Help for Troubled Times

I’ve shared this prayer before but it seems good to share it once again…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

Too Much Tuesday: Simplicity in Spirituality

While rereading Dom Hubert Van Zeller’s outstanding Holiness for Housewives (and other working women), my primary Advent spiritual reading this year, I ran across the following words of wisdom I thought worth sharing. So often we make growing in our faith a complicated matter and are discouraged when we don’t seem to make much progress. Or, alternatively, we can become complacent and coast along in our spiritual practices and not really bear much fruit along the way.

I believe this holy Benedictine priest nailed it when he wrote this book as his way to holiness is, in Benedictine tradition, one of stability, obedience, and ongoing conversion–all the while balanced by moderation. I hope his words–summed up in his phrase “religion is yielding to Christ” are helpful to you as well during this time of waiting and preparing for our Lord and Savior’s birth.

“Training in spiritual things…can be done only by the combined activity of God and yourself. Concentrate on the service of the will…Obedience to God’s will is…is all that religion amounts to. Religion is God. Religion is recognizing God in His own setting. The setting is provided by Him, not by us…Religion is yielding to Christ.

The only thing that really matters in life is doing the will of God. Once you really appreciate this truth, and act accordingly to its implications, you save yourself a lot of unnecessary heart-searching [overthinking] and resentment.”

Dog Days of Summer

“But life is glorious when it is happy; days are carefree when they are happy; the interplay of thought and imagination is far and superior to that of muscle and sinew. Let me tell you, if you don’t know it from your own experience, that reading a good book, losing yourself in the interest of words and thoughts, is for some people (me, for instance) an incredible intensity of happiness.”

― Isaac Asimov

I am looking forward to kicking back this afternoon with a favorite book. In my case that is Elizabeth Goudge’s The Heart of the Family, the third book of the Eliot family trilogy. If you haven’t given yourself permission to get lost in a good book lately, why not do that today?

 

Back to Basics: A Simple Prayer to Make a Difference

In the midst of another pile-up on our living room sofa–because I do my paperwork and phone calls et al. from my comfy wing chair, thereby sometimes resulting in a nearby crazy pile of clipboards, papers, and other paraphernalia related to household administrative activities–I definitely needed to be reminded of this prayer!

“Dear God,

Thank You that You have a purpose for me in my job. Help me to recognize ways I can simplify my work spaces and working habits so I can better accomplish what’s before me.  Help me to make a positive difference in the world through the work I do today. 

Amen.”

Marcia Ramsland, Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay That Way! 

http://www.organizingpro.com

Back to Basics: A Simple Prayer for Perseverance

Here is another great prayer for help with getting things done when for whatever reason you might be struggling with accomplishing the things that need to be accomplished.

“Dear God,

Thank You for putting a roof over my head and a place to call home. Help me to keep at the clutter and cleaning pick-ups so my home becomes my castle. Help me to persevere and stay focused. I am grateful that at least You and I know what I did today.

Amen.”

Marcia Ramsland, Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay That Way!

http://www.organizingpro.com

 

Back to Basics: A Simple Prayer for Help

Over the past few weeks I’ve been on new meds and am feeling better than I have in over a year–praise God!–so naturally I’ve been tackling the backlog of chaos around our home. Having energy, motivation, and focus–not to mention less pain–go a long way in my getting things done. So, I’m spurred on to get into a regular routine again for a variety of reasons including that it’s the beginning of school for the last year for our son and so our family routine changes. The following prayer states my intention perfectly. Maybe it will also reflect yours.

“Dear God,

I really would like to simplify [and thereby help stabilize] my life, but I’ve tried before. This time help me actually do it, especially when I don’t feel like it.

Amen.”

Marcia Ramsland, Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay That Way!

Writers’ Wednesday

Long day. Late night. Tired brain. But you, tireless reader, shall not be left without something to peruse since I have committed to providing you with grist for your writing mill. I’ll keep it short and sweet. It’s my three all-time favorite books about writing.

Madeleine L’Engle: Herself—Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott

Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer’s Guide—How to write more and better than you ever thought you could, Marshall J. Cook

These gems are time tested classics for me and were instrumental in pushing me past thinking about writing (although I did journal, naturally) to actually writing. I hope at least one of them will be both inspirational and instructive in helping you take the next step in your unique writing journey.

Shrove Tuesday

Lest I forget, here’s my favorite verse for this day of feasting before our days of fasting (“There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven…” Ec 3:1, NJB)

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
There’s music and laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Belloc

 

 

Writers’ Wednesday

I’d like to try featuring some regular posts about writing, writers, and perhaps even my own experience with working on crawling out from under my shell as a writer. So today is my first plunge into this venture. Join me as we explore together something that, I hope, will be of interest to those of us who are newer to this craft. Those of you who are more experienced are encouraged to fill the com box with your own inspiration, tips, resources, etc. Since there is so much written about writing I know I could just share favorite authors on writing, websites, and writing services but what I’d like to do is go beyond that, although I’m sure I’ll include a fair share of them along the way. Here we go!

I’d like to start with sharing a post from a wonderful author, blogger, and generally amazing online influence on me who has been an enormous inspiration to me long before I began blogging but was longing to do some kind of writing other than journaling. It didn’t hurt that during the years I homeschooled our approach to learning was so similar. I always wished she lived near me so I could meet her in person—still do!—because I felt we had so much in common. The versatile woman I speak of is none other than Karen Edmisten, a convert to Christianity (eventually Roman Catholic) from atheism, who has multiple book credits, has written for magazines, and maintains a unique online presence–plus she loves naps, as do I (an added bonus, in my opinion).

The story of how she came to find her own writing vocation can be found here:

http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/2008/09/vocation-surrender-and-writing.html

I’ve reread it multiple times since first seeing it and printing it out for my own personal motivation to push past my fears about pursuing writing. But although I set up a blog domain, it took me until 2011 to overcome my anxiety about writing for anyone’s eyes other than my journal’s, even though I had published an article in a small magazine for the homeschool community in 1995, despite not yet having any children (the article being on infertility). In the intervening years, my chronic anxiety levels had become amped up and it wasn’t until the past few years or so that I was diagnosed with mood disorders, which explained, in part, the difficulty I was having with my writing (or lack of it, other than in fits and starts).

In my case, I think the biggest problem was I always secretly wanted to write fiction but never felt I was creative enough to do so, so much so that even when I would get something down on paper it started to overwhelm me almost instantly and I gave it up almost as soon as I started. Non-fiction is another matter. I can gab on my blog almost as easily as I can rant (my son’s favorite term for when I speak at length about any topic). Then one day it finally occurred to me: why am I trying to mentally think of myself only as a writer if: a) I write fiction, and b) I get published? I owe my release from that self-prison to Marshall J. Cook, author of Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer’s Guide—How to write more and better than you ever thought you could.

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-Creativity-PAPERBACK-PRINTING/dp/0898796644/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423692014&sr=8-2&keywords=freeing+your+creativity

 

This quote of his from that very book is what finally liberated me:

“Not all writing has a large audience—or any audience at all. We write because we want to, because we need to, even because we have to. We write for what the process of writing can do for us and to us. For some of us, writing is as much a part of life—and as necessary—as breathing.”

Now I just try and follow the old adage, “Write what you know.”

For what it’s worth, the “Coach” (Marshall’s nickname) maintains a fun, contributor-friendly monthly newsletter for writers. I have found it a refreshingly unstuffy e-zine that always leaves me pondering both serious matters as well as usually laughing so hard it results in some level of inconvenience; a small price to pay for inspiration. You can find it here, including back issues:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/writing/extra-innings/

So, if you also are a writer—and if you write then you are, whether or not it’s for anyone else’s eyes—what is holding you back from taking the next step in developing your craft? Or if you’ve already done that, it would be great to hear what helped you get over that hump.

Until next time…fellow writing nerds, keep writing if you want to keep breathing (not really, but it sounded cool!).

At Ease in God

“Let God be the air in which your heart breathes at ease.”

St. Francis de Sales

Wowzers! What a difference that would make in the life of those of us who struggle with—okay, are plagued by—constant anxiety and/or depression, self-doubt, a lack of purpose, etc. I can barely imagine that as I’ve had anxiety issues all my life but only recognized them for what they were during the past few years. Whether they are neurological in origin or related to trust issues (with God and/or other people)—or a need to control or have everything perfect—anxiety issues will suck the life right out of you without you even realizing it.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a loving family member or friend who can help you to see this and you get help, things will get better. I promise. But you will always have to work at it, because that’s just the way anxiety is. It’s not going to give up its hold on you because it doesn’t want to and in a way you don’t want it to either—it’s probably your modus operandi, your coping mechanism, your safety net. You somehow convince yourself if you just think enough about these things—especially all the things that might happen—it will somehow help. Let me assure you that it won’t. But if you work at not being anxious, you will learn to be less anxious.

Here’s the best authority I know on the subject. Jesus told us,

“I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?…So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Mt 6:25-27, 34

Interesting “coincidence”: when I went to my new Bible–not one that’s been opened to favorite passages yet–to verify my reference and flipped forward to Matthew, being pretty sure it was there in the Sermon of the Mount–it opened immediately to the page for chapter six; I love it when that happens!

I’ll also share a couple of my favorite authors’ writing on this topic because they are also worriers who have learned many valuable lessons from their own struggles and have been willing to share them with others. The first is my choice of spiritual reading for this Lent. It may seem like an odd choice for that purpose but I believe the more practical we are in applying our faith the faster we can grow in union with Christ. The second choice is by a well known author who has also written extensively about ADHD, which also often comes with anxiety, as do bipolar disorder, depression and other mood disorders, something I know about firsthand.

For Lent I’ll be rereading writing coach, novelist, and general all around great guy Marshall Cook’s excellent How to Handle Worry: A Catholic Approach, along with its companion workbook, HTHW: ACA—praying your way through anxiety. As Marshall says in the introduction:

“If you’ve been suffering for a long time, change may seem impossible. By yourself it would be. But with God, all things are possible. Use this book as a guide as you surrender yourself—including all those worries—more fully to God.”

Disclosure: from what I recall from my first read a few years ago—as a convert to the Catholic Church from Protestantism 10 years ago—this book and its workbook can certainly be used by non-Catholics. There are just occasional times when there will be references to faith practices which differ.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Handle-Worry-Marshall-Cook-ebook/dp/B005F1Q7U6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423158101

The second book, Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition—Turn chronic worry into a positive force in your life, is an excellent read in its own right by the wonderful writer and well-known psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell and concludes with a wonderful chapter on “50 Tips on the Management of Worry Without Using Medication”—not that the author is against medication, as he is not, but he brings a whole person approach to the problem because that is what it as well as other neurologically based conditions require.

http://www.amazon.com/Worry-Edward-M-Hallowell-Md-ebook/dp/B004JHYRQI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1423159941

I hope you will find something in the above that will help you to breathe more easily in God.

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