Whenever I give my retreat talk titled “Broken, Beautiful, and Beloved: Learning to See Ourselves through God’s Eyes” (last weekend, for example), I quote St. Francis de Sales twice. Actually, I quote St. Francis de Sales a lot in my life — in posts, in books, in columns, in workshops, but in this particular talk I quote him twice. This 17th century bishop had so much to say that remains incredibly relevant to our 21st century lives. Read more
The song “Colours” by Margo Rey has been a favorite on my iTunes play list for quite a while now, but last weekend’s Christian Mothers’ Retreat in Syracuse was the first time I wove the song into one of my presentations. It was a hit, as I guessed it would be. Quite a few women came up to me after my talk and asked for the song’s title and artist. I knew it would tie in perfectly with a religious retreat despite the fact that it is a secular song because it speaks to the heart and to something I think so many women confront in their lives: learning to love themselves for who they are and to step into their own skin once and for all and be brave, no matter what may or may not be going on in the background or center stage of their lives, no matter how they think they’ve failed, no matter what the outside world pushes them to be. Read more
Headline says it all. It’s going to be one of THOSE weeks. Between my out-of-town travel for a weekend retreat and the holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am totally thrown off. I’d like to put out a blanket apology for any appointments or events I miss today — or this week — because it’s going to happen. I will be one day off until next Monday. So here’s how things stand on this Twisted Tuesday.
Bookshelf: I finally have my own hardcover copy of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which kept surfacing and resurfacing in my life until I finally figured I should borrow it from the library. After one renewal and lots of notes, I decided that this was one to have on my shelf for handy reference and so Dennis can read it when I’m done. Good book about doing what’s most important in life, not setting a long list of priorities that make everything equally important but picking the ONE thing at that moment that is MOST important. Hard to do because it always means a trade-off or a sacrifice.
GPS: I was blessed to be the leader/speaker of the 22nd annual Christian Mothers’ Retreat at Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse this weekend. Our topic was my favorite: “Broken, Beautiful, and Beloved: Learning to See Ourselves through God’s Eyes,” and, as always, I got more than I gave. At least from my perspective. What a wonderful group of women and so inspiring. They started this retreat on their own 22 years ago with no parish or diocesan or organizing group as a sponsor. Just a bunch of moms who wanted spiritual nourishment and community. They are like one big family — godparents to each other’s children, best friends, encouragers, supporters, listeners, pray-ers. We talked about our brokenness and our belovedness and how to fit prayer into our very busy lives. And we made collages, my new favorite activity. Here are some of the ladies at work in the dining room.
Menu: Last night we made a Turkey dinner with all the trimmings. All of the yumminess of Thanksgiving with none of the stress. And we have enough leftovers for another mini-Thanksgiving during the week. I highly recommend doing this some time during the year if you love Thanksgiving but never feel like you get to relax during the meal. And we always have something to be thankful for, right?
Spiritual Signs: Although I love to pray and write a lot about different prayers devoted to the saints, I am not one to go to the saints very often. In particular, I never pray to St. Therese of Lisieux. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love her and her story and her Little Way, but I’ve just never felt compelled to call on her intercession. Then on Friday, I was reading about Pope Francis and his penchant for calling on St. Therese to take up his prayer needs and give him a sign. And the sign St. Therese is said to leave is roses. Again, it’s just never been part of my prayer life. But on this day, as I headed to Syracuse with some special prayer needs, I decided to call on St. Therese, hoping for a sign but not expecting one. I got to my retreat house room, put my bags down and looked for someplace to hang my clothes. I slowly opened the only door that could be a closet in the beautiful old room with a fireplace and enormous old-fashioned bathtub. I was worried I might be going somewhere I shouldn’t, like another person’s room. As the door swung open I could see hangers and stepped in all the way, and when I did, I was floored. There to my left, in what amounted to a big storage closet, were four giant vases filled with red roses. Velvet ones, mind you, but roses nonetheless. I have to say, she got my attention and I will not be so quick to ignore her in the future. To top it off, the next morning, when I told two of the women sitting in the conference room about the experience, one woman pointed to the wall behind where I was sitting, and there was a picture of St. Therese. Okay, I got it. You’re listening. I may have to go back and re-read her Story of a Soul.
Viewfinder: Two spontaneous shots to share with you, and by spontaneous I mean not quite in focus or thought out in advance.
Here’s the gorgeous sunset from the driver’s seat as I returned from Syracuse on Saturday evening. It was so jaw-droppingly beautiful I couldn’t help it. I just picked up the iPhone that was in the cupholder next to me, aimed it out the window and hoped I managed to capture even some of the magnificent sky. Here you go. Sunset at 65 MPH:
Meanwhile back at home…Olivia took out the garage-sale guitar we picked up for her a few years ago and decided to give it a try. So I tuned it up and showed her a few chords. I love this photo of Olivia playing and Chiara in the background in our living room. I have to admit that this photo of Olivia reminds me of myself when I was her age and played guitar day and night. Makes me smile:
Soundtrack: A little music for your Tuesday. This one is a new (to me) favorite: “Shelter” by The Strange Familiar.
It’s amazing how the soul finds what the soul needs.
When I was on silent retreat last month, I sat in the dining room on our final morning, staring out the window at the peaceful, frozen landscape. In the front yard of the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna (yes, this place is becoming a perennial favorite in my posts) amid the many barren trees and evergreens was one lone tree still covered entirely in leaves — dead, brown leaves hanging ever-so-delicately yet ever-so-resiliently from its sprawling limbs. Read more
Sometimes losing our serious adult demeanor for a bit and doing childlike things can take us deeper into our spiritual center than any book on prayer ever could. Case in point: I spent Saturday armed with scissors and a glue stick, cutting and pasting — and praying. Although I’d done collages before on my own, back when I was working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had never used the art form as a way to deepen my spiritual life. Until this past weekend when I headed back to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, my new favorite spiritual place, for a six-hour workshop called “Collage as Prayer.” I convinced one friend to join me and then met up by chance with another once I got there. We had a great group of women, probably about a dozen of us or so, led by Sister Ethel. The result? Two collages and a whole lot of insights into myself and my spiritual journey. Read more
My latest Life Lines column:
I was at the tail end of a silent weekend retreat a few weeks ago when I began reaching my silent prayer saturation point. Although the Dominican Retreat Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., was the perfect place for a spiritual respite, I’m used to taking my doses of silence in the summer when long walks on quiet paths or the rhythmic paddling of a kayak across a perfectly still lake help ease the what-should-I-do-now syndrome that sometimes sets in for me. Silence is not my natural habitat, so I need all the outside help I can get. Read more
Want to know how good the eBook sale is over at Ave Maria Press? So good I just bought my own book for my iPad. Seriously. I did.
Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God is now available for only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. That’s really an offer you can’t refuse, isn’t it? If you go to the Ave link, you can scroll down just a bit to find Cravings, then you can choose which version you want.
So, if you’ve been meaning to buy Cravings but just haven’t gotten around to it, now’s your chance. Sale ends January 9. Thank you in advance to everyone who takes me up on this offer. HERE is that link one more time.
My new favorite song, discovered on The Coffee House on Sirius/XM, for your Music Monday listening pleasure. Simple, beautiful, spot on. This one goes out to Dennis, my sweetheart. “When You’ve Got Trouble” by Liz Longley:
“All my heart is tangled all around you
When you’ve got trouble I’ve got trouble, too
All my life is arm in arm with you
When you’ve got trouble I’ve got trouble, too” Read more
My Scripture reflection from today’s pages of Give Us This Day:
When I was growing up, I’d sometimes get annoyed that I was named after the Blessed Mother. Every time a religion teacher would tell us to write about our patron saint, I’d wonder which of Mary’s many titles I should choose. Read more
It’s that time of year again, the time when we look at ourselves and see all the stuff that needs improving over the next 12 months. We want to lose 10 pounds, exercise five times a week, work less, play more, and organize our house, our schedules, our lives. It all sounds great on paper, but those resolutions can do more harm than good. Why not take a different approach this year, one that will transform you from the inside out? I’ll get you started. Read more