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Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

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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Growing up Catholic, if I thought about the word “vocation” at all, it was in the context of a call to the priesthood.  We were encouraged to pray for more vocations because of the looming shortage of priests.

And this sense of vocation as a specifically religious phenomenon was in fact its original sense–not necessarily as a call (the word comes from the Latin for “to call”) to the priesthood exclusively but nevertheless a call from God.

More recently the term has been diluted to refer to one’s way of earning a living, which may in fact be a calling from God for some, to use the gifts and talents with which He has blessed them to serve a particular purpose, but which for others may be nothing more than a preference or an accident of fate.

But in the Catholic sense vocation means primarily your call to the married life, the single life, or the religious life.  Starting from the the basic premise that “all men are called to the same end: God himself” (CCC 1878), it is up to us to discern with God’s help to which of these states He is calling us.

CCC 1603 states that ” . . . the vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.”  Marriage and motherhood is my vocation and I’ve never really doubted that even though at times I think somewhat longingly of how much easier I would find it to be holy if I were a cloistered nun.  From the time I was about 17 I fell in love with babies and I remember wondering how I could possibly stand having to wait years until I could have one of my own.  I loved shocking people with my declaration that my aim in attending a prestigious university was to find a husband.  I was only partly kidding, and I did it too.  I was married the summer after graduation and had a baby 18 months later.

I am a well-educated, extremely competent, intelligent woman, and my oldest son told me the other day that he had no doubt that I would have been a millionaire by now if I had chosen to pursue a career.  (I am NOT a millionaire, and we have struggled financially thanks to my remaining mostly unemployed.) But even though I’ve worked part-time outside the home and work at home now running my husband’s law practice, all I’ve ever really wanted was to have lots of children and be at home with them.  Even now with my youngest entering her teenage years I have no plans to embark on a career outside the home–after all, I’m expecting (and hoping) I will eventually need to be available to help care for grandchildren!

Yes, I am a writer and I LOVE to write more than just about anything, but writing (and any hobby) is an AVOCATION.  It’s our challenge to use our avocations, whatever they are, in service to our vocations.  It was instructive to me to discover that the derivation of avocation is from the Latin to call AWAY.  So if our avocations become a distraction from our vocation then it’s time to reevaluate.

If you believe God speaks to our hearts, even if not from openings in the clouds or burning bushes, then maybe you’ll believe He spoke to me the other day.    Everyone in the Catholic blogosphere is talking about their Saint of the Year, which you can randomly generate here.  I clicked and prayed, as I was advised to do, then clicked again . . . and got MARY.  Yes, that Mary.  I hope she will (of course I know she will) forgive me for being disappointed.  I mean, I know all about her already!  I wanted some obscure, interesting saint I could learn about, who would somehow mystically illuminate my path for the year.

So there’s also a word generator, where you can get a Word of the Year if you don’t want to pick one yourself.  So I clicked again and my word was . . . MOTHER.  OK, Holy Spirit, I see what you did there.  My mouth more or less dropped open.

So it looks like I’m supposed to be doubling down on that wife and mother vocation this year, and seeing how Mary can help me with that.  And who better, of course, than the young woman who accepted God’s extraordinary call and lived that vocation so fully and perfectly?

This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more posts on the topic of Vocation, click the image below!

CWBN vocations

 

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I’m a little late with my post for the CWBN blog hop this month.  I’m pretty good about dashing off a post at the last minute, but I felt such a serious topic deserved a little more reflection than that.

Out of the many hopes I have for the coming year, I’ve narrowed my choices to share in this post to two.  I’m having a hard time putting the first one into words without feeling like I am taking myself way too seriously, but this is the truth:  I want to grow in holiness.  Every day I feel sadness at how far the reality of who I am as a person, a Christian, a Catholic, is from what I know God wants me to be.  I’ve made some progress this year, what with Lent, and Confession, and prayer journaling, and my online Catholic groups, and the good Advent I am having, but there’s a lot left to do.  And I don’t want to fall into the trap of spending so much time in contemplation that I forget to put my faith into action in the world.

My second hope is more tangible.  After six years of renting the house we moved into very abruptly when our prior house burned to the ground, we have decided we are ready to become homeowners again.   It’s scary to put down roots again–both literal and figurative–but it finally seems like the right time.  There are a few roadblocks though so I ask for my readers’ prayers in successfully navigating them.

house and garden

Do you have hopes and dreams you’d care to share?  Add them in the comments if you wish.  And to see what some other Catholic bloggers are dreaming about these days, click the picture below.

CWBN december

 

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It's so strange that autumn is beautiful, yet everything is dying.- Unknown

As the year dies, it is only natural that our thoughts turn to musings on our own mortality.  For Catholics, Halloween is not only about pumpkins and trick-or-treating; it is the eve of the Feast of All Saints, followed immediately by the Feast of All Souls, days set aside for us to remember and pray for the dead.

As we get older it becomes harder to ignore the fact that every second that passes brings us that much closer to our own deaths.  Children, for whom time seems almost to stand still so that the time between Christmases feels infinite, usually don’t think about the inevitability of death as we do.

But children will encounter death, some sooner than others, and how we prepare them for this and help them deal with it when it comes is important.

There doesn’t have to be some big moment where you sit your kids down and explain death to them.  Better for it to be introduced early, before they can really comprehend it, as a natural process.  You can start with what your kids encounter as they play–dead insects.  If they’ve heard you talking about the fact that an insect is dead from infancy, they’ll always have at least a vague concept of what death is, which you can flesh out later when they have questions.  Tell them that the insect got tired and old and its body couldn’t work anymore, so it was time for it to die.

When they ask questions about their own eventual deaths or yours, it’s best to reassure them by saying that they–and you–are still very young and it will be a long time before you die.  There’s no need to muddy the waters at this point with discussions of death by accident or illness.  Sadly, there will no doubt come a time when you will have to answer those kinds of questions.

My children had their first close encounter with death when my grandmother died.  They were 16, 13, 12, six, and three at the time.  They knew Mima well so they were definitely affected by her death and I felt they should be a part of it.  We told the little ones that, like the insects, Mima was old and her body had worn out, but we also added that she had gone to Heaven to be with God as we all hope to one day. (I personally don’t think that it’s particularly necessary or useful to bring up the concept of Purgatory with little kids right when they are grieving the loss of a loved one.)

We took all the kids with us to the funeral home.  The open casket was at the far end of the room and we let the kids decide whether to approach.  Lorelei and her cousin Ella, who were three and five at the time, were interested and spent time looking at Mima.  William, who was six, did not want to look at her and stayed at the other end of the room.  The children also attended the funeral Mass and the graveside service.

It’s very important not to impose your own–or other people’s–expectations or interpretations on the grieving of children.  They may not look as upset as you think they should look, but don’t make assumptions.  When my dog was hit by a car when I was four, I was very upset, too upset to even talk about it.  I will never forget an adult making the comment that it didn’t seem like I cared very much.  So keep in mind that your children may need space to grieve, or they may need for you to draw them out so that they can express their feelings or ask questions.  I was very impressed by a friend whose husband died when their son was about ten years old.  He wanted to go sit with his friends at the funeral.  Some people might have insisted that he sit up front with the family but she gave him the space he needed and allowed him to find comfort with his friends.

Many children’s first experience with death is the loss of a pet.  My children experienced this for the first time a couple of years ago, when we had to put our elderly dog to sleep.  Lorelei and William accompanied me to the veterinarian and we all supported each other.  I was proud of how brave they were and how they comforted our dog through the process, constantly petting him and reassuring him with loving words.  When kids lose a pet they will almost certainly ask you if the pet will go to Heaven.  The best answer I’ve heard to that question is that when you go to Heaven and want your pet, he will be there.

Like everything else, children will learn more from your actions around death than your words.  Do you talk about how you miss those who have died, or do your avoid discussing uncomfortable feelings?  Do you pray for those who have died and encourage your children to join in? (That’s when you can explain about Purgatory!)  Do you lead by example by attending funerals of those you know whenever possible and encouraging your children to come when appropriate?

My grandfather died when I was 13, and his was the first funeral I ever attended.  For years I was uncomfortable with the whole idea of “viewing” the body, and dreaded going to funerals.  But forcing myself to attend many out of a sense of duty and obligation over the past several years changed my attitude.  In one tragic week several summers ago, a high school friend’s son committed suicide, the father of one of Teddy’s football teammates died in an accident, and the father of one of his classmates committed suicide.  I took Teddy to the funeral of one father, and he accompanied me to take food to the family of the other one.  Set an example for your children with your actions when death touches you, and encourage their participation, and they will internalize the value of these rituals and will not fear them.

This post is part of the Catholic Women Bloggers Network Bloghop.  For more writing on this topic, click below.

siena-sisters

blog hop death

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Growing up, one of my most prized possessions was my Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.  One of those massive volumes you see (or used to) at the library, it was very expensive, and my grandmother bought it for me so that I could look up pronunciations for the words in my Spelling Bee book.  Before that my father had to go to the library and spend an entire day using their copy!

I lost my dictionary when my house burned down, but it had been years since I’d needed it, the Internet having taken its place as the ultimate reference tool.  But I still have that impulse to look up words, especially when I’m seeking inspiration in my writing.

As I sat down to write my piece on Mission, with many ideas already swirling in my head, I looked up the meaning and history of the term, to confirm what I thought I knew: that mission comes from a Latin word meaning “to send.”  Why do I know this?  Because many priests have mentioned it in the context of explaining that the final words of the Latin Mass: “Ite, missa est,” should be interpreted as a charge to the assembly, that we are being sent forth to do God’s work in the world.

You can read the rest here:  Everyday Ediths

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I’m sitting here in my office working on bills as if it were any other Saturday even though a seismic shift occurred in my world less than 24 hours ago.  Because life does, in fact, go on.

Twenty-two-and-a-half years ago, give or take, we welcomed our third child.  This was our second baby in just over a year, and we brought him home to a 2.5 bedroom apartment and placed him in the cradle by our bed, which we hadn’t even bothered to put away between babies.

We named this 12 lb. bundle of joy Richard Theodore because I’d always wanted a boy I could call Teddy, and the name suited him well as he grew from big baby to roly-poly toddler who filled out 4T rompers by the time he was a year old.

Teddy and the Teletubbies 2

Teddy was my baby for six years.  I developed extremely toned biceps from toting around my 75 lb. four-year-old.  He was none too pleased about the arrival of his baby brother, but he was in kindergarten by then and already building a reputation as the smart, academic achiever that he would continue to be all the way through college.

Teddy Zorro Birthday 2

You know the rest of the story.  The days are long but the years are short and all that.

Teddy (or to use his preferred name, Theo) graduated from college in May.  Yesterday I dropped him off at the airport.  Now he’s in San Francisco, where he’ll start his first professional job on Monday.

Right now I feel like posting a comment on every baby picture I see on Facebook saying enjoy them while you can they grow so fast but that’s not a thing that anyone really understands or wants to hear when their kids are fretful infants or whining toddlers or stubborn preschoolers.  I’ve read many a thread and post complaining about the meddlesome old ladies who say those kinds of things.  But here’s the deal:  we aren’t trying to be bossy or irritating or to minimalize the work and stress of coping with small children–we just want you to realize what we didn’t; we want you to fully experience the joy of what you have, because we would give anything just to have one more day of it.

Because twenty-two-and-a-half years ago I brought a baby boy home from the hospital.

And just like that, he was gone.

Teddy Leaving for SF

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Leaps of faith are a fact of life in our family.  Our family life has been built on radical acts of trusting that everything would work out one way or the other.

John and I had been married eleven months and had a baby on the way when we abandoned good jobs in Washington, D.C. and moved back to my hometown, where we had family but no prospects at all.  Oh, we tried to find jobs before moving, but our failure didn’t put a damper on our plans in the least.   In the year it took for John to gain resident status so he would be eligible for in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee College of Law, he worked at the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes by night.  I got a secretarial job just weeks before I could no longer conceal my pregnancy, which would have severely limited my ability to find a good job.

We had one kid by the time John started law school and the third was on the way by the time he passed the bar exam.  There were hard and scary times, uncertain times, and often it was only looking back at what we’d been through that we could see how our prayers were always answered.  Not necessarily in the way that we thought we wanted them to be, not always immediately, but always, in God’s time.

Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

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