Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: A Mystic Garden

by Gunilla Norris
New York: Bluebridge Books, 2006

A Mystic Garden was originally published in 2006 but was released this  year in paperback. Honestly, it has been sitting in my “to-be-reviewed” pile for a while. I grabbed it recently and thought, “Wow – I guess I should have picked this up in the spring,” but then I opened it up and discovered Norris traced her work in her garden over the course of a year and began November 1st. Perfect!

Anyone who enjoys working in a garden will enjoy the meditations in this book. As Norris writes:
A garden tends to get inside us. If we go there to accomplish something or get something, the garden soon becomes a burden. With expectations that it must look good or that it has to produce no matter what, we will soon grow tired. The garden is really a place in which we can give ourselves away. This is true of any serious contemplation, too. We are transformed by it. We are reduced and revealed by it. In it we may experience a lived sense of our connection to the earth, to our inner freedom, and to the Sacred, the ground of our existence. . .  Gardening brings food and flowers to the table and sustenance to the soul.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the beautiful pencil drawings by John Giuliani. They are simple, but elegant, and add so much to the text. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Atchison Blue

The title, Atchison Blue, comes from a unique color of grey-blue that exists in the stained glass windows of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kansas. It began as a blended blue, but was changed over time by the “harsh sunlight and fierce winds of the Kansas prairie.” Judith Valente, a T.V. broadcaster, speaker, and writer, first came to the monastery, a home for Benedictine sisters, to lead a retreat on slowing down and finding balance. Yet, the whole time her own soul was starving for nourishment. The irony wasn’t lost on her. 

Valente began to spend one week a month at the Mount, a six hour ride from her home in central Illinois. Atchison Blue tells of her experiences there over the course of three years: the sisters she met, the lessons she learned, and the slow growing of her own soul as she continued to struggle with life. One of the main themes of this book is that of conversatio, having a constant conversation with life. Through both their words and their example, the sisters teach Valente how to slow down and appreciate the present moment, better negotiate her personal relationships, and help her come to terms with the reality of death. 

Atchison Blue offers a beautiful look at the women of faith who reside at this particular monastery in Kansas and the lessons that they can teach all of us who live and work in a busy world.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Photography and Moments of Beauty

I recently picked up The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life. This is a great book for amateur photographers - light on technical jargon, it is designed for those who use point and shoot cameras or smartphones but who want to take better, more interesting photographs.

In it, George Lange writes, "Photography is . . . all about moments. . . .It is about appreciating all the beauty and passion and love in our everyday lives. It is about seeing that even the most mundane detail can be extraordinary and full of feeling."

The world is full of moments of beauty. We simply need to pay attention and take note.

This is one that I found recently. Almost every day, I drive by this tree and for at least a month, I've commented to myself that I needed to take a picture of it. Last week, I finally stopped my car in the middle of the road (no one was behind me) just long enough to snap a photo. Sadly, it didn't come out as well as I might have hoped, but as a symbol of beauty it still works. A tornado ripped through this area a couple years ago. Many of the trees still bear the scars, including this one, but it still looks so proud, stronger because of the pain it has been through.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Need to Pray

For all of us who are prayer warriors for our families, these words from Pope Francis on Sunday should provide some inspiration:

“And so we learn from the widow of the Gospel to pray always and tirelessly. The widow was good! She knew how to fight for her children! And I think of many women who fight for their families, who pray, who never tire. I would like us to spare a thought today, all of us, for these women, whose attitude gives us a true witness of faith, of courage, a model of prayer. … Always pray! But not to convince the Lord with words ! He knows what we need better than us! Rather, perseverance in prayer is an expression of faith in a God who calls us to fight with him, every day, every moment, to overcome evil with good.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Prayers in Time of Loneliness and Depression

I use a prayer book from the Oblate Missions every day - there is a prayer in there that I say for my foster-kids' biological mom. But the other day, I happened to flip through the pages and came across these two prayers which definitely spoke to where I am right now. Perhaps you might find them helpful as well.

Prayer in Time of Loneliness

Heavenly Father, at times I feel that you have forgotten about me. When I most need You, I cannot reach You. Yet, I do believe that You are present in my distressing loneliness. Teach me to find you even in my darkest times. In the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen.

Prayer in Time of Depression

Lord Jesus, I have doubts about myself; I feel that my faith and trust in You are weak. Stay close to me. Take my hand and lift me up and out of this depression which interferes with my life and with my peace with others. In your Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Imagine Sisters - Light of Love

I have to thank Sr. Helena Burns for alerting me to this wonderful video about religious life created by Imagine Sisters, highlighting the vocations of Religious Sisters. It can be found on YouTube at Please share it on your blog and/or social media.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review - Hope for the Workplace

Hope for the Workplace: Christ in You
by Bill Dalgetty
Vienna, Virginia: Zacchaeus Publications, 2013

Do you bring Christ to your workplace? If you work for a faith-based organization, the answer to that question may be an easy “yes.” However, the vast majority of Catholics and Christians work in secular institutions. What happens then? Should Christians leave their faith behind when they enter the office door.
In Hope for the Workplace: Christ in You, Bill Dalgetty emphasizes the importance of integrating one’s faith with one’s work. As Louis Grams, co-founder of Christians in Commerce, writes in the foreward, “In a pluralistic culture, there are often necessary (and some not so necessary) restraints on what we can say in public . . . but there should be no restraint on living lives of justice, honesty, mercy, forgiveness, or love – in other words, living as Christ."

God values our work. Through our efforts, we help in the ongoing process of creation. Jesus was a man of work, a carpenter for most of his adult life. Of the fifty-two parables recorded in Scripture, forty-five are set in a workplace. “Our purpose is not just to lead a godly life so we can go to heaven when we die. As the Parable of the Talents suggests, God also wants our lives and actions to yield and increase for his kingdom on earth here and now.” 

The type of work that Dalgetty speaks of is not always for pay. Stay-at-home mothers will be pleased that he includes their often unseen work in his discussions. But for those who work outside the home, there is much practical advice on how to bring faith into the workplace. 

Prayer is the centerpiece of all those efforts – prayer in order to communicate and grow closer with God and also prayer for one’s coworkers and superiors. 

Dalgetty shares the stories of several workers in order to illustrate how it is possible and desirable to make one’s faith an integral part of one’s work life. Many do so simply by the example that they offer. Others have had to make difficult choices, resulting in some seemingly negative professional consequences, but all of these individuals were still happy they stood up for what was right. God “desires to be present in our workplaces just as much as he desires to be present in our families and churches through us.” 

Hope for the Workplace is a much-needed book. The business world needs people of faith to provide a good example of how to live and conduct business in an ethical, responsible manner. All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to Christians in Commerce


Thursday, October 10, 2013

John Southworth - A Remarkable Young Man with Down Syndrome

The October 13th issue of The Catholic Mirror features a wonderful cover story on John Southworth, a remarkable young man with Down Syndrome in our community. October is Down Syndrome awareness month. Sadly, it is estimated that 90% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome before birth are aborted. It is so important to share stories like this.

Unfortunately, there is no way to link to the article itself, but if you follow the following link and go to page 17, you can read it:

The Catholic Mirror

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Divine Mercy Essentials: New Online or DVD Course on Divine Mercy

The John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy is now offering an online or DVD course on Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy Essentials covers every major theological, pastoral, and liturgical aspect of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. The course is designed for both individuals and parish use. There is also an option to receive a Certificate of Completion for the course. Classes are taught by Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of The John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. There are also presentations by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC.

To find out more or purchase the course, please visit:

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Moment of Beauty - Toddler Art Edition

Pablo Picasso famously stated, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." A recent Facebook post got me thinking about that statement. Someone took a quiz to see if she could figure out which artworks were done by "famous" abstract artists and which were completed by young children. I'm guessing the goal was to discredit abstract art's worth. But, what if instead, it was to increase the value of children's art production?

I've had the pleasure of hanging up the art work of four young children. A lot of it has lacked in objective aesthetic value, but I value it for what they have done and because hanging it up gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. Every now and then, though, they have created something truly beautiful. Two instances especially come to mind. One was when my oldest son was three. He did a painting that I ultimately used as part of my "Spiritual Woman" logo:

I thought that his brush strokes created a perfect "Holy Spirit." They were alive in a way nothing I could have sat down and created could have been.

A more recent example is this art work created by my nearly three-year-old foster daughter.

I look at this and all I see is energy and beauty. To me, it looks like flowers dancing in the wind.

Children have the same creative power given by God that all of us possess. They may not know the rules of art, but they can sometimes create beautiful pieces.The beauty shouldn't be dismissed simply because the artist is young.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

For St. Francis' Feast Day

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

 - St. Francis of Assisi
Feast Day on October 4th

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Win Signed Copies of All 6 Books

Lisa Hendey over at is currently offering a special contest - a chance to win signed copies of all 6 books (including my Catholic Baby Name Book). Enter here:

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

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...