Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Garden Views: End of May

Raspberries will be here, before long!
My husband built my strawberry bed. Here are the baby plants.

This last photo shows that there are parts of my garden where I do, finally, have some walls of green.  There's something so comforting about that for me, sitting amongst trees and bushes.  Especially with a blue sky above.  I have always found that to be so relaxing. 

As this garden matures, I am getting closer to the garden that was the inspiration for this one -- one of my British gardens. It was only mine for a year and a half, but I enjoyed it whilst it was mine!

Friday, May 30, 2014

7QT: I have no clever title today

~  ONE  ~
Strawberries are in season!

We made an impromptu stop and we were richly rewarded.  I'm doubling the amount of strawberry jam from last year.

~  TWO  ~
The place we like to purchase our farm-fresh produce is a  . . .  farm.  The produce, baked goods, canned jams, etc. are contained in a big barn, converted for retail purchases There are big doors open to a view of various outbuildings, where you can watch the workers do their thing.  They pull up to this barn with their newly harvested crop and you can purchase it straightaway.

As we were making our strawberry selection today, a woman came back to the table with her quart.  She whispered, as if letting the establishment know of a problem without alerting the other patrons.  'There's a bug in this one.  I'll take another.'  The employee was very courteous, not at all disrespectful, when she pointed out that it was fresh from the field and these things do happen.

~  THREE  ~
Speaking of the animal kingdom, is it weird that my parakeets chirp their happy sounds when I'm frying chicken?

~  FOUR  ~
More on animals.  It annoys me to no end, when I come across print ads for pet food or pet treats in magazines and they make it a selling point that the pet food is manufactured in the United States.  I know they are referring to the time dogs were dying from the Chinese imports.  But the US imports chicken from China, for human consumption, without requiring country-of-origin labelling!  I'm all for safe food for dogs. I do not understand why we won't hold food for humans to the same high standards.

~  FIVE  ~
One of my children brought home a library book about volcanoes.  She wanted to do the exploding volcano experiment.  She was reading the ingredient list and came up to me, puzzled,  "What is a film canister?"

I did a poll.  No one under the age of 15 around here knows what a film canister is.

~  SIX  ~
I love this wall.  It says no-paint, because they used white duct tape.  Honestly, I like painting, so I would tape off the diamonds and do the whole thing with two paint colors.  I'm thinking of doing it for my little girls' room.  They like pink, but doing it in this style would give it a level of elegance that could carry them beyond the young-girls-like-pink phase.

~  SEVEN  ~
Shameless plug.  A new series on Children and Prayer.

Thanks 7 Quick Takes!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Children & Prayer: Why This Is Important

What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.
1  Corinthians 2: 9

Heaven – the afterlife – is the goal of more than just Catholics.  It is left up to the imagination, or personal interpretation, whether heaven consists of eating certain foods for eternity or meeting certain people for delightful conversations.  However it plays out, it is where we will have the chance to meet, face-to-face, the Creator and Master of the Universe.

We need not, indeed, we should not, wait for death before pursuing God.  Union with God begins here, whilst still in this realm.  How?

Well, how do we build any relationship here?  Would I have much of a marriage, if my husband and I never spent time with each other?  How well would I know my children if we didn’t chat during meals or sitting around the living room?  Even for those not in close proximity: would I ever be aware of how things were going with my mother or sisters, if we didn’t e-mail and text?  Even that mixed-blessing of Facebook allows me to know the odds and ends about the lives of family and friends near and far.

How could we ever expect to know God, if we don’t spend time with Him?  Prayer is the primary way we build our relationship with Him. Sure, we see Him in others and serve Him by serving others.  But to actually cultivate a deep relationship with Him?  That takes prayer.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "Prayer is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us."

Reflect for a moment on all the things parents do to offer their children a well-grounded life: a good education, a well-balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle in the form of dance, sports, biking, etc., and a religious foundation.  Depending upon the avocations of individual families, the building blocks of a well-rounded life might also include exposure to the arts, exploration of nature, the fostering of personal interests in any variety of subjects.

All important things.

God is meant to be our primary relationship in life, so start our children young. I think many families do “start them young,” as far as building a Catholic culture, teaching children vocal prayer, guiding them toward proper behavior.  I believe, though, that there’s more we can do. I believe that we can guide even the youngest children towards a life of contemplative prayer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

 In honor of those who have died in the defense of freedom.

GK Chesterton wrote, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

In honor of military chaplains, both living and dead, via the Archdiocese of Military Services.

Prayer for Military Chaplains
Heavenly Father, bless and protect Military Chaplains and fill them
with the joy and courage of their vocation as personal ministers of
Christ in preaching your word and nourishing us with the Sacraments.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flown the Coop!

A bit about the robins appeared on this blog a while ago.

They've flown the coop.  The young robins are gone; the parent robins are gone.  Just as the online sites about these birds said they would, two weeks after hatching, it was time to fly on. 

We were able to see only one of them make the brave move out into the world.  Its siblings did it sometime when we weren't looking.

Empty Nest

There's the empty nest.  That's the closest anyone has been to this nest in a while.

I snapped this photo, moments after observing a sparrow picking bits off the nest and flying off somewhere beyond my line of sight.  I guess that's what happens to robins nests?

I felt there must be a lesson in that.  I'm not sure if it is a sobering lesson on the transitory nature of life, or a comforting lesson that "all manner of things shall be well," in spite of the transitory nature of life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

100th Post!

Woo hoo!

I've stuck with the blog this long!

In celebration, a fun You Tube video:  Dance-dueling seminarians, a la Riverdance.  From the way it is titled, this appears to be from the Pontifical North American College Rector's Dinner, at the end of April.  It goes to show that a certain someone around here who quit Irish dance could still put his knowledge to good use in the most unexpected of ways, one of these days.

PS:  I have embedded You Tube clips that haven't shown up on the iphone.  So, here is the link, if the embed isn't showing for you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Children and Prayer: Introduction and Disclaimers

There’s a project I’ve been working on for a while.  A long while.  I’ve been keeping notes off and on for a number of years, in fact.  This project is about the importance of children and prayer and the necessity of helping children to cultivate a prayer life. Specifically, I want to share what I’ve found and what others have written about children and prayer.

Before I start, however, there are some disclaimers. 

I’ve been reluctant to share my thoughts for a few reasons.

First and foremost, there are some strong technical reasons working against me.  I’m not a theological scholar and I wouldn’t want even one person to think that I think I am.

Furthermore, I’ve been holding back because I cannot do justice to the topic.  Even if there isn’t a lot out there now, I believe that the subject of children and contemplative prayer could fill a book, or volumes of books.  I cannot write a book.  If I were able to retreat from the world and parse sentences in a silent sanctuary somewhere, perhaps I could write a book.  However, I cannot do this.  Thus, it bothers me to share something in a public forum, without being able to take the time to make it worthy of professional publication.

Even if I were to retreat to the proverbial cabin in the woods, I know that I’d be going through the effort of developing an outline, writing out my thoughts, sharing with the world, only to be evermore finding other ideas, more brilliant quotes from true scholars, and knowing that I shouldn’t have shared before the work could be truly complete.  From the time I first developed this idea, I have learned more about prayer.  If I had shared any of this four years ago, it would have been entirely different from what you are going to read now.  I know that if I were to wait another four years, there would be yet another outcome.  That intimidates me from putting forth incomplete ideas.  [Although a friend recently pointed out that, on a blog, I can always add things and change things.  She’s right!]

In addition to these technical strikes against me are the personal reasons.  I’m reluctant to share because I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying my prayer life is perfect, my kids are perfect, and if you follow my directions, you’ll be perfect like me.  No, no, and no.  My prayer life ideals are inspired by St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.  In no way do I measure up to these standards on a daily basis. 

Similarly, with my children: our house is a typical home and not a monastery.  We do not pray, work and eat with gently chiming bells calling us to the next activity, each hour of the day.  My kids are great kids, but they aren’t perfect and they have bad days.   We have crazy schedules of dance and sports activities.  Kids need to visit the dentist and the doctor.  They get invited to play at friends’ houses.  They like going to museums, sporting events, on picnics, watching movies and the like.  We are living a typical life.  Meaning: distractions.  

Most importantly, the work a parent does in teaching about prayer and spirituality is more about planting seeds than it is about recording outcomes.  It makes me nervous to share my ideas, knowing that they haven’t yet been proven!  Check in again when my baby is 64 and maybe we can see how well this worked.  

So, that’s my long list of reluctances.  Why am I doing this, nevertheless?

See that paragraph about living a life?  That’s the point.  We are here to cultivate the relationship with God in the midst of the daily activities that we call life.  If children learn from an early age how to cultivate a prayer life amidst the things of childhood, they will hopefully stick with it into adulthood. Or know how to find the path, when they’ve stumbled off it.  I believe that children are natural contemplatives (more on this later), so I believe that they are very receptive to the idea of contemplative prayer, even if you aren’t putting it in theological terms for your six-year-old.

I do believe that I present a unique perspective on the issue of children and contemplative prayer.  In all my searches, I’ve found one person who is writing about this.  There’s an ocean of writing out there about contemplative prayer, sacred silence, and the like, but rarely as it applies to children.

I have an outline I’m working from, so I hope to be disciplined and post once a week.  I’m asking a few friends with knowledge and interest in this topic to give me feedback behind the scenes.  Hopefully this will provide some accountability for me, to keep me from chickening out (again!) and abandoning this whole process. [I’m hoping they will contribute their own ideas in a “guest post” capacity later in this series of writings!]

As a recap, here are my disclaimers:

·         Embarking upon the adventure of writing about children and prayer is much more of a “sharing lessons I’ve learned” than a “mystically inspired, do-as-I-say” manual.  I am still on my spiritual journey; children or other adults who contribute to this are still on a spiritual journey.

·         I do not write out of a belief that I have all the answers.  Ask family and friends who have seen me on an off day: I’m a person who could benefit from taking a deep breath and counting to ten before opening my mouth.  (Hm.  Maybe ask people who don’t like me, too, as they’d tell you the same thing.)

·         I do not write with the implication that my children are perfect.  Nor do I believe that I am able to determine each one of my children’s path to God.  I make suggestions, I offer opportunities; the rest is between God and each one of them.

·         My goal here is to offer a perspective I have not yet found in most writings about children and prayer.

·         My perspective on prayer is one inspired by Carmelite spirituality.  Not everyone is called to Carmel.  However, all charisms, all Christians, are called to union with God.  Thus, each person can benefit from practicing an awareness of the presence of God.

·         I believe that children are natural contemplatives. This isn’t about foisting a monastic life on unwilling young souls. This is about fostering an attribute I believe is already present and God-given.

Friday, May 16, 2014

7QT: Donkey Meat, Silence, & Nature . . . Oh, my!

~  ONE  ~

It is the Easter season, so it is time to recite the Regina Caeli, instead of the Angelus.  Here is a family story I will repeat often.  A number of years ago, one of my children got the wording wrong.  Instead of, "For He whom you merited to bear," she thought the line was, "For he whom you married was bare."  We still laugh about that one!

~  TWO  ~

I happened upon Christian Rock Radio and a Basketful of Unicorns.  It's a not-sugar-coated piece about Christian contemporary music.  I find myself agreeing with it.  I'm very picky about my music.  I also suffer PTSD from growing up in the seventies and eighties -- and the fact that way too much church music is still around from that era.  The article isn't just a complaining one, as it has a suggestion for how to fix the problem of basketful-of-unicorns-esque music:

If I had a Christian radio station, I think it would be mostly silence. People who tuned in would listen to dead air, would wait quietly with all the other people listening, sitting in the presence of God. Every once in a while we might play an older hymn, or read a Psalm. Come Vespers we’d pipe in a feed from a Trappist monastery somewhere, and listen to the old brothers chant and sing and the organ echo in the high vaults. And Friday and Saturday night we’d take a few hours to play some of the best CAC stuff, so people could dance. Dancing is important. I’m pretty sure it makes you a better person.

But mostly it would be silence.

I suspect no one would listen.

Brilliant. Sounds like an excellent concept for Christian radio.  As it happens, an excellent concept as a replacement for post-Communion "meditation" music.  SILENCE!!!  We want more silence!

~  THREE  ~

Nature.  The weather has been crazy.  We've had days as hot as July.  Now, though, we're going through a cool spell.  If it stops raining, I will be putting my vegetables and strawberry plants into the ground.  Strawberries, yes!  My husband built for me a raised bed for a strawberry patch.  I'd share a photo, but I didn't want to take the phone or camera out into the rain.  Stay tuned.

~  FOUR  ~

More on nature.  I tried to discourage a robin pair from building their nest on our swingset.  They kept re-building.  So, I let it go.  They built the nest, laid the eggs, sat on the eggs.  The eggs hatched!

All the babies seemed to make it!  It has been enjoyable, watching the parents drop bugs into the open beaks.  The babies have gone from bald to fuzzy to almost-adult robin.  They are stretching their wings and pushing mama up, almost out of the nest, when she tries to sit down.  Here's a very grainy photo of mama bird with two heads peeking out beneath her.

They should begin leaving the nest around Sunday, if they stick to the schedule.  I'm not sure how they are going to all fit in that nest for that many days!

~  FIVE  ~

Have you read the story about Walmart and the donkey meat?  I guess it's not a new story, but it's new to me because I saw it posted on Facebook just this week.  Customers thought they were buying pure donkey meat, but it had fox meat mixed in it, too.  It's yet another story that gives people reason to yell about Chinese imports.  However, there is no such thing as truth in labeling in this country.  'Proprietary rights' give food manufacturers the ability to keep from disclosing ingredients and calling it 'natural flavors.'   That can make people with sensitivities, like me, ill from accidentally eating something they aren't supposed to eat.  The last few days, I've been suffering from some ingredient (probably soy) hidden in something I am eating.  As I haven't been cheating and eating at restaurants, so it has to be an undisclosed item that is causing my reactions.  I'm not going to go down without a sense of humor, though.  I've been running around complaining that someone has sneaked fox into my donkey meat!

~  SIX  ~

Have you seen my blog post about #SOTG?

~  SEVEN  ~

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!"  I haven't yet made any definite decisions about my hair.  But I still haven't colored the grey.

Thanks so much to Jennifer for hosting 7 Quick Takes Friday.  I'm so happy the book sales are going well!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

#SOTG Giveaway

Beating my personal record for a 5K?  Check!

Supporting a blogger I like on the publication of her first book?  Check!

Thanking a friend who doesn’t know she needs thanking?  Check!

Jennifer Fulwiler is doing all kinds of fun activities in conjunction with the release of her new book, “Something Other Than God.”  Contests galore!  I am not witty enough to win “epic selfie,” “weirdest place,” or “create a drink” categories.  I am mentioning the book here on my blog, with a link (no personal gains for that link), so I can enter that contest.  However, it seems a bit lazy, as my three lone readers probably know about the book already. Ha!

I was running a 5K last week, when I was inspired to do a giveaway of my own.  Not a giveaway as Super Bloggers do.  Rather, I’m going to purchase another copy of “Something Other Than God” to give it away to a friend.  I came up with the idea just around the 2 mile mark, when I realized I was about to break my personal best record for a 5K.  It’s a spontaneous, celebratory, give-happiness-to-others idea. I’ve only been running for a year, but I’ve never yet run faster than an 11-12 minute mile 5K. Today, I averaged a 10:25 mile.  Go me!

This was a big moment for me.  I never thought I was able to be a runner.  There were physical reasons against running: I had recurring knee and back pain. There were emotional reasons against it: I hated to run.  What other excuses do you need? 

Well.  It turns out that running has cured my recurring pain.  In fact, if I catch a cold or the flu and I’m unable to run, my back pain starts up again.  So, I run.  Even when I don’t feel like running, I run.  It’s what I do to feel my best, much to my surprise.

The emotional effects have surprised me more than anything.  Running is a meditative thing.  Lots of good comes from it.  In fact, running is quite a bit like prayer: sometimes I go to it dragging my feet (pun intended), but I’m always glad I did it, when I’m done.  Also, the times I think I feel energetic are sometimes the hardest runs to do; the runs I dread and insist will be only one mile end up being a longer run where I wind up breaking a personal distance or speed record.  Prayer is like that: when we think we’re on top of our game, we find out we’re not; when we struggle, we can end up with very fruitful prayer.

I’ve gone off on a tangent.  Back to the celebratory thing.

As I was running, and deciding who to share the book with, I thought of a friend who helped me accomplish something else that was a spiritual biggie, like the running has been.  I won’t go into the details here, but I will let her know, when I tell her she’s getting the book. 


Running is going well!

Jennifer’s book launch is going well.  I enjoy her blog and I am enjoying her book.

Conquering myself in yet another small way is going well, both with the running and with that thing I’m thanking my friend for.

Deo gratias!

sotg party What do you get when you mix wine, tequila, and bacon? A drink inspired by my life story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Lady of Fatima

The first item for the Mary Garden was purchased yesterday.  I held off on planting until today, so it could be done in celebration of Our Lady of Fatima.

Here's a view of the bush, in the morning light.  I like this photo because that one large rose is doing that thing red roses do when they catch the bright sunlight.  It seems to be glowing! 

I have some photos from last summer of the roses that are outside our parish church.  The flowers look as if they've had some sort of fun filtering done to them, but they haven't.  They are glowing all on their own.

Our Lady of Fatima . . . pray for us!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Considering Busyness

There hasn't been much time for writing lately.

I've been busy, and that can cause me to lose my equilibrium.  Please understand, I'm not any busier than others, I just have a harder time keeping up with it all, when there's a lot on the schedule.  It's that introvert thing.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity came to the rescue.  A way to bring meaning to the beauty I see in everyday life; a way to consider any busyness as something useful beyond me.
 “Each incident, each event, each suffering, as well as each joy, is a sacrament which give God to [every soul]; so [the soul] no longer makes a distinction between these things; it surmounts them, goes beyond them to rest in its Master, above all things . . . ‘The property of love is never to seek self, to keep back nothing, but to give everything to the one it loves.’”
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity – Heaven in Faith
(She's quoting St. John of the Cross from Spiritual Canticle)