OPEN BOOK--What I'm Reading Now

It is Better to Receive

Sometimes, especially when it comes to God’s love, it’s better to receive than give.

The seed of this *face palm* realization was planted when I read the beautiful book, Thirsting for Prayer by Jacques Philippe. In the chapter where he describes conditions that are necessary for prayer to be fruitful, these words struck me: In our subtle pride, we want to do beautiful things for God instead of trying to find out what God wants to do for us gratuitously.  *Gulp*.  I recognized myself in that sentence.  I am often so caught up in my intention to do something for God that I forget to focus on the prerequisite requirement of loving and being loved by Him fully. “Merit does not consist of doing or giving a lot, but rather of receiving and loving a lot,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. Tricky!

It’s about love, the Holy Spirit reminded me. Specifically, God’s love for me and how I need to let that, first and foremost, be the compelling force behind my relationship with him and behind any works that result. But I have to let Him love me first. Let it, I felt God saying to my heart one morning while prayer journaling about the Thirsting for Prayer book. Let love come in. Allow it. Receive it. Let LOVE enter, and let LOVE be the guide for my actions. I can’t go charging ahead without it.  It can be prideful to keep asking “what can I do for you?” Father Jacques pointed out. Instead, my phrasing should be a more humble, “Please open me so that you can love and work through me, with me and for me.” It’s a subtle difference, but one with great implication.

God is faith, hope, love. He is a generous giver. He wants to give me an abundance of faith, hope and love through prayer and the sacraments and scripture.

And receiving it is priority No. 1 for those of us Thirsting for Prayer!

Catholic Sistas Post

Getting Out of the Baby Pool

“The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

–Pope Benedict XVI

I have always loved this succinct quote from Pope Benedict. It’s a jolting statement that both convicts and motivates me.

And so does this particular, albeit more informal version: “Get out of the Catholic baby pool!”

This blunt directive is not a quote from a saint or a pope—it is something I wrote several years ago in the journal I use at Eucharistic Adoration. The words came to me quite suddenly, an unmistakable holy whisper to my heart, as I sat silently praying in the Adoration chapel and asking the Lord for guidance and direction. This was the answer I “heard” from him.

Well, Sistas, I don’t know if you’ve ever laughed out loud in an Adoration chapel, but let me warn you that if you do, you get some funny looks. I couldn’t help myself; it cracked me up. My Lord really knows how to speak to me on my level!

After I gathered myself a bit, I started to process this clever little inspiration. The truth hit me hard: As a Christian, I had been going through the motions and spiritually sleepwalking for a long time…

Read the rest of this post over at Catholic Sistas here

Tiny Revelations

Happy Homemaking

I’ve been a marketing director, a college professor, a physician recruiter and a Sunday morning disc jockey.  I’ve made presentations on Wall Street, conducted interviews on Capitol Hill and started my own business. I am a magazine editor, a family humor columnist and the author of two books.

But here’s the thing: None of these accomplishments or titles matter, and I know it.

What has mattered, really mattered, in my life are my titles of wife, mom and homemaker. After “Catholic Christian,” these titles are the most meaningful to me. They are my vocation.

It took me a while to figure that out.  When I was in college in the early 1980s I was influenced by the radical feminists of the era who chanted in the background of my life to break the glass ceiling and strive for success as an independent career woman. Family and marital life was not considered a priority, or worse, it was discouraged. I drank some of that Kool-Aid, even though I didn’t really like the taste. Something seemed off with this philosophy, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I put myself through college and scrabbled for a job opportunity when I graduated, eager to launch a high-flying career in the communications field.

But there was a catch. A 6-foot-3-inch catch, to be exact. My tall, dark and handsome boyfriend swept me off my feet and I found myself walking down the aisle of a beautiful Catholic church before I could say Helen Gurley Brown. I loved this man. And that love compelled me to have a family with him. And then love for that family compelled me to be a homemaker.

The term “domestic church” was unfamiliar to me back then, but somehow I felt its pull and tug anyway. (thanks, Holy Spirit!). I wanted our home to be a respite for my husband and my kids—a place of peace, love and stability, where God could dwell and make himself evident. Was this always the case over the 30 years I’ve been a wife and mom? Um, no. Often it was the complete opposite. The struggle is real! But that did not stop my intention to make it so. To home-make was one of the strongest inner desires I had ever felt. And I believe it to be a holy desire, inspired by the God who created us to live out this very role. Homemaking, I discovered, is an important part of my vocational commitment. Slowly but surely, I gave up the lure of the feminist propaganda given to me by the culture, for the surety of the pure feminine genius given to me by God. I became a homemaker. And I liked it.

My homemaking was not focused on cleaning and organizing. Instead, it included intentional decisions to create a serene and welcoming environment. We wanted lots of natural light pouring in from big windows. Our décor was informal and kick-your-shoes-off inviting—no white carpet and no fussy, off-limit areas. We had Mozart on the stereo, fluffy pillows and cozy blankets on the couches, fresh vegetables and bright flowers from the garden. We read books together and ate supper at the table almost every night, even if the fare was from a box or a can. We had multiple pets, we played outside often and we created a space in the basement for teenagers to hang out on the weekends. We laughed a lot, had joke-telling and story-telling challenges, and celebrated special events with gusto.   And there was a continual flow of guests into our home (over the years, I honed my introverted/underdeveloped hospitality skills and got over the concern of a supposed not-clean-enough-for-guests home). We also prayed together.

We didn’t get it right all the time. We still argued, got stressed and took out our frustrations on each other. There were slammed doors and tears and words of regret. But there was also forgiveness and mercy and compassion. And life lessons that could be taught nowhere else but in this domestic church.

I realized we did at least a little something right when my 27-year-old son recently mentioned to me how he always loved our home: being home and returning home. He wasn’t talking about the bricks and mortar of our house. He was talking about growing up in a home surrounded by a sense of being guided and nurtured and cared for. A home his parents designed and maintained with family life in mind. He physically, emotionally and spiritually benefited from intentional homemaking. We all do.

Far from my attitude 35 years ago, I now assert that we wives and mothers have a right and a responsibility to our families to home-make in ways that have eternal value and influence. It’s a gift particularly endowed on us women and we should not deny or suppress it.  We are made for this!

So when the time comes to write my obituary, I will set aside all my worldly accomplishments. I will say instead that I was most thankful for the gift of being a Child of God.  And most honored and fulfilled by my vocation as a wife, mother… and happy homemaker.

What about you—are you a happy homemaker? What do you do to create your own domestic church?

Catholic Sistas Post

Learning to Be a Better Pencil

I’ve done it for years. Decades, really. I’ve made lists. You know the kind— where you write down all the tasks you need to accomplish as a wife, mom, employee, homemaker, all of the above? I actually got pretty good at it over time. I use a business system to help me track and organize my various to-do’s. I create weekly and monthly goals that connect to my daily planner. And once, in a highly creative but mercifully short-lived phase, I color-coded my list according to priority. Yep, that’s me: A list-maker supreme.

So it only came naturally to me when I reverted to the Catholic faith five years ago to approach my spiritual growth in the same structured manner. Soon I found myself making a list of books I wanted to read, jotting down virtues I wanted to explore and develop, and later, noting elements of the faith I wanted to re-learn (better this time). And I made prayer intention lists— lots of prayer intention lists. But more recently I began penning things I thought the Holy Spirit was nudging me to explore— in particular, ways I could maybe help build the kingdom using the talents and gifts He’s given me.

Sometimes the spiritual list-making worked. I checked off several important milestones in my faith life and I felt like I had accomplished some significant goals. But then…

Read the rest of my post over at CATHOLIC SISTAS  here.

Catholic Treasure Chest

What I’m Reading

I am a certified bibliophile, especially when it comes to spiritual books. I spent much of Lent reading! (Note to self: the pile of unread books does not diminish if you keep adding new books to the pile…)
Here’s a list of books I am reading at the moment or finished during Lent. Let me know if you’ve read any, are currently reading these, or have comments on any of them!

  • Into His Likeness by Edward Sri. Sri is one of my go-to authors so I couldn’t wait to dive in to this one, which covers one of my favorite topics–the call to discipleship. He did not disappoint! I learned much about the process of transformation that is required to really follow Jesus.
  • Finding True Happiness by Ven. Fulton Sheen. A short collection of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s teachings on the culture’s fruitless search for happiness apart from God. So many quotable quotes! Some of my favorites: “If you do not worship God, you worship something, and nine times out of ten it will be yourself.” “It is one of the paradoxes of creation that you gain control by submission.” “It is God you are looking for. Your unhappiness is not due to your want of a fortune, or high position, or fame or sufficient vitamins; it is due not to a want of something outside you, but to a want of something inside you.”
  • Kingdom of Happiness by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STD. To continue the “seeking happiness” theme, Kingdom uses the compass of the Beatitudes to point us toward Jesus and true happiness in our lives. I reviewed this book for Catholic Sistas–look for the official full review on their website soon!
  • Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This book was handed to me by my spiritual director and I know why. Fr. Jacques’ insights are profound and practical, a difficult mix to accomplish, and led me to think of my prayer life in more simple terms. One highlighted sentence I took to heart: “It is not a question of thinking a lot, but of loving a lot…Praying is not first and foremost doing something for God, but primarily accepting his love, letting ourselves be loved by Him.” Whoa. That flips my task-driven, to-do-list mentality on its head!
  • Reform Yourself! By Shaun McAfee. I’m working my way through this collection of stories of the saints who stood strong during the age of reformation. Saints Francis de Sales (my favorite!), Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and others can teach us how to grow in virtue and grace for our own personal reform. Inspirational and useful.
  • A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor. I heard about this book through an interview on Catholic radio and I was hooked. I was an intern in Washington, D.C. when Ronald Reagan was President and John Paul II was Pope. I greatly admired both men. This book takes an in-depth look at the paths they took to their leadership roles in the world and how their goal of taking down the communist threat became inextricably intertwined. I’m only one-third through this one and it’s so fascinating that I frequently look up from the pages and offer a “Hey, did you know..?” to anyone in the same room.

There are a few others on my Kindle, including a G.K. Chesterton gem, that I pull out on occasion and sample from too.

On deck are these enticing titles:

  • Thrift Store Saints by Jane Knuth
  • Leaping by Brian Doyle
  • Strangers in a Strange Land by Archbishop Charles Chaput
  • Fulfilled by Sonja Corbitt
  • Saint Mary Magdalene by Fr. Sean Davidson

I will keep you “posted” on my progress!

Do you have any book recommendations for me?

 

Catholic Sistas Post

The Answer is Always the Same

It never fails.

Whenever I am in need, or can’t figure out something, or have to make an important decision, I try to first offer my question to God. It could be composed in my prayer journal. It could be in the form of a petition during Mass. Or it could be whispered in the dark of a sleepless night. But no matter what the question or quandary, I hear the same answer loud and clear from Him lately: “More of Me.”

That’s it. He wants me to draw nearer to Him, to pray more to Him, to ask Him to reign ever more completely over my life. That’s His answer to my problems big and small—More of Him. It’s not an easy answer to accept. I would rather He just go ahead and fix it, thank you very much—whatever “it” is: Just answer my question or solve this problem and we can all move on, God. But that’s not how He typically works. Instead, He wants us to lean on Him harder and lean into Him deeper whenever we are at a crossroads.

Read the rest of the post over at Catholic Sistas here.

Catholic Sistas Post

Love, Despite

I am a word nerd. Always have been. Growing up, I knew how to read before I started school. I wrote funny poems about and for my second-grade friends. And I often stayed in at recess just so I could get a jump on my new spelling words. When I first discovered the existence of a thesaurus, my nerdy word world was rocked! My Creator made me this way, so I choose to run with it. And because he made me this way I have learned that whenever he wants my attention, he likes to send a word for me to ponder. The ponder word can bubble up during my prayer journaling time, while I’m reading a book, while I’m saying the rosary or even while I’m spacing out in the car or the shower. I know the word when I see it and hear it because it usually compels me to pause. The word crackles my brain circuits for the tiniest moment and makes my heart sit up and take notice. I love this special way God and I have of communicating. It always draws me nearer to him. It teaches me something that’s relevant to the particular season of spiritual growth I happen to be in.

The most recent word that has been surfacing on a regular basis in my life is despite. Initially, I thought it was a negative word that implied a struggle, a difficulty, a challenge to overcome. But after stewing on it and wondering how God wants me to apply it in my life, I found it to be a positive, faith-filled word. A turning-point, change-of-perspective word. A word that I need to integrate into my daily life to keep me motivated and help me to become a stronger disciple of Jesus.

One example? Jesus commands us to Love One Another. That wouldn’t be so difficult if we weren’t humans, am I right? As EWTN’s Mother Angelica once said, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy!”

——->>>>>Read the rest at Catholic Sistas  here