Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas everybody! From me and Scythian!
If you don't know who Scythian is, they are one of the best Irish bands out there, and they are the reason for going to Milwaukee Irish Fest each year! It's also pretty sweet they are my fellow alumni from Franciscan University. Cheers to Christ the Newborn King!

Christmas Wonderland

It was after dark when I carried the water basin outside to dump out the filthy water after vacuuming the floors. I was just doing my thing, glad the work was almost done, glad to get rid of this dirty-looking water. As soon as I stepped outside into the night, I took a breath in–oh! The cold, clean air smelled sweet with freshness. The moon and stars were twinkling brightly over the freshly fallen snow, and in the bluish, white light, here and there around my feet, danced brilliant sparkles upon the snow. I watched in awe as the fine prisms of snowflakes caught the light in their delicate forms and winked at me. It was magical. All this for me? I wondered aloud. Had I not been coming outside to dump the water, I would have completely missed this spectacular sight. How lucky I felt in that moment.

Have you ever gazed on your life like it’s a landscape painting and marveled at the twists and turns that somehow got you to where you are now? Have you ever stopped amidst the day’s work and questioned why all this? Or have you grimaced at the thought of completing an impossible task and then stood amazed a few days later that you accomplished it? There are endless moments that awaken in us the question, “Why?” Ever since we were three, we have been haunted by mystery and the greatest philosophers, scientists, theologians, and scholars have puzzled over the mysteries of life.

The curious part is that even if I had not gone outside that night or stopped to take in the beauty, the sparkles still would have been there, glittering like sequins in the snow. Why all this lavishness? I mean, have you ever stopped to wonder? It’s not like any of us deserve this boundless outpouring of beauty and inspiration. When Alice found herself in Lewis Carroll’s wonderland and a horde of impossible opportunities were around her, she responded as a skeptic would.

“There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

When I think about my world, I agree that’s true. When I think of the mysteries in life, I realize how many “unbelievable” things I actually believe! I think God’s humor can be found in surprising paradoxes, such as Christmas. Who would have dreamed that God, who created the universe and all of us beautiful, silly, quirky, talented, awkward human beings, would come and take on the form of one of us? Then that the God-Man would choose to be miraculously conceived in the Virgin Mary! And that our Savior came not as a military giant but as a tiny, whimpering, adorable little baby with blinking eyes and open arms. That an immortal God subjected himself to human death! That God in His earthly body endured suffering and carried our sin and infirmities on the cross. And finally, that He rose from the dead and there is victory over death! To these “impossible” statements, any reasonable people ask, “Why?”

Some of us choose to respond like Alice. We’re busy or tired and don’t want to try. Or maybe we think to believe will demand too much from us. Maybe we’ve been hurt and feel that to try to believe would be too painful, vulnerable, or scary. But the Queen says we must only practice to learn the art of belief. It’s that simple, “Just believe.” Our present and our future never held so much promise than when we first believed. That’s where the twists and turns in my life’s landscape take on meaning and I begin to see the possibilities in my life. I begin to see hope in difficult situations.

The answer to these mysteries has been planted in our deepest desires, embedded in our dreams, sounding in our heartbeats, and echoed in the fairy tales and stories of ages past, stories old and ever new…

Once upon Christmas Day, the prince of the Kingdom of Peace was moved by love to disguise himself as a simple peasant boy to go walk through his land and rescue a beautiful servant girl, who he dreamed would become his princess. When she spotted the handsome peasant boy coming, she began to sing,

“Hark, my lover - here he comes

Springing across the mountains,

Leaping across the hills!”¹

When the prince, disguised as a peasant, came to call on her, he saw that she was laden down with burdens and her beauty was disfigured. She was in need of a healer. How could she become his princess in this state? So he softly called out to her, “Come to me…you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourself. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”²

He knew this was why he had come. Because he loved her so much, he took her burdens on himself and carried the chains that had weighed her beauty down. The burdens became so heavy upon him that his appearance became unrecognizable, and the townspeople said, “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him…oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny?”³

The burdens became so heavy that the cost was his life. He gave it willingly, handing himself over for her, “to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”!4

Three days he spent in the tomb. And on the third day, he rose from the dead, fully restored and glorious beyond all telling. With his beautiful princess at his side, he led her into his kingdom to live happily ever after. Her beauty shines so brightly now, it is fixed in the stars, and that is why the stars have never ceased captivating men. Shining as lights in dark places, they remind those on earth that their true destiny is with the King.

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Wishing you the joy of faith in the coming New Year!


¹Song of Songs 2:8 ... ²Matthew 11:28-30 ... ³Isaiah 53:2,8 ... 4 Ephesians 5:25-27

Monday, November 29, 2010

“My Heart Lies South” Book Review

I read 20 chapters of this book in one night’s sitting (that was yesterday) and finished the last 5 chapters tonight! It caused me to break out into guffaws, laughter and tears (warning: it’s hard to contain your emotion while reading this book, so you might as well let it have its reign!) That is how engrossed I was in the story My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage by Elizabeth Borton de TreviƱo. From page 1, I was hooked, intrigued by the main character, Miss Borton herself. She is a nineteenth-century journalist, sent to Mexico on a writing interview assignment and greeted by a public relations man. My life, too! (Well, minus the trip to Mexico...and minus the encounter with her husband-to-be. Okay, so just the writing part.) Miss Elizabeth Borton goes along doing her job in complete oblivion to what is happening around her: she is being courted by the gallant PR man Luis! But how would she know? She knows not that he is cruising briskly through the customs of Mexican courtship and checking off the hoops to jump through on his list. Soulful serenades, a meeting with Mamacita, dancing in the garden, and an official engagement celebrated with yellow cakes and sweet vermouth – but Elizabeth is clueless! (Take note, dear girlfriends, when traveling!)

In My Heart Lies South, Borton shows how an all-American woman with so much independence falls in love with one Mexican man and grows to embrace the culture so much so that it becomes a part of her. She wears all the hats, from curious spectator to active learner and finally falls gracefully into her new dress, always open, eager to learn and with humble acceptance. It is her humility and obedience that is like a gem, quite rare and beautiful to find in an American woman. But she learns by making mistakes, laughing at herself, crying tears of frustration, and learning moment by moment what gives life happiness, what makes love last, who holds families together, the madness of love, the fidelity of love, the safety of protection, the strength of a man, and the power of a woman within the family dynamic.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It speaks to the young woman who is learning about love. It relates with the young and fool-wise mother who is trying so desperately to raise her children right, but every one of her staunch arguments seems to backfire. It’s written to anyone who wants to be captured in the indomitable stronghold and safety net of a Mexican family.

Meet devout Mamacita. Look into her large, wise and mischievous eyes. She joyfully sacrifices everything for the sake of her family and is there through thick and thin. Meet the free-thinker Papacita who loves studying his books and looking after his grandchildren. Meet Beatriz and Roberto, the many tias (aunts), and a whole cast of characters who bring love and laughter to the bustling family scene.

Like Elizabeth, turn the time backwards and enter a time of traditional values and ways of life. Encounter a real Mexican family, live in their home and traipse around their town. Discover the meaning behind cultural customs, the spiritual ecstasy of the Catholic faith, and yes, even the not-so-glamorous traditions or embarrassing superstitions that remind us gently that our Church is made up of sinners. After reading this book, I have a whole new appreciation and affection for Family. Maybe it is possible to bring that adventure to our own.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Let us belong to God..."

It's Friday, and while many are leaning back, collars loosened, sipping hot beverages in their recliners, here I sit, writing, writing, writing. Somehow my life just got busier in a Friday!

How easy it is to get caught up in rushing around between work, family life, studies, ministries, pursuing dreams and so forth! Thankfully, the call to holiness doesn't demand that we remove ourselves entirely from a life of busyness, but that we "Belong to the midst of so much busyness," (St. Francis de Sales). What a good reminder for me. Let's focus on belonging to God, and to one another.

It is with this focus that we shall be given the rest: peace, strength, courage, refreshment, consolation, love and encouragement to keep on course. When the evening twilight of our lives darkens, we shall take up our eternal rest on high, along with our loved ones who have gone the way before us. No longer dead but alive in Christ, we shall all belong fully to God and fully to one another.

This post will be short. Like I said, I feel pulled in a dozen different directions and all of them good! Let's pray for each other!

(Month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Think I Can!

What a rough week! Oh, what a dark night of the soul! While I could complain in this blog about the trials and disappointments of this past week and month–which would be utterly boring and pointless for you to read–I shall instead focus on hope.

Hope? After this dark week? Yeah, that’s how I felt, until my friend surprised me by saying that I was the most hope-filled person she knows! And I began to wonder…why? Why do others say I am a person of hope? What makes a person of hope?

I was three years old, alone, in darkness, my head throbbing with pain, strange smells, strange bed, and foreign voices. Where was my mom? Where was Dad?

The car crash had instantly killed my father and injured my mother. Choking and deprived of oxygen, I was within moments of death when they found me and began doing CPR on me. With a cracked skull, concussion, a ruptured eardrum, bruises and a black eye, I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Alone and far away from my mom, who was in the hospital in another city, my prognosis was not good. My two aunts visited me regularly to sit and hold me in their arms, but I refused to eat anything and turned to sleep. When it became obvious that there was no physical reason why I couldn't survive, my male nurse worried that I was giving up on life, that the darkness and pain was too much to bear. Life without hope is no life at all.

At the nurse's bidding, my mom recorded a tape and sent it to me. It was her voice singing songs to me, telling me stories, and saying how much she loved me. I can still hear those soft words in my mind to this day. She was a mother in one hospital bed calling out to her child alone in another hospital: “Live! Choose to live! I love you!”

Thanks, Mom.

And on that tape, my mother read me the story The Little Engine That Could. Do you remember a favorite book from your childhood? This one is mine. The little blue engine said yes to help pull the train loaded with toys and good gifts for children to the other side of the mountain. Pulling with all her might, that little blue engine chugged up the hill, repeating, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”

This children’s story still quickens my heart today and stirs up emotions inside me. It has become the mantra of my life.

I decided then and there to live. After listening to the entire tape with my eyes open, I decided that I was not going to give up on life. I began the fight to live. And when my aunt offered me a mashed banana after the recording was over, I ate it. Something stirred in my breast and made me believe that no matter how awful the darkness was that I was going through, life would still be worth living. Wow! I healed!

The next few years of life would be hard and mournful. Losing my father was the foremost reason for my clinging to hope. Growing up without my dad is a loss that only feels itself deepen, not fade, with time. Therefore, I know that it is our various trials in life that influence us and teach us the reality of hope. We choose to be hope-filled.

Hope is courage. Hope is endurance. Since my childhood, I have chosen to live by the motto “I think I can!” and “I thought I could!” And onward through this vale of tears and over mountains, this little engine keeps chugging along, hopeful, optimistic, and smiling!

I know I can!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Blogging!

I have a confession to make. I have not sat down to blog in the last three weeks! NOR have I been diligent in taking daily walks.

“Walking itself is a cognitive act. The more I hike, the more I find my words,” said Mary Kay Baum, a courageous woman I met recently with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I was attending her inspirational talk as a reporter and taking down her words, so I could write an article about her. How true about the cognitive power of walking! How often do we think of hiking, or biking, or ballroom dancing, or any kind of exercise for that matter, as a cognitive act? Yet, it is employing our mental faculties. And so often as a writer, I find that when I’m walking, then the words come.

This fall, I’ve gotten the chance to hike several times on wooded trails with friends. We call these excursions Emmaus Hikes because we use it as a time to reflect on the Scriptures and pray with each other, as well as to explore and appreciate God’s breathtaking creation. Last week, we trekked over a carpet of gold, leaves of the most lustrous golden hue, under the arches of a wooded cathedral. We followed a trail beside a running creek that gurgled as it fell over grey rocks and flowed on its course. We walked through a field of prairie grass with purple wild flowers. We moved within this still setting of tranquility.

A different experience with nature happened to me last month. I went to Lakeside Park alone and sat down on a rock by the edge of the largest lake in Wisconsin. Rather than being in the cloister of the woods with the companionship of friends, here I was out in the open air with the lake stretched out so deep and wide before me. This time the wind was stirring up the water and forcing it to come crashing against the rocks. Nature’s commotion seemed to aptly express the emotions in my heart that day. And in the wild roughness of the wind and water, my only companion was a forlorn fisherman, who kept moving along the rocks in search of a lucrative spot. Seemed he was as restless as my heart, though I didn’t move. The cut in the chill autumn breeze kissed my face. It was a brisk beauty, wild and free, rough and crashing. And as I sat there, my frantic heart found rescue and peace. I related with the duck, bobbing up and down on the water, being pushed along by forces greater than it, which it hardly understood. I became filled with awe of how small I was and great I am at the same time. Here was this little writer, this broken seeker, on the rocks being swept up into God’s awesome creation. How wonderful are the works of your Hands, O God! And who am I to tell of them? The rhythm of the waves, rough as they were, calmed my heart.

I have walked the park with many people. I have sat by the water’s edge with different friends. And I’ve learned that not everyone reacts the same way. While one person walks with deliberate step and purpose, another walks leisurely, savoring the moment. While one walks to conquer, another walks to be conquered–by beauty, by nature, by conversation and by nature’s romance. Myself, I walk to be conquered. The words come as I breathe in deeply and reflectively of the larger purpose through which I trek.

It’s good to be back.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Current Interest: World War II Stories

So I am currently being caught up in 1940s culture and World War II stories. It all started after reading the novel Dream When You’re Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg this summer. Then this fall I was handed a copy of one veteran hero’s self-published booklet revealing his wartime memories in Germany. My curiosity kept thirsting for more and led me to the library to pick up The Greatest Generation, a touching book of so many people’s stories and written by TV anchor Tom Brokaw. I only read the first chapter so far, but it looks like it will be an unforgettable read.

So what’s the big deal? Everything! Here are just some bits and pieces of what I find most intriguing about the culture of the 1940s and the generation that survived the Great Depression, fought earnestly and won World War II, and taught America what it means to go where duty calls and honor beckons, to sacrifice, to be patriotic, and to love.

I admire the unity between the soldiers fighting abroad and the families on the home front, united in the war cause and equally sacrificing their lives so that we could win the war. I admire the willingness to make sacrifices for a common cause and for their loved ones. Marriages stayed together. Families were large, close-knit, and they stayed together (this was the era when kids actually slept two or three in a room – gasp!) And the country stood together. I really believe this was because they were eager to make sacrifices for each other. I’m touched by the power of handwritten letters from girlfriends, parents, little siblings, and strangers to keep up the morale of our soldiers. I admire the girlish fashion of the 1940s - so classy. In fact, what wasn’t classy about the ‘40s? I admire the men and am inspired by the women. Even with women entering the workforce (to support the war and their men), there was respect for masculine and feminine roles. Most of all, I admire our grandparents who are men and women of this generation. We have not respected and honored them enough. We have a lot to learn from them.

So, my readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. Do you have any good book recommendations or favorite World War II films?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What I've Learned from Ballroom Dancing

Writer that I am, I cannot help but observe and record the intricacies of ballroom dancing and what happens when you are out on the dance floor. Characters in masquerade circle and swoop around the dance floor, more characters are unveiled in their true, carefree, playful light, and memories are filled with fragrance and the sound of music. So, while dancing Friday night, I took to heart the timeless lessons I’ve learned over the years from ballroom dancing…

  1. Live in the moment. You could be looking over his shoulder, imagining yourself with someone else, or thinking of other things…OR you can feel the gentle push of his lead, listen and let your body follow, and express yourself in the music now.
  2. Manners still exist today. Really! There is a place where men are gents and women are ladies, where “May I have this dance?” is still in order, where men escort the lady on and off the floor, and where etiquette is expected.
  3. Be present. Every dance is its own singular moment to impact another human person in a close and personal way and for him or her to influence you. If you are not present with that person, you will miss what the dance is all about.
  4. Make a connection. All good leading and following comes from your connection or your frame. Your ability to communicate comes from this connection. Know where he is; know where you are; and stay connected!
  5. The most powerful communication is unspoken. Through your body movements and eye contact, you are speaking volumes of a universal, human language that is capable of uniting people of every ethnic background and culture. I have met dancers from China, South Africa, Austria, Asia and England – and whether you can speak each other’s language doesn’t matter so much as if you know how to dance!
  6. In ballroom dancing, we are like children in adult clothes, playful and carefree, beautiful and dashing. You are being “man” to woman. She is being “woman” to man.
  7. Look at your partner’s eyes–this sums up everything: it helps you be present to each other and establish a connection. You know more in a glance than words can say. Looking at each other’s eyes is how you appreciate each other.
  8. Fine-tune your social skills. Get out of your comfort zone, improve communication with the opposite sex, meet new people, and even do some speed dating!
  9. Three words to define a man: leader, guide, support. Three words to define a lady: beauty, grace, integrity. (She is the flower in his frame. She makes the picture whole.)
  10. Dance through the pain. Yes, even on calluses and aching feet, you dance through the pain because the dance is too beautiful to miss.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Man in the Beaver Hat

“Better than robbing a bank!” said the man in the beaver hat, half-kidding, half-serious, standing over the stranger he was talking to in the second floor of the library. He gave the stranger sitting down an over-friendly jab on the shoulder and continued, “I go by the Bible’s principles. If a man can’t trust another man, then what good is all this,” he waved his hand at the law books the man was reading. “Then how are we going to ever get out of Iraq and end this war.”

I was in the library, working on my writing assignments, but now the beaver man attracted all my curiosity. He had found sanctuary, like me, in the literature section with the likes of Stephen King, Faulkner, Hemingway, Twain and O’Conner – the American literary greats. The beaver man wore tennis shoes, blue jeans, and a rough cotton shirt. His eyes were hollowed out in the valleys of his face. He arrived at my table with a square black case, a large overstuffed white envelope, and his calculator, ready to fulfill his duty to the government and fill out his tax forms. I subtly observed him.

Before he opened up his case, I noticed a black and white sticker and on it “9-11” and “war.” He wore a pin on his shirt with the reverse colors, black letters that spelled “Committ” on a white background, a slogan or word I had never heard before. It seemed like some kind of rallying statement. How long had he had it? How long had he been wearing pins and stickers, carrying signs and preaching peace?

What ensued were grunts and sighs. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he blurted out loud. After a while, he rose up suddenly and walked to the window, his eyes searching beyond the confines of politics and money boxes. I related with his yearning to find deeper meaning – is this all there is? Then he disappeared around the aisles of American fiction, only to suddenly reappear later, like some figure of the past who was still searching to find his place in the story, or his piece in the peace. Where was the peace he had been rallying for all his life?

One look at his papers sprawled out all over the table put him at unrest again. Taxes had no appeal to him now. That is why he turned to the man at the next table over, the white bearded man in a grey shirt and black sock hat. The man in the beaver hat drew curiously over, the beaver tail hanging behind his head. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he began, “Are you studying government? You’re not a lawyer, are you?”

The man answered no and murmured that he was studying to complete some kind of suit or law cases. From the tidbits I gathered he was studying for a degree in a new job. The more they chatted, the more amiable the man in the beaver hat became. Finally, he gave the stranger a friendly pat in admiration and wished him luck. “Better than robbing a bank!” he said and advised, “Don’t expect to make anything the first six months.”

I sat there and mused, my mind turning completely different matters than before. Where is the answer for peace? Is it in robbing the bank so we have financial “security”? Is it in our power-hungry careers? Is it in bigger government that provides for us after we have given our freedoms away? Is it in robbery or well-earned corporate successes, progressivism, consumerism or market increases? If so, then why are there growing divisions, rivalry, putting your fellow man down, national insecurities, and global wars? Yes, the more we reach for, the less we have. The more our arms grab and cling to, the less freedom we possess. The man in the beaver hat was right, “If a man can’t trust another man, then what good is all of this?”

I recalled his height, but how he slouched over at the shoulders, as if carrying the weight of a generation of fighters: Vietnam protesters, revolutionaries, tree-huggers and hippies. How many causes had he joined? Were they won or lost? And did it matter? Does any of it matter?

When all of this fades away and we are left, stripped of everything…a trumpet will thunder …“man and woman he created them…” and we will remember it all begins and ends with him and her and God. This is how it began and this is how it will end: ourselves accountable before the God who created us.

The greatest interior peace comes from doing the will of God in our lives. As Dante so famously penned in Paradiso, “In His will is our peace.”

Trust within loving relationships will yield peace. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, said “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” To belong to each other is to depend on one another, to hold ourselves responsible for each other’s well being, to be faithful in our promises, to be trustworthy. The family is the most basic cultivating ground for peace. Peace between couples equals peace in families, equals peace between neighbors, equals peace within cities, equals peace between states, countries, and nations. Mother Teresa, in calling us to cultivate peace in the world begins from home base, “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

To all who read this, and to the man in the beaver hat, I hope that you may find and know the peace that you seek.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Summer of Thunderstorms & Holy Hours

This summer has been a season of storms. The month of July and into August brought downpours, hail, strong winds, and the rumbling of thunder that crescendos and shakes the world beneath you. Just two evenings ago, I found myself lost in the grey gloom because we lost electricity due to one such windstorm. There I was lighting candles in the kitchen so I could see and making the house smell very much like a Chapel!

On one such afternoon this summer, I actually found myself sitting in Church, inside the small Eucharistic Chapel, whilst all around me outside I could hear the wind howling and big raindrops plunking on the metal gutters. I sat there with a thousand thoughts, hopes, ideas and ambitions on my mind and an electric energy to pursue them and get things done. (Ha! This is usually how I come into the Chapel to pray.) I have so much vigor to accomplish the next thing on today’s list!

So I come to church, panting, as you will, barely able to catch my breath because I’m so worked up in my cares. Then I sit here and realize I can breathe! Breathe again! Take a breath; let it go; let it all go; stop being anxious or racing around in a hundred directions. Just stop and let God take those cares and hold them for me.

Phew! Let God breathe fresh air into me and give me a steady heartbeat. It makes me start to wonder. What is truly important? What am I striving to control that makes it so hard to let go of my pride and just be content? Why am I trying to manage the universe in my head?!

The mind of God is infinitely bigger than my own. Funny how I forget this.

Just like in a storm, when power pushes the stop mode on me, the verse “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:11) came to me in the Chapel.

“Be still and know.” Know that I am only woman, humanity imprinted with His image, no more and no less. Know my place – a human destined for eternal glory. Know that I am weak and He is strong. Know that He loves me. Know that He died for me. Know that He also rose for me.

“Be still.” Stop chasing after my cares and worries, doing this, that, and the other thing, running here, running there. Be still so God can find me. Be still so He can sit with me. Be still so He can love me, right here, now.

“Be.” The rain is pounding down on the roof, overflowing the gutters, trickling down the eaves, swelling in the puddles, and I am held in here, safe and dry. Be thankful! Be fully alive! Be vulnerable. Be me!

Sometimes, God has to stop us, to slow us down with a thunderstorm. Are you going through a storm in your life? Somedays, it’s the only way He can “catch” us. He tries so hard to get our attention, not out of force but out of love. God is desperate to love you and me. What better place to exchange glances of love than here in the Chapel?

“God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

"Come and see the works of the Lord,
who has done fearsome deeds on earth;
Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,
breaks the bow, splinters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire;
Who says:
“Be still and confess that I am God!
I am exalted among all the nations,
Exalted on the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.”
from Psalm 46

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Writer's Dream Comes True!

“If you follow your dreams, the money will come. Follow the money, and you’ll lose your dreams.” Michael Collopy

Friday was cleaning day. I vacuumed and dusted every room, corner and shelf. On Friday, temperatures were in the mid 90s, coupled with high humidity. It wasn’t hard to work up a sweat in the mugginess, but I was determined to clean the house thoroughly, and I did!

I opened the front door to attack the dirt between the doors, when to my surprise I heard a package bang against the other door. A package for me? It had my name on it from a printing house. I didn’t know what it could it be!

I dropped the vacuum cleaner and rushed to open it (secretly thankful for the respite from work!). There before me were three author’s copies of Faith & Family magazine!

When I found my name on the inside list of “Contributing Writers,” my heart leapt within me! Though small, my entertainment review in the Fall issue was my first baby step into Faith & Family magazine. I have been basking in joy ever since because of my dream-come-true to be published in Faith & Family, my favorite magazine of all time! To see my name in print next to other writers I’ve always admired and with my music review of Seasons is the best gift anyone could ask for! Those copies of the magazine on my doorstep were a gift, truly heaven sent.

This past week has been disappointing as I lost a job I had applied for and was hoping to pursue. In the midst of discouragement and anxiety, God answers me with blessings. I am constantly astonished to find my dreams coming true, day by day, sneaking up on me and surprising me! It is a reassurance that I am in the right place at the right time.

Even so, the temptation is there to be lost in the busyness and business of life and thereby miss out on being thankful. I regret to say how easy it can be to take our blessings for granted, because I get caught up in thinking “but it isn’t enough.” For some reason, we think we’d be happier with more work, more money, more make-up, more haircuts, more anything. There always will be more. Yet maybe it’s not so bad “to do with less” than “to want with more.”

It’s a lesson in gratitude. Thank you, God. What have I to fear? That You won’t continue to make a way for me?

“Oh ye of little faith, why did you doubt?” ~ Jesus

Monday, July 19, 2010

After 50 Years of the Pill, “Let’s Be Proud to Be Women”

Good news! The out-of-date, rhythm method is not the Catholic Church’s only morally acceptable means of spacing births. There is another, better way that upholds the truth of sexuality and saves women from the physical and spiritual dangers of the Pill.

Natural Family Planning incorporates modern knowledge of the woman’s cycle and scientific signs to determine when she is fertile. If there is a good reason to avoid pregnancy, couples may abstain from intercourse during the fertile times. NFP is 99% effective and 100% risk-free.

The Church’s teachings on sex (including opposition to contraception) have always been to uphold the two ends of sexual intercourse: unity and procreation. Couples that are open to life are speaking the language of sexual love that says, “I give myself to you: freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.”

While many Catholics disregard Church teachings and foster a contraceptive mentality, I know many young, married couples who use NFP successfully and as a result share deeper intimacy, communication, and commitment. Is that not what every woman wants?

The divorce rate for NFP couples is under 5%. Maybe the Church knows something.

My heart goes out to all women wounded and crippled by the sexual revolution and effects of the Pill. My heart goes out to lost motherhood, to women grown up believing fertility is a disease needed to be treated by a pill, and those enslaved by sexual addictions yearning for freedom to be treated not as an object of use and end of man’s pleasure, but as a subject worthy of love.

Has the Pill cheated women to think that feminine liberation means becoming like a male? The three things that in essence define a woman and which a man can never do are: menstruate, conceive, and bear a child.

Let’s be proud to be women. Here’s a tribute to those who want to reclaim a new feminism of responsibility and the freedom to be intricately women in our very beings: to be nurturers, mothers, and lovers who uphold our dignity and call men on to love, not use us.

A version of this entry was published as a letter to the editor of the Fond du Lac Reporter. Click here to read.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Letting Go

Letting go is not a foreign language to writers. I have realized this over and over again at different stages in the writing process. First there is the detox stage that happens as soon as a writer like myself sits down to her research and is ready to fill the empty page. This filtering process is the first step, as we rid ourselves of distractions and clear the mind of other thoughts.

“But wait!” you say, “Are all distractions and random thoughts inhibiting to the writing process?” Certainly not. In fact some even become inspiring material that spur us along, fill in the holes, or provoke a revelation. One of my favorite quotes is “The imagination needs time to browse” by Thomas Merton. Similarly, it can be said that the imagination needs space to move. All of this is necessary in the first stage: letting go of the attachments, distractions, comforts, wayward desires, and responsibilities in order to clear the mind for writing to take place.

Sometimes writing starts in fits and jumbles. Sometimes, but not often, it is a clear linear line. Eventually, in the early stages of writing, the process is bound, yes, destined and doomed, to become “creative chaos.” This is the glorious stage of flying saw dust, fiery sparks, massive clutter, looming giants, sprouting wheat, and dying flowers. All somehow have their place and purpose for being there. Some will stay; others will be tossed away or saved for the future. But eventually, even this chaotic state of creativity let loose and naked will come together, compose itself through the writer’s able hand, and be put into due order.

Creativity without final order is nothing else but a mess. Creativity finds its beauty in being ordered towards the good.

And so the writer writes. She sweeps the dust over here, lights one fire in place of the lonely sparks, puts the room back together again, and sadly disposes of the dead flowers- the words that didn’t last. She sits back and looks at what she has done. She thinks, “It is good…But the vase should be on the table, not under it, and the rugs should be on the floor and not over the window.” And therefore, the writer is back at work, revising.

The entire process has its moments of letting go, sometimes of the very words we are fond of. Often we wait till doomsday (Deadline Day) to kiss goodbye to the brilliant lines that never found a place. Those ideas and words are the hardest to lose, like an old lover whom we can’t stop dreaming of. But yet they must go and once we let them, we are surprised at the brisk beauty of the piece that we find is quite alright without that old, sentimental line. And letting go is easier now, because the writing is improved.

Getting attached to one’s work is folly for a writer. It can cause sleepless nights. It can trigger war-like dilemmas in the mind over the pettiest of principles. Leave as is or start from scratch? The best action a writer can take is to step back. Only in looking at the piece objectively, as thought it were not your baby, but rather someone else’s kid, can you find its faults…and delight in its beauty. Revision is all about letting go.

When the night has fallen and all re-visioning and editing can be tucked asleep, when the writer feels confidently that “It is complete,” then comes a new kind of letting go. This is the I’m-Done/Won’t-Touch-It-Again Stage. A writer is content to leave as be, proud of her hard work and the outcome. Ready now to let it go out of my hands and into the hands of readers, editors, and publishers. What a relief! Though some in trepidation is still felt: whose hands will it fall into? Well, that is beyond our hands.

And there is the writer again, sitting in the sands, sands blowing in the breeze, the language of letting go as vivid and salty as the blue seas.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Change is in the air. I’ve felt a new breeze blowing gently, questioning my heart a few times. Then it turned into a whirlwind.

It all started with a simple question some weeks back, “Where do you hope to be five years from now?” Then I had a delightful conversation with a friend who shared her beautiful goals for the future. As I listened, my heart just went out to lost dreams and forsaken paths and undreamed-of beginnings. Basically, my heart longed to say the same beautiful things, but I seemed void of such visions. It was as though I had conquered a mountain, and now just sat there, done. Not knowing where to look next. Not sure I wanted to move.

Yet so often I have been hounded by this overwhelming desire for adventure! Something radically new or maybe just some new challenge would be fun. That is in my nature, always wanting to learn new things. Yet often I need some encouragement to get started. I need someone there beside me to say, “You can do it! I have faith in you. I’ll show you how.”

This May 9th marked a year since graduation from Steubenville. What a fantastic year it has been! I see many dreams have already come true in all that I’ve explored these 12 months, but there are still places to go. Am I living the life I have imagined? Now it’s time to start thinking and re-evaluating my short-term and long-term goals. Scary. Exciting.

I don’t have real answers yet. My mind is muddled with thoughts and ambitions. All I know is that this kind of re-visioning is a must for whenever we reach that bend in the road. I’m near the bend right now. Something is changing in the landscape, but I can’t quite make out what is ahead. Throughout college years, it seemed my short-term and long-term goals were always before me, guiding me. There was always next semester, next summer, next year, and “after graduation.” Each period held infinite possibilities for growth. To each I can recount some significant change.

Now out in the “real world,” we must build our own goals and shape our future. Life isn’t tidied into boxes or chunks of time, like college semesters. Life seems endless. It’s harder to focus. Harder to define. Harder to know the beginning, and the end.

Turning Water into Wine

All of a sudden nothing is right. My pants are too long or else they’re too tight. My hair won’t be tamed under my fingers in the humid weather. My face is pale.

What has caused such discontent? Why do I scream out? Why do I shed an interior tear that I am not more beautiful, more successful, more perfect, just more?

I don’t generally indulge in sweet drinks, like sodas, juices, cocktails, or coffee. I drink mostly water. The water is good, but sometimes I feel a thirst for wine.

Lord, it was at the wedding at Cana that the young lovers “ran out of wine.” What was that wine? Was it love? Was it prayer? Was it intimacy? Was it unity? There are so many things we run short of in our lives: patience, a sense of direction, hope, passion for what we do, physical health, friends, money, faith, and on and on. How often I run short of that wine in my relationship with Christ.

Yet, You offer the assurance that even when the wine runs out, You can turn water into wine. After all, You created the water. Your mother Mary noticed the need at the wedding at Cana. So she summoned you, “Look, son, they have no wine.” How compassionately she spoke those words. Her empathy was matched with confidence in the Lord and in what he could do. She knew He could provide.

At the mother’s bidding, Jesus requested the jars to be filled with water. Then, performing his first miracle, he changed the water to the finest, most delicate and intoxicating, fragrant wine!

“You have saved the best for last!” cried the headwaiter after he’d tasted it.

How good God is. God offers us the assurance that the best is yet to come.

“Do YOU believe the future is bigger than your past?” asked Matthew Kelly, inspirational speaker and author in his talk “Called to Joy.” Amazing talk. We must believe that the future is always bigger than the past. If you don’t, then what’s the point of pressing on? What’s the point of living for tomorrow?

The wine that never runs out is here, the Blood of Christ, poured out and so freely given to us. All who drink of it shall live. Christ’s first miracle was to quench the thirst of the guests at the wedding ceremony. Christ’s last miracle before he died was to quench the thirst of all humanity. As He said, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant. It will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

And my thirst, however great it may be, is answered by God’s greater thirst for me. He feels it much more intensely than any of us, and he expressed that longing when he hung on the cross. His cry to a fallen humanity: “I THIRST” (John 19:28).

Maybe by the same miracles, I can trust him to turn the water in my life into wine. The mundane and ordinary and even my poverty into rich drink and food that will sustain me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Strive to be that open book

Am I the book on the shelf that stays stubbornly shut, collecting dust, and whose treasures are hidden? Or am I the open book, lying on someone's lap, my pages turning, story unfolding, crinkled with love? Strive to be that open book.

At times, I am both the book and the nimble scribe. I cannot divorce writing from life nor life from writing. The act of writing to a writer is always more than a career. It’s always more than just what you do. It’s who you are and how you perceive meaning in life. That is why a writer says, “It is my vocation.”

The scribe is the story-teller, the thinker, the narrator, and the writer in me. The book is you and me and all of us characters who collide in the plot somehow. We are seekers and we are finders. Like an open book, our lives are meant to be read and witnessed as stories to others.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Medley to My Father - 20th Anniversary Tribute

Tonight I stand by your grave. The grass grows up around you, but I hardly know you are here. If it wasn’t for the engraved name on this sandstone, orange marker, I wouldn’t know it was you, Dad.

No, you are not here, contained in the earth, suffocated beneath its entangled roots, buried forever. You are not hidden by the grass or caught beneath the stone. You have taken flight and alighted on the wings of dawn…

The lake across the road shimmers in the sun’s rays and reminds me how much you loved the water. You always wanted to be on the lake. Now as a white bird swoops down to the water’s surface, so you appear in my life when I most need you.

Your face is in the sun, shining warm upon me. Yes, when the day sings out its glory, I feel you. At evening’s wake, when the sun sets amidst a fire of purple and pink hues, you are looking out and watching the show with me – just as you used to do, twenty years ago. You used to stand with mom and bask in nature’s beauty around you.

No more tears. No more tears.

Every summer, on the car ride to Upper Michigan, where you grew up as a child, we’d listen to the songs of your favorite songwriter, Harry Chapin. Even today, your voice still speaks to me through the lyrics. You’re teaching me the song:

All my life’s a circle,
Sunrise and sundown,
The moon rose through the nighttime
Till the day break comes around. (Harry Chapin)

That’s why I owe this medley of love to you. You’ve rescued me a hundred times more than I know of.

I was at college my first year and so terribly homesick. It was then I realized that you were the closest family to me. And no matter where I would travel - to the heights of the Alps or to the island of Sicily – Dad, your spirit would find me there. Wherever I’d go in life, you’d be with me, closer to my aid than the nearest family. Thanks, Dad. You’ve been with me, though I can’t see you.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun rising
It’s alright.
(Here Comes the Sun, Beatles)

Dad left me with many songs to make sure I’d never feel forsaken. He reminds me how much he wants to be here for me, even as I explore my independence. Like a father watching his growing daughter push away, he sings:

I’m a tangled up puppet
All hanging in your strings
I’m a butterfly in a spider’s web
Fluttering my wings…

Young women need not leave their fathers behind as they adventure forward. Dad, I need you.

Now you write your secret poems
In a world just for your dreams
You don’t find time to talk to me
About the things you need.

You’ve provided for me in my schooling, guided me in relationships, pursued me with love, taken care of me financially. Though you are sorely missed, your heavenly intercession has carried me through. Look Dad, I want to make you proud.

I have watched you take shape
From a jumble of parts
And find the grace and form
Of a fine work of art.

Hey you, my brand new woman,
You may come into your own.
Don’t you know that you don’t need
To grow up all alone?

“You’re right,” murmured Grandma to my mother, as they stood beside the grave that April of 1990. “He’s not here. He’s with you.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Ever sat in a concert hall and been moved by the power of an orchestra? The stringed instruments express the flight of our hearts to somewhere out of this realm. The droning tones of the cello reach deeply down into our soul and draw out what is hidden there. We take to flight on the wings of melody. The squawking and squeaking of a single violin is transformed into song in symmetry with the whole orchestra. The flute flaps its wings and with airy flutterings dips, dives, and dances on the symphonic wind. And you… you sit in awed silence because it takes your breath away.

Then there are other forms of music. I dance to the enchanting lilt and rock of Indian music. The ring of tambourine, folk guitar and drum mingle into a frenzy of delight. The action and speed builds! It crescendos into a fury! Zing! Go the strings of my heart!

And then I’m caught up in another form. The Irish fiddle plays my legs like I’m a puppet on strings, until I fall into the modern sounds of the radio. Those wrenching tunes of a country-born lad who understands what it means to be human. It’s no glorious words or soul-raising orchestra, but it’s the song any one of us can sing to. Music is on the radio all the time, but have you stopped to listen?

Music is so diverse. How about the lilting, drifting, careless songs of jazzy pop? “Come away with me…” sings Norah Jones dreamily. The song nudges us and invites us on a train ride through the terrain of our thoughts, emotions, and dreamings. We stare out the windows of whimsy and fancy and sometimes foolishness. Come away with me are the words of every song, spoken or unspoken.

Yes, music speaks. It can tend, love, wound, and raise up. There is nothing music cannot stir up. We can also speak through music. In music we find a voice for the feeling that we buried so long ago we forgot it existed, or the feeling some of us have been longing to sing but been afraid to, or even the feeling we do not understand. The strings of music have the power to bind or to release those feelings. Are they strangling you? Or setting you free?

This Lent I fasted from listening to music. As I did I came to realize how much I LOVE music. I love music! I don’t know how I should live being deaf to music! So I gave up music this Lent precisely to meet its companion Silence and to listen to and attune my heart to God’s whispers.

It was hard, I admit. Often I seek music as an escape from the present reality or simply to entertain myself. But if we are constantly trying to lose ourselves in music, we have to ask ourselves “Why?” Why is my heart restless? Why do I seek a tune and a rhythm in my life?

Because you were born with one. Yes, from the thud of our first heartbeat, we have been created to join a beat and a melody, a song and a symphony, that has been going on for ages. We were created with the Song embedded in our very hearts. What song is this?

It is the song of eternity. It beats in our hearts to remind us of our destiny. It pounds in our bodies to shout out “This is what I’m living for!” It is a dance of life that continues on and we each have a part in it to play, to sing, to dance, to live.

My last blog entry left one reader in tears. I had not expected this. I was simply writing from the vulnerability of my heart, yet my writing had struck into song what she hardly knew how to sing herself. That’s music! That’s harmony with humanity.

The Easter season finds me rejoicing in the beauty and language of music. I sought the Lord in silence, who answered me in song. The Silence has taught me to listen. You see, when we are surrounded by noise all day every day, we stop listening. How far we’ve gone to classify some things as music that are only noises of dissonance, not harmony! What we need is to quite ourselves and to hear the music of heaven once more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stopping by a House on a Sunny Afternoon

There stands a little green house on Pheasant Run Road. It’s a quaint and cozy home with a decent patch of lawn out in the country, where houses and subdivisions are rising up in what used to be fields. It nestles into the neighborhood down a ways from my own. Nestles there, smiling out at the road.

It is an honest house, its face unhidden from view. Its garage doors are off on the side, not visible from the front. It is not like these other houses. They suppose that putting their best foot forward is putting their garage in front of the house. From their big, white doors, they say to other self-righteous garages, “My garage is bigger than yours! I can fit more boats, more cars, more vehicles than you!”

Not so with this home. Not so. Its front door gleams with the sun caught in its sparkling prism-ed, chiseled window. Its light catches the eye of passer byes like me. It does not shout but whispers. A narrow walkway meanders its way to that welcoming doorway, without pretense from any fat, white-bellied driveway. Instead, the driveway quietly finds its way to the side of the house and one wouldn’t immediately notice it. I myself had to stop and peer at the yard to see where its path trod.

Tread softly as you find your way into my heart.

Rather than boasting of luxury size garages and wide buxom drives, this house offers all the perks of a new home while whispering the truth “I have no pretenses. Come here to find rest. In me is a home.” Its pale green siding blends softly and naturally with the earth. I had to pause in my walk and think, “How lovely.”

We shall know a home by its beauty.

I had walked to find this very house, this one that has intrigued me since the day I first discovered it on a bike ride through the new subdivision. That was several years ago. It has always been my favorite.

To know a place of home when we find it – is it so hard? A place of home beckons a person to come nearer. A place of home summons us to stop and take a look around. For what is a home if not a haven? And what is a haven if not restful, undemanding, sheltering?

A home like this is intriguing. Perhaps what has called my attention to this lovely green house in the last couple months is a sign on the lawn, “Adashun Jones Real Estate.” The house is up for sale. Somebody doesn’t want it. Somebody else is looking for it, but hasn’t found it. And so it sits there, nestled into the mound of a hill behind it, quietly waiting. Its open, empty rooms have much to give, but I cannot tell. I only guess from my spot on the road, where I stand, still looking on, shading my eyes from the bright sun overhead. I am certain those rooms have much to give, though now they swell with emptiness.

I know the feeling. Perhaps that’s why I’ve stopped this way, to stare at my dreams. I see a future day opening up where my hand touches my brow. I see myself building a family. I see a writer in her own place with dreams come true to write about. I see a man to love. I see a home to care for, a garden to plant, a yard where dreams spring up and grow, not far from Grandma’s house.

And then I see a little green house with a red and white for-sale sign. An empty feeling hugs my heart. It’s silly to dream where no seeds are planted, I tell myself. Yet, I linger for just one more glance before I turn away.