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Book Review: "Arriving at Amen" by Leah Libresco

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New Catholic author Leah Libresco's book, "Arriving at Amen," is an unusual and lively read. Libresco's talent is to see the handiwork of God within Math, Science, Literature, and Modern Day Musicals. I find her book an especially useful tool for those of us with an established Catholic Identity and a routine prayer life.

Libresco's short, clear, and creative metaphors about prayer and the spiritual life really stuck with me throughout the day. I don't think I'll forget the her image of Morning and Evening Prayer being similar to an open and closed parenthesis inside a computer program. God designed me to need both parts to run my day well!

Rather than continue to talk about her unusual book, I'd rather show you her talented writing in person. Here is a quote regarding the universal sacrifice of the Mass.

"Imagine that wherever you walked, you traced out your path behind you, maybe with ink, maybe with string. There would be some places where the only evidence of your passing was a single, lonely line, but other locations (the threshold of your front door, perhaps) would show a thick mass of overlaid lines. Every point where lines cross would be a location that you occupied more than once. The times at which you stood there may have varied, but the position would remain the same..."

"I thought of the sacrifice of the Mass as being an example of the same kind of singularity. Throughout history, wherever they were in space and time, Catholics have continually doubled back to intersect in this one space. . . I might turn up for a different Mass ... but in the long chain of coordinates that describe me, there's one variable that remains absolutely the same at every Mass. ... I'm always in the exact same position with respect to Christ's sacrifice regardless of whether I'm in the same location in space and time (x,y,t) as his Crucifixion." (pg. 118-120).

Libresco has a rare gift to write about the deep mysteries of prayer with clarity and humor. I hope we can enjoy many more religious books from her in the future!

Two Ways to Clean A Kitchen (According to a Poor Clare)

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"What do we mean by a clean kitchen? There can be something that looks like cleanness just because nothing is going on. Let us linger for a couple of minutes on those material aspects. There are two ways, for instance, you could have a clean kitchen.

One, is that the cook never does anything there, that no service goes on there. Everything is in its proper place and never taken out; there is no work, there is no love, there is no energy, there is no spending. Nothing is ever spilled because nothing is ever done. Nothing ever burns because nothing is ever cook. And it's a clean kitchen.

Then there is a clean kitchen that is the result of loving labor after there have been some spills, some scorching, some pans boiling over--and then there is always cleaning up. Lots of work has gone on, and wherever human work goes on, there are always going to be some spills, there are always going to be some pans boiling over, and there is always going to be some things that didn't turn out as we had hoped. But then it is all cleaned up afterwards. That is a very different kind of clean kitchen from the first kind.

Then too, there is a clean house, the kind of thing we have heard about, read about, shivered about: women who are so tyrannical that they have a spotless house because nobody is ever really allowed to live there. Nothing really happens, in a deeply human sense. It's clean, all right, but for lack of life. And then again, there is a clean house in which a mother of many children has spent herself, every day, cleaning up the mud, sweeping the rug, washing the dishes because people have to be fed. You could have very clean dishes if you never fed anyone. You could have a shining stove if nothing is ever cooked on it-going back to our first image. But there can be the house that is always so beautifully clean because the mother is always cleaning up the inevitable messes that human living entails; the happy little disorder that comes from living, and the messes that perhaps should not have been made but then should not be pointed at--just cleaned up. And that is a very different kind of house.

In our spiritual life, the parallel is very evident: nothing else could be meant by a clean heart, but a cleaned heart.

--Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.

(I am such a Carmelite! I have been a stay-at-home Mother for 10 years. I'm incredibly messy and very poor at house cleaning tasks. My husband is the exact opposite of me. He has this natural, calm sense of order and his dream job at retirement is to become a janitor. For 10 years of our marriage, he carried me. Now finally after 6 kids and his 12 hours spent at work everyday, we are not getting the house cleaned on the weekend together regularly. We are printing out new car insurance cars and going rock climbing instead. So for two years the deep cleaning work is all on me. I'm failing at it.

I'm such a Carmelite because I could read 10,000 articles on Fly Lady --which is a great encouraging How To Clean Your House website that seems to work for every other mother except for me. I read "How to Clean Your House" and I fall easily into discouragement and self-pity. Yet I read three paragraphs from a spiritual book by a Poor Clare and I am inspired to be a better house cleaner. I think "Oh, this is why I'm supposed to care about this task!

I often sail on an opposite tact from everyone else but I have to trust that we are all aiming for the same buoy. A clean house is a critical tool for an active, happy family life. I was built to get to better housecleaning by sitting still and talking to Jesus' Mom in silence for 30 minutes today. Praise God for the Poor Clares. Their spirituality is so sweet, so encouraging and yet so, practical!

Catholic Women Blogger Network--Mid-Atlantic Conference 2015

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I got to live the life of Downtown Abbey this weekend at the Catholic Women's Blogger Network-Mid-Atlantic Conference 2015. So many of us drove past the driveway to Miss Julie's three story Victorian estate because we couldn't believe it was a private house. It felt incredible to walk into a storyboard and find a place setting just for me!

The cherry blossoms are in bloom in Maryland and there were roses gracing every table. Those old houses were made for entertaining. Thirty women sat comfortably in the formal living room listening to speeches about silent prayer, how to engage cheerfully and calmly in fights about religion with atheists, and how to update your social media presence into the modern century.

My favorite part was sitting down with five strangers at lunch and discovering that our individual lives were even more amazing that the blooming flower garden behind us. At my lunch table was a "Hobo for Christ," a retired dog lover with Press Credentials to see the Pope, a thoughtful and caring citizen of Baltimore, and a gracious hostess who kept urging me to attend even though I don't have an active Facebook account.

There are many times that I doubt my talent as a writer. This amazing gathering really reaffirmed that all women have something valuable to contribute to the world. I experienced a beautiful feeling of "community" Saturday afternoon. I felt challenged and encouraged and renewed.

I won a chance to review Leah Libresco's new book, "Arriving at Amen." I had missed that Leah was a former debater from Yale in her blog bio at Unequally Yoked. At this conference, Leah had fantastic ideas for how to move debates about faith into constructive conversations for greater world peace. Leah is a dynamic speaker and I highly recommend inviting her to speak at different events.

I also ran into the hilarious social media coach, Christina from Filling My Prayer Closet. I'm 40. I've blogged in the same space and in the same way since 2008. I felt like Christina was begging me personally to join her in the modern media age. I'm inspired to do a long overdo make-over on this blog soon!

I left the conference with roses, chocolate caramel fudge, and a batch of new friendship leads. Can you believe what a beautiful group of women we are? It's incredible to think that we write and pray and love even better than we dress!

A special thank you to our gracious hostess, Miss Julie from These Walls. Thank you fellow attendees!

Happy St. Joseph the Worker Day!

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What a brilliant Feast Day for one of my favorite saints! St. Joseph loves me so much that he sent me a pretty darn close copy of himself to love and cherish and protect me and everyone else in our own dear household!

St. Joseph, pray for us and the whole world!

Book Review: A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

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"A Fine Dessert" is one of those gorgeous children's books that you can't wait to pass out to friends. This book is American History at its best! The author, Emily Jenkins, takes one of the oldest dessert recipes in the English language and traces it through four families each spaced 100 years apart. Kids get to see kitchen technology changing through the ages. The beautiful illustrations showcase different fashions and living standards in American families. The book also tackles slavery in a sophisticated and sensitive manner. At the end, the recipe is recreated for modern cooks. My 7 year old was so excited to make Blackberry Fool for our family and cheerfully report on how easy it was to make real whipped cream with our modern blender.

I loved this idea of taking one distinct theme and making "snapshots" throughout time to teach history to children. My daughter is an aspiring pastry chef, so we study cooking all the time as central to her history lessons. But clear focus in this book on one recipe made in 1710, 1810, 1910 and 2010 helped her really be clear about the passage of time. I'd love to go back even further to make a similar dessert in Roman Times and Medieval Times. Sometimes when I teach history, I tend to overwhelm my kids with too many details. The antidote is found in this clear, fun, detailed American History book. As my husband said "There can't be anything better than to get to eat your homework at the end of the day!"

Find this book at your local library or order it from amazon here.

An Excellent Wife ---Who Can Find?

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Today is a tough day for me mentally. I'm three days out from a homeschool review mandated by my state. My home school teaching method is generally lovely 335 days out of the year. The month before my home school review is generally a time of inner ugliness and panic on my part.

My husband and I have different viewpoints on elementary education than many Americans. He taught college Art. I went to Law School. We're weirdo intellectuals who read Russian poets for fun. On good days, I'm completely confident that we've got the teachers of young mind thing totally covered.

Then along comes my yearly homeschool review and I start feeling anxiety. Did I mention that my Mom is a Professor of Education? So her irritated voice gets in my head and I start to second guess everything I do on a daily basis for school. I think "Oh, one of my kid's pencil grip is still substandard."

I spent a lot of time online today reading new bloggers before attending my DC blogger conference this weekend. There are a lot of insightful, funny women who write blogs!

I was reminded that at Smith College, my alma mater, was founded by a rich single woman, Sophia Smith, in 1871 to make "good wives and mothers." Back then a college education wasn't open to women. My college likes to sort of brush off the "good wives and mothers" thing as a sort of quaint reminder of how far things have changed in the last 150 years. But on the days like today when I get that paralyzing self-doubt of "Am I doing enough for my kids?" it helps me to think "Wait! I was trained by the best!"

This homeschool review is a reminder of how much I use my college education on a daily basis. I taught Plato's Cave Metaphor to elementary school students this year. I first heard about that as a Gov 100 student at age 18.

I am someone who both uses and appreciates her Liberal Arts Education.

I don't like being a leader. Home schooling is not always fun project to talk about with strangers.

Reading strangers blogs on the internet reminded me that we are all individuals who are searching to serve the same amazing God in different ways. I'm encouraged to start thinking about teaching elementary school not this isolated process, but as a larger part of seeking to be an "excellent wife."

My husband and I met in a bar and had our first date at Starbucks. We're talkers, and dreamers and philosophers. We get these ideas into our heads and we like to make them happen.

Fourteen years later, we do concrete things to make our ideas real. We homeschool. We also farm, write, invent things, draw and happen to have 3 times the national average of children living inside our home.

I don't like to do home school reviews. Most likely, I will never learn to like them. However, for love of my kids, and my husband, and myself, I'll happily do a lot harder things than get official sanction from the state for our innovative Elementary School curriculum.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!

Book Review-- The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China

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Activist Chen Guangcheng's new memoir, "The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China" is a great read for all Catholic adults. Chen is a self-taught legal activist who went after the Chinese Communist Government for basic human rights violations using the Party's own legal rhetoric against itself. With a combination of his bravery and legal jujutsu, Chen finds himself winning cases of disability rights, environmental law, and pro-life objections to China's One Child Policy. Tired of being hassled, the Chinese government eventually imprisons Chen under brutal house-arrest. The blind Chen then manages to outwit 30 Communist guards and makes a solo escape to the US Consulate in Beijing. Eventually, Chen, his wife, and their two children relocate to New York City.

Although this memoir is imperfectly edited, the scope of Chen's story makes his book a thrilling page turner. Chen grew up as a fifth son in a poor family inside rural China in the 1970s and 1980s. His parents didn't give him a proper first time at his birth. Chen is called simply "Fifth Son." Chen boldly names himself as an adolescent as a sign of his growing self-identity.

Chen's parents suffer under extremely inept socialist conditions created by the Chinese Leader, Chairman Mao in during Chen's youth. As an infant, Chen goes blind after his mother is unable to access medical care for him after he suffers from a fever. Chen summarizes this incident as "I was blinded by Communism."

Blind and disabled people in rural China faced extreme discrimination. Chen is unable to attend school with his older brothers due to his blindness. Blind people in China traditionally faced extreme poverty. Yet Chen showed so much boldness as a kid. In one of my favorite passages, Chen argues against his father's desire to apprentice him as a storyteller, an traditional occupation for the blind in rural China. Chen explains to his father "The radio is here now Dad! I can't make a living as a blind storyteller when I'm older. That job is over!"

At age 17, Chen enrolls in one of the few elementary schools for the blind in a distant city. Ironically, Chen becomes the only member of his family to obtain a college degree. Chen becomes a traditional doctor after great self-sacrifice. Chen basically starves himself while spending years at school because his poor family is unable to send enough money for him to eat properly while he is attending a school far from home.

Chen begins his disability rights career as a blind student. He quickly expands to environmental activism when water pollution threatens his childhood home. Chen is able to use his English skills to connect with British Foreign Aid Workers to gain funding and publicity for his safe water projects inside his rural village. He abandons his plans to become a traditional Chinese doctor and instead becomes a "barefoot" lawyer.

Catholics will be particularly interested Chen's first hand account of how the One Child Policy is enforced inside of China. Chen talked about the major culture shift that happened to reverse the ancient Chinese reverence for having large families. Chen himself is one of five sons. Yet he was only in his 20s when his older brother was forcibly sterilized, denied his government teaching job, and fined more than 40 times the average yearly salary because he had an "extra" child. Chen's own wife was pregnant with their second child at a time when Chen bravely started documenting the abuses that the rural Family Planning Commissions committed against Chinese parents. Both Chen and his wife are beaten and imprisoned due to their activism on this issue.

The action in Chen's book is so fast-paced, it reads like a movie script. There are some wonderful passages in "The Barefoot Lawyer" that helped me feel connected to China even when Chinese cultural beliefs seem so different from my own. Chen believes deeply in the dignity of the human person. I found it refreshing to read about a passionate pro-life activist who writes from a secular point of view. Despite Chen's brutal treatment by Chinese authorities, Chen retains a deep love for his homeland. At the end of the book, I found myself hoping that Chen's current sojourn in America would not be his life's final chapter.

A Married Catholic's Response to Grey's Anatomy

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(Spoiler Alert!)

After 11 years, this great modern love story of Dr. Meredith Gray and Dr. McDreamy (Derrick Shepard) ends with a happy, successful couple having sex in the morning, discussing the possibilities of having a third child, and then the wife pulling the plug on her brain dead husband that night.

I felt so weird watching that TV show last night. I liked the irony of Dr. Shepard dying from substandard medical care. It felt like the writer, Shonda Rhimes, made a wise nod to the realities of medical care in the United States. (All doctors can't all be at the Seattle Grace level!)

I got confused when they brought in the wife, Dr. Gray. I thought she did a great job of showing the total shock of having a spouse involved in a car accident. Yet I thought it was so weird that she made the decision to end her husband's life support within a total vacuum. She didn't call anyone! She didn't call her "person" either Alex or Christina Yang. She didn't call her husband's sister who was an expert in all things brain related. She didn't let anyone friend or family member say goodbye to her dying husband. She didn't even wake up her sleeping kids to say "goodbye to Daddy" with a kiss on his cheek.

The TV series showed a grief stricken wife terribly alone and making the individual call to end life support quickly for her once famous and heroic husband.

The Catholic Church does not require extraordinary measures to prolong life. I think that might surprise some people. If this fictional scene happened in real life, the church could totally support the wife's decision to end the husband's life support. (The church never approves of the withdraw of basic life saving measures like food and water. But it appears that the ventilator was "extraordinary care" in this specific instance because the husband could not breathe on his own.)

The Catholic Church, however, is a wise mother who never lets us face death alone! If the fictional wife, Meredith, was a Catholic she would have call on a priest connected to the hospital who was available 24 hours a day. The church would have given her husband Last Rites or the Sacrament of the Sick. I think the chaplain would have encouraged her to tell their daughter what was happening to her dad in age appropriate language. I hope the chaplain would have encouraged the wife to contact his sister and his parents before ending life support.

Death is scary! It's coming for all of us! It's a little intimidating to realize that when we are incapacitated within a secular medical system, all we have is our spouse to make the calls for us--calling our children, our family members, our friends, and asking our faith communities to pray for us.

When I watched this fictional TV show last night, I felt reassured about my marriage. I know that if my husband is notified that I'm in a horrific car accident, that I am not going to die without a visit from my priest, my kids, and hopefully a bunch of my fellow Carmelite Community members praying a Divine Mercy chaplet for me. I chose the right guy to fall in love with and give my Power of Attorney to!

I'm a little sad that the "perfect modern love story" for 11 years on TV not only showcases adultery, a lot of fights and a refusal to be the "trailing spouse who follows a doctor to Washington DC" but also a wife who makes the call to end life support without an independent brain activity consult, without notifying her husband's family and without prayer. It doesn't matter how cute the packaging, that scene looked like the lonely end to a pretty rocky relationship to me.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

AD --TV Show Review

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I can't say enough good things about the Christian TV series--A.D on NBC at 9 PM on Sunday Night. It is not a perfect piece of art, but I am shocked at how much discussion this series sparks among my young kids ages 12 to 4. We read Scripture almost every night at the dinner table. Yet there is something special about seeing our church's history on the screen that helps capture all of my kids' attention and focus at the same time.

The TV series has great actors and vivid sets. I really admire how the actors are portraying John, Peter and Mary Magdalene. One of the highlights I took from this series is a renewed sense of how much danger the early Christians faced. It's beautiful to watch the followers of Christ react in real time to his death and resurrection. It affirms to me how much uncertainty we face in trying to follow a God "whose ways are not our ways."

One of the criticisms that I have of AD is that it suffers from awkward editing and a tendency to play up minor historical events at the expense of the main, central events of the Bible. My 12 year old daughter Hannah says "I know the story and I'm still lost." The series spends a lot of time with Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, the high priest of Jerusalem. My young kids were furious that they edited out some of their favorite highlights of Scripture such as Jesus walking through a wall after his Resurrection.

The differences between the TV show and Scripture is part of the fun for me. I had no idea my young kids knew this much detail about Scripture. For example, my 10 year old son was totally upset that the tomb of Christ was placed inside a rocky, arid desert landscape. He said, "How could Mary Magdalene mistake Jesus for a gardener in that place? What was he supposed to be, a gardener of rocks?" This is the same son who acts totally bored during Mass and all things spiritual. I had no idea before this series that he knew that much detail about the Easter story.

Part 3, of AD focuses on Pentecost, the birthday of our church. There is a lot of background stuff happening during the majority of the show. Yet the three minutes that the series shows the Holy Spirit coming over the disciples is worth the wait. My kids were impressed at how intensely the disciples were praying before the descent of the Holy Spirit. "That was hard core prayer!" my kids called out during that scene. Hours later my 4 year old was still talking about how the "fire came down from the sky and whipped around the people."

Passion plays are hundreds of years old. I'm so grateful to this experience in modern media because it's sparking a lot of intense conversation in our house. This TV series makes it easy to keep the focus on Christ's Easter Story going throughout the whole Easter season.

The 12 part TV Series A.D. can be seen on NBC at 9 PM on Sundays. My family watches it together through On Demand as part of our homeschool lessons on Monday mornings.

On Relaxing My Standards For Communion Wear

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Yesterday, my child wore ripped jeans and a sleeveless shirt to church. I rejoiced. It felt really strange because I've got high standards for "church wear." I don't know how many times I've corrected her younger brother saying "you can't wear ripped jeans to church" or told one of my daughters' "That dress looks great, but add a sweater. We're going to see Jesus today."

In the Catholic church, Jesus is inside the Eucharist. We visit the King of the Universe each Sunday, so we try to dress accordingly. Over the years we've developed our own compromises. My oldest son hates formal wear. We've compromised by allowing clean, non-holey jeans instead of my preferred khakis pants. My son can wear the T-shirt of his choice under a buttoned oxford shirt. My son is the one ripping off his dress shirt with joy on the way to eat donuts in the church Social Hall.

On Saturday, my oldest daughter went clothes shopping with her grandmother. My daughter has a flair for fashion. She put together a layered outfit with ripped jeans with lace details, a sequin embroidered shirt and a sleeveless white jean jacket with white sequin details. We had a major difference of opinion on her shoes. My daughter picked out high top glitter sneakers with a 90 degree three inch heel and three different shoe laces at a cost of $55. I told her "I would never buy these shoes for you. They are too impractical. But I will ask your grandma if she would like to buy them for you." Grandma happily bought the shoes. I had to admit that when I saw the whole outfit modeled for us by my daughter at home, her new shoes did make a statement.

When my oldest daughter emerged from her bedroom before Sunday Mass, I was surprised to see her dressed in her new favorite outfit instead of a normal church outfit. I started to say "You can't wear that to church," but the look on her happy face made that statement die on my lips. I sort of reviewed my position in that moment. I knew that my kid really loved her new clothes and she was excited to show them off for Jesus. This was "her best" outfit in the same way her much younger sisters were wearing fun new headbands that matched "their best" Sunday dresses. Instead of saying "Go change into a dress!" I told my daughter "You look great!"

We have so many kids that we drive to church in two cars now. I was hanging out with my oldest daughter on the drive to Mass. We were talking about how much she loves fashion. I felt so much gratitude for her. I told her, "I hope you do something with this talent. I don't think we can have too many people who love Fashion and Love God in this world." My daughter and I had a spirited conversation about how most of the world is so gross. There is immodest/beautiful clothes versus ugly/modest clothes. It's so rare to find a combination of both.

I told my daughter how many women have body image issues. I told her that it was really painful to try on clothes at the Mall yesterday because I still haven't lost my pregnancy weight from the baby. I told her, "I should feel like such a failure because I gained more weight with this last pregnancy. I gave up exercise. I went on bed rest. I went to the hospital. I did that to help your brother's life! That was an honorable reason to change clothing sizes. Yet I go to the Mall and I feel like a failure because I'm six months out of pregnancy and I still have no idea what clothing size will fit me now."

I told my daughter, "If you get a job at a clothing store at the Mall at age 16, and you help one girl pick out clothing that fits her body in a positive way, that is a huge gift to the world!" I got pinpricks of tears in my eyes thinking about my kid's growing talents in a few years. I've been so busy dismissing fashion as this stupid, superficial thing people do in LA. I thought "important woman" cured cancer or taught orphans in Africa. But having an artistic kid who loves fashion and God and people, that is a huge gift to the world.

As I walked up to Communion with my family, I rejoiced in my kid's individuality. My daughter wore her favorite ripped jeans and glitter sneakers happily to Mass. My kid is finding her own way in this world. Her Mom is a plain Carmelite who wears the same black dress and black flats every Sunday to church. I serve God with simplicity and poverty in my dress. My daughter honors the same God with her passion for sequins and flair.

God is so well served by diversity. He gave each of us different talents and different insights. I'm so happy that I'm calm enough in my own spiritual journey, that I can let my daughters have more and more freedom as they grow up in Faith. Beauty is Truth! It's really wonderful to watch four spunky girls turn into beautiful, creative, smart, and talented women! Discovering self-identity within the context of Faith is such an amazing gift. I'm so grateful to a God who makes so many different kinds of women who love him in unique and individual ways!

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

My Unexpected Easter Gift

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If mortal sin was actual bullets, I grew up inside Detroit. I'm so grateful for every adoption blog I've ever read because it helped me make sense of what was happening to me on a spiritual level. I'm a late in life adopted Child of God. I've got a lot of hang-overs from my old life, the most serious are massive trust issues.

I complained to God during my wait in the communion line this Lent "Why am I so bad to you?"

The answer I heard inside the quiet of my heart was "Spiritually, you were a Foster Care kid!" I had this image of a teenage girl in foster care who has all of her belongings pack up inside black trash bags as she moved from placement to placement.

In a second, I started to understand how important it is that instruction in Faith is rooted inside a steady relationship. It's not something I could easily brush up against during an occasional Sunday School lesson or a chat with my Protestant minister over ice-cream at a Youth Group Lock-In. (To me, as a mystical Carmelite, a brief conversation about the spiritual life with a stranger was like finding a safe landing place for a few heartbeats before I got kicked out onto the harsh, secular streets again).

The same time I got this image I got this reassurance and also this intense call to action "Let yourself off the hook. Lets be grateful you are in a better place now" along with "Dig in! Use what you've got now!"

This Lent and this Easter has been this amazing experience of "digging in", of getting so much deeper into my relationship with God. All my same surface struggles are still there. But my scrupulosity with God is gone. The old fear that I wasn't good enough to be a Catholic and that I'd quickly get tossed out again, is gone. I have such a beauty and grace and calmness inside my daily life. I still feel stressed, but now I can ask for help and receive help. My first response isn't to hide anymore.

This Lent I learned that there is a difference between "Knowing About God" and "Knowing God." There is a difference between Knowledge and Wisdom.  I've spent my life trying to attain Wisdom.

I've grown up with circles upon circles of college professors. I've seen Knowledge up close and personal. Let me tell you, Knowledge, without Wisdom, is useless, stupid, brain numbing stuff. I'm so over being impressed by knowledge.

I'm enrolled in the Oxford of the Heart.

It's thrilling! Every single hour I'm learning new things with God. My home life is golden!

Thirteen years ago, I joined the Roman Catholic church at Easter Vigil. This is the year I felt inside my heart "Oh my gosh, they are really letting me stay! This could be my last home placement all the way to heaven!"

St. Teresa of Avila, daughter of the church, pray for us to share in your peace.

Good Friday

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(Drawing by St. John of the Cross, 1574 -1577, made after a vision he had at prayer in the Avila, Spain)

I'm a Carmelite who really struggles with getting her prayer time in daily. I'm still messed up with my priorities. I feel like I'm "stealing" time from  my kids whenever I pray. Yesterday, was Good Friday, so I let myself do the Divine Office without any guilt. The prayers for Good Friday were extraordinary. I copied and pasted a homily from St. John Chrysostom to my husband and my two oldest kids. Then I had an amazing time coaching my 12 year old daughter through her own Good Friday prayer time with God.

I keep forgetting that the prayers that benefit me, also benefit my husband and my kids. I'm so used to seeing religion as this "personal" thing for me, like working out or writing or knitting a sock. The practice of prayer is something deeper. The mysteries of God overflow from my heart and head and bless the people around me.

I find this walk with God so difficult at times. Ahh, the colic! Ahh the scruples! Ahh the dryness and irritation and loneliness. Good Friday shows up in lots of times during my calendar year.

I will not forget how wonderful it feels to encourage someone who is carrying a heavy cross beside me. I will not forget what true friendship feels like. The only way to get to the joy of Easter Sunday is to carry my own burdens with persistence and patience like Jesus.

Lord, forgive me my sins. Help me to be more faithful to you in the coming year.

A Shout Out to Saint John Paul II

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There are so many reasons that I love Saint John Paul II. I really struggled to come under obedience to a Pope during my conversion process from being a Protestant. Then my husband took me to see "Witness to Hope" at an artsy Independent Film Theater in Rochester, New York. I came out of the movie and it was like a switch flipped instantly in my heart. I told my husband, "I don't know if I can follow all Popes. But I can pledge obedience to THAT Pope!" Saint John Paul II made obedience look easy to me.

There are so many stories that I love about him. One of them happened during the last days of his life. Saint John Paul II was in the middle of a surgery and doctor warned his friend, "he may not be able to talk afterwards." The friend said seriously "Better let him die then!" I'm a fellow sanguine, and that story just makes me laugh. My husband would probably have the same thoughts for me.

I love Saint John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcuatta. These are the people of the Catholic church that I loved, even before I became a Catholic.

Saint John Paul the Great, pray for us!