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As someone who is very proud of her Irish heritage, I was excited to attend the first annual St. Patrick’s Parade in downtown Knoxville last year.  Because my sister and her husband had a float in the parade, our whole family got front row VIP seats for the event, and I was able to snap lots of great pictures.

Parade 1Parade 2Parade 3Parade 4Parade 5Parade 6Parade 7Parade 8Parade 9Parade 10Parade 11Parade 12Parade 13Parade 14Parade 15Parade 16Parade 17

One of the parade’s organizers, Christy Connor Watkins, is a friend–and she liked these pictures when they appeared on Facebook.  As a result, I’ve got my own VIP pass for tomorrow’s event–which this year includes even more festivities following the parade–so I can take pictures again!

For more information on the parade and the “Cel-O’bragh-tion” to follow, visit the KSPP website.

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Eve.

The first woman.  The mother of all the living.  Adam’s companion.

What do you think of when I say her name?  How do you picture her?  Are your thoughts positive–or negative?

when we were eve

When I was offered a copy of this book by a representative of Franciscan Media in exchange for my honest review, I wondered what the title could mean, and my thoughts weren’t positive.  My gut reaction was to think of Eve as that weak and sinful woman who brought sin and death into the world through pride and disobedience, dragging Adam and all the rest of us down with her.

And my reaction is kind of the whole point of the book.  Our feelings about Eve mirror our feelings about ourselves–women who are no longer able to walk before God naked and unashamed.

But Colleen Mitchell encourages us to go back to Eden, to think about how Eve must have been before the Fall, to empathize with the weakness that led her to sin, and to discover our own “Eden instinct” that draws us to seek God’s original desires for us.

She encourages us to remember how good it was when God first made the world, and especially the unique place woman held as His final creation:  “As the culmination of God’s creative love, we arrive at the shaping of woman . . . in all the world, nothing exists that can fulfill the need for woman.”

This is a book that begs to be read carefully and prayerfully, and probably several times.  It would be ideal for a women’s book and/or prayer group.  Each chapter includes quotations from Scripture, reflections by the author, a story from an individual woman about her journey back to Eden, and questions for further study.  It concludes with a section of benedictions for your body that are incredibly moving.

This book made me cry more than once.   The personal stories shared in each chapter brought to mind some of my own struggles with body image issues.  As most women know, this is an incredibly painful topic that many would rather avoid than confront as this book encourages its readers to do.

But this is a joyful book, too, because it offers us hope that we CAN make our way back to Eden, and I recommend it to any woman who would like to reclaim some of that original joy.

franciscan media

 

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Last year for Lent I participated in an online book club via WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) in which we read and discussed Walk in Her Sandals.  Our facilitator (Allison Gingras of Reconciled to You) came up with the fun Instagram challenge below.

lenten walk.png

At first I was content to share a picture but as is my way I quickly had to make it harder for myself by coming up with a quotation for each day as well.  Having done all that work, I thought I would at least share the fruits of my labors in case anyone might find them helpful or enjoyable!

The quotations are attributed, and the pictures are all mine.  🙂

DAY 1         

Word:  Walk     Picture:  Conservatory in Como Park, St. Paul, MinnesotaLent pic 1Excited to start the Lenten journey!

DAY 2     

Word:  Disciple     Picture:  Roof of parking garage in downtown Knoxvillerefugee-march-14Love this picture of Lorelei with the sign she carried when we marched in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. With our parish church in the background and the sign she is holding, I think this picture says a lot about the demands of discipleship.

DAY 3     

Word:  Grace     Picture:  Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, KentuckyLent pic 2“Do you want the Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often.” ~ Saint John Bosco  

DAY 4     

Word:  Season     Picture:  Forks of the River Trails in Knoxville, TennesseeLent pic 3“Love is a fruit in season at all times and within reach of every hand.” ~ Mother Teresa 

DAY 5     

Word:  Open     Picture:  Statue of Mary in my gardenLent pic 4“Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise. Whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts . . .” ~ Henri Nouwen

DAY 6     

Word:  King     Picture:  Main Altar, Cathedral of Saint Paul in MinnesotaLent pic 5“This is the calling of Christians: . . . To make this kingdom of Christ a reality, to eliminate hatred and cruelty, to spread throughout the earth the strong and soothing balm of love.” ~ Saint Josemaria.

DAY 7     

Word:  Gift     Picture:  William on his 16th birthdayBest of 2017 - Willima's birthday“If you . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” ~ Matthew 7:11. May we all greet God’s gifts with the same delight William showed upon opening this one!  

DAY 8     

Word:  Wait     Picture:  side altar, Cathedral of Saint PaulLent pic 6Psalm 130:5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”

DAY 9     

Word:  Hosanna     Picture:  Sky in front of my houseLent pic 7Isaiah 6:3: “Holy holy holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of Your glory!” 

DAY 10     

Word:  Empty     Picture:  Ancient bowl at the Minneapolis Institute of ArtLent pic 8Empty me, Lord, that I may be filled with You. 

DAY  11     

Word:  Abandon     Picture:  Carl Cowan Park in Knoxville, TennesseeLent pic 10Saint Ignatius Loyola: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they would allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” 

DAY 12     

Word:  Heart     Picture:  University of Tennessee Trial Gardens, KnoxvilleLent pic 11Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

DAY 13     

Word:  Cleanse     Picture:  Front porch of our former homeLent pic 12      Psalm 51:2: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

DAY 14     

Word:  Love     Picture:  Our mantel at ChristmasLent pic 131 Corinthians 13:13:  “There are three things that last . . . The greatest of these is love.”

DAY 15     

Word:  Sacrifice     Picture:  Pieta at Cathedral of Saint Paul in MinnesotaLent pic 14Mother Teresa: “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His LOVE than in your weakness.”

DAY 16     

Word:  Saint     Picture:  Chapel of Saint Patrick at Cathedral of Saint PaulLent pic 15“All hail to Saint Patrick!” ~ Father Frederick Faber

DAY 17     

Word:  Generous     Picture:  Forks of the River Trails in KnoxvilleLent pic 16St. Louis de Montfort: “Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.” 

DAY 18     

Word:  Trust     Picture:  Lighthouse in Duluth, MinnesotaLent pic 17“I will trust the promise. You will carry me straight to shore.” ~ Rend Collective

DAY 19     

Word:  Good     Picture:  Detail of one of my Christmas decorationsLent pic 18Good Saint Joseph, pray for us! 

DAY 20     

Word:  Victory     Picture:  Bookwalter Cemetery in Knoxville, TennesseeLent pic 191 Corinthians 15:55: “Where, O death, is your victory?”

DAY 21     

Word:  Sight     Picture:  Cathedral of the Assumption in LouisvilleLent pic 202 Corinthians 5:7: “We walk by faith and not by sight.”

DAY 22     

Word:  Strength     Picture:  My son Teddy after sweeping the LiftathonLent pic 21Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him that gives me strength.”

DAY 23     

Word:  Cross     Picture:  Freedom Baptist Church in Rosedale, MarylandLent pic 22We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

DAY 24     

Word:  Mary     Picture:  Boticelli painting at the Baltimore Museum of ArtLent 23“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”  ~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe

DAY 25     

Word:  Suffering     Picture:  Bookwalter Methodist Cemetery, KnoxvilleLent 24Lamentations 1:12: “Is it nothing to you, all who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering?” 

DAY 26     

Word:  Prayer     Picture:  St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Harpers FerryLent 25“Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” ~ St. Ephraim of Syria 

DAY 27     

Word:  Silence     Picture:  Jefferson Rock in Harpers Ferry, West VirginiaLent 26“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ~ Mother Teresa 

DAY 28     

Word:  Faithful     Picture:  E. Vedder Painting, Baltimore Museum of ArtLent 27“The Sorrowing Soul between Doubt and Faith”   Mother Teresa: “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

DAY 29     

Word:  Petitions     Picture:  Statue at the Baltimore Museum of ArtLent 28Saint Thomas Aquinas: “. . . Since she is the Queen of Mercy . . . She cannot refuse your petition.”

DAY 30     

Word:  Watch     Picture:  My son’s kitten, SawyerLent 29Luke 21:36: “Be always on the watch . . . that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

DAY 31     

Word:  Frozen     Picture:  Saint Francis in my gardenLent 30“The sky can never be frozen/because its vastness has chosen/all warmth of our lives as we look above/with unbreakable hearts armoured in love.” ~ Munia Khan 

DAY 32     

Word:  Peace     Picture:  Festival of Nations at DollywoodLent 31“Let there be peace on earth . . .” ~ Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

DAY 33     

Word:  Darkness     Picture:  Jack O’Lantern Spectacular in LouisvilleLent 32“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

DAY 34     

Word:  Sunrise     Picture:  Morning in my front yardLent 33Psalm 65:8: “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

DAY 35     

Word:  Maternity     Picture:  Cathedral of the Assumption, LouisvilleLent 34G.K. Chesterton: “Mary leads us to Christ, but Christ leads us back to His Mother, for without Mary’s maternity, Jesus would become a mere abstraction to us.”

DAY 36     

Word:  Beginning     Picture:  Pellissippi Greenway,  KnoxvilleLent 37“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:16.17.

DAY 37     

Word:  Freedom     Picture:  Cades Cove, Smoky Mountainsfall 2016 2“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” ~ John Paul the Great

DAY 38     

Word:  Spring     Picture:  My summer gardenLent 38Saint Therese of Lisieux: “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” 

DAY 39     

Word:  Joy     Picture:  Painting by Emily for my father’s birthdayLent 35“All the trees in the forest sing for joy.”  Psalm 96:12

Picture 2:  John and I, Christmas Eve 2016

Lent 36“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love.” ~ Mother Teresa

 

DAY 40     

Word:  Flower     Picture:  Late Summer gardenLent 39Saint Jean Vianney: “As a vigilant gardener labors from morning till night to destroy the weeds in his garden, and to ornament it with flowers, so let us labor every day to uproot the vices of our soul and to adorn it with virtues.”

DAY 41     

Word:  Light     Picture:  Cades Cove, Smoky MountainsLent 40“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.” 1 John 1:5

DAY 42     

Word:  Fire     Picture:  Backyard Christmas tree bonfireLent 41“Go forth and set the world on fire.” ~ Saint Ignatius Loyola

DAY 43     

Word:  Sisters  Picture:  Emily and Lorelei on Election Day 2016Lent 42       “Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” ~ Unknown

DAY 44     

Word:  Room     Picture:  Inn at Woodhaven, LouisvilleLent 43“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father.” Matthew 6:6 

DAY 45     

Word:  Happiness     Picture:  Lorelei with a longed-for Christmas giftLent 44“You pray, you love–that is the happiness of man upon the earth.” ~ Saint Jean Marie Baptist Vianney

DAY 46     

Word:  Drink     Picture:  Teddy during Junior Parents’ WeekendLent 45Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart.”

DAY 47     

Word:  Easter     Picture:  Immaculate Conception Church, KnoxvilleIMG_5380John Paul II: “We are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.”

Have a blessed Lent!

 

 

 

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This week was Kitchen Week, but my kitchen is far from finished for a couple of reasons.

One, I never planned to do the whole thing this week because there weren’t enough days/categories for me to go through everything (I have a lot of dish ware I want to go through).

Two, John has been watching me, y’all.  He was inspired and asked me to help him go through his half of the closet and bedroom.  I had to strike while the iron was hot, so three day of Kitchen Week I was actually back in the bedroom helping him.  We still need to minimize his part of the bathroom and then maybe I will post pictures of the whole thing.  It looks wonderful!

We made a trip to Goodwill this week to drop off the fruits of our labors:

kitchen 14.jpgI already have another bag ready to go!

Now I’ll show you what we (that is Lorelei and I) did manage to do in the kitchen this week.  On the first day, we did the pantry.  We have a closet we call a pantry, and then a cabinet where we keep food, so we did both of those.

We got rid of a lot of things in the pantry and rehomed others.  There wasn’t really a lot to get rid of in the cabinet but at least we straightened it up!

The next day we did refrigerators.  Yes, that was plural.  Is it crazy that we have THREE?  Two were given us when the house burned down, and then when my father upgraded and gave me his nice one, I moved one of them to the garage.

I got rid of a few things from each fridge, but more importantly I relocated things in a way that made more sense to me.  So the one in the kitchen has things we use every day, and the freezer has as much of the meat and vegetables and such as it will fit, which is sadly not too much.

The garage refrigerator is near the kitchen, so I like to keep extras of things there, like second bottles of ketchup or steak sauce.  I also keep baking things I don’t need every day there, like vegetable shortening and stone ground corn meal.  And right now there is a bunch of beer and sodas left over from our Christmas party there.

I don’t seem to have gotten a good picture of the freezer but what I have put in there is mostly ice packs. 🙂

Finally, the downstairs refrigerator is mostly used for its freezer capacity.  That’s where I put bulk meats, which means right now it’s full of steak.  Emily keeps a few things in the fridge because her room is down there, but mostly when I stash something down there to make room upstairs, I forget what I’ve done and whatever it was goes bad.  As you can see, I also put some of the leftover party beer down there.

On the third day, it was time to tackle the junk drawer.  I don’t know what I thought was going to be so hard about that.  We ended up throwing out almost everything in it!  I did have Lorelei go around the house testing out all the keys we found.  We labeled the ones that fit something and threw the rest away!

I am pretty proud of that! Isn’t it awesome?

Last day was spent cleaning out under the sink.  We got rid of several vases, and discovered a leak requiring the assistance of a plumber!  If it hadn’t been for minimalizing who knows when I would have found it!

We will be coming back to the kitchen eventually to do the cabinets we didn’t get to this time.

Want to see more?  Here is Week One, here is Week Two, and here is my explanation of Catholic Minimalism.

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Going back again to the historical event–imagine the wise men, weary with their long journey, seeing that star growing closer and closer, finally beholding the infant king, being able to present their gifts to Him!  It was the culmination not just of a physical journey, but of years of studying and waiting and no doubt praying.  Don’t you wish you could have been there?

That first manifestation of Christ can seem very long ago and out of reach to us, especially once the Feast of the Epiphany is over and the manger scene has been put away.  For insight into how we might encounter Him today, we can find clues in the story of the Other Wise Man.

Read more at Everyday Ediths.

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Well, it’s been a WEEK, y’all.  And what a week it has been.  Three of us (including me) had the flu, and school was closed three days for snow and super-cold (for Tennessee) weather.  Staying on task under such circumstances was challenging.

But it’s supposed to be a Challenge, right?  So I persevered, with Lorelei’s (somewhat less enthusiastic) assistance.

This week was bathrooms, of which we have FOUR. However, one of those belongs to Emily (that is to say, it’s the one she uses and it’s full of her stuff, even though it’s also the one on the main level that gets the most use overall).  I can’t minimize someone else’s stuff (at least, not an adult someone’s).  I hope she will be inspired by my efforts and do it herself some time soon.  The other bathroom is in the basement, and was Jake’s domain before he moved out, which means all the drawers are still full of his stuff.

So we worked on the two upstairs bathrooms, the master bath and what we call the kids’ (i.e. Lorelei and William) bath.

It was super time-consuming to make all those before-and-after pictures I used last time.  So I’m not doing it, especially since I am already behind posting this.

KIDS’ BATHROOM

bathroom 13bathroom 25

Well, that’s the overview and I don’t blame you for being confused because not much happened there except rearranging things.  I wish I could have convinced Lorelei that we don’t need that Christmas bear to remain on display at all times but “it has always been there” is hard to argue with.  Anyway, the meat of this project was the drawers and cabinets, which I had been wanting to tackle forever but had avoided thinking it would be such a pain and take SO LONG.

Y’all, that took 15 MINUTES, tops.

We threw almost everything away.  I’ll bet we had 20 packages of unopened dental floss in there, just for starters.  (What that says about Lorelei’s dental hygiene shall go unremarked upon.)  Anyway, what wasn’t garbage was either relocated or organized and then it was on to the master bathroom.

MASTER BATHROOM

bathroom 1bathroom 10

Right away you are going to notice two things:  one, there’s not a huge difference; and two, I’m only showing you half of the bathroom.  I’m already fairly organized about my bathroom and all that stuff on the counter is more-or-less regularly used.  I like it out there where I can see it and don’t have to worry about putting it away all the time.  So the biggest change was getting rid of the coffee maker, which was purely aspirational as I have not used it ONCE in the six years it has been sitting there.

As for the other side of the sink, that is John’s side, and it desperately needs minimizing, believe me!  But he is going to have to buy in, and we are still working on that.  However, drawers and cabinets are ALL MINE, so see below:

bathroom 7bathroom 11

There is another cabinet and three more drawers but as you can tell from the picture above I am already pretty organized about the bathroom so there just wasn’t much of a change–not enough to justify pictures, anyway.  Am I oversharing by letting y’all see all that motel lotion I have collected?

I’m really pleased with this last little bit–the area around the bath, which required a little trip to Target. 🙂

bathroom 6bathroom 8

A little more detail:

bathroom 9

And that’s a wrap!  Next up, the kitchen!

Read about Week One: Master Bedroom

Read about Catholic Minimalism

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As a somewhat sheepish occasional reader of Christian romance novels, I have been wishing for years that there was a Catholic equivalent.  So when Catholic author Amanda Hamm asked if I would like to read her latest novel (for free, in exchange for my honest review) I was super excited.

That said, being used to the Protestant take on the genre, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot–a light read, something to wile away an afternoon with a hint of Catholicism thrown in.  I am delighted to tell you that They See a Family is so much more than that.

TheySeeaFamily

This is a sweet story that starts tragically, when the main character, Kay Donovan, learns that her sister and brother-in-law have died in a car crash while out for a rare evening alone, leaving Kay to care for two babies under the age of two.  Trapped in her apartment with her nephews and without their car seats, Kay immediately calls her friend William to help.

William is adorably awkward and has had a crush on Kay for awhile.  He instantly steps in and becomes an intrinsic part of Kay’s life as she leans on him for help with her new role.  Their friendship deepens and Kay starts to think of William as father/husband material.  But neither knows the other’s true feelings and misunderstandings abound.  Can they solve these problems to become a real family?

Well, of course they can because this is a romance and has to have a happy ending! But that doesn’t render the emotional resonance along the way any less real and rewarding.  I especially appreciate the many little homely details that are included starting with the problem of the car seats at the very beginning.  I also love the glimpses into William’s and Kay’s minds.  With their confusion and insecurities they seem very realistic, as well as likable.

As for the faith aspect, it’s more understated than in the Protestant romances I have read.  William and Kay are Catholic and talk about attending Mass together.  Eventually they seek the advice of a priest about their relationship.  They have a chaste courtship and their attempts to discuss sex are embarrassing for both of them.  I loved the subtle pro-life touch of William having a mentally disabled brother who is included in the story without making a big point about it.

They See a Family is available for pre-order on Amazon.   I’m so happy to have been introduced to Amanda Hamm’s work and am looking forward to reading more.

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