Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prayer for the Fruits of the Holy Spirit for Moms

Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit. These include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. It seems that as mothers, we can use an extra helping of each of these.

Dear Holy Spirit,

Please help me to love my children even when it is hard: when it is 2 a.m. and the baby is crying, or the two-year old is having a tantrum, when the six-year old is telling me he hates me, or when the teenager has just slammed the door for the 167th time.

Please help me to have joy in the little moments. Please help me to appreciate the smiles and fun that my children have, to rejoice in the small gifts that come my day amidst the hard work of parenting.

Please grant me the gift of peace, peace in my heart even when the whole world around me seems to be in turmoil. Help me extend that peace to my children so that they can grow up knowing that peace, not violence, is the answer.

Please help me to have patience, patience, and more patience. I can always use more! And when that supply is used up, please help me to find just a little bit extra.

Please help me to treat my children, and all those whom I meet, with kindness. Let my children know by my example that kindness can change the world.

Please help me to be good. My children’s eyes are always upon me, and my actions speak much louder than my words. Help me to be a good example to help them learn how to live.

Please grant me the gift of trustfulness. Help me to be a person of my word, to say what I mean and mean what I say. Help me to honor my commitments and keep my children’s confidences.

Please help me to be gentle with my children’s hearts. Help me to remember what it was like to be a child. Help me to offer all the support and healing to them that I can.

Lastly, please assist me with my self-control. Help me to keep my desires and weaknesses in check. Help me to put my children first. Help me to be the best mom that I can be.

I ask this through the Father and the Son and the Holy Sprit. Amen.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Not About Numbers

It's Not About Numbers" is one of the most intelligent articles I've read about working with God on planning your family I have ever seen.

Quilt of Holes

This was sent to me by my friend Christine today. I thought it was very relevant. Hope it speaks to you.

As I faced my Maker at the last judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with all the other souls.

Before each of us laid our lives like the squares of a quilt in many piles; an angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that is our life.

But as my angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares was. They were filled with giant holes. Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in everyday life. I saw hardships that I endured, which were the largest holes of all.

I glanced around me. Nobody else had such squares. Other than a tiny hole here and there, the other tapestries were filled with rich color and the
bright hues of worldly fortune. I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened.

My angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty, like binding air.

Finally the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light, the scrutiny of truth. The others rose; each in turn, holding up
their tapestries. So filled their lives had been. My angel looked upon me, and nodded for me to rise.

My gaze dropped to the ground in shame. I hadn't had all the earthly fortunes. I had love in my life, and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness, and wealth, and false accusations that took from me my world, as I knew it. I had to start over many times. I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully, each time offering it up to the Father in hopes that I would not melt within my skin be Neath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me.

And now, I had to face the truth. My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it was.

I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with wide eyes.

Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded the many holes,creating an image, the face of Christ. Then our Lord stood before me, with
warmth and love in His eyes. He said, 'Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles.

Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you.'

May all our quilts be threadbare and worn, allowing Christ to shine through!

God determines who walks into your life's up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.'

Father, God bless all my friends in whatever it is that you know they may need this day! And may their life be full of your peace, prosperity and
power as he/she seeks to have a closer relationship with you. Amen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prayers for College Students

Keeping the Faith: Prayers for College Students

by Kerry Weber
Twenty-Third Publications, 2009

Kerry Weber, a graduate of Providence College who recently received her master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University, has written a new prayer book designed for college students. As an R.A. in college, she witnessed many of the struggles that college students face, and she addressed these topics in these prayers. While she deals with the expected topics of stress and studies and friends, she does not shy away from difficult topics such as suicide, sexual assault and self-mutilation. Her goal in writing this was to help college students maintain their connection to God.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Here is a very interesting interview with Jesuit Daniel Harrington on how Jesus is presented in the Bible:

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Review: The Homeschooling Option

The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It's Right for Your Family

by Lisa Rivero
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

With one year of homeschooling now under my belt, I don’t really need to read books on when to decide to homeschool. I know it is right for my family and I know it works. Nevertheless, I still enjoy reading new literature on homeschooling both for the information they contain (after all, it is impossible to know all there is to know about homeschooling) and the inspiration they provide. “The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family” is a worthy addition to the body of homeschooling handbooks.

Rivero begins by relating her own experience with homeschooling as well as a brief history of homeschooling in America. She then moves on to discuss the “hidden truths of homeschooling” where she tackles some of the myths that surround homeschooling. Rivero also explores different ways of homeschooling, homeschooling children with special needs, and homeschooling teenagers. Rivero also includes a very helpful “Parent Coffee Break” section which features frequently asked questions, as well as a section on home education laws.

“The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family” is a great resource for those seriously considering taking the plunge into home education.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Origins of Memorial Day

As most of us know, Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember the dead, especially those who lost their lives in service to our country. I wasn't aware of the history of Memorial Day, however, until I read "Memorial Day" by Mir Tamim Ansary to my children and our homeschooling co-op this week.

After the Civil War, a group of women went to a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi and put flowers on all the soldiers' graves, regardless if they were from the North or the South. People in other areas copied this idea. It took until 1948, after World War II, for Memorial Day to become a national holiday.

I hope that all of you take a few moments today, amidst the fun that comes with the unofficial start of summer, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

St. Joseph Calasanz, Patron Saint of Christian Schools

Fr. David Powers of the Piarist Fathers was the missionary priest who spoke at my home parish this past weekend. He is a home missionary, meaning that he works right here in the United States. He is based in the Appalachian region of Kentucky where he teaches at a free Catholic high school. He was a dynamic speaker who spoke on the power of prayer as well as on the extreme need of the people he ministers to. He also shared a bit about his order and its founder, St. Joseph Calasanz.

St. Joseph Calasanz was born in Spain in 1556. He was ordained a priest in 1583 and moved to Rome in 1592. There he became very concerned with the plight of the poor children there. He and two other priests decided to open a free school to educate them. This school opened in 1597 and stressed piety and learning. It is believed to be the first free school opened in Europe and the first modern Elementary school. Pope Clement VIII gave his support did the school which led to the opening of other schools and more men being attracted to the work of Calasanz. In 1621 the community known as the Clerks Regular of Religious Schools (also known as Piarists or Scolopi) was recognized.

Calasanz faced much opposition. Some didn’t approve of education for the poor, believing that this education would cause them to become dissatisfied with their position in society and lead to upheaval. Others were upset that some of the Piarists studied with Galileo, whose work was condemned by the Church. Calasanz and the order were investigated by papal commissions. As a result, Calasanz was demoted and the Piarists were suppressed. Only after his death was the community formally recognized.

St. Joseph Calsanz never wavered in his trust in God and submitted to Church authority even when all seemed lost. He always put the education of young people first. The following excerpt from his writings demonstrates the high value he placed on teaching:

All who undertake to teach must be endowed with deep love, the greatest of patience, and, most of all, profound humility. They must perform their work with earnest zeal. Then, through their humble prayers, the Lord will find them worthy to become fellow workers with him in the cause of truth. He will console them in the fulfillment of this most noble duty, and finally, will enrich them with the gift of heaven.

As Scripture says, "Those who instruct many in justice will shine as stars for all eternity." They will attain this more easily if they make a covenant of perpetual obedience and strive to cling to Christ and please him alone, because, in his words, "What you did to one of the least of my brethren, you did to me."

His reputation was eventually redeemed. He was beatified on August 7, 1748 and canonized on July 16, 1767. His feast day is August 25. He is the patron saint of Christian schools. To support the Piarist Fathers’ work in Appalachia, donations may be sent to The Piarist Mission; Rt. 80, Box 870; Martin, KY 41649.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Oscar Romero's Prayer

The Pastoral Minister at my parish used this prayer to open our Parish Council meeting on Monday night. It is attributed to Oscar Romero, but he borrowed it from Cardinal Deardon who received it from Bishop Kenneth Untner. Regardless of its origin, there is a great deal of wisdom here.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review: "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids"

We Catholics can sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously. God has a sense of humor, however, and so should we. Susie Lloyd will have mothers, especially homeschooling mothers, laughing out loud with her latest offering "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids" (Sophia Institute Press, 2009). Susie Lloyd is a forty-something homeschooling mother of seven and a member of the Byzantine rite.

Each of the chapters of "Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids" can stand alone as a quick humor break. Lloyd tackles many topics that will have seasoned mothers nodding, saying “Oh, yes, I have been there!” Who among us hasn’t been covered in vomit, struggled to keep children quiet in Mass, endured a road trip, faced the home haircuts vs. going to the barbers conundrum, or dealt with music lessons? For those who homeschool (which, one has to admit, makes life even more interesting!), there are even more things to laugh about. I brought this book to my homeschooling group and read a passage out loud because I thought it was so good. I plan to share this book with them so that it can make the rounds and they can all enjoy it.

Some of the funniest parts of this book concern what the world thinks of homeschooling moms as opposed to the reality which only fellow homeschoolers can fully appreciate. In her chapter, “It’s a Nerd! It’s a Saint! It’s Supermom!” Lloyd reflects on how others used to view homeschoolers with suspicion. Now, however, “the American public has changed its collective mind. It now thinks that homeschoolers can indeed do it, and do it well. All of it. We know because it exclaims, ‘How do you do it all?!’” She then goes on to explain how she uses triage as a management technique. She tells how she once asked one “put-together” homeschooling mother she knows how she did it all, and they mentioned something about a “schedule.” Lloyd responds, “I was going to look it up, but I couldn’t find a dictionary. Weeks later it turned up in a foxhole in one of the girls’ rooms. . . .If friends such as the family just mentioned drop by (which they rarely do because it’s not on the schedule), it is best to focus on the point of entry. Do not attack the guests. Attack the clutter.” Yes, I can relate!

Her chapter, “Homeschool Unceasingly” contrasts what the world thinks homeschooling looks like versus life in her home. Most people think of homeschooling in terms of the only model of education that they know – the classroom.

Let’s see, according to this picture, we should have one large blackboard, one overhead projector, and several assorted classroom-size pets: goldfish, salamanders, and possibly a tarantula. For d├ęcor, we have various instructional posters, such as an ABC scroll . . .A bell goes off at 8:30 a.m., at which time all normal family activities cease. . .Students then file in punctually for the raising of the flag (you will need a cathedral ceiling) and the Pledge of Allegiance. School commences. Each student (in uniform) sits at a little desk. . . .When he wants to speak, a student must raise his hand, even if he is the only one in the class. (If he gets the answer wrong, he snickers and whispers ‘duh’ to himself. If he gets in right, he secretly envies himself and hits himself in the back of the head with a spitball.) If it were really like this, I wouldn’t blame the neighbors for calling in an exorcist.

“Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids” is a hit. I recommend it for anyone who wants to have a little fun laughing about this vocation of Catholic motherhood.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Interview with Donna Lee Schillinger, Author of "On My Own Now"

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing On My Own Now by Donna Lee Schillinger. Now, I am pleased to present the following interview.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
A born and bred Texan, I have a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Drew University and a master’s in cultural anthropology from Texas Tech University. I served in the Peace Corps in Quito, Ecuador, and continued to work in social services for 10 years with special populations including adults with developmental disabilities, children with autism, abused and neglected children and the elderly. I served several years as executive director of a homeless shelter for single, young mothers.

In 2000, I “retired” from social work to take care of my elderly grandparents and homeschool my daughter. I soon began freelance writing and editing, doing business as The Quilldriver. Today, The Quilldriver produces several periodical publications for non-profit organizations, including Hearing Health magazine. In 2006, I added publishing inspirational nonfiction books to The Quilldriver’s services.

And now I’m making my writing debut with On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

On My Own Now is about strengthening young women’s faith and preventing the screw-ups that can brand us for life. I draw on my eclectic past and use gender-reversed Proverbs with real-life applications to wave the red flag of caution for young women, warning against the pitfalls of a post-modern, sexually casual, consumer-is-king society that is indelibly scarring youth with cynicism, sexually transmitted diseases and bad credit.

What kind of research did you have to conduct to write your book?

This is actually a very interesting question for my book. I did have some light research, fact checking, finding sources for things I had remembered from my psychology classes in college, etc., but the most important source I used was divine. Before selecting Proverbs to be included in the book and then before beginning to write commentary on each one, I prayed a simple prayer that the Holy Spirit would take over and use me as a scribe of sorts to convey spiritual truths in spiritual words. I know this prayer was effective because I often would sit down and read the proverb and say, “Hmm. I’ve got nothing!” So in faith I would just put my fingers on the home keys and just listen. Then an hour later, I would sit back and say, “Wow! That’s good.” If I found myself laboring to write a commentary, it ended up being cut from the manuscript.

What’s next for you?
My next project is editing an anthology called Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Ripoff. The format will be a two-faced book (my new Quilldriver imprint!): on one side, the cover will read Purity’s Big Payoff. When turned over and flipped upside down, the cover will read Premarital Sex is s Big Rip-off. Think in terms of an instruction manual written in both English and Spanish, where one side is English and then the book flips upside down and other side is written in Spanish. Thus the last page of the purity book is immediately followed by the last page of the premarital sex book, but upside down, and vice versa.

Each half of the book will begin with an introduction by me. The intro to the purity book will include discussion of scriptural references to abstaining from sex outside of marriage, as well as the practical benefits of overcoming the strong cultural norm of premarital sex. Then up to 10 selected essays will follow, telling personal stories about how the essayists were victorious in this spiritual battle and have reaped practical benefits in their lives as a result. In the introduction of the premarital sex half of the book, I will tell my motivation for this project, and how important I believe it is for people who have suffered the results of secret sin to share their heartaches with young adults so that they can understand who is harmed in sex outside of marriage and what the very real ramifications of disobedience to God’s will in this area are. There will also be some discussion of the concept of recapturing one’s purity despite past sexual experience. Then up to 10 selected essays will follow, telling personal stories about how the essayists have experienced negative consequences from sex before marriage, and hopefully how God has restored the writer and even given them beauty for ashes.

I still need about three more essays on purity, so if that white on your wedding day was symbolizing something, ring me!

Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?
I was thinking the other day about the vanity and futility of writing a book. It’s sort of a narcissistic activity – like blogging and Facebook – it has the underlying assumption that people care what I think. I thought of 12,000 new Christian titles each year and 300,000 new books in all genres annually and just got discouraged. I think it’s easy to get bowled over by that big weight and those depressing facts – by contemplating the Library of Congress! On the other hand, a book is an expression of creativity – even nonfiction, even boring nonfiction! And as such, it’s worthy to be written. We would love for our book to be appreciated in the way we think it deserves, but the process of creative expression is worthwhile. It is enough. It is an accomplishment.

Thank you Donna for sharing with us!

Living on Shoulds

Dionna Sanchez has written a great article for Moms called Living on Shoulds over at Inner Fulfillment. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's Children's Book Week

I was just informed via an email from Amazon that this is Children's Book Week. Actually, I think every week is children's book week in my house, as Isaac's favorite words are "Read to Me!" which admittedly is a good thing to hear. This week we have read The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread which was very good and are currently rereading Charlie Bone And The Hidden King (Children of the Red King Book 5). Thank you to all the writers who write children's literature and who have provided both my children and I with many, many hours of entertainment and education.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thought for the Day

"Watch how you live. Your lives may be the only gospel your sisters and brothers will ever read." - Archbishop Helder Pessoa Camara

Good Article on Our Lady of Fatima

Sarah Reinhard has written a great article about "Our Lady of Fatima" whose feast day is May 13th. Read it here

St. Mary Messenger Now Online

St. Mary Messenger, a new magazine for Catholic children, is now online. Visit it at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blessed Imelda Lambertini: Patroness of First Communion Children

In this month of May, many children experience the great joy of receiving their First Communion. Among them was my son David. It was a very exciting day for all of us! One of my friends gave him a coloring book about Blessed Imelda Lambertini, the patroness of First Communicants. It was the first I had heard of her, but the boys and I loved reading her story and I thought that others might enjoy learning more about this young saint.

Blessed Imelda was born in 1322 in Bologna, Italy, to the very wealthy Count Igano Lambertini and Castora Galuzzi. She was an only child and grew up going to mass frequently with her family. From a very early age she was very devout. Imelda learned from the example of her mother to care for the poor of their town. Her mother also told her about Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. She explained to her very young daughter how Jesus could do all things, that simply by his words, he was able to change the bread and wine into his own body and blood. She also instructed Imelda that Jesus gave his Apostles the ability to change bread and wine into his body and blood as well, and that this power has been passed down through Bishops and Priests throughout all the centuries. Imelda was filled with such a great desire to receive Jesus in Holy Communion that she begged her mother to allow her to receive. Unfortunately, she was only five years old and at that time, children needed to be fourteen years old in order to make their first communion. She tried to wait patiently for that much-longed for day.

When she was nine, Imelda decided to enter the Dominican Convent in Val di Pietra. At that time, entering a convent at such a young age was not unusual. Even as a member of the convent, however, she still could not receive communion. She prayed and prayed that Jesus would grant her wish and allow her to receive him sooner. She waited hopefully for some sign, yet none came. Every time she went to mass, it caused her great pain that she could not receive. In May of 1333, Imelda was eleven years old. On the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, she asked the priest if she might make her First Communion. Once again, he denied her request. After mass, Imelda remained in prayer before the tabernacle, begging Jesus to come to her. Another sister who had stayed behind to clean the chapel saw a great miracle taking place. The Eucharist had come out of the tabernacle and was hovering above Imelda’s head. This sister ran to get the priest who immediately gave communion to Imelda. The other sisters left Imelda alone to pray after this miraculous event. Several hours later, two sisters came to check on her. When they touched her, they realized she had died in a state of ecstasy. Imelda was beatified in 1826. In 1910, Pope St. Pius X began to allow children to receive Holy Communion at age seven. He also named Imelda the patroness of First Communicants. Her body is incorrupt.

Blessed Imelda provides a wonderful example for both children and adults of what it means to desire Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Source: “Let the Children Come to Me” by Kenneth L. Davison, Jr. Catholic World Mission, 2003

Friday, May 08, 2009

Book Review: The Passion of Mary Margaret

“The Passion of Mary-Margaret”
by Lisa Sampson
Nashville, TN: 2009

For me, the sign of a truly great novel is that I am sad when it ends. “The Passion of Mary-Margaret” by Lisa Sampson was so good that I just wanted it to keep going. Mary-Margaret Fisher is a School Sister of St. Mary who has been asked to write her memoirs for future sisters that might come later. She is the daughter of a woman who had been about to make her final vows of religious life when she was raped by a seminarian. Her mother died in childbirth, and Mary-Margaret feels destined to enter religious life and take the place that her mother would have filled. She is also a mystic and has many face-to-face conversations with Jesus, a fact that she keeps secret from everyone. In one of these conversations, Jesus tells her to take a different route, one shocking in its self-sacrifice but which will ultimately lead to her fulfillment and another’s salvation.

There was so much I enjoyed in “The Passion of Mary-Margaret.” The story was extremely well-written and fast moving. I hated to put the book down. The themes of second chances and God having a plan were very comforting. Sampson had some wonderful insights into the human condition and the meaning of faith. She dealt with very adult themes of rape, incest, and prostitution in a very respectful manner with the point of showing that there is nothing so bad that God can’t bring some good out of it. God is there even in the suffering. One of my favorite quotes from “The Passion of Mary-Margaret” comes near the end when Sr. Mary-Margaret is reflecting on the whole of her life: “Jesus asked a lot of me, yes, but it all worked out in the end, didn’t it? And these days, that’s something nobody wants to hear about. But I tell you this, my sisters, because sometimes it takes many decades for all to become clear.”

“The Passion of Mary-Margaret” is a must-read for anyone who enjoys Catholic fiction or simply appreciates a good story.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Prayer to Mary

This is a small excerpt from "Litany of the Blessed Mother (addendum)" by Brian Doyle which appeared in the May 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic.

Mother who endured the unendurable, mother who holds and salves and saves us, mother to whom we whisper in the blue hours of the night, mother whose gentle smile is our food, mother without whom we would die of despair, mother to whom we will run sobbing and laughing when our chapter closes and the path to your arms opens wide.

Pray for us, pray for us, pray for us. Amen.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Among Women Podcast Featuring Me!

About a month ago, I had the great pleasure of getting together with two other Catholic writers: Pat Gohn and Leticia Velasquez. We had a wonderful time and as part of our lunch date, we recorded this podcast for Pat Gohn's "Among Women." Check it out here:
Among Women Podcast 6

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Helping kids (and adults) understand about sin

When I was a little girl, my second-grade teacher Sr. Doris illustrated sin by drawing a circle on the blackboard and then making marks (each dirty mark represented a sin). Only with confession (an eraser) could the soul become clean again. I've always liked that illustration and have used it with my own children. The May 2009 issue of St. Anthony's Messenger offered a similar way of demonstrating the effect of sin. Take a white T-shirt and draw on it with washable markers - letting each mark represent a sin. Then put it in the washing machine. Some marks will wash out completely but there will still be residue from others. This helps to illustrate that sin has lasting effects, even after we have been forgiven.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Book Review: On My Own Now

On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debtfree and Regretfree

by Donna Lee Schillinger
Quilldriver, 2009

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Donna Lee Schillinger is a married homeschooling mom who has served in the Peace Corps and worked as an executive director of a homeless shelter for single young mothers. As one reads “On My Own Now” one discovers that Schillinger made a lot of mistakes in her own life. Much of this book comes from that perspective of learning from someone else’s errors in judgment. I realize that as a thirty-something married woman myself, I am not the target audience for this book. This is intended for young women just starting out in life. I can remember what it was like to be a young woman, however. I would love to say that if someone had handed me a book like this, I would have eagerly followed all of the advice and saved myself a bunch of heartache in the process, but I don’t think that would have been the case. Part of being young is making mistakes and learning from them (as Schillinger did from hers). I’m fairly certain that it is not possible to get through life regret-free. This does not mean, however, that the advice Schillinger gives is not good or that this book is not worthwhile. Indeed, the opposite is true. If a young woman takes even some of the advice in this book, it is well-worth it.

Schillinger touches on all the major issues in a young woman’s life – dating, money, friendship, work ethics, taking care of one’s body, and family. She does so in a very straight-forward pull-no-punches manner and with a sense of humor. She is also extremely willing to share her own mistakes in the hope that someone may learn from them. Each section begins with a relevant Proverb and then moves on from there. I honestly (and somewhat embarrassedly) admit that I am not as familiar with the Proverbs as I should be, and I did obtain much more insight into them from reading “On My Own Now.” There is good advice there for all of us, regardless of age.

“On My Own Now” is highly recommended. While I don’t think any young woman will take all of the advice, hopefully most will take some. Their lives would be better for it.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Understanding "The Good Shepherd" a Little Bit More

The Gospel reading for today (John 10: 11-18) features the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd. It was one that we are all familiar with. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. . . I know my own and my own know me.” We can understand the meaning of this image. Jesus loves us. He died for us. This is an incredible sacrifice and gift. Yet, most of us don’t know what it means to be a shepherd. The people for whom this Gospel was written were very familiar with that profession. In modern day America, most of us don’t have a whole lot of contact with sheep.

Hearing this Gospel reminded me of Heaven Has Blue Carpet: A Sheep Story by a Suburban Housewife by Sharon Niedzinski. Niedzinski, a Christian, was a suburban housewife when she and her husband decided to pack up their six children and move to the country. When she saw the rolling hills that she now owned, she thought that a “flock of cotton-white sheep grazing . . . seemed like the perfect finishing touch.” She spent the next sixteen years learning from these sheep and coming to a whole new understanding of what it means to be a good shepherd as well as what it means to be a sheep. She shares her wisdom and insight in “Heaven has Blue Carpet.” For example, sheep are horrible gluttons. Left to their own natural urges, they can actually die from overindulgence. Niedzinski reflects, “Left alone, living without moral guidance or restrictions, living according to our inherent urges, we also will destroy ourselves and our environment. God the Father, our Creator, knew this. That is why he sent his Son to earth, to show us how to live. His Son would be our Shepherd, and if we would follow him, he would lead us into an abundant life.”

Also, sheep’s tails need to be cut off a few days after birth or else they will be “plagued with pests and infections.” Niedzinski found this process so painful – she hated to hurt the lambs. “We all have experienced or will experience the Shepherd’s knife. We may even experience a piercing, passing-out level of loss. But remember, we’re in his arms, and he’s holding us tight against his heart. Like the sheep, we may never understand why our Shepherd allows our knifelike disappointments and tragedies. We must remember that he is God and we are not. . . His picture is bigger than our picture.”

As a shepherd, Niedzinski had to take care of all of her sheep, even the ones who paid her no attention. The Good Shepherd is like that as well. “Before I even knew the Good Shepherd and began following him, he was there in my life . . . leading, guiding, and protecting me. He was always there. Like the complacent, need-nothing sheep. I just never looked up.”

Lastly, sheep are born to die. “Their ultimate purpose was not to take place in Sheep World but in their master’s world, in our home. Only those lambs who reached my standard ended up on my table. . . We were not born just to live; we were also born to die to self (the cross) and to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (our destiny!).”

The image of the Good Shepherd is pregnant with meaning. I am very thankful to Sharon Niedzinski for helping to explain more of it to all of us.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

David's 1st Communion

Everything went great for David's 1st Communion! He was so happy! And the party was great. The sun even shone! Thank you to all who prayed for us to have a good day.

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

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