Sunday, December 30, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Granted I didn't have to make the journey by foot or caravan, I enjoyed thinking of Mary, the Blessed Mother, who also hurried to the hills to be with her cousin Elizabeth just after the angel announced that she would conceive the Son of God. Why do you think Mary traveled "in haste"? These details in Scripture are often hints in unpacking the story. I always thought of her rushing forth with missionary zeal as a completely selfless act of service - until I watched The Nativity Story this month, which gave me a new perspective. The film showed the events in such a real, human way, and I realized that if I were a young girl who’d just heard such astonishing news as Mary and was faced with what was to happen next, I would likely respond as she does in the movie - plead my parents to let me take a short trip away so I could sort out these miraculous events.
Doing laundry, changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking meals are all great ways to serve, but they aren't the reason we do it. When we serve, we are looking to give and receive human love.
So when Mary remembered the part of the angel's message that Elizabeth was also pregnant in a miraculous way, she goes and seeks answers there. I can relate with a young woman like this, seeking understanding from others and pondering the Lord’s will for her life with another woman of strong faith.
I love the scene in the movie when Elizabeth hears Mary coming, turns around, and bursts out in joy, "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled!" (Luke 1:45). And Mary responds, “How did you know?”
Thursday, November 29, 2012
After watching Sleepless in Seattle last week, I was reminded how signs can reassure us we’re doing the right thing or are in the right place at the right time. In the movie, it was as simple as Annie Reed peeling an apple in one long piece just like Jonah's mom could do – a sign she would fit right into his life like a missing puzzle piece. Another sign was Annie liking baseball just like Jonah's dad – a sign to him that they were right for each other. The sudden illumination of hundreds of lights in the Empire State Building in the shape of a big, red heart on Valentine’s Day was a sign to her that true love was waiting for her on top of the building. It was Hollywood romance all the way, but what touched me was her faith in every sign.
We can easily ignore the signs or explain them by mere coincidence, or we can ponder them in our hearts. I believe that’s what the Blessed Mother Mary did when signs of wonder and mystery were brought to her – shepherd boys kneeling at her son’s manger-scene birth, the surprise of the three magi with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the prophecy of Simeon in the temple, and the healing miracles wrought by her son’s hands. “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Accepting the sign is recognizing God’s handiwork around you. The sign may not explain an answer to your prayer, but it can be God’s way to communicate with us and reassure us “I know where you're at, My Child.” A spiritual director once described to me that being holy is less about “figuring out God’s Will” and more about just following where He leads.
So instead of walking with my face to the ground, here's to walking with my head held high and eyes wide open to the signs around me. God, please make me more aware of the signs, so with faith and hope I can confidently follow in the plans you have set before me.
Friday, November 9, 2012
I always knew I wanted to be a writer from early on, when I would write poetry, songs and short stories. My first books were made at about age 5 - the only time I could illustrate as well and my pictures be thought of as "cute." My mom bought these blank white books that you could color in and compose stories. I loved it.
So when I graduated high school, deciding to major in English: Writing at a four-year college was as easy as tying my shoe laces. There wasn't a doubt this was the path I wanted to pursue. I just didn't know what kinds of fields you could work in as a writer.
For three years now, I've been a freelance writer for a company that publishes upscale neighborhood magazines across Milwaukee suburbs. Every month I am in charge of several magazines, writing feature articles on the local people, organizing community calendars and writing about community organizations, businesses or events. The fun part is getting to see one's work in print every month and getting responses from my readers. It's not always a writer/editor can correspond so closely with his readers.
In addition to my role for this company, I have also written feature articles for newspapers and national magazines - some religious, some secular - by initiating relationships with editors and then offering to write for them on an assignment basis. The principle usually is that once they see your quality work, they'll come back and ask for more. I have also been hired to do grant writing and fundraising direct mail letters for a nonprofit organization. As a freelance writer, I am constantly managing multiple projects for different clients and working on deadline.
I've done feature articles, website content, newsletters, editing and lots and lots and LOTS of interviews.
As a junior in college, I spent a summer as a public relations intern (an unpaid position) at a local nursing home, which led to a job senior year as a media writer for my university's public relations department. Both were vital experiences for me, giving me the hands-on skills I needed to learn how to write press releases and practice interviewing people for information (which none of my college classes had prepared me to do). In fact, I don't recall being told that good interviewing skills are essential for a professional writer. I guess if I had majored in communications or journalism, I would have heard this, but nonetheless, I do not regret majoring in the broader English and literature studies. They taught me how to probe human character for the motives behind people's actions. And after all, that's what interviewing is all about.
After I graduated, I volunteered to write my church's newsletter while I was job searching. I used the newsletter as a writing sample for getting my first job.
What I've learned is to follow my dreams. Being a freelancer has been tough but also very rewarding. The first step is getting published clips, so you have samples to show potential employers. If you have to write for free to get those clips, do so. If you can write a nonprofit organization's newsletter or help someone write a brochure or build a website, do that. I love this advice by Mark Twain, which is humorous but true:
"Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for."
Most of all, do what you love. "The important thing is this: to be able to at any moment sacrifice who we are for what we could become" (Charles DuBois). Don't be afraid to try something new. Never make excuses but give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. Then you will have found the joy of being a writer.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
ROAD CONSTRUCTION! It felt like my every attempt to break free was blocked and I was going around in circles trying to find a new way out of the maze I was in. Following the detour, I eventually found my way to the park and the trail. Relief!
Here on the bridge and in the park, I felt like humanity connected in a new way. There was a shared experience of nature, wind, water, oxygen, exercise, rejuvenation, and beauty. People smiled and said hi in passing, with trust in their eyes. Women chatted with their walking buddies. Guys cruised by on their bicycles. A little boy rode his tricycle. A middle-aged lady walked her elderly parents down the trail, with her mom going slowly behind a walker.
I ran. I walked. I ran some more. The wind was all around, like the Holy Spirit, massaging me with the physical touch of God and holding me in the hug of the Mighty Comforter.
The realization came: “Is this pain to keep me from enjoying the beautiful life God has given me and the adventure of seeking and pursuing His will?”
Sometimes pain can be like road
construction. It impedes the way we want to go, while God is telling us to take
another route, a new course that He will show us, if we just get past the
stubbornness of our own will.
"Lord, correct my missteps, and bring me back to You."
As I seek to live in the present, here are some of the joys I look forward to:
- colored leaves and pumpkins
- being open to new opportunities and ways to serve, to connect, to love, to grow, and to give in this new place and community.
- standing up in my friend's upcoming wedding
- opening new doors through writing
- exploring more parks and trails
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Have you learned anything helpful recently?
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
"It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings."
~"The Real Work" by Wendell Berry
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
I sat down in the library with Will Allen’s book The Good Food Revolution and couldn't put it down. I can't decide which part inspires me most: Will Allen’s integrity, self-resiliency and passion; the incredible miracle of Growing Power transforming communities and providing access to healthy, whole foods in urban cities; the lives of inner-city youth changed in a positive way by Growing Power; or how people are getting their hands dirty in the soil again and learning that growing food is not slave labor but about learning how to live and survive.
In his inspirational memoir about becoming a leader in urban farming, released this spring, Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc., quotes Booker T. Washington, who says, “Agriculture is, or has been, the basic industry of nearly every race or nation that has succeeded. Dignify and glorify common labor. It is at the bottom that we must begin, not the top.”
Mr. Allen delves into his roots. He tells of his parents’ escape from southern sharecropping during The Great Migration of African Americans from the rural south to northern cities. In the same way, Allen thought he was escaping his agricultural background when he became a professional basketball player and sales executive for KFC and Procter & Gamble. But in a series of surprising events, Will finds himself returning to the land.
“Yet the desire to farm hid inside me,” writes Mr. Allen. “It hid in my feet. They wanted the moist earth beneath them. It hid in my hands. They wanted to be callused and rough and caked with soil. It hid in my heart. I missed the rhythms of agriculture. I felt a desire for the quiet of the predawn and the feeling of physical self-worth and productivity that I only felt after a day when I had harvested a field or had sown one” (The Good Food Revolution 8).
In 1993, he cashed in his retirement fund for a two-acre plot next to the largest housing project in downtown Milwaukee. The plot contained some rundown greenhouses and an old farm building - the last in the city of Milwaukee - where he envisioned a place to sell his farm produce. He describes the surrounding area as a "food desert" where the supermarkets and fresh food stands had long been replaced by fast food restaurants and convenient stores selling cheap, processed foods. By hiring and engaging local youth from low-income families in sustainable farming, Mr. Allen transformed these rundown greenhouses into the headquarters of an urban farming network which has become a model of sustainable urban farming across the country.
Mr. Allen says that the farmers of the next generation will not come from the countryside but from the city (Featured Video: Agriculturalist Will Allen (2008) www.growingpower.org/blog), and so we must engage people in the community and teach them how to grow healthy food and make it accessible to all.
His hope-filled story shows the power of the urban agricultural movement to grow not only healthy food but healthy communities. Food is the most basic human need. Good food brings people together through the range of human experiences. Food can unite, nourish, sustain and heal. The current movement back toward organic agriculture and sustainable farming is a huge source of hope for a healthier future for our children and for the earth. Growing food is ultimately about the cultivation of life and diversity, the practice of patience and generosity, and the continuation of the earth and our species.
After setting the book down, Mr. Allen’s words still echo in my heart: “A lot of times we have an idea of something we’d really like to do, but we wait for the perfect moment to begin. I’m here to tell you that there is no perfect moment” and “All big things are created by a slow and steady accumulation of small, stumbling steps. Idealism can sometimes lead to inaction. We’re so afraid of doing something imperfectly that we don’t do anything at all” (39).
Mr. Allen's heart-touching story shows that taking those first stumbling steps of following your heart can be like planting a seed. You don't know what will come of it - but given the right conditions, it will sprout in more ways than you can imagine.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
Funny, how the memories seem as rich outside as inside. Maybe that's why they say, "these are our roots."
Twenty-five years worth of memories are tucked into the corners of my mother’s home and the neighborhood. I have a fondness for the trees that shaded me on hot summer days, their leafy branches rustling in the breeze. The trees are the witnesses of my childhood pretenses, my milestone graduations, my first loves, and my college returns home. They have stood over me, sheltering me, and beside me, comforting me, through the thick and thin of becoming an adult.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
How reality must have hurt when she realized snowladies don't belong in 50 degree temperatures. We wished her farewell on Sunday, entrusting her to the care of my mother, who let her take up residence in her backyard. Only three days later, I received this tearful note from my mother, entitled "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
Christina,Eleanor, for that was her sweet name, was loved by all who met her. Though we miss her, we are grateful she melted peacefully into the earth. There she will help flowers grow - better than she could ever have perceived to do while above the ground. Tis the cycle of life for the snowman or snowlady. While their existence is a source of joy for those who meet them, their passing away brings new life for green things to grow.Every time I walked through the dining room on Monday, I caught a glimpse of Eleanor and smiled to myself, remembering how good it was to have you and Mike here on Sunday and to listen to your laughter. However, on Tuesday Eleanor let the warm weather go to her head. It wasn't long before her left eye was tearing up with joy, and then her mascara began running and her eyeball sunk a bit. By the afternoon she had completely "lost her head", poor soul. Today I can't find her anywhere. Just a few accessories...sob, sob.I forgot to save Mike's email. Perhaps you could forward my condolences to him.My love and sympathies,Mom
To all who feel caught between the seasons,
Monday, March 5, 2012
We need heroes. We need heroines. We need men and women of all ages and stages who are willing to be witnesses to the joy of pure love and chastity. Many people view chastity as a negative thing, as a “no,” but chastity is a virtue; it’s a positive thing. It’s not so much a “no” to impurity as it is a “yes” to loving wholly and freely.
“The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes,” writes Matthew Kelly in his book The Rhythm of Life on how to be the best version of yourself. Anytime we refuse ourselves some perceived good, we do so for the sake of a greater good. Anytime we say no to sin, we are saying yes to life in Christ. So for example, when you say no to drugs, you are voicing a deeper yes to respecting your body and your dignity and living a healthy lifestyle with the body that God gave you. When you say no to sex outside of marriage, you are saying a deeper yes to the permanence and fidelity of marriage. You are saying “Yes! I want to save myself for true love! Yes, I believe I am worth the wait and that my future spouse will respect me and take responsibility in loving me.” We have only to remember that deeper yes and we will find the strength to resist temptation.
G.K. Chesterton refused to view chastity as an icy holding back or as a suppression of affections. The wise Chesterton wrote, “Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.”
In this sense, chastity is a warm fire of sacrificial love, of complete surrender to God, of inconceivable affection. To be chaste is to be aflame with the love of God so as not to be consumed by its counterfeit, lust. Lust flares up, but then after a short while, is snuffed out. The only remnants are black ashes and a pit of darkness. Possessed by the love of God, St. Joan of Arc had the courage to give her life for God and even die as a martyr. After her earthly battles had been fought, she was burned at the stake, consumed by flame. In her martyrdom, she shows us that love and sacrifice are inseparable.
When singles and couples come to Jesus Christ, they find the love they seek and the love which they long to give. In the wood of the Cross, the flames of chastity are kindled. In Christ’s free, total, faithful and fruitful sacrifice, we have the example of “one like a son a man” who has trampled over sin and given us the ultimate victory. “Behold, behold the wood of the cross, / on which is hung our salvation. / O come, let us adore” (Lenten hymn).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being” (CCC 2337). This integration of God’s gift of sexuality within a man or woman is essential to our ability to bear fruit in whichever vocation we are called to. At the heart of every vocation is first and foremost the call to love through a giving of oneself.
How can I give of myself as an unmarried, single person? As a single adult, focusing on small acts of charity within my friendships and relationships, family and work place, I can be a conduit of God’s love. Rather than waiting for some future day to pledge myself to love freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully, my focus should be on loving like that in the present moment: loving my family freely, being totally the Lord’s, being faithful in my friendships, and bearing fruit in my faith. Thus, we become integrated spiritually and physically in the gift of sexuality.
Each man and woman thus integrated in their sexuality, chaste in their love, fulfill the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”
Tips for Teens on Living a Chaste Life / Saving Sex for Marriage
2. Make a chastity commitment card or wear a purity ring. Commit yourself to living a chaste life. Sign it and have a witness sign it, too.
3. Avoid near occasions of sin. Avoid toying with the idea of sin. Pray to God to be holy and hang out with friends who are also trying to be holy and pure people. Get involved in church and youth group to meet those kind of people.
4. Make a list of the qualities you highly admire in a man or a woman – the qualities you think would make a good, loving spouse and a good father or mother to your children. Then keep that list as your reminder not to compromise or settle for less than the best of what God wants for you. If you really believe God wants the best for you, you won’t settle for less and you’ll be strong enough to avoid unhealthy relationships.
5. Seek a role model, a saint, or someone you can look up to in this matter. St. Maria Goretti and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati are excellent models of purity.
6. Modesty – remember that how you dress and how you present yourself says a lot about who you are on the inside. Girls, respect your bodies. If you do, guys will, too. Like in the movie A Walk to Remember, if you raise the standard, any guy who is really worthy of you will meet the challenge and want to respect you.
7. Finally, “Do not stir up love before it’s time” (Song of Songs 2:7). Focus on your family and your friendships, and growing in holiness and being a saint, which will ready you for the future vocation God has for you.