Sunday, July 30, 2006

Latest Watercolor



Here is my latest watercolor attempt. This one is of a building at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

The Gift of Multiplication

The lectionary readings for this Sunday spoke of two miracles of multiplication where many were fed with little. Elisha in the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Kings 4:42-44) and Jesus in the Christian Scriptures (John 6:1-15)were able to do much with little. The offering of one small gift was able to be transformed into enough to feed a multitude.

Fr. John Connors, the pastor at my parish, gave a wonderful sermon on the beauty of multiplication. God can take each of our gifts humbly given and create something wonderful out of them. By ourselves, we cannot feed the hungry of our world, but we can all contribute something to our local foodbank, and together all those somethings can feed a whole lot of people. By ourselves, we cannot tell everyone of the love of Christ, but we can each tell one or two people who can in turn spread the good news to one or two more, thereby creating a ripple effect that can change many lives. By ourselves, we cannot stop war and violence, but we can pray and work for peace in our own little corner of the world. If everyone did the same in their own families and neighborhoods, imagine how different our world could be. By ourselves, we are very small, but God can use us in ways we can hardly envision if we only turn our lives and our gifts over to him.

And there lies the challenge. We tend to try to do it ourselves. We get very independent. Even if we acknowledge that our gifts do come from God (and this is a very big step in the right direction!), we may then attempt to use them without turning over our efforts to God first. In the "Our Father," the prayer Jesus himself taught us to say, we state "thy will be done." Not my will, God, your will. It is easy to forget that. We may have wonderful ideas of what to do with our gifts and there is nothing wrong with that. But, if those plans are not what God had planned for us to do with our gifts, we will never reach the potential God created us for. Yes, God can multiply our efforts and work wonders with us but only if we let him.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Faith of a Child

Christine Alcott, one of the fellow members of the Catholic Writer's Group I belong to just let me know about her great new website The Faith of A Child all about children's spirituality. I've bookmarked it and will definitely be stopping by often!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Seeking Spiritual Direction

I just posted a review of Seeking Spiritual Direction by Fr. Thomas Dubay on my website. This was such a hard book for me to get through. I started it at the beginning of June. I read it through once and was really reluctant to go back and take notes on it (as I usually do with the books I review) because it made me feel so uncomfortable. I did, however, and as I reviewed the pages I had marked, the problem wasn't so much with the book (although it did have its weaknesses), as it was with me. It is hard to be reminded of how much work we have to do to progress in the spiritual life. It is hard to face one's own faults and the need for forgiveness and perseverance in pursuing a spiritual life. Jesus never said the road would be easy - in fact, he said the exact opposite - that the gate is narrow and that we would be rejected by the world. It is easy to become complacent in our spirituality, to think that because we say our prayers and go to Church we are just fine. We are all works in progress, and this book really served to remind of just how much more work I need.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Learning to Trust

This has been the summer of swimming lessons for David. He took two weeks at a local pool which was a total disaster. While he has no issues being in water, he absolutely hated holding onto the wall while he was waiting for it to be his turn (which was most of the time since it was a large class). I think he truly had a death grip on that wall because he always said it made his arms hurt. I am trying to teach him perseverance, however, so I made him stick with it. He survived the class but really didn't learn much of anything.

So, I signed him up again, this time at the pond where we usually go swimming. The class is much smaller, the lifeguard is wonderful, and he is loving it, as is Isaac because while he waits for his brother he can play in the water.

Meanwhile, I, too, have been trying to learn how to swim. I never learned as a child and have been well-known for my ability to sink! I have nearly drowned three times in my life. Last year was the first year we went to the pond and by the end of the summer I can say I actually felt comfortable in the water. This year, I have made it my mission to get as close to swimming as I possibly can. I am getting good at floating with a noodle, although even that took me a while. It took a lot of courage for me to lift my feet up off the ground. I always tell Bernie I have trust issues! But, I am learning to trust. I have been paying attention to David's lessons and try to practice what he does. Today I actually floated on my back with my head in the water (holding onto a noodle, but still!). I was so excited! One step at a time . . .

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Finding Hope in a Surprise Pregnancy

Leslie Leyland Fields has written a book for every woman who has found out she is pregnant with a child she wasn't looking to have. "Surprise Child: Finding Hope in Unexpected Pregnancy" is for all those women who face that life-changing moment and wonder "What am I going to do now?" Fields knows of what she speaks. She herself experienced two surprise pregnancies in her forties. She had already given birth to four children and had finally returned to work doing what she loved. Starting the process over again was not what she had in mind.

Fields chronicles the stories of twenty-five women who faced these surprise pregnancies with the full range of emotions. "Each one here had her life interrupted, each one here has a child who came to her unbidden, and each one now cannot imagine her life without the child." Yet, at that moment when the pregnancy test comes back positive, such perspective is not so easy to find. Fields writes, "You are trying to live out the next two or three years of your life in these thirty minutes, in one day . . Everything you fear visits you in one chushing blow. You feel weak, vulnerable. You think you cannot do it. You are right -- it is impossible to live it all, to answer all these deep needs and fears in a single day or week. . . in this moment, you do not need to answer all the questions. There will be time in each day to find answers, to find reasons to hope."

I wish that I had access to this book as I faced my own unplanned pregnancy a few years back. Our first child was longed for and planned for. We tried for many months before the good Lord blessed us with our David. And yet, even with all that planning, motherhood did not come easy to me. As much as I loved my little boy, I felt shell-shocked and barely able to cope. When David was nine months old, my period was late. It will come, I told myself. It has to come. When I was five days late, I took a pregnancy test alone while David took his nap. I cried a river of tears when I saw the tell-tale line. How could this be happening? I could barely cope with one child. Why was God doing this to me? I told my husband but no one else. The following day I walked to Church with David in the stroller. Unfortunately, in my frazzled state of mind, I locked us out of the house. I had no keys and no wallet. I was not in a good place. I wanted to hide.

I give talks on Natural Family Planning to our annual pre-cana day at my parish. The next talk was scheduled just a couple weeks from that time. How could I go give this talk when NFP had just "failed" me? I was embarrassed and angry. In time, I came to terms with the pregnancy. When I found out I was having a boy, I was happy that David would have a playmate. We named him "Isaac" - "one who laughs." I knew what it was to love a child and I could and did love this unborn child within me.

The first few months after I had Isaac are a blur of sleepless nights. It was tough having two children under two. And yet, now I wouldn't have had it any other way. Isaac has brought so much joy to our family. With the hard time that I had after having David, I would have found it very difficult to make the decision to try for another child. God made that decision for me. David and Isaac are the best of friends. They are complete opposites and balance each other out perfectly.

Now, when I give my NFP talk, I tell engaged couples to plan their families but be ready for God to intervene. He knows when we need a child better than we do. In God, there are no "unplanned" pregnancies. He has planned each and every one of us since before time began. Both of my children are gifts from God, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Walker

Over at Lisa Hendey's blog, she wrote about a man she used to see walking the streets seemingly all the time. She knew nothing about him, and so she created a story about him. Now, she was reflecting on how she takes a walk every day and she wondered if other people thought her unusual or tried to figure out what she was doing.

The story reminded me of a man who used to run up and down the main thoroughfare in the small city I grew up in. He would run no matter what the weather and he always looked in such pain as he did it. We called him "Old Irish" because he always wore a "Notre Dame" sweatshirt. We never knew anything about him, although as he ran through blizzards and sleeting rain and the heat of summer, we did question his mental stability. That is, until the day he died. He was killed in a hit and run as he went on his old familiar route. It turned out he was the father of a girl I went to college with and a respected member of the law enforcement community!

Now, my own father walks those same streets an hour a day, a habit he took up once he retired a few years back. No matter the weather (although I think he does draw the line at blizzards), people see him out there. No doubt a few have questioned his sanity, especially as he walks in the bitter cold with his hat pulled down far over his ears. Just goes to show, you can't judge a book by its cover.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Other Side of the Fence

Sometimes it takes a day on the other side of the fence to make you appreciate how green your own grass is. A former coworker gave me a call earlier this week and asked me if I could come in and give her a hand with a database she needed to set up. I love the people at my old job and I was happy to spend the afternoon helping them out. So, I spent four hours there today. It was wonderful to see everyone and I was able to accomplish what she needed help with.

And yet, it helped me appreciate the life I currently have even more. While a steady paycheck is obviously a perk I would enjoy, I do not miss office politics. If people could just realize that they are all working toward the same goal, life would be so much better for all involved.

Also, my parents were kind enough to watch the boys for me while I went. Unfortunately, Isaac spent the day whining and crying and generally trying my parents' patience. So, upon picking them up, I also had the guilt of having tormented my parents.

I am so lucky to be able to stay home with my children. Even when David or Isaac is having a rough day, at least I know I'm not burdening anyone else with their bad mood. I also don't have to be concerned with the latest gossip or be worry that someone else might be jockeying for my job. I need to remind myself of these things the next time I feel nostalgic for the life I left behind.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Canticle Magazine

I recently subscribed to Canticle Magazine. I received my first issue recently (Spring 2006)and enjoyed it so much. Heidi Hess Saxton, a fellow contributor to CatholicMom.com has recently taken over the reins as editor and has tried to make it a very practical handbook to living out our vocation as women of God. She is succeeding well in her quest. The articles in the issue I read this week included topics such as internet dating, coming to terms with our bodies as they change with motherhood and age, and exploring the true nature of "feminine genius," as well as others. The Canticle Website is not up-to-date but still provides useful information on subscribing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Keeping the Faith

This was sent to me today and I thought I would share it with you.


ONE OR NONE

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?”

Matthew 18: 12
King James Version



I have a beloved and cherished friend who has been a pastor for almost fifty years. He told us one time in a sermon as an illustration for his text that when God led him to start a new church that for almost six months the only people he preached to was his wife and children, and sometimes only himself. He said “until you realize that it’s not how many people you minister to; it’s what you do with the ones you have, you will never please God”.


It does not matter how many or how few people we have in the congregation or how many people read our books, we need to put as much effort into ministering to one person as if we had a thousand people who are listening and reading. At times, it may seem that we aren’t making a difference for Jesus. It is not up to us to change a person because only Jesus can change a person’s heart. Our responsibility is to keep preaching, teaching, writing, singing and serving Jesus in the ministry that He has assigned to us.

We may think that nobody is listening to what we preach or reading what we write but we are to plant the seed and leave the rest to Jesus. A dear pastor friend of mine in Texas many years ago planted a seed in his sermon that went deep into my heart and has been a comfort and inspiration to me for many years. Be faithful to the ministry that He has given to you.

Joanne Lowe
July 18, 2006
joannelowe8@cox.net
http://joannelowe.blogspot.com/
http://www.heavenwardbound.com/

Monday, July 17, 2006

Spreading the Good News

At the conclusion of Matthew's Gospel (Mt 28:19), Jesus issues the great commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations." We are called to go out and spread the Good News.

I have to admit, this is one area I have difficulty with. I have all too often adhered to that old adage "Never discuss religion or politics." While I am happy to write about my faith and share it with anyone who wants to hear about it, I am not likely to bring up the topic with anyone whose religious leanings I do not know both out of fear of offending them and out of fear that my faith will be attacked. I HATE being criticized for my faith. I don't like being criticized in general, but when my faith is attacked, it cuts straight to the core because that is such a big part of who I am. Somehow, I always end up feeling defensive, like I should be apologizing for my faith instead of taking great joy in being a messenger of truth.

Just the other day, the boys were invited to a birthday party at our neighbor's house. As David signed the card to go with the little girl's present, he decided he wanted to put one of his Vacation Bible School stickers on it. So, he did. He stuck a big sticker that said "Fiesta - where kids get fired up about Jesus!" right on the Minnie Mouse card, and my immediate reaction was one of embarassment. These are not church-going people and I worried that they would think I was trying to convert them.
I certainly couldn't tell David, that, however, especially because he was so proud of sharing his sticker, and so the evangelizing message went with the gift.

That same day, a nicely dressed woman just about my age with two young children came to my door. When I asked if I could help them, she encouraged her son, who was maybe 8 or 9 years old, to speak. He asked if I would take some literature he had on his faith - they were Jehovah's Witnesses. When I was young, my family used to shut off the lights and hide if we saw Jehovah's witnesses coming down the street - a particularly un-Christianlike response. In the intervening years, I have come to have great respect for anyone who is willing to go door to door to share his or her faith. I may not agree with all the tenets of their faith, but I do hold their courage and their mission to evangelize in high esteem.

I can learn something from both my young son so eager to share what he was learning about Jesus and the Jehovah's witnesses who were spending their Saturday sharing the Good News. I can work to overcome my sense of embarassment and my fear of criticism. I can work to spread the Good News by both words and deeds.

New Articles on Website

I just put up two new articles by Lisa Hendey from CatholicMom.com


The first is a book review and author interview:
Reclaiming Your Christian Self in a
Secular World: A Woman's Worth
by Cheryl Dickow


The second is Teaching Children to Serve

Boring is Peaceful!

When I was a young girl and the long days of summer would start to get to me, my mother would tell me, "Boring is Peaceful!" Truth be told, I never bought the idea. Now, there are times when I wish I had the time to be bored. Cherly Richardson's column this week talks about savoring boredom. Check it out at:

http://www.cherylrichardson.com/newsletter/06-week29.html

Friday, July 14, 2006

Prayer Request

A friend of a friend is 8 months pregnant with her fifth child. Doctors just discovered she has a cancerous tumor wrapped around her heart. They are going to take the baby at 35 weeks and then start an aggressive form of chemotherapy on the mother. Please pray for both mother and baby to be well.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Catholic Cardlinks


My mother saw these Catholic Cardlinks talked about on EWTN and asked me to order some. I have to say, I was very impressed by them. The "Prayer" Set features all the standard Catholic Prayers such as the Hail Mary, Glory Be, Our Father, Apostles Creed, How to Say the Rosary, and the Stations of the Cross, as well as several prayers to various saints and prayers for different occasions. On the back of each card is an informative history of the prayer.

The "Patron Saints" Set tells the life stories of many of our most popular saints such as St. Anne, St. Francis, and St. Therese. There are also less well-known saints including St. Albert the Great, St. Erasmus, and St. Rocco. Each card also features the feast day for that saint and what he or she is patron of.

Both sets are graced with beautiful illustrations. The "Prayers" set is decorated with stained glass artwork. The "Saints" cards illustrations are simple in style but have an appealing aspect to them. I believe that these cards were designed for children but they are very informative for adults as well. The "Prayers" set is a great reference for searching for just the right prayer and the "Saints" set is a wonderful way to be introduced to some new role models.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Identity Crisis of New Motherhood

I just posted How to Cope with the Identity Crisis of New Motherhood on my website. This is an article I shopped around for quite a while to parenting magazines but got no takers. Still, I think that the information is useful and important so I am putting it out there. Perhaps you can share the link with someone you know who is struggling to make that transition from "woman" to "mom."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Questions at Bedtime

What is it about bedtime that brings out questions in children? Every night, David and Isaac regale me with everything that might be on their minds. A procrastination tactic? Most definitely. Yet one must admit that their questions can be quite interesting. Here are some of the ones they came up with tonight:

What do we do if a tornado comes and picks up our house? (it was storming out although tornados are pretty rare here in Massachusetts)

What if you were driving down the road and a tornado came?

Do they celebrate Christmas in heaven?

Before Santa Claus was born, how did anyone get gifts?

Why can't I live forever like Santa Claus?

Will Santa Claus ever get to go to heaven?

What does the devil like to eat?

What would happen if we were poor and had nothing to eat?

Will my teddy bear die and go to heaven, too?


Amazingly, I actually came up with answers for all of these except what the devil likes to eat. I honestly have no idea.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Vacation Bible School Memories

Five-year-old David started Vacation Bible School this morning. I always hold my breath a bit whenever David starts a new activity. He is a sensitive soul and new activities require a lot of courage on his part. Thankfully, he had a wonderful time and came home full of stories and eager to show me his arts and crafts! He can't wait for tomorrow.

I have such fond memories of Vacation Bible School when I was young. The first year I went I was four years old, and like David, was going to be starting Kindergarten that September. My mother had been searching for a volunteer opportunity for my older sister (who was 14 that summer and starting high school) and found it in the VBS at a neighboring parish. She was very excited to hear that I was old enough to go, too.

It was so much fun - projects and songs and Bible stories. I made friends and played games. And the snacks! - Every day we got two vanilla creme cookies and fruit punch. It was such a treat for me. To this day, I can't eat a vanilla creme cookie without being immediately transported back there, so much so that this week, I actually bought a package to get in the VBS state of mind! I went to VBS until I was in sixth grade and later returned as a teenager to volunteer. Every summer, it was something to look forward to.

Well the snacks have changed, but listening to David's tales of his day, it sounds like much about VBS has stayed the same. There are still stories (he learned about Jesus healing the man who couldn't walk - David told me how Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven and to take up his mat and walk) and games (they had a water balloon race) and snacks (they had cupcakes today which David couldn't eat because of his allergies but he had a rice cake instead and he seemed pretty happy about it) and songs (although he couldn't remember the words, only the dance moves!) and teenage volunteers.

I hope that when David is in his thirties he will look back on this time with fondness and that there will still be Vacation Bible School programs for his children to go to!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The World of Websites

Sorry my posting hasn't been as frequent lately - I have been busily working on two websites. I am on the technology committee for David's new school and we have been revamping the website for the Pre-K program.

Tonight, I also completed the updates to my own Spiritual Woman website. It needed a face-lift! It was neat to go through and look at all the pages. It brought back quite a few memories as I reviewed both articles that I had written and some favorite ones written by others. The site has come quite a long way since I started it with 5 articles over two years ago. It now has about 300 pages and a great deal of useful information. Obviously, it could have alot more, but as one person working part-time on it, I'm pretty proud of it. Granted, it is certainly not the most-viewed site in cyberspace, but I hope that it has brought inspiration into some people's lives. Sometimes (and I remind myself of this daily) quantity isn't the most important thing. So, check it out, and give me any feedback you would like. While you are there, consider visiting our advertisers. They help make the site possible.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Feast of St. Maria Goretti

Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti. She was a martyr who died rather than give in to a rapist as she shouted "God does not want it. It is a sin." She died when she was only 11 years old after forgiving her murderer.

Amazingly, her perpetrator was visited by her spirit when he was in prison which resulted in his complete conversion and repentance. You can read more about her at

http://www.mariagoretti.org

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Good Reminder for Moms with Messy Houses!

This was sent to me today, and I know that I can certainly relate to it. My house is almost always in a state of disarray thanks to the two little boys who live with me! They are getting better in cleaning up, but often they will clean up only to make it messy again in another hour. At times when I get totally frustrated with the mess and tempted to throw everything away (which would not win me any points with anyone), I remind myself that their childhood is relatively short. Someday I will miss the mess.


WRINKLES OF LOVE

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Mark 10: 13, 14
King James Version



I have a cover on my couch that I straighten after someone sits on it. My nephew and his family came over this afternoon to visit. I have not seen him in three years. What a joy it was to my heart to see him today! I did not straighten the cover on the couch after they left, and it may be a while before I do because there are wrinkles of love made by his children.


We need to stop worrying so much about how our house looks when the children are playing because they grow up very fast. Sometimes it may seem like they will never grow up and leave home. Yet, many times after they leave home we wish they were still little and living at home. We should hug them every day and tell them we love them because when they are grown and leave home, they sometimes move to another state.

When we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour, we have to go to Him in childlike faith. Many times we think that we have to get our life straightened out before we go to Him. It is just the opposite, because without Jesus, it is impossible to clean up our lives. It takes His cleansing blood applied to our hearts to take away our sins and the filth of our past.


Allow your children to mess up your home and cherish them. Above all, tell them about Jesus and His Love for them. Put your arms around them and love them to Jesus before it is too late.



Joanne Lowe
July 3, 2006
joannelowe8@cox.net

http://joannelowe.blogspot.com/
http://www.heavenwardbound.com/

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cultivating a Spirit of Giving

I was reading the June issue of "Town & Country" magazine (www.townandcountrymag.com) today which focused on philanthropy. They profiled several different people who are striving to make a difference in the world via their time, talent, and treasure. While those profiled no doubt have much more treasure than the vast majority of us, we are all called to give, to be generous stewards of the wealth (both material and personal) that God has given to us.

It can be very difficult to carve money out of an already tight budget to give to a worthy cause. It can also be hard to find time to volunteer one's talents when time always seems to be in such short supply. Yet, this is what we are called to do, and the rewards are far greater than what we put into the equation. There may be times when either the treasure or the time portion figure more predominantly. One with a high-power, high salary career may be able to write big checks but may not be able to be as physically present to a charitable cause. On the other hand, retirees may find themselves with relatively little income to offer but have a great wealth of time and knowledge to share with the world. We all must look honestly at our lives and decide what it is we have to give.


As parents, we have another responsibility in regards to giving. We must show our children through our example that generosity matters. If they see us donating our time to help out a worthy cause, or collecting for a food drive, or giving clothes to the needy, they will learn that those acts have value. If they are encouraged to volunteer in their teen years at a hospital or nursing home or at any other project that sparks their interest, they will develop a love of helping other people and realize for themselves that it is in giving that we receive. If they see us giving generously in the collection plate and are encouraged to donate part of their own allowance or earnings, we can plant the seed for a lifetime of sharing their wealth.

We all have been so blessed by God. Those interviewed in "Town and Country" often made the statement "To whom much is given, much is expected." The same can be said of us. We are all called to give what we have to those in need.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Thanksgiving for a Good Day!

Happy Fourth of July long weekend! I can hear fireworks being shot off as I write this. In a scene that was no doubt played out millions of times around the country today, we took the boys to a small festival in a local town. They got their faces painted and had free balloons given to them. We listened to a 50s cover band (which was actually quite good) and ate ice cream and had a generally wonderful time.

Tonight, we were all sitting outside. I was looking at a magazine, Bernie was reading a book, and the boys were working together on a Lincoln Log house (which they did not want me to dismantle and is now sitting on our back deck!). It was just such a great moment. The weather was perfect with a cool breeze blowing and everyone was happy. You just have to stop and thank God for moments like that!