Monday, April 30, 2012

The Story of a Soul

I'm joining The Modern Mrs. Darcy today in writing about a book that changed my life.

As a fairly voracious reader, I could say there are a lot of books over the years that have touched me or meant a lot to me.  Some are old friends that I've revisited time and again, like the Little House on the Prairie books, or the Anne of Green Gables series which I didn't discover until adulthood.  Some books don't become friends until you're old enough or in the right time of your life to "get" them---like The Lord of the Rings.  And then there are the books, or maybe just one, that comes into your life and changes it.  The book becomes a friend, a cherished possession, but isn't one that you read and re-read again and again.  

When we had been married a few years and had a couple of small children, I got a little book in my Easter basket that I enjoyed.  It was a children's biography of St. Therese, the Little Flower.  I wasn't Catholic, and I had no conscious intention of converting, but my husband had returned to the Church recently and thought I might enjoy the book.  (I'm sure he hoped for more, but that's enough for now. ;-) ) 

As I said, I did enjoy it as it was a simple introduction to a saint's life.  I found the whole new-to-me concept of sainthood fascinating at the time.  In the book, I learned that Therese's older sister, her superior in the convent, had asked her to write down her childhood memories.  I told my husband about it and wondered if the autobiography was in print.  It was probably the very next day that he came home with a copy of The Story of a Soul!  

As Saint Therese is a Doctor in the Church, her autobiography is rather deep, but the beauty and simplicity of her Little Way of Sainthood is easy to grasp.  It consists of merely doing every little act with love, making small sacrifices throughout the day.  The core of her philosophy, in my poor words, is that we should embrace our littleness by making these  gifts to Jesus.  

I've read the book, probably, only twice, but it did change my life.  I was attracted to the concept of sainthood and the Little Way, and I guess I was also attracted to the Catholic Church as a consequence.  When I finally converted and had to choose a patron saint for Confirmation, I was having a lot of trouble thinking of one.  I didn't spend much time in actual thought; what I did was pray and ask God to show me whom I should choose.  When we finally had to turn in our choices, I bemoaned the fact that God had never showed me the answer.  The woman I complained to said that she was surprised I hadn't chosen St. Therese of Lisieux since I talked about her all the time!  I still get a kick out of the way that God answered that prayer.  

Now, I think I need to put The Story of a Soul on my summer reading list.  It will be an appropriate followup to the one I'm currently reading:  The Truth About St. Therese: An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way.

I'm looking forward to seeing what other life-changing books people have read!  What book changed your life?

Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Grateful Takes

I'm thankful it's Friday and we have a quiet weekend ahead!

It has been a week.  Let me tell you.  I can handle only so much excitement in my life or I start to get a bit stressed.   See?  I don't even know where I'm supposed to be looking while my picture is taken!

I'm very thankful for the gift of the Sacraments and a teenage boy who is excited to recieve Confirmation.  You know we had Confirmation on Sunday evening, and then a little party afterwards.  Here's a pic from the Mass.


I'm thankful for this guy even if he is a goofball when it comes to picture taking.  :-)

We also celebrated my Dear Husband's 50th birthday which was really just yesterday.

I'm thankful for the ability to send out prayer requests at the click of a mouse to hundreds of people!  

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I tweeted about one of my dearest friends being diagnosed with ovarian cancer on Friday.  I found out about it Saturday morning and it cast a pall over the entire week as we worried, and prayed, and waited for the test results which in my mind would just tell us what stage cancer she had.

I'm thankful for something meaningful to do which, usually, helps calm me down.  

I knitted frantically to calm my brain; I prayed frantically, while I knitted, for both her and another friend whose family needs lots of prayers.  I think I also ate a lot to calm myself, which didn't really work.  It just gave me something else to worry about!

I'm thankful for my understanding husband who doesn't mind if I'm not home for his birthday!

In my usual I'm-so-bad-with-dates way, I didn't even realize that the Big Birthday was on Thursday, the same day as my AHG meeting.  I had to be there because of extra stuff going on, and I had offered to take my friend's girls to the meeting, so I made him a nice dinner and dessert and left it for him to enjoy with the kids.

I'm thankful that I had to go pick up the girls for the meeting because I was able to hug my friend and cry with her over the news that the test results were NEGATIVE and she doesn't have cancer!  Well, I cried.  I think she was over the crying-with-relief stage and had moved on to pure joy.

I am just so Thankful that she doesn't have to endure that cross!  And neither do her 5 children who are just as lovely and sweet as she is.

Join the fun at Jen's for more 7 Quick Takes!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Morning After Daybook


Outside my window...
...Sunny and COLD!  I'm wrapped in a blanket as I sit here watching videos on my computer this morning.  I'm knitting, but my hands are freezing, so I'm taking a break to type and warm them up!

I am thinking...
...About the nice weekend we had with The In-Laws who came to town for Tom's Confirmation yesterday.  The Confirmation Mass was lovely last night.  It was at the regular Life Teen Mass, which I wasn't excited about, but I found I was totally able to ignore the drums during the music.  ahem.  Maybe it was due to my prayer before Mass started that I would be able to pray the Mass and hear the music only to the extent that it helped my prayer.

I am thankful... Barbara for her menu suggestions for the party.  The food was fairly simple, but it was delicious.  And that's good because half the party ended up unable to make it, so we have lots of food left over!

From the learning rooms...
...Math, Math, History, and Science seem to be what we're focusing on these days.

In the kitchen...
...Leftovers.  And that's good because I'm tired of cooking.

I am wearing...
...Jeans and my gray, handknit sweater that you haven't seen a picture of because I don't love it.  Heck, I don't even like it!  I'm wearing it because it's cozy and I'm trying to learn to like it.  But I am pretty sure that won't happen, and I'll either try to fix it (unlikely) or give it away (likely).  Maybe I'll even attempt the pattern again with a different yarn, but we'll see.  There are lots of other lovely knits out there.  Oh, and I'm wrapped in a blanket, because it's COLD!

I am knitting...
Something cute and cozy and I love it.  But it's not for me.  It's a prayer blanket, and there are lots of much-needed prayers knit up in it!

I am going...
...To curl up on the sofa with my cold, sleepy kids this morning.  We're going to read, and do our schoolwork gently because re-entry is hard after a big weekend.

...To call a dear friend who got some very bad news at the doctor on Friday.  I'm hoping and praying for a miracle, because if anyone deserves one, she does.

I am reading...
The Truth About St. Therese

I am hoping...
...for that miracle.

I am looking forward to...
...Sleeping.  I didn't get enough sleep this weekend, and too much sugar (which I did get enough of) makes me sleepy.

Around the house...
...It's nice and clean, and we'll try to keep it that way while we focus on laundry today!

One of my favorite things...
...Flourless chocolate cake for breakfast with coffee.  

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Lots of knitting, praying, schooling, visiting, and hugs.

Hosted by The Simple Woman's Daybook

Thursday, April 19, 2012


This whole post is {pretty}, {funny}, {happy}, and {real}, though I should start with {real} since Meg's room was such a mess!

{real} and {funny}
is that her room was a complete disaster, and she begged me not to come in while she cleaned it (because, despite my best efforts, I sometimes get a bit testy when we're cleaning it!).  Funny is that she took Before and After pics of every section.  I think we have a future blogger in our midst!

{pretty} and {happy}
She cleaned it all by herself, and I don't think I found anything stuffed under the bed, or behind the bed, or in the drawers, or in the closet, that I shouldn't have!  And I didn't have to help with it!!!

That's her brother's artwork acting as a blotter on the desk.

The mirror does need to be cleaned, but it's also very old and spotty.

We do need to do something about the few things stuffed in those crevices, but the floor is clear!
Go visit Leila and her girls for more {phfr}!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Beautiful Mass

I told you on Monday that Sunday's Mass was totally worth the extra drive.  And it was.  We arrived at the tiny, unassuming church, just off the highway, 10 minutes late.  I was pretty sure we were in time for the gospel.  As it turns out, we walked in as they were still singing the Latin!  When I heard that, I knew I could relax:  we were early enough, and it would be a beautiful, prayerful Mass.  I'm so often distracted by the music or the improvisations of the priests, that I don't pray well.

I wish I had a picture of this pretty, little church.  It was very nicely decorated inside with the tabernacle in the center, plus 6 candles & a crucifix on the altar.

Fr. Byrd sang all of the Mass.  We sang our Mass parts in Latin.  The Our Father, and even the Creed, was chanted, and I almost didn't recognize what was happening that time because I have NEVER heard the creed chanted.  Even when we sang Latin Mass parts at our parish, we never sang the creed.

You know I love to sing, right?  I've wondered, frequently, how I would feel in a parish where the congregation didn't sing much.  Here they had an opening hymn, which I missed, 1 communion hymn, and a closing hymn.  The little choir, or schola, chanted a communion song that went on for a long time while we recieved, and then the opportunity came for the congregation to sing the next song.  I was interested to note that they didn't announce it; they just started singing.  The page numbers were all on one of those hymn signs if you were inclined to sing.  I like that.  I don't like all the announcements about page numbers for songs and readings which distract from the beauty of the Mass.

The homily was excellent, as I fully expected it would be.  Fr. Byrd has always been one to teach the faith, not just get up and speak off-the-cuff on less weighty matters.

I wish more priests were like Father.  I wish they'd stop trying to improve on the Mass that the Church has given us, especially the beautifully worded prayers.  I wish they would let the Mass center around the Eucharist instead of themselves.  I wish they would stop trying to entertain us and just let us pray the Mass together.

I harp on the Latin issue so much, I'm sure everyone thinks I should just go to a parish that celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (which is an hour away).  While I've been to quite a few of those Masses, I'm not comfortable with it.  The Novus Ordo is perfectly legitimate, but, at the same time, as Roman Catholics we are all expected to know the Latin responses.

What I'm looking for in the Mass is one where Christ in the Eucharist is the highlight, not the music, not the homily, not the priest.  Everything in the Mass should direct us to that end, not distract us from it.

Are you distracted by things at Mass?  Besides your children?  ;-)  What helps you pray best?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Amicalola Falls

Hey!  How was your weekend?  Mine was awesome---exhausting, but awesome!  We had a Mother/Daughter American Heritage Girls Camping trip to Amicalola Falls.  In the 16 years I've lived here, we've never made it up to this gorgeous place!  Sad.  But now I have and I'm ready to go back, already.

Friday night was low-key since most of us arrived late and had to set up.  But Saturday morning we got started by teaching the girls how to make a simple meal of Eggs-in-a-Bag.  Just smooch up your egg(s), salt and pepper, salsa, cheese, whatever, in a zip-baggie, and throw it in the bowling water.  Don't just hold it over the hot water because you'll get steam burns and it won't cook.  ;-)  Not that we did that in my group, but I heard someone else tried it and was a little frustrated!
Friday night, the girls did make Deer Baubles, which you see hanging around her neck in the picture below.  It's just cereal and dried fruit strung on dental floss to make a handy snack for hiking.  Meg wanted to know why we didn't just buy those candy necklaces.  Obviously, I don't discuss nutrition enough around here.
Happily, the park was having their wildflower festival this weekend.  Unhappily, because of the ridiculously warm spring end-of-winter weather, the wildflowers were well past their peak and we didn't see many.  However, they had special events planned that we participated in, like learning to make a flower press (above), and then we went on a 1.5 mile hike with wonderful Ranger Andrea who stopped and showed us all kinds of (post-peak) wildflowers.  It was very informative and fun.  She has the patience of a saint and absolutely looooovvvess her job and flowers!  Meg had the camera and took a lot of pictures that look like this:
and I couldn't possibly tell you what you're looking at.  Oh, wait, maybe that's Coltsfoot.  Not sure.  I could tell you about the pics I took, though.  

We hiked to the bottom of the falls where The Stairs start.  There are 604 stairs to the Top of the Falls, but the official hike ended there and we thought the stairs might be too much for the adults  some of the younger girls.  I did go up a couple hundred to retrieve a wayward group, however.
This is where we were supposed to stop.

This is where the group got to, where there is a bridge across the falls.
After the falls, there were owls to visit at the Lodge, and a great view from there.
A few of us still had the energy to go back down to see Ranger Andrea to make Sun Pictures.  I really don't think that's the name, but I can't remember what it is.  The special paper is available at Hobby Lobby if you want to try it.  It was fun, but a little frustrating because it was windy.  Do it on a calm day if you're using lightweight objects like pressed flowers and leaves!
Are you tired yet?  I am, but we still have to go back to camp where it's about time to learn about fire building, and have the older girls build a fire and then cook dinner over it.

I'm happy to say that both fire and dinner were successful!  The stew looks kind of gross there, but that's a shot of the just-added dumplings which are still raw.  They're on top of a soup with veggies and chicken in chicken broth.  It must have been good because the moms and girls in our group ate it all!

We got to bed at a pretty decent hour; I think the entire troop was exhausted!  After a lovely prayer circle in the morning with everyone, Meg and I hit the road to make it to Mass.  But we had to stop at the Top of the Falls first:
 It's really just a picturesque, unassuming stream behind us, but that steep drop off turns it into something incredible!  We took a few minutes to walk down about 250 of the 604 steps.  And met a few hikers on the way up.  They all looked pretty beat!
I did a quick change at the visitor's center for Mass and we managed to get there just after the Gloria by the grace of God!  I did decide to go see our priestly friend, after all.  It was so worth the extra time it took to get there, and the Deacon was also an old friend who had baptized Meg, as it turns out.  I had forgotten that he was also there.  Sadly, we didn't get to visit for more than a couple of minutes because he had a meeting immediately after Mass, but that little bit was wonderful.  Awesome, even.

Sorry for the long post, but that's what you get when everyone around is asleep!  Pip was complaining of a sore throat last night, and Meg was just complaining.  She could be getting the sore throat, too, or she could just be wiped out from the weekend!  It was a pretty amazing weekend.  I love these Mother/Daughter campouts, but it's even better in a stunning environment.

I hope your weekend was wonderful, too!  What did you do?

Friday, April 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes


These should be really quick takes since I'm sitting here with wet hair and a zillion things to do today!


Meg and Pip are out gathering firewood in the woods for our (mine and Meg's) camping trip this weekend.  We'll be cooking over a fire, and I belatedly realized that that might require wood and not propane tanks.  So, they're out gathering while I'm frantically trying to figure out when I'm going to have time to work  1) Learn how to Build a Fire, and 2) Learn how to Cook over said Fire into my day.


I'm also a little pre-occupied with which church to attend on Sunday morning for Mass.  I'll be way out in the country and I have 2 small parishes within 30 minutes of the camp to choose from.  One will set me on my road home as it's on the way.  The other will take a bit more driving and I won't be any closer to home.  They both have pastors, so I'm psyched for either one.  But the farther away one has our old Parochial Vicar who is Awesome, and I consider him a personal friend, as well.  What would you do???


It's been such a peaceful, gorgeous week here!  It really feels like Easter; the Peace is outside in the lovely weather, and inside my soul.  It feels so nice to be free of all the angst and torment from Holy Week.  Even though there were many graces, there was also a lot of darkness and stress.  I'm so looking forward to being in the woods and seeing this park that I've wanted to go to for 15 years!


I'm not as excited about the cooking part.  I've been camping for years now, but this will be the first time I've had to teach anyone to do some of these things.  Like Build a Fire.


Have you read To Build a Fire by Jack London?  Scary.  Fortunately, it won't be cold enough to freeze to death, but we might starve to death if we don't get that fire built!


I'm finishing up a re-read of The Hunger Games this morning (no, that's not stopping me from doing my packing at all!  Why would you think that?).  Here's hoping the weekend in the woods with 15 girls and their moms will be nothing like that!


Join the fun at Jen's for more 7 Quick Takes!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday-book


Happy Easter Monday!
Outside my window...
Bright, sunny, and cool!  It's a practically perfect day.  I wore a sweatshirt and shorts to walk the dog this a.m. and my knees were a little numb by the time I got home.

I am thinking of...and...I am thankful...
For the many graces experienced during this Lent, but mostly during Holy Week.  As usual, I don't think I pulled as many toothpicks thorns from the Crown of Thorns on the kitchen table for making sacrifices, but I did manage to pray more than ever before by virtue of the fact that I did the preparation for Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin, and that our family increased our daily decade of the rosary by one decade every week until we were doing the whole thing 4-5 days per week.

I don't mean to gloat about how well we did there, because, quite honestly, I don't know what we'll do tonight at prayer time.  I don't know if we have it in us to keep up with the whole rosary daily.  I also know that managing to get in all those prayers and stick with them was a total grace.

Also during this Lent, I asked God for answers, and I got emotional struggles.  I got plenty of temptations that caused heartache.  But peace comes in the strangest ways and at the oddest times.  I wish that He could be more clear in His answers and help, but He doesn't seem to work that way!
From the learning rooms...
We have one last day of break today for Easter!  It's a teacher-workday (once I finish my blogging), so I'll get the house back together and see if I can get prepared for a 4-day school week that is followed by a camping trip!

In the kitchen...
I think I'll be eating Primal Coconut Cake all week (or until it's gone).  Leftover ham.  And cheese for my girl who gave up cheese for Lent!

I am wearing...
In addition to the shorts, vibram 5-fingers, and sweatshirt for my walk, I'm wearing a chain (scroll down to the bottom!) given me by my sweet friend Barbara in honor of my Consecration to Mary.  It came on Holy Saturday, and it means a lot to me because I forget my good intentions so easily.  This bracelet is a constant reminder to me.  It's both a reminder for the future, and a confirmation of the graces that I received through Mary during Holy Week. I remembered to ask her repeatedly for help, and she gave it.

I am knitting...
Nada.  I'm starting to feel the strain.  I definitely have something I want to start today if I can get out to the yarn shop!

I am going...
To get some yarn, but otherwise I plan to stay home and organize/clean/plan for the week.

I am reading...
The Truth About Saint Therese.  Not very far into it yet; it sounds like an expose, but it's about getting past the sugary sweet image people have of the Little Flower to the depth of her theology.

I am hoping...
For a productive week!

I am looking forward to...
Our American Heritage Girls campout this weekend!  We're going to a park I've never been to before.  It's supposed to be beautiful, and they're having a special event on this spring weekend (purposefully vague there to prevent your stalking my beautiful girls!)

I am hearing on my ipod...
Did you know there is a podcast called "Novenas" which has tons of recordings of different novenas?  I've downloaded all the days of the Divine Mercy Novena which started on Good Friday.  It's a big help!

One of my favorite things...
Holy Week and Easter.  I will admit to not loving it when my kids were little because it's such a marathon, but really walking through the passion with Christ during those days, and "entering into the mystery" which sounds rather cliche, but pretty much describes what happens, makes Easter so much better.  It was a little stressful, but I was thrilled to be able to do a lot more singing than usual at Holy Thursday Mass and the Easter Vigil.  For me, singing really is praying twice.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
I actually remembered to get some pictures of the kids before Mass, even though there were 3 missing and these wouldn't stop goofing off, and a neighbor who was in the cul-de-sac thoughtfully came over so I could be in the picture, too.  Amazingly, they shaped up and smiled for her!

Hosted by The Simple Woman's Daybook

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

Yesterday was such a beautiful day!  A lazy day in many respects.  I didn't do any cooking and only the most minimal straightening around the house.

We started the watching The Passion of the Christ.  Tom and I wanted to see it, as did Meg.  Obviously, she closed her eyes a LOT for all the demons and hangings and scourging and crucifying!  I especially wanted her to see the flashbacks which I think are so beautiful.  Pip didn't particularly want to watch it, but it's mesmerizing, I guess, and he watched a lot....and watched with his eyes closed, too.  

After that we had time to straighten up and get dressed for Stations of the Cross at 3:00.  Gorgeous day for the outdoor stations on the river next to the church!  It was extremely moving for me, unlike any other Stations I've prayed before.  I don't know if it was the culmination of a half-way decent Lent, or having just watched the Passion, so it was all fresh in my mind.  I didn't even mind kneeling outdoors on my bare knees.

I think this Lovely Lady had so much to do with my grace-filled Lent this year!
 After Stations, we went into the Church for Day 1 of the Divine Mercy Novena, followed by a hunger meal in the family center.  We were able to visit with a couple of our favorite deacons while they ate, and then we just hung out in the church library for an hour or so until it was time for the evening service.

It was after 8:30 by the time we got home and everyone snacked before bed and unwound a bit.  Today, I'm sort of paying for doing "nothing" yesterday (or all week), and I have cooking, baking, cleaning and decorating to do.  Oh, and a little music rehearsal.  But that's okay because today is a day of waiting...waiting for the glorious resurrection.

Have a Blessed Holy Saturday!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Take the time to watch and listen to meditate on this beautiful video on Good Friday.  You won't be sorry.

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Triduum

Blogging has definitely been sparser than usual around here because I've been staying away from the computer a bit more, and now we're on spring break.  It has still been a full week so far.  

Music is mostly taking up my time---I had an extra rehearsal Sunday afternoon, then another 2 hours on Tuesday, and our regular choir rehearsal last night which was exhausting.  What makes it so exhausting is that we're doing things very differently from past years with our new pastor and choir director.  Very few of the old standards and lots of new Psalm settings (which we received very late in the season) add up to a lot of extra work and worry.

Ever since my Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin, I've been wondering, "What now?" I haven't done a lot of research, but I also didn't see anything in the book about how to live my life now.  Are there certain prayers I'm supposed to say?  Besides the rosary, that is.  So, it came to me that I could offer her all my worries and fears about choir, and ask for her prayers, and let her comfort me.  It helped a lot yesterday, and last night.  I still didn't sleep through the night (for the 3rd night in a row), but when I was awake and thinking about singing tonight, my heart wasn't pounding and my stomach wasn't in knots!

I'll be glad when tonight is over.  I'm glad I don't have to sing on Friday, but there's still the long Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday to get through.  Being involved in Church music certainly gives one lots to offer up during these last few days of Lent!

I hope you are having a peaceful, prayerful Triduum.  It's a Lenten marathon, but it's so beautiful to experience these 3 days with Christ.  Even when you've had a less-than-stellar Lent, the Triduum makes it all better.

God bless!  See you in Easter!


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