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)