Oldies but Goodies

I ran across the first quote today—which then reminded me of the second—and thought I’d blogged about them and sure enough I had. So, dipping into the archives, here we go again. I hope it will help encourage your focus to be “spot on” the way it did for me.

Here’s the first:

When we have a simple intention, we are less occupied with the thing to be done. We do all that we do not only for God but so to speak in Him. We are more aware of Him who works in us than of ourselves or of our work.

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

BTW, while checking my facts about this quote online I ran across the following post that does a lovely job of further explaining, in layman’s terms, what a simple intention might look like in practice. Enjoy!

http://www.conversiondiary.com/2010/11/right-intention-vs-simple-intention.html

And the second:

God remains in you in order to hold you up.
You remain in God in order not to fall.

St. Bede the Venerable

Good words we all need to hear (or at least I do…and pretty much all the time!)

Have a lovely Lord’s Day…

“The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns”–A Review

As it’s been said before, “We don’t have a lack of vocations; we have a lack of people willing to say “yes” to their vocation[s].” So, what could be more unexpected in this day of bizarre reality shows than an honest, balanced look into the lives of five young women who are pursuing discernment to religious life?

http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/the-sisterhood-becoming-nuns

If you thought it couldn’t be pulled off, the popularity of “The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns” and the beloved “nunnies” in each of the three religious communities has proved you wrong! One of the nunnies, as I believe online social media maven Sr. Helena Burns dubbed them, is so popular that the folks clamoring for another season are also interested in her having her own show (Sr. Beth Ann, Vocations Directress at The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago). Who would have thought that?

For starters, the five young ladies couldn’t have been more different; they were a delightful representation of godly young women with a wide range of backgrounds, talents, and, of course, personalities. This is exactly as it is in a religious community and the producers of the show did a fine job of selecting a vibrant group to follow over the six episodes (way too few!). They went on a six week journey visiting a total of three convents of different religious orders to give them a glimpse of whether they are ready to begin official discernment, the first step toward becoming a nun.

During their time they hear of others’ vocations stories, realize that women living together *is* really hard–one nun remarks that she’s “surprised there’s never been a murder”<g>–nuns actually take the time to disrobe from habits into swimsuits and go swimming to relax, blow off steam, exercise, and/or just have fun together. Of course, once back into their habits, they also have fun dancing and doing all the normal kind of things “normal” people do. But seeing a nun out of her habit was something they weren’t prepared for; I’m not sure any of us viewers were! 🙂

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, the second convent they visited, is located in urban Chicago, quite different than the first Carmelite house in Germantown and the final community in Kentucky. At the Chicago house they take care of people with special needs, have a soup kitchen, and walk the downtown streets passing out bags of food to people who live in dire poverty. Once a week there’s a trip to the South Side Chicago markets to “beg” for food for those they care for, as part of their trusting in Divine Providence to meet the needs of their mission.

As Sr. Beth Ann responded to the question “how do you know if you have a vocation?” with her own answer, given to her from no less than–wait for it–Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta decades before: “You sit with Jesus in Adoration for 10 minutes a day for two weeks and let Him love your heart. Then you’ll know.”

I’ve had some communication with Christie Young, one of the young women who I was drawn to before the show began airing because of her use of social media and because she felt like, if I may say so, a bit of a kindred spirit. I’m old enough to be her mom but feel as young as she is because I too have a great passion for living as it’s so obvious Christie has. Her love for Our Lord is transparent and at times causes her deeply intense experiences that others don’t always “get”—perhaps because they have not her temperament nor personality nor charisms. The bottom line is that it appears God may be calling Christie to be His bride and she is radiant with expectation as any fiancée would be. She is not without her own issues to work out, as are we all, especially when seeking our vocations, but she’s quite open and honest.

Here’s a look at Christie’s story. She’s 27, born into a Catholic family and she still follows the traditional tenets of the Church, the only girl with several brothers. She’s been engaged but realized it wasn’t God’s plan for her life and laughingly jokes that she probably couldn’t not be in (chaste) relationships without the convent–not that she deliberately seeks them out, they just end up “happening”. She has a number of special interests and talents: writing (poetry, song lyrics, et al.); reading; being part of a country music band; having fun; and, I venture to say, generally loving being alive! She has a zest about her and has been discerning on and off for about nine years.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you have not finished the series then stop right now if you don’t want to know how things stood with each of the girls by the end.

Francesca is ready to continue living a life in the world but not of it for now, but has a strong connection to the Carmelites and had some of them over to her home to meet her family and is keeping in touch with them. She recently just got her own apartment; congrats, Francesca! Originally Stacey, who broke up with her boyfriend to pursue discernment, was conflicted and thought she’d try the Sisters of St. Mary of Providence with Christie but since the show was filmed last summer got engaged to her old boyfriend so she has found her vocation: marriage. Congrats to Stacey and her fiance! Eseni and Darnell are back together and are planning their own future, which I’m sure will be another beautiful vocation of marriage.

Claire requested and was accepted into planning to discern with the The Sisters of St. Joseph of Mercy in Kentucky as she knew while there that it was just the place for her. She is currently finishing her college degree in music. Finally, Christie decided to pursue her vocation as a nun and the series was filmed this summer and now she is now beginning initially as an aspirant and then move onto being a postulant with The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence today, the feast of St. Antony, Abbot (founder of monasticism); congrats, Christie!

P.S. The good sisters in Chicago have allowed her to enter before she paid off all her college loans so if you’d like to help pay off Christie’s debt you can do so online here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/Convent4Christie

You can also send it direct to the convent and and just let them know it’s to help pay off her debt.

The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence

4200 N. Austin Ave.

Chicago, IL 60634

BREAKING NEWS: The show premiered in the U.K. today; a coincidence? I think not! 🙂

Please keep all these young women in your prayers. Becoming a nun is no easy task; neither is remaining one. But if it’s your calling, you won’t be satisfied with anything less. The most moving book I’ve ever read about religious sisters is the novel by Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede.

In This House of Brede

In This House of Brede

Buy from Amazon

I highly recommend it as a follow up to the Lifetime tv series.

Epiphany & The Well of the Star: A Review

Elizabeth Goudge vs Tolkien vs. Lewis vs. L’Engle vs. Jan Karon: whose fiction would I want if I could only have one of these cherished authors’ works–or even only one work of theirs? With no disrepect to the others, it’s a no brainer: Elizabeth Goudge, especially The Scent of Water. But I digresss…

Today is the traditional day for the feast of the Epiphany and this novella published in 1941 is a delightful read for any age; in fact, it only improves with the reader’s age, in my estimate. In Miss Goudge’s story the Magi arrive simultaneously with the shepherds instead of when Baby Jesus was actually a toddler, when Herod’s infamous slaughter of the innocents (all boys two and under) was carried out and the Holy Family makes their flight into Egypt.

Her writing, as always, clearly conjures up the physical and emotional geography; the vivid imagery of both the external and internal worlds of her characters abounds. The feast of Epiphany is the penultimate one during Christmastide before the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of our new liturgical year’s Ordinary Time the Monday after that. This story, in its simplicity and earnestness, encapsulates both the Ordinary Time of the church year–the normal day in, day out life of a shepherd boy–as well as its times of celebration (wise men bringing three significant gifts to celebrate the birth of the most important person in the world). Learning to accept that our life “is what it is” at any given moment but that we are not without hope–as the appearance of an extraordinary guardian angel reveals–reminds us that times of suffering will not usually go on forever without respite, that even the most grim of outcomes may be reversed through unlikely means, and that even a simple shepherd boy may get to count himself friends of a wise man (although not his surly camel!).

This book is an expensive out of print title and is a relatively hard book to find in a library but well worth checking for (or obtaining via ILL) and/or keeping an eye out at used book stores for a copy, for those who find themselves smitten by it as I did several years ago. My copy comes from a nearby regional library’s book sale table. I was horrified by how little it had been checked out after the mid-50s, even though it is a small town library. What a waste!

Again, although most Christians in the U.S. who celebrate Epiphany did so on Sunday, here’s to a blessed remembrance of that feast. If you have a favorite short story, read aloud, novella, or even novel involving Epiphany, I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

 

 

 

My Mom and National Motivation and Inspiration Day

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

My Mom’s birthday today turns out to fall on National Motivation and Inspiration Day, a lovely serendipity. Who else but a mom who has always loved you unconditionally, believed in you when you couldn’t even believe in yourself, and encouraged you over and over about all those messy areas of your life—some of which are going to be around for the rest of your life—and who you count among your closest friends, should receive the Motivation and Inspiration crown (if there were one)? Again, Happy Birthday, Mom, and thanks so much for ALWAYS believing in me, being a blessing and encouragement to me in ways great and small, and never giving up on me when I made things difficult for you and Da’ in my younger years.

Who are those that motivate and inspire you in your life? I can think of several in my life, starting with my awesome hubby and teen son. They are both great guys whose choices in life remind me to make better choices myself—both for myself and them and the rest of the world with whom I will come into contact in some way during the rest of my life. There are close friends who never cease to amaze me by helping boost my spirits when I’m struggling with depression or anxiety or whatever other limits my health imposes on me. Their encouragement with my literary “little engine that could” of a blog is also much appreciated. Then there are my other family members who mean so much to me, particularly my folks and my sister, because they know me warts and all and still love me. If that doesn’t motivate me to be the best version of myself that I can, I don’t know what could! I also have extended family who are wonderfully supportive.

Additionally, my pastor, fellow parishioners–with certain ones in mind who’ve gone the extra effort to let me into their lives–along with my bishop are a source of motivation and inspiration not just in spiritual things but in meeting life with courage and grace.  Finally, there are friends flung far and wide who still keep in touch that I occasionally get to hang out with—either in person or via FaceTime or even social media—and their continued desire to remain an integral part of my life at whatever level is such a lovely blessing.

So, on this day when I get to celebrate having such a terrific mom and stop for a moment and think of all the other people who motivate and inspire me—including a good many of them having passed beyond this life, and some I never even met because they lived before me or before I was old enough to have formed an adult relationship with them: various people from the Bible, assorted saints, beloved family members and friends, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Thomas Merton, and Agatha Christie to name a few—I’m grateful that I can remember to be grateful for both my mom and for them every year on this day. I also benefit from the gentle nudge to be the kind of person that mom and the others are to me. Thanks be to God!

Book Review: Wreath, A Girl

Wreath, A Girl is a story that rings true with the harsh reality of many teens’ lives these days. We have no idea how many people go to the extremes she did to live independently (viz., homeless and in poverty) under the radar of the System (which she assumed would have caused more problems than it would have solved). Having said that, anyone who is or knows or works with those who are homeless and living by their wits and trying to lay low will also appreciate this story on a personal level. For all of us, Wreath is a wonderfully developed character whose complexities are slowly revealed. Initially this seems to be a fairly straightforward profile of a teen girl caught up in the collateral damage of a single parent’s past poor choices. There’s also her own strong-willed, single-focused mindset to make sure that her future is not the mess her past has been–by not depending on others and thereby inadvertently getting entangled in their messes. However, it unfolds with various revelations as Wreath and others eventually realize we can’t function as fully human as we should without meaningful contact with community.

This book is a refreshing but sometimes difficult emotionally work that I believe will resonate with teens as well as adults. It throws light on themes that are relevant to all of us: loss, fear, trust issues, creativity, perseverance, hope, purpose, and ultimately the theme that encompasses all others, faith. In fact, after reading my Advance Reader Copy I was left with an intense desire to know what would happen next…so it was with great rejoicing that shortly after finishing the book I found out that Wreath’s story continues in a new novel coming out in 2015. As we Aggies say, “Whoop!”

Here are some of my favorite take away lines from the book.

Writing made her feel in control. She was not a hopeless girl…She was Wreath Willis, and if she took life a week at a time, she’d make it…

“Most people are happy to lend a hand,” Faye said quietly. “You have to let them.”

I was tickled pink–an expression of my East Texas upbringing–that Wreath named her journal and that things are not always as they appear. Everyone has a story at some point in their life yet we all assume that we’re the only ones wrestling with painful situations, whether we’re by ourselves or have a support system (perhaps one that we won’t acknowledge and/or let help us…God help us independent types!), and Wreath will change others’ lives in ways they could never imagine, just as we often do (with or without knowing it).

This book by Judy Christie, who has written many wonderful books both fiction and non-fiction, would make a great gift for a teen or any avid reader of realistic books that deal with contemporary issues in a unique way without making a big deal out of its Christian worldview but subtly using it to show us how God is always working behind the scenes, even for those who do not know Him yet. You can even sample the first chapter for free by going to the author’s website as you’ll see on the right side at the top of her page:

http://www.judychristie.com/

Wreath, A Girl is available at amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJudy%20Christie

You can also find it as well from your favorite indie bookseller or possibly your favorite brick and mortar store; don’t forget your local library if buying a copy isn’t in your budget right now. Better yet, if they don’t already own it, request they purchase it! 🙂

Finally, here’s some lagniappe (“a little something extra”) for those of you who have already read the book or aren’t afraid of mild spoilers. Judy has graciously provided a downloadable “Behind the Scenes with Wreath, A Girl: A Chat with Author Judy Christie” here:

http://www.judychristie.com/books.html

Happy reading!

Of Madeleine and Me

Happy Birthday, Madeleine L’Engle!

What a treasure it has been to grow up with her in my life. From my first experience with her—first reading A Wrinkle in Time as a youngster—to enjoying the Austins’ and O’Keefes’ lives with them—then moving on to an assortment of her adult novels (A Severed Wasp is my favorite) and the Crosswicks journals. One thing Ms. L’Engle never did was sanitize life. She presented as it is: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the excruciatingly beautiful. She also expanded my mind in ways it most definitely needed expanding, often through multiple rereads (having an addiction for reliving my favorite authors’ books).

One of my favorite of her quotes is:

“We are homesick not so much for something that was, and was lost, as for something that will be, and is to be found.”

Her words on writing are of enormous encouragement to someone who has always wanted to be a writer–starting in childhood through journal writing (which has never completely stopped, but there have been seasons of life which seemed to painful to write down) and the rare short story, the occasional poem that continued through adulthood, then a short article and book review in a small circulation magazine in my 20s. My 30s were when I had our son and was totally across the country so most of my writing was in email, although around 40 I began to wonder if maybe I could write for publication at some point, but probably not until The Teen was grown and we had finished home education.

But several years ago I realized I didn’t have to wait until an empty nester–Madeleine didn’t–and began reading writers on writing and occasionally starting a short story or collecting ideas for possible writing projects, usually non-fiction. Then I began my blog, which has been more off than on due to my health issues and family priorities and eventually, once my health got really bad, I started binge watching TV or movies because reading was too hard and writing was inconceivable. As my next birthday will be the 50th, I want to make the most of whatever’s in me, so that I can be a conduit of grace to others as she and Elizabeth Goudge, Jan Karon, Judy Christie, Patricia Sprinkle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie have been to me. It most likely won’t be via fiction writing but whatever I’m supposed to do I’m committing here, on the vigil of the first Sunday of Advent–and our very last day of this liturgical year–to a new outlook.

Recently, the most affirming words I’ve read in a long time came from her journal on her 40th birthday, at a time when she was experiencing piercing pain from publisher after publisher with their rejection letters and she had fallen into such great despondency that she decided she was meant to renounce her writing. But after a day of tears and a typewriter ensconced in a shroud, she finally came to a place where she realized something profound about herself.

I have to write. That’s the gift I’ve been given. And even if I am never, ever published again it is still what I have to do…I’m glad I made that decision about myself as writer in the moment of utter darkness in the pits, because it’s very real…It was a very real decision. And it is a decision we all have to make.

Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase, from the chapter “The Discovery of the Vocation.”

In the response to the question, “What book changed your life?” writer Annie Dillard says:

“A Wrinkle in Time” saved me because it so captured the grief and sense of isolation I felt as a child. I was 8 years old when it came out, in third grade, and I believed in it–in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience. This place was never a good match for me, but the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation as great books have done ever since. I must have read it a dozen times.

From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/books/review/anne-lamott-by-the-book.html?ref=books&_r=0

For those interested in learning more, the best website is
http://www.madeleinelengle.com/
where you can find Twitter and Facebook feeds, and a blog with unique and informative posts.

By the way, the day I found a hardcover copy of Wrinkle signed “Tesser well!” by the author was one of the most eerily joyful days of my life, as if I had connected with a writer whose books had helped me and whose words on writing always inspire me to just do it…or as Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And so now I’m doing just that. Thank you, Madeleine, for your honest revelations about the writing life but also thank you for writing, your contributions to your family, community, and the world at large. I look forward to meeting you one day when time has wrinkled for me and I’m no longer bound by chronos time but exist in complete kairos time.

P.S. I find it interesting that today is also C.S. Lewis’ birthday as well, another favorite author…”Coincidence? I think not!”

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