grain of salt . . . and if you are looking for a good book to read, I highly recommend A Call to a Deeper Love (letters of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin). This book changed my whole view of what vocation means.

5 Pieces of Advice I Received and Want to Pass On:

1. (From my old superior) "The extraordinary thing about discerning a vocation is that some girls are called to pass through the convent, but do not have a lifelong vocation." They were meant to touch those religious Sisters' lives and vice versa, and they needed something special from their convent experience to take with them into their beautiful lives in the world. Our lives are a journey and contribute to the person we are. You needed a grace you received in the monastery and wouldn't be the same without it.

2. (From a good priest friend) "God does not use a parked car with discernment." It may seem like after leaving the convent, you have no idea where you belong and are "stuck." But God is driving your car even if you don't feel like it. You are moving forward. God is working. It won't always feel like you are going through an identity crisis. Try to reintroduce something that was special to you before religious life, and enjoy finding who you are in the world now! It's like getting to paint a new canvas . . . and let me tell you it will be absolutely amazing what you do with it.

3. (From my old caretakers at the monastery) "The sacrifice of leaving a convent is ten times harder than getting to stay and live that life." Think of all the souls you have saved and are saving by that offering you had to make. You can never know the extent of the influence this trial has for the salvation of souls. You may feel like you failed, but it is the exact opposite. You have triumphed and done something most people will never have the courage to do . . . you have the courage to dream another possibility for your life and walk the hard road ahead with your head held high.

4. (From my old novice mistress) "The habit does not make the monk." I was told upon leaving that there are much holier people in the world, even than in the convent because your state of life does not define you. God looks at our hearts and our union with Him. Period. Will you end up in one stable vocation ultimately? Yes of course. The point is however that that is not how God sees your soul. He sees the sacrifices you make, the love you show, the courage you possess, the virtue you practice, the beautiful personality you have that makes you uniquely YOU!

5. (From another convent I tried to enter) "Open your heart to marriage." This may be the hardest one to accept, so be patient with yourself. But consider saints like Louis and Zelie Martin and the family of saints they raised like Therese. One pope's mother said he could never have his papal ring if not for the wedding ring she wore. Your marriage will be so much spiritual and meaningful because of your convent experiences. For after all, marriage is a vocation, a calling from God, and He calls you to marry a particular person, for both of you to work together to get to Heaven. 

I know a beautiful love story of high school sweethearts who decided to break up to try being a Carmelite nun and Carmelite monk.  After a period of discernment, the girl left the convent first, realizing she wasn't called to religious life. When the guy found out she had left and might pursue a relationship with another guy, he realized very quickly he didn't have a vocation to religious life either. ;-) The two reconnected and are now married with a lovely family!

Now above all pray, pray for God to show you His will. I have known several people who went to a second convent after their first try and are still there, so even though you are in between, do not give up hope you could still have a religious vocation! But if you don't, it is because God has something more wonderful planned for you than you could ever imagine. Don't ever doubt that because the bottom line is where you find the most peace and joy is where God is calling you.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Little Women Movie Review

If you haven't had the chance to see the new Little Women movie yet, I highly recommend it. I think it is as true a version to the book that's ever been made and an updated version of the classic. 

The overall story, is of course, very moving as the novel addresses the big questions of life and how work, marriage, and family impacts the characters. The four March sisters very easily encapsulate the four temperaments: Jo the choleric, Meg the phlegmatic, Beth the melancholic, and Amy the sanguine. It is entertaining to see how these differences reflect their romantic relationships and life choices.

Little Women has created such iconic characters who each in their own way seek to leave their mark on this world. Jo with her fiery spirit and passion for writing, Beth with her deep thoughts and meaningful music, Meg with her motherly qualities and sweet temperament, and Amy with her artistic talent and lofty dreams of love. And which of us doesn't long to see Laurie with Jo, always to be disappointed in each version ;-) But as they say, "if you love someone set them free. If they come back they are yours, if they don't they never were."

I do think it's hard to top the 1994 film, which is a classic in my book. In my opinion the older movie had overall better acting in terms of delivery of lines and the authenticity of the characters. However, the new version includes much more wonderful parts of the original story, for example getting to see Jo open her school in Aunt March's old manor.

On a personal note, my favorite part of the story is undoubtedly the end scene where Jo watches her novel being put together . . . what writer wouldn't love that! I do hope you will give the film a try as it is well worth the 2 hrs and 15 minutes of your time.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

What's in a Song

Music is such a powerful force. When done well, it speaks to your heart. There are songs for good days, songs for bad days, songs you listen to on a car ride, songs for cooking, songs you can listen to over and over because it reaches a place inside you that nothing else can.

There was a song (you can read some lyrics below) that I listened to a lot when I lost my uncle that reminded me that even when it feels like we're "stuck" God can lead us along and we can move forward eventually. It spoke to me when the grief felt heavy and somehow music pulled me up and out of my own little world.

Because the thing is . . . music connects. It connects you to a memory, a person, hopefully ultimately to God. I mean when you think about it, heaven is filled with song. We call them the "choirs of angels." Singing is praying twice. And the saints composed music themselves.

Honestly I think one of the most interesting things about music is how different each person's taste in music is. It's like it reflects a greater part of their personality and opens a window into who they are and what speaks to them. Just take a glance at a close friend or sibling's playlist and see if you have any of the same songs . . . you probably only have one or two.

Then there's live music. I've been to several amazing symphony concerts and each time it's excitingly different, but the constant that remains is each individual instrument is required to make the whole of the orchestra. It makes me think about how important an individual person is in this world. As an instrument makes a unique sound, so a person has a unique and unrepeatable voice.

In short, music truly transforms. What are some of your go-to songs for life?

"This Is How You Walk On" by Gary Lightbody and Johnny Mcdaid

"A new wind is blowing through these streets
Those cold days are history to us
I'm not saying times they won't get tough
We still got each other that's enough"

"I know life ain't simple for you, dear
But I'm here and I'm not going anywhere
I'm not saying "I know how you feel"
I just know that I can help you, dear"

"Don't lose your mind
Don't lose you good heart
Just know this time
That you'll be waking up
In all these better days"

"This is how you walk on
This is where you belong
And I'm not saying
This isn't where you'll stay
But this is how you walk on
This is how you walk on"

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Wait is Over

It's finally here! I hope you like the story as I really enjoyed writing a mystery that takes place at a lighthouse, one of my favorite things. You can order a signed copy on my blog under the tab "Novels" or on Amazon! Here are three fun facts about the novel:

a) the character who was originally the double agent during outline stage is not the one I decided to make the actual culprit by the end of writing

b) I went to Maine as a child and put some memories in the novel like collecting sea glass on the shore and visiting a lighthouse

c) the tic-tac-toe clue literally came from googling, "what are things that come in nines" and tic-tac-toes have nine squares

And here's a sneak peak of the story, so enjoy the first chapter!

Chapter One of The Amanda Case Files No. 3: Bed and Breakfast Mystery
(Copyrighted by Therese J. Roberts)

Elizabeth Henley gazed out the window of the world passing by, which reminded her that life changes so quickly. She listened to the murmur of other voices on the train that made a soft comfortable hum in the background. Her hands rested on the fabric passenger seat and she crossed her legs to readjust her position. Every now and then a scent of coffee drifted through the doors of the dining car; yet for all she could experience and feel on the outside, nothing quieted the angst she felt inside.
For most this would be an enjoyable vacation to discover the beauty of Maine with its coastline and lighthouses and quaint inns. For Liz it was to find answers to questions she had had for five years. Her thoughts wandered back to the simple two-story white colonial, her childhood home of warm memories, where her father told stories by the fireplace and her mother pushed her on the swing. As the trees outside the moving train flashed before her eyes, her life flashed forward to the day she found out they would never be coming home again and her eyes stung anew. The fact that they were detectives and died honorably did not take away the feeling that it wasn’t fair. Her mission on this case was vital and her desire so great to finally discover the truth—a truth she would not have to find alone.
A young man with red hair and a bright smile met her eyes as he walked toward her seat. He was carrying two covered disposable cups and held one out to her as he sat down. “Now watch me spill this on my new pants,” he said, looking at his legs questionably.
“Who wears new pants when they are traveling, Fred McNally?” Liz said with a smile.
“I guess it depends on whom you’re travelling with,” he returned as he carefully sipped his drink.
“This is refreshing,” Liz said, inhaling the sweet scent. “Hits the spot.”
“It should. It cost ten dollars with prices as bad as concessions at a ball field.”
“That’s something Christie would say.”
“How is your sister?”
“Trying to enjoy her honeymoon with Bob,” Liz said. “She almost didn’t go, but Sam and I insisted our parents would want her to.”
“And Sam?”
“He’s restless. He doesn’t like simply being on call to come up to Maine. I tried to tell him it was important to investigate at home too, both searching our old home and keeping an ear in the police department.”
Fred nodded. “Watch Sam find more than us in Maine.” He looked out the window and added, “You know, taking a train was a good idea. It gives you time to think.”
Liz followed his glance. “Perhaps a little too much time,” she said half to herself.
“Let’s talk about something else then. We have a whole day ahead of us.”
“No. We should go over what we know.” She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a small key. “However little that may be.” She sighed.
Fred suddenly reached out and held her hand. “We will know more soon,” he said reassuringly.
Liz blushed but looked down again at the key in her hand. “I don’t know if the key is more of a mystery, or the man who delivered it to me.”
“Tell that part to me again.”
Liz leaned back more comfortably in her seat. “In the middle of the hospital case, trying to free my sister from jail, a stranger approached me. He knew me as Liz Henley, but also as my code name Amanda Case. That made me nervous to say the least, since no one should know that.”
“No kidding.”
“Yeah and being told to go to the basement of the diner when he was armed certainly didn’t help.”
Fred nodded.
“All he wanted was to give me my father’s pocket watch,” Liz continued. “He refused to tell me his name, said a three digit code, and then left without a trace. He knew my parents well . . . that probably struck me the most.”
“And told you that the one witness to their murder was bumped off.”
Liz sighed and fingered the key in her hands again, the metal catching the light overhead.
“I remember the next part—how you got that,” Fred said and pointed to the key. “I was in disbelief when your uncle Riley figured out the watch was the safe and pulled out the key.”
“I’ve been worried about my uncle. We haven’t heard anything from him since that very night. He was leaving for Maine right after we discovered this key, and he never contacted us.”
Fred crossed his arms. “Liz, it’s only been a couple weeks. He’s probably waiting for us at the bed and breakfast as we speak.”
“Even though it’s been five years, I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach going to the place where they were last seen alive.” Liz pushed back a piece of her curly brown hair from under her wig. She wore the same red wig as on her last case, this time in order to complement Fred’s red hair. They were traveling in disguise as siblings to mask their true identities.
“Maine of all places . . .” Fred murmured.
“That’s where this starts to get confusing.”
“The spy, the general, and the senator, oh my,” Fred cut in.
Liz couldn’t help but smile. “Fred . . .”
“Sorry. Of course it’s confusing. Some spy killed a U.S. general, one who was very close to the president. A senator of Maine, C.K. Black, was going to release the name of said spy, who also was the double agent in our police department, who then killed your parents and the senator so he wouldn’t be discovered,” he explained.
Liz stared at Fred. “That about sums it up I guess. If only my parents hadn’t found the beginning of this trail in a local murder file . . .”
“Then the double agent would never be found. They were going to find him . . . but now we are.”
Liz met Fred’s eyes. “You promise?”
“With my life,” he answered.
Liz looked at Fred a moment then said, “I feel like my biggest question is why did the spy, or double agent, need to kill a U.S. general?”
“That seems to be the heart of the matter,” Fred answered her.
Liz continued, “We need to figure out the killer’s motivation. It has to be a pretty big one to be covering up so many murders. Five years, Fred. Five years. I know it will be easier to find the double agent if we understand the why. Why did he want to kill the president’s general?”
Fred sipped his coffee again. “I can’t believe it’s someone I had—or have been—working with. Our own police department, Liz!”
“I know,” Liz said with a sigh. “You have been at the police station longer than I have and must know everyone who was working at the time of my parents’ deaths. So many cops have come and gone since then though.”
“Well, I remember when they arrested the wrong person—the person who was recently released and killed off. We can’t even question him again,” Fred said with regret.
“Honestly, Fred, I don’t even know where to start on this case. There’s so many red herrings and false leads and endless suspects . . .”
Fred encouraged, “We are going to start with where they were last seen. We are going to search the bed and breakfast and talk to anyone who worked there at the time they stayed.”
“We should have come up here years ago, but I never imagined that there was anything significant left behind at the bed and breakfast.”
“Liz, there may not be,” Fred was forced to acknowledge, “but knowing your parents I feel as though there is some vital clue waiting for us.”
“Uncle Riley certainly believes that. I just wish he had contacted us when he arrived. He doesn’t even know that we are coming because I have no way of reaching him.”
“We will be there soon enough. For now, just enjoy the ride. I for one have never been on a train before!” Fred said with a smile.
“Look, we’re pulling into a station.”
“Then let’s go out and explore. It’s a twenty minute wait.” Fred stood up before the train stopped and headed for the door.
Liz followed him and stepped off the stairs once the train pulled in. She wandered into the station, a small building with lots of windows lining the walls. There were travel brochures, maps, and activity flyers stacked neatly in stands in the center of the room. The passenger train was not as full as Liz expected it to be this time of year, but the station was bustling with people. Liz found it hard to move around inside and decided to spend the twenty minutes out by the train with the rest of her coffee.
“Hello there,” a young woman said to Liz as she sat on a bench outside.
“Hi,” Liz returned with a nod.
“Don’t you recall us meeting each other?” the lady asked sociably.
Liz peered at the woman with dark hair flowing down her back. She was thin with glasses and held a notebook in her hands. She had a friendly smile, but there was nothing familiar about her to Liz. “I’m sorry, can you tell me your name again?”
“Miranda Nethers.” She stretched out her hand and gripped warmly.
“Well it’s nice to meet you again, Miranda,” Liz said puzzled. “Do you happen to remember where we have met?”
Miranda laughed. “Of course I do! You solved the hospital murders only a few weeks ago. I interviewed you with Captain Walker.”
Liz’s eyebrows rose. “I completely forgot about that.” She paused. “What are you doing up this way, might I ask?”
“Following you, Amanda Case!” Miranda said enthusiastically. She opened her notebook and clicked her pen. “Now, what are you trying to solve this time around?”
Liz swallowed. “I . . . I’m just going to visit a friend,” she said vaguely.
“Amanda Case . . . visits a friend.” Miranda wrote quickly in her notebook and then looked up. “We both know that that will not be all.”
Liz took note of her surroundings beside the train. Who else knew of her travels to Maine? She had left with all possible discretion and didn’t tell anyone in the police department about her departure. Miranda’s presence was definitely a surprise . . . an unwanted surprise.
“Miss Case?” Miranda tried to grab her attention again. “Details are everything! You want me to get the story right in print!”
“I’m afraid you won’t have much of a story,” Liz said to the reporter. “You have wasted a trip.”
Miranda twirled her pen around in her hand. “I don’t think that will be the case,” she said slowly. “All the same, Rockland Maine is beautiful this time of year!” With that she stood up and walked into the station. Liz watched the door close behind Miranda and took a sip of her coffee again. Rockland Maine? How did the reporter know of the exact location she was heading as well?
Fred wandered over toward Liz from along the platform, taking the seat Miranda just vacated. “You should go to the front of the line! The locomotive is amazing. I wish the conductor would let me inside . . . but security these days.” He threw up his hands in a gesture of defeat.
“Security is right,” Liz murmured.
Fred shot her a look. “What?”
“Miranda Nethers, the reporter who interviewed me for my last case, followed us,” Liz whispered.
“Again I say, what?”
“She just went into the station. I wonder who tipped her off . . .”
“A reporter? What does she look like?” Fred’s eyes widened as he spoke.
“Tall, long dark hair, glasses, notebook,” Liz replied with a list.
“I’m going to talk to her.”
“I want to know what she knows,” Fred answered emphatically. “I can only discover that if I ask!”
“What if she is in contact with the double agent?” Liz wondered, half to herself.
“Then she probably knows a good deal!”
“Don’t forget, you are Stew,” Liz reminded him.
“I know, I know, Stew Case.” Fred shook his head. “More like suitcase,” he muttered under his breath as he entered the station. He glanced around for a tall woman with long dark hair . . . . . 

Thank you readers!!!