Sunday, January 25, 2015

Another Anniversary of My Mother's Death

My sister and I have been remembering this week 28 years ago most vividly. But it is funny which details we both remember. I remember my mother telling me to get married to that nice boy Michael :) Best advice ever. Did I listen? Heck no. I was too busy being independent. That's me, at age 19, at his parent's house, around the time when my mom first got sick and was being treated for an ulcer. If I could roll my eyes, I would. She had stomach cancer. It's completely curable if caught early. Did you know you can live without your stomach? You just have to nibble throughout the day. 

The Sunday before (18th) was the last we spoke to our mother. She was hospitalized and you cannot imagine the relief of not being the 24/7 caregivers. I'd stop by the hospital on my way home from school and spend some time combing her hair or holding her hand. She was unresponsive, in a deep sleep, possibly a coma, her breath shallow but even. I wondered if she was aware of my presence. I didn't think to pray for her. But earlier, she had told me that she had seen her father and her little son, both whom had died many years earlier, so I knew she would be escorted by her most loved people to the throne of God. I thought all this even as an atheist. Strange, no, to believe in an afterlife and a God when you don't have a personal relationship with Him? But I had no concerns, no thought of heaven or hell per se ... 

It is only now that I offer prayers for her soul should she need them, for a soul in heaven has no need of our prayers. And I am sure that not a single prayer goes wasted for she will use a prayer for those who need it the most. But deep in my heart, I feel she has reached heaven. I do wish that people wouldn't instantly make everybody a saint at funerals. I know it is probably to make the family feel better, but the best thing we can do for our beloved dead is to offer prayers for them. I remember reading the text of the Requiem Mass the first time and saw that even the Agnus Dei, we pray only for the deceased. And so, I'll be offering a prayer for all our beloved dead. Requiescat in pace, Ai. I am deeply grateful for everything you've done for me, both here on earth and in heaven. And I hope you will come to escort me when it is my time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Civil Rights and the New Civil Rights

Joyce and Carol write Talking Story and this month they're talking about civil rights ... and guess who introduced a few books? We were also going to talk about To Kill a Mockingbird but that would ruin the alliteration ...

I've been reading a lot about diversity and gay rights and how it's the new civil rights movement but something doesn't ring true. It all *seems* very Christian to embrace everything and everybody but if we say everything is good and true, then really, nothing is.

How can the Indian practice of female infanticide be good? Or the Muslim practice of having four wives? Or homosexual relations? If you subscribe to a Christian worldview, these and many other things are NOT good.

I want my children to know about other cultures and religions. Yes! But I want them to know their own, so they can know the difference between right and wrong, and have the courage to stand up for what is right, to fight for and defend the Truth.

What is truth? Pilate asked that of Jesus.

We are living in an age where people speak of my truth and your truth and it is hogwash. Truth is simply how it is. The reality. And I am afraid that today we choose to have blinders. Diversity and multiculturalism are the new religion and it sounds nice and inclusive, but it is eroding our sense of right and wrong. But look deep into your heart. Truth is written upon your heart. You know it is wrong to kill.

The new civil rights issue is the right to live.

You do not have to be a Christian to know this. However, religion imposes a morality that sometimes the legal system fails to. The US Supreme Court made a grave error in not defending the life of the most vulnerable Jan. 22, 1973. Nearly 60 million babies have perished since then in the US alone. These are our children.

It is the Christian sense of the dignity of every human being that eventually abolished slavery, that gave women their rights, that promoted equal rights for different races and it is the Christian who protects the unborn, the infirm, and the destitute.

Jan. 22 is a day of penance in the US. Let us all fast and pray to end abortion.

ETA: The Supreme Court will be meeting again to rule on marriage. Let us pray they do not make another massive blunder by saying marriage is constitutionally protected between anybody. It will mean the death of families.

As always Msgr. Pope writes with wisdom and eloquence on all matters. Please read his reflection for today:

Friday, January 16, 2015

On Celebrating

Harry and George came to visit me for my birthday. They were NOT invited. I showed them the door, but they brought in their bags instead ...  Talk about a blue birthday. Maybe it's the awful gray and rain and cold. Maybe it's Harry who refuses to leave. Maybe it's because I couldn't go to Mass. Maybe, maybe ... nothing. But I sure was sucked deep into my navel ... woe is me.

Fortunately, my good husband had ordered an antidote and it arrived shortly:

This is a censer for burning frankincense! I couldn't wait to get a hot coal in it and dump some frankincense on top! I couldn't wait to pray the rosary! Holy smokes! I love having a churchy smell at home. And in spite of Harry and all the other annoyances in my life, the blues went pffftt. So I'll state the obvious: prayer is the answer to everything. Whether in a good state or bad, happy or sad. Prayer.
I have a couple of other antidotes. I am savoring Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts. What an amazing book! To get a peek into the spiritual lives of these literary giants strengthens my own beliefs. I am looking up little known books by some of my favorite writers, as well as being introduced to some of their friends. My newest discovery is Robert Hugh Benson. And the best part is that many of these older works are now available as Kindle editions for only a couple of bucks. Over Christmas holidays I made a serious dent in my physical reading pile, so I'm thankful I don't have to worry about the electronic pile toppling over.

I am also typing my stories (and this blog post) with these lovely mink cashmere gloves. I have to remind myself to put them in my drawer. Um, I really do work and not just pet the cat all day long ...  As you can see, I am quite good at celebrating each and every day. Do you?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book Baby is Here!

I got a heavy box in the mail ... I didn't know what it was until I lugged it up the stairs. And how sweet it was to open it up! Ten colorful eggs waiting to hatch.

I suppose I should think about book promotion ... and I have been. No launch party ... though the due date in bookstores is Jan. 27th. Holy smokes, that's only a couple of weeks away. I am planning on going to my local indie store and buying it! I've never had the pleasure of seeing my books in a shop because most of my books have been for the school and library market. I would love if you'd send me photos of Ten Easter Eggs in the wild!!! Better yet, in the hands of your kiddos.

I'd appreciate some help getting the word out. Here are some ways:

1. Ask your public library to order it.
2. Talk to your school librarian about getting a copy.
3. Talk to teachers about using this in preK-1 classrooms.
4. Buy it for your kids or your friends' kids to use at home.
5. Talk/blog about it -- cheep, cheep, cheep. Talk is cheap!
6. Review it.

Most books have a shelf life of two years. My hope is that Ten Easter Eggs will stay in print for many, many years so that even your grandchildren will have a chance to read and count the chicks as they hatch. Thank you for helping me spread the word.

I will do my part by doing some local school and library visits. This is something I'm comfortable doing and I'm excited to do this particular math workshop with a real book and not just a manuscript. Plastic eggs and treats will be involved!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Wise Still Seek Him

Adoration of the Magi by Murillo
Have I mentioned how much I love this time of the year? I love the Feast of Epiphany. How well it reflects our own journey to the Christ-Child. My heart overflows with gratefulness at been given the gift to seek Him. May we all receive the gifts of the magi: eyes to seek Him, feet to follow Him, and hearts to worship Him.

This version of We Three Kings from Kings College is so beautiful. If you are in the mood, just let the mix of Christmas music play!  

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Goals

I love this time of the year ... it reminds me of Rainer Maria Rilke's quote: And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.

I think last year was the first year I didn't make many goals ... I was too sick for the first couple of months and it took a couple more to get used to the new medication to control the migraines. But they've worked out well, thank God. I remember how pleased I'd be with myself if I wrote anything those first few months. My daily goals persist: Read Bible, Pray, Write, Walk. But this year I want to be more intentional about not wasting precious time and staying focused on fewer projects so that I complete them. I get distracted with shiny new ideas ALL the time. Oh, look, a bird! 

Marcia Hoehne has a lovely post on New Year's Words. Last year it was Patience ... and it was exactly what I needed to cultivate in all aspects of my life, including writing. The year before it was Fiat!

This year's word came to me sometime mid-Dec. It is Clarity. As I prepared my goals for this year, I had a clearer sense of purpose. I want to begin work on a new novel and of course, with two of them clamoring for attention, I need clarity to decide which one to focus on so that I can finish. Earlier there were three, so I'm making progress :) And there are always the short projects. I doubt I could ever give those up ... there is an incomparable joy in having a perfect little poem or story. They're like these photos -- capturing moments I want to remember.

I am looking forward to turning 50. If my 40s were wracked with the joys and pains of turning to Jesus, I cannot imagine what living in His Word is going to bring. He has already given me a peace that I cannot explain. 

I want to walk more on the beach! I hope these photos taken by Max and Dagny inspire you too. Wishing you all a happy and healthful New Year, filled with all God's blessings upon you.

Sunset by Dagny

Sunset by Max

Monday, December 29, 2014

On Self-Denial and Love of the Cross

If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. ~ Matt 16:24

I admit readily that I have a very difficult time carrying any cross. I suffer from chronic migraines and this year has been better than previous years, and still I've complained. Dec. was a tough month but it took me a while to give thanks and praise to God and sadly it was more with a spirit of resignation than that of rejoicing. However, this month, with St. Alphonsus' help I've been able to look at the many blessings that come with this particular cross. 1. Letting go of expectations. 2. Lying in bed in prayer. 3. Scribbling in my notebook -- pouring out my heart to God on the page. 4. Awaiting Him. Come Lord Jesus. 5. Offering it as a sacrifice for the conversion of others. 6. The time to contemplate what is to come. 7. Watching my husband and children care for each other and me.
We are so conditioned to do things, it's hard to just be. This is when I remember how sweet it is to waste time with God, just like I did when Michael and I first met and we wasted hours together, doing absolutely nothing but simply being together.
The words of the great Spanish mystic, John of Avila, come to mind: “Do not think now of what you would do if you were well, but be content to remain sick as long as it pleases God. If you are seeking the will of God, what matters it whether you are sick or well?” St. Frances de Sales (patron of writers) maintained that we can serve God better by suffering than by laboring. And I have to remind myself of this every time I get hit on the head with Harry.
My cross is not that heavy when I compare it to others' but it is mine to carry. I have wondered why suffering is the way to God; wouldn't it be easier if the path were more pleasant? More people would walk it. But it is not the way of our Lord.
St. Alphonsus begins this chapter with, "The love which our Divine Master Jesus entertained for the cross was so great that He embraced it from the first moment of His Incarnation. The will of His heavenly Father had decreed that His life on earth should be the way of the cross; accordingly, He began His sorrowful journey to Calvary's Mount the very moment that ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’.
"Hand in hand with the love of the cross is the virtue of self-denial, for he who is attached to the comforts of life or to himself lacks courage to walk in the bloodstained footsteps of the suffering Savior.”
Peace of Heart
"Patience hath a perfect work, says the Apostle James (1:4), for by patience in bearing the crosses of life we make a perfect sacrifice to God. ... Patience is to be preferred to the courage of the hero. Many a man will display great courage in undertaking and bringing to completion some pious work; but he may not have patience enough to bear with the little annoyances and contradictions he encounters. For such a one it were better to be steadfast in patient suffering than courageous in great undertakings. ... In a word we all have something to endure ...
“Accordingly, we can enjoy true peace of heart only when we carry our cross with patience and resignation.
Value of Suffering
"If you are forced to acknowledge, dear Christian reader, that you have offended your God, and you wish at the same time to sanctify your immortal soul, you should rejoice when God sends you suffering. ... When God gives you something to suffer, says St. Augustine, He acts as a physician, and the suffering He sends is not a punishment but a remedy. ... But suffering is not only an excellent means of atonement for past sins, it is also an abundant source of merit.
Proof of Love
St. Alphonsus says, “Suffering is the touchstone of love. … Love is patient, says St. Paul, it beareth all things (1 Cor. 13:4). It patiently carries the external as well as the internal cross: for example, the loss of health, of fortune, of honor, of relatives and friends; anguish, temptations, pains and spiritual aridity. By patience virtue is tried. … “Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee (Tobit 12:13).”
To Suffer is to Pray
“You say you cannot pray? Why not?” asks St. Alphonsus. “What prevents you from turning your eyes to Jesus Crucified and offering Him the sufferings you must endure? The best prayer you can say is to resign yourself to the will of God in the midst of your sufferings, uniting your pains to the pains of Jesus Christ and offering them as a sacrifice to God.”
Spiritual Aridity
I wanted to share this bit because we all go through periods of spiritual dryness. I’m still in a honeymoon period since our conversion, but I know there will be greater trials and I want to remember these words of St. Alphonsus. “There is a great need of patience in bearing the cross of spiritual abandonment, for it is one of the hardest trials that a soul who loves God can endure.”
Patience again!
“By means of spiritual aridity, God unites Himself intimately with the souls He loves in an especial manner. What hinders us from being truly united to God is attachment to our inordinate inclinations. When God, therefore, desires to lead a soul to His perfect love, He endeavors first to free her from all attachment to created things. To this end He deprives her little by little of earthly goods such as riches, honors, relatives, bodily health and so forth. Then follow contradictions and humiliations of every sort. These are so many means that the Lord makes use of to divest the soul of all attachment to creatures and to self.
“In the beginning of the soul’s conversion, God often gives her a flood of consolations. In consequence of this, the soul is gradually weaned from attachment to creatures and gives herself to God; but not as yet in a perfect manner, for she acts more for the sake of the consolation of God than for the God of consolations.”
This describes me so well. I only pray that my will be strong to do what is pleasing go God. Let us therefore place our unbounded trust in God.