When the Bad Guys Win

Today’s First Reading is really satisfying, isn’t it? Imagine King Antiochus, secure in the power of his army, head full of dreams of silver and gold. He is so certain of victory that when things don’t go his way, he is dismayed. In today’s slang, we might say he is “shook.” He is so overcome that he takes to his bed and prepares to die. On his deathbed he recognizes the price he has paid for his greed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if things always worked out that way—the virtuous victorious, the evildoers overthrown? That is not the norm in our fallen world, though.

Read the rest of my reflection for Inspire Daily at the link below:

When the Bad Guys Win

What I Read in September

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I have turned into a person who 1) needs to set a reading goal and 2) finds a five-book-a-month goal challenging at times.

I was the kid who always had her nose in a book–brushing my teeth, walking down the hall, eating my breakfast, riding in the car . . . I was reading all the time. You know how kids are with their phones these days? That was me, only with books.

I read around a book a day most of my life until college.  And even up until about ten years ago I was already reading something. I blame the internet. I still read a lot, only not books.

ANYWAY, that’s why I set this goal. And I did not make it in September! In fact, I only read THREE books!

I know why–it was the first full month of school. And my 2:00-3:30 reading time often was absorbed by helping William with online college. That’s one reason. The other is that two of the books I was reading for my online Georgetown book clubs just were not that compelling, making my reading of them more of a chore.

Here’s what I DID read.

Rewilding Motherhood by Shannon K. Evans

Shannon is a blogger and writer whose work I’ve been following for a long time. I loved her first book, Embracing Weakness, and so I was excited not only to read this one but to participate as a member of the launch team, which got me an advance copy and was so much fun.

Beautifully written and full of the wisdom of an amazing array of theologians and thinkers—all of them women—this is a book that challenges you to think and then to think some more. Shannon helps you do that with suggestions for “Going Deeper” at the end of each chapter. My favorite was her invitation to go back into my childhood to remember all the ways I enjoyed spending time back then, looking for clues to what I should be doing now: “The activities that absorbed us as children can speak to the unique and particular way our souls were formed.”

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

This was the one Georgetown book I did enjoy, although I don’t know if I’d read it again. It’s about an aspiring writer who is still reeling over her mother’s death and is working as a waitress and drowning in student loans.  The part that stressed me out was her having two boyfriends at once–and then I disagreed with which one she picked! If you have read it, let me know if you agree with me!

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

This was my fun read, second in The Wallflowers series of historical romances. I was a big fan of this genre as a teen, then I got bored. But these are different, with quirky heroines who take their destinies into their own hands, albeit within the rigid confines of the patriarchal society in which they live. I want to read the next one but my daughter says we have to wait until Winter, when it is set.

Of course, I was reading other books last month which I did not finish . . . which means I have already finished three in October, so I’ll have a lot to tell you about next month! In the meantime, I’m linking up with An Open Book–just click here for more great reads.

Let Your Light Shine

Today’s Gospel Acclamation exhorts us to let our light shine, and in the Gospel Jesus reminds us not to place that light under a bushel. At the end of their exile, the Israelites could not hide the light of their faith and their appreciation of the good things God had done for them.

Surely God has done great things for all of us, but how good are we at shining?

Read the rest at the link below! You can also find it in the MyParish app if you have it, or sign up for daily reflections at Diocesan.com.

Let Your Light Shine!

What I Read in July

Well, this was the first month I failed to meet my five book reading goal. I read parts of several other books that will show up in my August post, but  only completed four. It is getting harder and harder to preserve my dedicated reading time, and with school starting back up in August I am going to have to re-think my schedule.

I started The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings years ago and did not finish it, so I started over. This is a very accessible look at Tolkien’s philosophy, and there is a lot on C.S. Lewis too!

I should have read Divine Mercy for Moms last year, when Faustina was my Saint of the Year (which is why I bought the book in the first place!) but better late than never!  This book is a nice intro to Saint Faustina’s story and spirituality, and comes with practical advice, a study guide for individuals and small groups,and daily reflections and prayers.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems before They Happen is the last of the second quarter of Georgetown book club reads. It was a fascinating look at problem-solving. I liked its emphasis on analysis and concrete steps rather than just worrying about the future and succumbing to paralyzing anxiety. I feel myself thinking new thoughts after reading it.

Finally, The Pilgrim of Hate is the next installment of the Brother Cadfael books, which continue to delight me.  I drop everything else to read these when my daughter brings me the latest from the library. I am halfway through the series now!

As ever, I am linking up with An Open Book. You can find more great reads by clicking here. And please comment below with your own latest reads!

When Charity and Love Prevail

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1822).

I have a clear memory of myself as a little girl, pondering God and his ways. How could it be that He was everywhere? Or that He always was? And how could He possibly expect me to love everybody, even people I did not even know, or people I did not like?

Later I learned the difference between theological and human virtues, and as I grew (and especially after I became a mother) my heart expanded and filled with the love of neighbor the Catechism speaks of.

When most of us read “charity” our minds turn specifically to charitable giving, perhaps the writing of checks, or dropping off old clothes at a donation site, or even tax write-offs. This month we commemorate the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Although best known as the saint we pray to when we need to find a lost item, Saint Anthony is also the patron of the poor. This patronage arises from the story of a woman who gave the poor the weight of her drowned child in grain after Saint Anthony interceded on her behalf to restore the child to life. When we follow her example and give to those in need, our actions should be animated by the virtue of charity, for “Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love (Catechism 1827).

Ten years ago, I experienced both kinds of charity when a tragedy befell our family. My husband and I and our youngest children were out of town attending a funeral when the phone call came, telling us that our house was on fire. We arrived home two days later to find a smoky, sodden ruin. We lost almost everything we owned.

Instantly homeless and bereft, we were also almost instantly lifted up by the prayers, love, and generosity of the various communities of which we were a part. Hundreds of people, most of whom we did not know personally, came to our aid. Friends welcomed our older children into their homes, my son’s football team provided us with evening meals for months, and clothes for the kids poured in from folks far and near. On the day we moved into a new home three weeks after the fire, it took a 24-foot truck to collect all the donations that fully furnished our house.

This was more than perfunctory charity: it was the love of neighbor that Jesus calls us to. Because of this love, what might have been purely tragic was transformed into something that was also beautiful.

Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest (Catechism 1829).

This reflection originally appeared as a Witness Testimony in the June 2021 Lily Box from Seeds for Sainthood.

 

 

When You Became You: A Scientifically Accurate Celebration of Human Beings

I have an article published in the Spring issue of Celebrate Life Magazine.

Brooke and Christiane worked with a New York Times best-selling illustrator for four months, providing guidance and ideas for the illustrations. According to Brooke: “The illustrations truly capture and enhance the essence of the book’s scientifically accurate celebration of our shared humanity, in terms of human development. The illustrator [who was advised by her American partners to omit her name from the book due to its “controversial” nature] took great care to make the artwork engaging and beautiful while keeping the science at the center of the story.”

These beautiful illustrations are inspired by the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development and by actual images of preborn human beings at various stages. In addition, the illustrations “incorporated abstract DNA strands, the infinity symbol, the Earth, the solar system, chemical symbols, elements from the periodic table, etc. to reinforce the message that we are introducing children to important science about when a human being . . . begins to exist.” 

You can read the rest here!

What I Read in March

I read a lot in March! I am once again becoming the girl who always has a book in her hand, and I love it!

I was not expecting to read The Turn of the Key, which was a book Emily got for herself at the library.  But as she described the plot, I became intrigued.  It’s a mystery inspired by The Turn of the Screw, which I read in college.  I couldn’t put it down and it kept me guessing right up till the end.

Every Catholic woman (those who hang out online, anyway) is reading Falling Home this month it seems.  It’s a vulnerable, touching, and inspirational memoir. A couple of my favorite quotes: “[G]oodness doesn’t become any less good or valuable because it only lasts for a short time,” and “But she is full of hidden treasures! She must be! Isn’t everyone? . . . [E]veryone has marvels and miracles woven within them.

Here’s another book every Catholic I know seems to be reading this month: Consecration to St. Joseph The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.  And I’m going to voice a super-unpopular opinion: I did not like this book and I would have stopped reading it very soon if not that 1) It was one of the things I planned to do for Lent and 2) I wanted to be consecrated to St. Joseph.  As it was, I admit I skimmed parts. I hate to go on at great length in a negative way about a book that seems to be bearing great fruit for so many people so I’ll just say that it was repetitive and simplistic, and a lot of the “theology” seemed to be the writer’s opinion, as far as I could tell.

Bookclub time! This month I was participating in the Fountain of Carrots readalong of The Reckless Way of Love. Having read a biography of Dorothy Day not long ago I was eager to learn more of her wisdom, like “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and whatever you do for them you do to Him,” and “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.” I highly recommend this short and easy way if you want a quick introduction to the thinking of this holy woman.

I read Me and White Supremacy and completed the associated workbook as part of another online book club led by Leticia Ochoa Adams.  This is part of my ongoing anti-racism work, about which I plan to write more later. Anyway, reading this is hard and it’s work, but it is necessary work.

I continued my nostalgic revisit to the Anne series with the second installment, Anne of Avonlea, which primarily concerns Anne’s time as a teacher of the one-room schoolhouse she herself attended.  Here’s a lovely description of the heroine: “Anne was one of the children of light by birthright. After she had passed through a life with a smile of a word thrown across it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report.”

I don’t recall how I first came across Domestic Pleasures, but it was definitely by accident. I’ve never read any other books by the author, which I should probably remedy given how much I enjoy this one. This copy was a Christmas gift to replace the one I lost in the fire. It’s a tale of the intertwined lives and stories of Martha (ex-wife of Raymond); Charlie (Raymond’s divorce lawyer and now trustee of his estate); Jack and Phoebe, the teen kids of Martha and Charlie; Sophie (Charlie’s erstwhile girlfriend) and her unhappily-married sister, Connie; Patsy (Charlie’s ex-wife); and Gillis (Martha’s former lover and father of her toddler son).  At its heart it’s a sweet love story but philosophically it’s a reminder of how our lives are shaped both by random events and our connections.  It’s full of wisdom, for example: “Martha didn’t listen, because of course no one ever listens.

The Sanctuary Sparrow was another delightful visit to the medieval world of Brother Cadfael, former Crusader turned detective monk. These books never disappoint me and I am so glad that there are so many of them.

Did y’all count? That was EIGHT books so I surpassed my goal by three, and I read parts of lots of other things too, as you will eventually hear. Check out more books at the link below.

Trip to San Francisco

A Third Trip to San Francisco

Exactly one year ago today as I write, I was enjoying my third trip to San Francisco to spend time with my middle son.  In fact, that is also where I was two years ago and three years ago today, give or take a day.

This is poignant for more reason than one.  Not only was it the last trip we took before the pandemic dramatically shrank our world, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it was likely my last trip to San Francisco for years–because my son switched jobs and cities and likely the next trip we take will be to Boulder, Colorado, whenever it is safe to do so.

And while I am excited to go somewhere I have never been, and to have the chance to fall in love with a new city, I love San Francisco and at the moment have almost a visceral feeling of wrongness as I sit here in cold and dreary Knoxville.  Therefore, I will cheer myself up by sharing last year’s trip with you.

DAY ONE

No pictures here, y’all! This day was spent almost entirely in airports and planes, as flight delays up north grounded us in Knoxville for a time and caused us to be moved to a later flight due to a missed connection.  However, this resulted in the most pleasant cross-country flight ever.  Noting that our new economy seats were not adjacent, but that there were adjacent seats in a pricier area of the plane, I asked to be upgraded for free and they did it! We had no row in front of us and it was amazing, making up for not getting to our hotel until about 11 p.m.  Teddy, bless his heart, came to greet us and we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant for a very late supper.

DAY TWO

Teddy had to work, of course, but we got up bright and early for an event we had pre-arranged: a ferry ride around the Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge!

On our previous trips we stayed in the Financial District.  This time we decided to stay near Fisherman’s Wharf, so it was a short walk to the pier.

We arrived super early, but that was okay because it gave me time to find coffee at Biscoff.

Our early arrival paid off because we were first in line, and had our pick of seats–which for us was outside and upstairs.

This was our first time to see San Francisco’s famous sea lions.

The bridge is beautiful from every direction but my favorite is the picture I took directly underneath it.  It was a nice complement to our first visit, when I walked across it.

I got some good shots of Alcatraz.  Our tour of the island was a highlight of our second visit.

The sun was emerging from the clouds by the time we landed.  One thing I love about San Francisco in February, is that it is already spring.  We enjoyed the flowers as we headed to our next destination.

After our first two trips we are Uber pros now, and we took one to the Financial District where we were meeting Teddy for lunch.  What was even more exciting was that we were meeting Molly, his girlfriend, for the first time.  We walked to a nearby salad spot for a quick lunch.  That would be the last time we saw them that day, because it was also Valentine’s Day and we made separate dinner plans.

After lunch, I decided to walk back to the hotel.  At this point I am pretty familiar with some areas of the city.  I found Columbus Avenue and was on my way, John having opted for an Uber back to the hotel.

There are some places I had walked by many times and always wanted to investigate further.  This was my chance.  My first stop was the National Shrine of Saint Francis.

Below is an actual replica of the church Saint Francis restored in Assisi.

Just a little farther down the street is Saints Peter and Paul Church. This is a very Italian parish, with all the saints within labeled in Italian! It is staffed by the Salesians, founded by Saint John Bosco, which was special since he was my saint of the year in 2019.

What a blessing it was that I was able to steep myself in churches and saints that day.  I could not have known or even imagined that in just a few weeks churches would close due to the pandemic.  I have not been to Mass in person since some time in March 2020.

Eventually I arrived back at our hotel.  And it was time for more coffee which I enjoyed at the fire table below, definitely one of the highlights of our hotel!

John wanted to take another double-decker bus tour of the city, something we had enjoyed on our last visit.  This trip was not as fun, as it was later in the day and chillier, causing us to retreat inside the bus for warmth at some point.

So I did not take many pictures of note.  Above is the closest yet I have come to seeing Hamilton in a theatre though. 😉

Teddy and Molly had several restaurants planned for our visit so we decided to do Chinatown for our one night on our own.  Just look at this insane fried crab that we got.  Thank goodness that the waiter warned us that we only needed to order one!

DAY THREE

We met Teddy and Molly for breakfast at a diner they like, and from there took an Uber to Golden Gate Park, where we started our sightseeing at the Japanese Tea Garden.

From there, we headed more or less next door to de Young Museum.

We left via the sculpture garden, and then John opted to return to the hotel while we walked to the Conservatory of Flowers.

After that, Teddy, Molly, and I went to Ocean Beach for awhile, before grabbing a quick lunch.  They sent me home and we planned to meet for dinner to celebrate Teddy’s birthday.

We met later for a tour of Teddy’s apartment–he lived in a different location each of three years in San Francisco–then rode together to our fabulous dinner at Kokkari, a Greek restaurant Teddy took us to on our first visit.

DAY FOUR

We reconnected with Teddy and Molly the following morning in the Mission District, where they treated us to a fancy brunch in the outdoor courtyard of this theatre-turned-restaurant.

Next we toured the Mission District itself, including checking out some cool shops and some very fancy graffiti:

Per my request, our next stop was the Mission itself.  The smaller church pictured below is the oldest building in San Francisco.  Exhibits onsite show it standing all alone surrounded by countryside with the San Francisco topography all that is recognizable.

There was a graveyard too so Molly got a chance to find out how weird I actually am.

Finally we walked to Mission Dolores Park.  Climbing the hill was worth it for some beautiful views.

I needed to do some shopping for gifts for the kids we left at home, so after some discussion we agreed to meet later for dinner at a restaurant that had piqued my interest on earlier visits.

I like garlic, y’all, but garlic ice cream is a step too far.  We took it, though.  It was an experience but not one I expect to repeat.

After dinner we went to a very cool bookstore down the street for awhile before saying our good-byes and heading back to the hotel.

DAY FIVE

At least, I thought we said our good-byes but Teddy actually came by in the morning and sat at the fire table with me for awhile before we left for the airport. Thankfully we did NOT take the red-eye this time, and made it home by nightfall.

Quarantine has been good to me, but I do miss traveling, and Teddy, and San Francisco.

Word of the Year and Saint of the Year

It’s a new year, y’all! And that means the Catholic internet is asking everyone these questions: What is your Word of the Year? Who is your Saint of the Year?

If you are new to the concept I know it can sound a little strange–maybe even a little hokey! But over the past few years this new New Year’s tradition has become increasingly important to me and instrumental in directing my spiritual life.

How does one decide on a word and/or a saint?  Well, some people pray over it for a period of time.  Here’s a podcast episode about discerning your word.

If that feels uncomfortable to you, try this for your word, and this for your saint.  Be sure to say a little prayer before you click!

I know it seems a little silly, but who are we to put limits on the workings of the Holy Spirit?

The first year I engaged in this practice, I picked my saint first and got Mary.  And I was disappointed! I was looking forward to finding some new saint who I could learn about and have in my corner as an intercessor.  I was tempted to click again!

But the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing, y’all.  Because my word turned out to be MOTHER.  I decided this must mean I was supposed to really double down on my vocation of motherhood.

And 2018 certainly turned out to be the year for it!  In February we made our first visit to my far-away son, spending his birthday with him on the other side of the country.  In March we welcomed a daughter-in-law and hosted a wedding reception! I spent the whole summer being an awesome and fun mother to my youngest two kids.  And I shepherded my baby out of homeschooling and into public school (and bought her a dog too!).  All the while I worked on my goal of becoming holy by building a deeper relationship with the Blessed Mother by participating in Marian consecration.  It was definitely a year in which, with Mary’s help, I dove deeper into what it means to be a Catholic wife and mother.

So I was excited for my second year of picking a word and a saint.  I got Saint John Bosco, who I remembered reading about as a child as that fun guy who worked with kids, and then for my word I got WINK.  About which I thought, “What?” I REALLY wanted to click again.  And I will be honest: I never was exactly sure what to do with that.  The only thing I could come up with was the notion of having more fun in 2019.

I’m not sure how good I was at it, honestly! We did travel quite a bit, including our first cruise, but the kids and I did not repeat our fun-filled summer.  Of course, compared to 2020 the year was jam-packed with adventures!

And early in the year I received a financial appeal from a Catholic organization serving the poor in the Deep South, via the Bosco Nutrition Center.  Maybe that was why that saint picked me–I have donated regularly ever since.

Last year’s picks seemed to make a little more sense: St. Faustina and REVIVE.  St. Faustina’s message of “Jesus, I trust in you!” was perfect for 2020.  And I truly embraced the idea of reviving myself, physically and spiritually, last year. (More to come on that note.)

This year I received St. Lutgardis as my saint.  I so much never heard of her that I thought she was a man.  I have not done much more than read an account of her life online as yet, but I hope to dive deeper as the year goes on.

My word is INTEGRITY.  That is a quality that is important to me, certainly, but I was not very excited about it because I did not feel it had anything new to say to me.  But just a day later I stumbled onto this podcast episode on living an integrated life.  This gave me that AHA moment I was looking for so that is the direction I am going to be following with my word.

And to help me keep it in mind, I ordered a custom bracelet from Pink Salt Riot’s Word of the Year collection.  For just a few more days, you can choose from  several options including bracelets, keychains, and necklaces, personalized with your very own Word of the Year.  And if you shop from my link and use code LIFEINEVERYLIMB, these already affordable pieces will be 10% cheaper!

Do you have a Word of the Year? What about a Saint of the Year? Tell me about them in the comments!

My Catholic Vote

I love voting on Election Day, but wishing to leave nothing to chance in this crazy year, I took advantage of early voting last week.  I marked my paper ballot for Joe Biden, coloring it in very carefully and staring at it for a long time afterward before I scanned it, wanting to cherish the moment for which I had waited so long.

In choosing my candidate I followed a process I laid out here, and my conscience is absolutely clear, no matter how many of my fellow Catholics believe (and are happy to tell me) that my vote is a sin.

In 2008, I sat out the Presidential election.  In 2012, I voted none of the above.  In 2016, seeing Trump as a danger to our country, I voted for Hillary.

When Trump won, my Republican friends said I should give him a chance.  That he would surround himself with good people.  That he would grow into the office.  I did, and he didn’t.  If anything, his presidency has been more disastrous than I could possibly have imagined.

In fact, it has been so disastrous, and I believe him so unfit, that I would have supported any one of the Democratic Primary contenders this year.  If you want to know my thinking, check out the 963 reasons compiled here, rightly referred to below as horrors:

This election year, amid a harrowing global health, civil rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis, we know it’s never been more critical to note these horrors, to remember them, and to do all in our power to reverse them.

However, Joe was my number one choice from the get-go, primarily because I believed he was the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump.  His relative centrism, his likable personality, his years of experience, his ability to compromise, his relationships with folks on both sides of the aisle–these are the qualities of someone who could build a broad and diverse coalition of support, as he has gone on to do.  I had always liked Joe, but as I have learned more of his story, I have come to love him.  No longer is my vote just an anti-Trump vote.  It’s an enthusiastic vote for Joe Biden, and here are some of my reasons:

  • Because he writes things like this, and means them:

We all matter in the eyes of God, and it will take all of us to achieve the healing America so desperately needs. To follow God’s Greatest Commandment, and to love each other fully. Together, we can win the battle for the soul of our nation; navigate the multiple crises we face – ending this pandemic, driving our economic recovery, confronting systemic racism; address the scourge of poverty; pursue immigration and refugee policies that uphold the dignity of all; and do everything in our power to ensure that all God’s children have the hope and future they so rightfully deserve. (Read more here)

  • And, maybe most of all, because of this:

Our country is in trouble  We are broken and hurting, scared and divided.  Four years ago I believed–I still do–that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person ever to run for President.  I would never say that about Joe Biden.  But I DO believe, with all my heart, that he is the candidate most qualified to meet this moment and to bind our nation’s wounds.