Blog Award Nominations

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A little while ago, Terry over at 8 Kids and a Business nominated me for a few blog awards, my first. Being the space-cadet that I am, I completely forgot to nominate some people of my own until Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet, also nominated me for some blog awards. Thank you, Ladies! I greatly enjoy your blogs. It is humbling to know that God uses my writing to reach others.

I would also like to nominate a few bloggers for these awards. These bloggers are both edifying and inspirational. Some of them are people I am friends with personally, and others are people I only “know” through the Internets. Thank you for making the Internet a more uplifting place to visit.

Here are the rules for the three awards (so you know what to expect and should you be nominated, know how to handle your excitement:

Use the award logo in the post.
Link to whoever nominated you.
Write 10 pieces of information about yourself.
Nominate fellow bloggers who meet the indicated criteria.
Leave a comment on the nominees’ blogs to tell them of the award.
Without further ado, here are some of my favorite blogs that I nominate for these auspicious awards. Try to hold your acceptance speech to 30 seconds. Your cooperation is much appreciated.

Domestic Vocation
Absolute Grace
Life of a Catholic Librarian
Serious Thoughts Taken Not So Seriously
Roses Near Running Waters
Saintly Sages

And here are a few blogs that I just enjoy reading that you might like too:

Dominicana
Conversion Diary
A Holy Experience
Anything at the National Catholic Register
Catholic Vote
Standing on My Head
On This Rock
Bad Catholic

I am supposed to share 10 pieces of information about myself. Hmmmm.

1. I am a U.S. Navy Veteran. I spent 6 years serving as a Russian Linguist, including a stint in the UK.
2. My favorite color is purple, because it’s purple.
3. I wrote my first book in the 4th grade called Ferdy in Pizzaland. It was about my pet ferret that had died. She loved to eat pizza and ice cream.
4. If I could be anywhere in the world it would be in front of a Tabernacle or the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I have a 2 year old, so that is difficult these days.
5. I met my husband on CatholicMatch.com in 2009.
6. I have met Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, and Gary Sinise (a great supporter of our military).
7. If you ask my friends, they would say I have lived everywhere, because I usually have a story or recommendations for places they travel. I have lived a lot of places.
8. My favorite spot in the U.S. is on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC at sunset.
9. I am a native Montanan who has made my home in Southwest Virginia. I don’t miss the winters!!!!
10. My favorite flower is the tulip.

The World Did Not Know Him: Understanding Christian Persecution

 

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The amount of information we ingest each day from the Internet is staggering. In 5 minutes I can see what is happening worldwide.  Most of that news is bad news.  In fact, a good deal of it is horrifying. From gruesome murders to terrorism to starving children to the erosion of religious liberty in this country, it becomes overwhelming.  The forces of evil are on the march and Christ has called us to be a light in the world even though we face incredible odds on this side of Eternity.  The battle for man’s freedom from sin has been won by Christ on the Cross, but we still have to live in this Fallen world.

 
Yesterday I spent too much time looking at the train wreck that is the news.  I had to catch  my breath as I read one too many horrors.  I was also once again reminded that my freedom as a Roman Catholic in this country is washing away.  Not that this country has been too friendly to Catholics, but it was a nice reprieve.  Actually, all Christians are in great danger, at least those who hold to biblical teachings on human sexuality, of losing their freedoms as well.  There will come a day,  much sooner than any of us think, when we will have to make a choice to either stand with Christ or cave to the secular will.
 
As I prayed Vespers last night, Our Lord gave me a much needed reminder.  Sometimes I forget that the world did  not accept Him, so why should I expect those of us who follow Him to be accepted by the world?  Living in a country that had religious liberty for all, notice how I said “had”, we can forget that we were promised persecution.  What is  happening now is only a natural response by those who do not know, or who have denied that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  That He came to redeem us and save us from ourselves and He came to save us from sin and death.  That His call to love and serve is universal.  He is the much needed medicine for this sick world.  Here is the reading from Vespers last night:
 
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
in letting us be called children of God!
Yet that is what we are.
The reason the world does not recognize us
is that it never recognized the Son.
Dearly beloved,
we are God’s children now;
what we shall  later be has not yet come to light.
We know that when it comes to light
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him
keeps himself pure, as he is pure
 
1 John 3:1-3
 
As I watch the outright assault worldwide on Christians, I am reminded of a scene in The Return of the King.  Aragorn has led a small army to the gates of Mordor.  The gates open and evil in all its fury marches forward to swallow up the small battalion.  Aragorn rallies the troops and they run into battle.  A battle that seems pointless.  A battle they seem sure to lose.  But, this moment is a great reminder that somethings are in fact worth dying for.  It is better to die than to live and choose evil.  In the end, Frodo quite accidentally, destroys the Ring and Middle Earth is saved.  We must daily remind ourselves in the face of great ignorance, hatred, and evil, that Christ has won.  There is nothing that can change that fact.
 
If, like me, you struggle with moments of despair in the face of the world, remember that the world hated Christ first.  Humanity put Christ on a Cross, drove nails into His body, and killed Him.  As hard as it is for me to even imagine at this point in my spiritual journey, what makes me think that I can avoid such a fate?  Not all are called to martyrdom, but many are in fact being called worldwide to die for their Faith.  My family and I must pray for the strength to stand firm when we are called to defend the Faith, in whatever capacity Christ calls us.  No matter what, the tidal wave is coming, but there is always HOPE.

Veiling and the Real Presence of Christ

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I got an excellent lesson from Our Lord in humility and following His will for me this past Friday.  My husband and I attended a University of Notre Dame Chorale concert at a local parish.  It was extraordinary and my first experience of culture since I had my daughter 2.5 years ago.  It was the type of music that makes the soul soar.

As we were heading to the concert, I took out my chapel veil to place around my neck.  My husband asked me why I was going to wear it.  I said that the concert is to be held in the Sanctuary.  The Presence of Christ does not change just because it is not Mass.  Our Lord asked me to veil in His Presence and that includes concerts.  My husband understood.
We both noticed that, even though, the majority of the attendees of the concert were Catholic, the vast majority did not even genuflect towards the Tabernacle as they entered the pew.  This church, which is really a cathedral, has the Tabernacle front and center.  It is adorned with candles and angels.  You cannot miss it.  As we went to leave, the same things happened.  Everyone filed out as though they were at a Concert Hall and not in the Presence of the Holy of Holies.  My husband and I were both stunned.
I don’t know what Christ’s purpose is in asking me to veil other than for my own need of humility.  Perhaps he also wants those of us who do veil to remind others that He is Present: body, blood, soul, and divinity, in Catholic sanctuaries.  This is a sharp contrast from our Protestant brothers and sisters.  We take Jesus at his word in John 6.
My husband and I ended up attending Sunday morning Mass at this same parish, it is not our home church.  It turned out that Monsignor preached on the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  How fitting! This filled me with great joy and it was a welcome Homily considering the staggering statistics that 70-80% of Catholics do not accept the Church’s infallible dogma that Christ is fully present in the Eucharist.  We are not ingesting a wafer.  We are eating (gnawing is closer to the original text) on the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.  We are united body and soul more perfectly to Him.  What a great grace!  What strength we are given in being allowed to receive Him bodily.  We must always remember His Presence when we enter a Catholic Church.
At times it can be difficult for me to veil.  I become self-conscious, but veiling is how Christ eats away at my pride.  So if there is ever an event in a Catholic sanctuary, I will be veiled.  You can count on it!
My daughter was trying my veil on yesterday.
My daughter was trying my veil on yesterday.

Small Success Thursdays-Biggest Loser Edition

Today is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Share your week’s successes with us.

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This week is our first week back into a normal routine.  My husband had two weeks off over the holidays and while it is great to have him around, we all tend to fall out of our routines when he is home.  We were sleeping in until 730 or 8am and going to bed a lot later.  I still have not gotten back into a good sleep pattern.  There are a few goals that we have started to work towards, though.
1.  We decided to start a “Biggest Loser Challenge” with some friends of ours.   The goal is which couple can lose the most weight by Easter.  If the women reach their goal weights, they get to buy a nice new Easter dress to wear to Mass.  We are also having each couple put in $15 towards a gift card of the couple’s choice who wins.  It is a great way to help each other and make it a friendly competition amongst friends.   My friend, Angie, and I did our meal plans for the next two weeks together and we went for a 2 mile walk.  It is sunny but brisk today.  I am looking forward to getting on track and working towards the virtue of temperance.  It is really great to have friends cheering you on and providing some incentive.
2.  I am reading a lot more.  I have started reading more modern fiction.  I am looking into themes and writing styles in order to further add to my own style.  Reading other people’s work actually helps me to solidify my own writing style, as well as topics that I enjoy reading and writing about.  I have really started feeling the push to write, but I think of this year as a research and initial writing year.  I have already started a novel.  I am trying to work some things over in my head.  I also am starting to feel like I should write authentic romance novels.  I NEVER thought that would happen.  I always make fun of romance novels.  Probably because a lot of them are shallow, sexually explicit, and not set in reality.  I want to write more about the True Romance, and that can include romantic love between the sexes.
3.  I made it to daily Mass today.  As a Lay Dominican, I am supposed to attend Mass as frequently as my primary vocation allows.  With a 2 year old, that is not as often as I would like.  I really miss going to daily Mass.  I need to strength and wisdom gained from the Liturgy and the Holy Eucharist.  Soon my daughter will be old enough to sit still and we will be able to go daily.  For now I will offer it up as a sacrifice for her.
What successes have you had this week? A very blessed Second Week of Christmas to you and your family!

Music, Beauty, and Childhood Dreams

Like me, do any of you have TOO many interests?  I have a hard time keeping them in check sometimes.  I want to read, write, play music, sing, act (this is a new one for me), paint, etc.  I am a lover of the arts, but it tends to get pushed back to an oven and burner on another continent.  I am not good at all of these things, but I enjoy them all the same.  There is something about creating that unites me, all of us really, to our Creator.  Art raises our minds to God.

Last night I was reminded of a childhood dream.  I have always enjoyed classical music, especially music performed by string instruments.  My dad raised us on Mozart and Bach.  In fact, music has brought me to tears on numerous occasions and I believe the most beautiful piece of music ever written is Mozart’s Requiem.  That aside, I wanted to pursue an instrument as a child.  I had asked to play the violin, but my parents said it would be too hard.  They did not realize that I was musically inclined, so I ended up playing the clarinet for 10 years.  I was even in the top band in the state!
The thing is, that I enjoyed the clarinet, but was not passionate about it.  Clarinet music has never “hailed my soul from my body” to quote Shakespeare.  Rather, it is always the violin.  The first piece of music that I remember being a transcendent experience was the first time I heard Pachabel’s Canon in D.  I was probably around 9.  We were driving in the car and my dad had it on in the cassette player.  Tears started to flow down my face while I sat in the backseat of the car.  It was an involuntary reaction in coming face-to-face with authentic beauty.
a very dear friend of mine is teaching himself the violin during his retirement years.  He played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for us after dinner last night.  He then let me hold the violin and showed me a few simple notes.  I did not know whether to laugh or cry.  I was so happy just to be holding it.  He encouraged me to learn it now.  I am not too old.  He is 65, he said.  He is right about that, but my vocation right now would make it difficult to add it in, but perhaps in a couple of years I could learn.  I felt like a joy filled child moving the bow across the strings.  I was reminded of the music that lifted my soul to grand heights.
Perhaps this explains why I have a hard time with modern music during Mass.  I have heard Masses chanted and sung that brought my soul to Heaven’s Gate.  Songs like He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand leave me firmly planted in my seat.  It is a lot harder for me to remember that we are in the presence of the Heavenly Liturgy at Mass.
This weekend my husband and I are going to go see The Notre Dame University Chorale perform at the local cathedral.  I am so excited.  It is the first time I will have attended a concert sine 2009.  We have a babysitter, so it is a nice date night of dinner and music.  Perhaps my soul will once again soar in the presence of transcendent music.
Are there arts that you enjoy or that you may have forgotten about?  Do you encourage your kids in the arts?  My daughter already is demonstrating a love of music and dance.  The arts help us to appreciate God’s beauty and love more fully.  I hope you are having a very blessed Second Week of Christmas.
Here are some of my favorite pieces of music:

The Dangers of Modern Fiction and A Desire to Write

A desire to write is absolutely pushing itself upon me these days.  In fact, writing is constantly in my thoughts like when a new romance is started. I can’t explain it.  It is hard to contain and hard to balance.  I am the mother of a toddler, a wife, and about to become a postulant in the Order of Preacher (Lay Dominican).  I have a very full plate with the two vocations God has given me, does he really want me to pursue writing?

 
First, I am trying to make sure that my desire for writing comes from wanting to glorify and share Jesus Christ, and not my own pride.  This is an internal struggle, to be sure.  Second, I want my writing to improve the world, not drag it down even further.  Third, I think there is a dearth of good books for women and teenage girls that demonstrate authentic love.  Fourth, In any writing that I would do, I want my daughter to be able to read it some day without pause.
 
I am deeply concerned by the books that seem to be bestsellers.  It has always been this way. Trash sells.  Sex sells.  We just happen to live in a culture that thinks that sex is love. I am  increasingly more worried about how society’s changes in its understanding of love are affecting our daughters. Now my daughter is only two, but many women of my generation have teenagers and the majority of women in my generation are eating up these same books I am talking about.
 
Now I am not talking about Harry Potter or Twilight.  I have read both series and found them immensely entertaining.  I am not big on vampires so Twilight is a series I read once because my youngest sister was such a fan.  What I do like about the series, is that the author demonstrated chastity.  She also showed young women how much they long for a man who is devoted to them and is chaste.  I think this is a great message for young men too, even though, the audience for these books was predominantly female.
 
I like Harry Potter because it demonstrates sacrificial love: the greatest kind of love.  It is the love demonstrated on the Cross.  I will not pretend that Harry Potter is Christian Fiction, it is not.  However, it does not escape the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western culture.  Our understanding of love has been formed by the God-Man who sacrificed for us.  No matter how much we try to drown this out, it is still in our very bones.
 
The trend that disturbs me most is how an understanding of love and romance is shifting.  Romance novels have largely been soft pornography for women.  Yep, sorry ladies, graphic sex in print is still pornography.  I have read a few of these books in my younger days.  They are entertaining in a vapid sort of way and give women a chance to form men in their own image.  However, they are usually shallow and continue to notion that all you need is romance and passion.  They do not demonstrate sacrifice and total self-giving.
 
The new “romance” books, if you can even call them that, scare me.  Yes, I am looking at you 50 Shades of Grey.  I have not read it, because I knew immediately that it is pornography.  It was all over the Catholic blogosphere, including some Catholic moms who were supporting it.  Very concerning and if I was ever in a conversation with any of them, I would suggest a meeting with their priest, so they could clear up their misunderstanding of what is pornographic.
 
That aside.  What concerns me, is the level of violence being leveled against women and their blind acceptance of it.  Since when is S&M love?  Since when is it not repugnant not just morally, but also to the very idea of romantic love?  With the increase in Internet pornography violent crimes against women are soaring.  Boyfriends are demanding pornographic sex and women willingly do it because they think they should do it out of love.  Ladies, NO!
 
First, any man who loves you, will wait for you until your wedding night.  Second, no man should be looking at pornography.  Third, no man should demand illicit sex acts from you.  A man who truly loves, respects, and has given himself to you, understands the sacred and holy aspect of the marital act.  The very act that renews the marriage covenant each time the two are brought together.  A man who loves you wants what is best for YOU.
 
So where are the books these days the describe authentic love?  Not just romance novels, books about friendship, service, parenthood, and yes, romantic love?  Why are we not concerned that S&M is a bestseller and about to become a movie?  Our society is normalizing illicit sex and continues to objectify women, yet, we open our wallets (among other things) to pay for this objectification.
 
Mothers, check what your daughters are reading.  Teenagers are reading books like 50 Shades.  They will hide it from you.  Do you want your teenage daughter to think that S&M is a normal type of sexual expression?  Do you want her to learn sexual mores from our culture or from Christ and His Church?  Talk about this with your daughters.  Talk about pornography with your sons.  If you don’t, our culture will do it for you.
 
So while I will not be reading any pornography, I have decided to start reading some of the popular novels of our day, especially those geared towards young women.  I want to pinpoint what is lacking and by God’s grace, write something that truly demonstrates His love.  Not sentimentality.  No, authentic love.  It may be allegory.  It may be daily life.  It might be romance.  I don’t know where God is taking me on this journey.  For now, I will get a hot drink, snuggle up under a blanket and tuck into a lot of fiction this year.
 
P.S. I just finished reading Richard Paul Evans’ A Winter Dream.  I read it as a recommendation from a friend.  I read it this morning in about 3 hours.  I really enjoyed it.

Liturgical Living: Feast of Epiphany Birthday Party for Jesus

Yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany.  The Roman Church has a week of Christmas left before we enter back into Ordinary Time.  The ladies who help me run the Sanctity of Life Committee at our parish and I decided to host a Birthday Party for Jesus.  We needed to collect crisis pregnancy items and what better way than to ask the families of the parish to bring a gift to Baby Jesus? This is the Sunday we celebrate the Magi bringing gifts to Our King, so it is a perfect day for a party.  We had the Knights of Columbus provide food and the Women’s Club helped us decorate.  We were all nervous about how it would go, and by the grace of God, it was a hit.

We were able to collect a lot of items for our local Catholic Charities and we had a great time celebrating the birth of Our Savior.  We played musical chairs, Pin-the-Tail on Mary and Joseph’s Donkey, the clothes pin game, and had crafts.  Plus, there were lots of cupcakes and our priest even won a round of musical chairs!  This is a great way to remind Catholics that we are still celebrating Christmas.  It did not end on December 26th.  It is also a great event to use as a fundraiser, especially helping babies and moms in need.  This is another way to live liturgically.  You can have a birthday party at home or start one in your parish.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. I am slowing moving into blogging regularly again.  I have a few columns to write for CatholicMom.com that I need to finish and then I can get back into a regular routine.

 

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Leaving 2013 Behind

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Hail Mary, full of grace.

Happy Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!  Happy New Year and Merry Christmas (still!!!)!  This morning my husband and I went to Mass for this holy day of obligation that always falls on January 1st.  We are still smack in the middle of Christmas season and we celebrate Jesus Christ through His mother.  She is the Theotokos, mother of God (both his divine and human natures).  Our priest gave one of those homilies that made me feel like it was meant for me.  He did not focus so much on Mary, but on new starts and moving forward on the path to holiness.  If anyone can show me the way in my vocation, it is Our Heavenly Mother.

You see, 2013 was a very rough year for me.  It was filled with grief and loss, medical emergencies, bills, anxiety, depression, and stress.  I woke up this morning and thought, “I survived 2013”.  I might make a t-shirt.  Okay, not really.  Our priest said that we must put 2013 behind us.  We must leave the bad and bury it.  We can take the good from 2013 and use it to help us on the path to Sainthood, but the bad, it must go.  We must also look at our failings in 2013 and figure out how we can improve in 2014.  What is it that I need to do better in this year that God has given me?  And, yes, I was so grateful to be here for 2014, when so many are not.

I am not talking about resolutions that lead us to 3 month fitness club memberships that we abandon.  I am talking about our sins.  The ones we hold onto so tightly.  We must learn to let them go.  God has given each one of us another day to be guided in His loving correction.  I fail daily.  As Father gave his homily, I asked for God to make me a better wife and mother.  I am finding that my primary vocation is deeply difficult, but comes with great joy.  My secondary vocation of Lay Dominican, only strengthens my first through prayer.  There are things about myself that are not pretty, but God’s grace “can make me white as snow”.

So, yes, 2013 still hurts.  I miss the baby I lost and the friend I lost, but 2013 increased my prayer life, especially an awareness of how much we need to remember to pray for the dead.  Losing people I love has shown me that my love for them does not die because they are behind the veil and I am not.  I think of them during Mass when I partake in the Heavenly Liturgy.  I think of my babies when I see another child in a mother’s arms.  I pray for the dead each time I pass a cemetery.  So, in a way, my grief has strengthened my resolve and understanding that this is not the end.  Even though 2013 was one of the hardest years of my life, as always, God has used it for His good.  I pray you have a very blessed 2014.  Where are some areas that you need to improve on your path to holiness this year?