Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Faith of the Early Fathers

Compiled by William A. Jurgens, I just finished volume 1 of the 3 volume set. "It is a source - book of theological and historical passages from the Christian writings of the pre-Nicene and Nicene eras." Jurgens also did the translation of the writings. It begins with the Didache, then St. Clement of Rome, an Apostolic Father writing about A.D. 80 while he reigned as Peter's 3rd successor as Pope. Volume 1 ends with Pope St. Damasus I, who reigned from A.D.366-384.

I've been reading this as part of my morning devotions. Many of the writings were to fight heresies. There is nothing new under the sun. The same beliefs still exist, it seems. Many people today are so busy making Christ "relatable" they forget His divinity. A few go the other way; so busy with an unreachable pedestal for Christ they forget the Incarnation. Denying either side of Christ is a heresy and anathema. There are so many more heresies that had to be battled. Has the Church weakened? For now no anathemas are pronounced. It would be intolerant. We apparently need to live and let live. Of course, it's a different world. Evangelization is different. Then, the only Christians were Catholic.... No. The Church hasn't weakened. Just gentle as a dove and sly as a fox.

I have been reading this for some time, since I only read and pondered one reading a day. Some were very exciting and I would wish Jurgens had included more in the book ( these are mostly just excerpts of larger works). Occasionally he included pieces so long I would have to break them down. All in all, a satisfactory addition to my devotions.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

A play, by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Throne, this book picks up the Harry Potter saga nineteen years later with the Potters' second son, Albus Severus Potter, beginning at Hogwarts. Albus has a checkered record there, making dubious friendships and getting sorted into Slytherin and not following in his father's footsteps at all. He doesn't even like quidditch! Finally, at age 14, the tension between Albus and Harry comes to a boil, causing Albus to embark with his best friend on a time-turning escapade to right Harry's greatest wrong, with disastrous repercussions.

The play, of course, is not a vehicle for Rowling's rich descriptive prose. The dialogue is short and terse. I'm not sure how the actual play was staged; the changes of scenery are many and vastly diverse. Each scene is relatively short, too. Tried my patience a bit, but the story is still strong enough to carry you along in spite of the mild irritations. The spells are left bold here, though. I think without additional words to cushion them... if all the books were in play form I don't think I would have yet allowed my children to read them. What is read stays in the head.... I don't know.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Sense of an Ending

This is a stream of consciousness novel by Julian Barnes. Tony Webster, middle aged, divorced, retired, is forced to review his life, his friendships, and his relationships when he receives a bewildering legacy from the mother of a former girlfriend.

I didn't particularly like the book. He reviews his life but makes no changes to it. No growth occurs. The twist in the story is the only insight he reaches. In my opinion, the book doesn't merit the hype on its cover. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 apparently. I am left wondering, "how"?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Red Hat Club Rides Again

This novel by Haywood Smith is just a fun, quick read, especially for ladies "of a certain age". This is a follow-up novel to The Red Hat Club, but you do not have to read the first one to fully understand and enjoy this one. It's told from the perspective of Georgia Baker, one of a group of women who have been friends since they were all involved in a sorority-type club in highschool called the Mademoiselles. There were six of them, however Pru Bonner lost her way through drugs and alcohol. In her recovery she lives out of state. The other five are now red-hatters, over fifty and ready for adventure. They get plenty when Pru falls off the wagon and is endangered in Las Vegas, so the ladies rush to her rescue. Teeny is a gazillionaire, so ready cash makes the difference in staging a kidnapping. Of course there's more "mundane" adventures, too. A mid-life pregnancy test, a health scare, the perils of internet dating, and a surprise celebration. Through it all the friendship remains strong with the help of their twelve rules.

The Red Hat Society, an international organization with chapters worldwide, does not endorse either of Haywood Smith's books about a group of women in one Red Hat Club.

Friday, November 25, 2016


The final installment of the King Raven Trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. This one was probably my favorite. Friar Tuck helps Rhi Bran to his rightful place as king of Elfael. He brings spiritual support to the band of merry men, as well as translation services and care of the wounded. Tuck, the bandy-legged friar, is instrumental in suing for peace between the Norman King William Rufus and King Bran, the Welsh lord of Elfael. The story resolves satisfactorily. It also tells how Alan A'Dale joined the group, the wandering minstrel with translation ability. Part of the text is in verse, supposedly from Alan, telling of the exploits of King Raven and his men. A good read.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


This is Book II of the King Raven Trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. William Scatlocke, better known as Will Scarlet, has lost everything to the Normans. He has heard the tales coming from Wales of the exploits of King Raven (who modern readers know as Robin Hood) and decides to join his band of loyal followers. However, during a bold adventure Will is captured. He is subsequently rescued by his friends. And he has uncovered a plot to overthrow the Norman king William the Red. They rush off to warn William Rufus, hoping he'll be grateful enough to return the land of Elfael to King Raven.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Her Fearful Symmetry

This is a novel by Audrey Niffenegger. Julia and Valentina Poole, spoiled mirror-image twins from the suburbs of Chicago uninterested in college or employment receives a letter from a London solicitor. Their Aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her flat. They must live in it for a year and their parents may not enter it are stipulations of the will. They did not know Elspeth; she and her twin, their mother Edie, were estranged before they were born. The estrangement is shrouded in mystery. The twins get to know their new neighbors; Martin, intelligent crossword puzzle creator trapped in his apartment by severe OCD; and Robert, Elspeth's lover and a historian writing his thesis on Highgate Cemetery. Then there's the Cemetery itself, a character in its own right, just behind the apartment building.

This is an outright ghost story, so if you're not a fan of the paranormal this book is not for you. I wish I had had that warning; I wouldn't have wasted my time. Niffenegger hit it out of the park with her first book The Time Traveler's Wife and I guess I was expecting something on an equal footing. This wasn't even close.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Wow! A colossal novel by Stephen King; another colossal success for him. And by colossal I mean size; this book would make a good door stop if you could put it down that long. However, it is far too compelling to be set aside.

Jake Epping is a high school English teacher who loves his job. He teaches GED courses during the summer. One of the reasons he is divorced, according to his ex-wife, is that he is not in touch with his feelings. He gives his GED students the essay topic, "The Day That Changed My Life". And gets from Harry, the high school janitor, a description of the night his father murdered his family. Jake cried over this essay. Soon he was given the opportunity to go back in time through a portal in Al's Diner. He decides to save Harry's family. He also tries to stop the Kennedy assassination. But the past is obdurate and resists change. And no good deed goes unpunished.

Stephen King is well known for horror stories; this novel is found in the science fiction section of the library. (Thank goodness, I can't, and won't, read horror any longer. The nightmares are too close.) There is suspense in 11/22/63, but not much to disturb the sleep. It's well researched, well written, and moves very quickly in spite of being so large. A real tour de force. Highly enjoyable and recommended.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Marriage Plot

By Jeffrey Eugenics, this novel is a bit disappointing. It centers on Madeleine Hanna, a privileged student at Brown University in the early 1980s. She is writing her thesis on Victorian authors and the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the great English novels. Meanwhile, she falls in love with Leonard Bank head, full of boundless energy and high intelligence. There is also Mitchell Grammaticus, in love with Madeleine and Christian mysticism. The book details their last year in college and first year in the real world. It is willful and depressing. I didn't care much for it.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Glittering Images

A hefty novel by Susan Howatch, Glittering Images is all about the dangers of facade; especially if we believe our own facade, losing sight of our true self. Charles Ashworth, a young Anglican clergyman on the fast track to success is given an odd assignment by the Archbishop of Canterbury; see if there is possibility of scandal within the unusual living arrangements of the Bishop of Starbridge. That Bishop, Adam Alexander Jardine, is charismatic and proud, living with his ineffectual wife Carrie and her companion, the competent, gorgeous Lyle Christie. 

I had real trouble getting through this book. I didn't find the characters likeable or relatable nor was their behavior believable. Toward the end of the first part I considered putting it away without finishing it, something I never do. I'm glad I stuck with it. The characters were written as they were because they were playing a part, so to speak. They were trying to hide their true selves so their glittering images would be all anyone saw. But the real man kept jumping out. Also, if I had quit reading at part I, I would have missed the best part of the book. Charles undergoes a Spiritual crisis and makes a lengthy retreat at an Anglican Monastery receiving Spiritual direction from the Abbot, Jonathan Darrow (far and away my favorite character).  Part 2, the Spiritual direction, is worth wading through the rest of the book.

This is the first in a series of novels about the Church of England in the twentieth century. Her next novel after this one is called Glamorous Powers, is set in 1940 and focuses on Jon Darrow. I haven't decided whether to read it or not. I may not like the character so much after a tome dealing with him. And as a Roman Catholic, I find the doctrinal errors annoying. And since we are dealing with clergymen of the Anglican Church, doctrine is discussed.

Monday, October 31, 2016


This is Book I of the King Raven Trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. He has taken the Robin Hood legends and, after some research, set them where he thinks they really begin. In the forests of the March borderland, in Wales, in the eleventh century. William the Conquerer had swept through, but recognizing the warlike nature of the early Britons (the Welsh) and unwilling to fight the rest of his life, he left various barons in charge and left the people alone. His son, William the Red, wanting to fill his tax coffers, did not. Here is where Lawhead has set Hood, in AD 1093 Wales. Primeval forest where the Britons conducted guerilla warfare against their oppressors. (It took 200 years for the Normans to make any lasting impression on Wales.) The longbow was also the weapon of choice in that area at that time.

The legend Lawhead weaves is incredibly enticing and his action scenes would sweep up anyone. As I read I kept thinking my children would enjoy this. The only drawback is the Welsh names and words contained in the text. Latin and French are also in there, but the Welsh are the most unfamiliar and would cause the tongue to stumble in a read aloud. A pronunciation guide is included at the back of the book. The book is found in the science fiction/fantasy section of the library and I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Fragment

I read this novel by Davis Bunn for a book group. It is a satisfactory, quick read. Muriel Ross, an amateur photographer and professional historian specializing in reliquaries, finds herself in Paris with an old family friend, Senator Thomas Bryan, after the Great War (World War I). She is there at his behest to photograph a piece of the True Cross of Christ held in a reliquary at Notre Dame Cathedral and possibly to authenticate another piece rumored to be in Constantinople. It is a dangerous job, for the Ottoman Empire is falling, and others want the reliquary.

This is a historical novel and the history is well woven into the storyline. I really enjoyed reading about Paris in the 1920s and about Atatürk and his conquest of the Ottoman Empire despite the West's plans and their puppet caliph. It even mentioned the name change from Constantinople to Istanbul. An interesting read.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Girl Named Zippy:

Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. This is an unusual and delightful memoir by Haven Kimmel. She remembers well the thought processes of herself as a child, which adds so much to the humor and poignancy of the stories she relates. Many times I found myself thinking of my own growing up years in small town Indiana, comparing my upbringing to hers. There were the same triumphs and catastrophes with family pets, for instance. I grew up more secluded, without neighbors, which, considering Zippy's neighbors, is a good thing. She lived with her Quaker mother and her godless father and a brother and sister who were twelve and ten years older than she (she was an "afterthought") . I lived with my Christian parents and my two younger brothers, one not quite two years younger, the other over twelve years younger (he was an "afterthought") .  I truly enjoyed this memoir.

Haven Kimmel has written another book I've read, The Solace of Leaving Early. I read it some years ago and still remember lines from the book. Good writing.

Monday, October 24, 2016

My Bookstore

Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. This is a fun collection of essays written by an eclectic mix of authors. The collection is edited by Ronald Rice. An illustration of each featured bookstore done by Leif Parsons is included and they are simply elegant. Eighty - four bookstores are featured; at the end of the book they are listed by location. These are all independent booksellers in the United States and I want to plan my next vacation around at least half of them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What Alice Forgot

An engaging novel by Liane Moriarty, this book follows Alice Love as she tries to make sense of her life after a minor accident at the gym. She bumps her head; when she regains consciousness, she finds she has amnesia. Ten years of her life is simply... gone. As if that weren't confusing enough, it's been a busy ten years. Having children, refurbishing a dream home, the beginning and ending of relationships all around her. This book is funny, and poignant, evocative and endearing. I highly recommend it.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Written by Laura Hillenbrand, this non-fiction work reads like a novel. Telling the story of the great racehorse of the '30s and '40s that took a nation's attention momentarily from the Great Depression, the book rollicks along. It also spells out the details of Seabiscuit's owner, Charles Howard; trainer, Tom Smith; and top jockey, Red Pollard. These men form an unlikely partnership around a bandy-legged horse and made him a household name; so much so that in 1938 Seabiscuit was the biggest newsmaker in America, receiving more coverage than such public figures as Franklin Roosevelt and Adolph Hitler. It also tells of the brutality that was horse racing in those days.

I chose to read the Special Illustrated Collector's Edition; released with nearly 150 images the author chose. The photos bring a by-gone world into focus and really emphasize the storyline. Get your hands on that edition if you can.

Laura Hillenbrand later wrote Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I have read this biography of Louis Zamperini; it is mesmerizing. Zamperini was an Olympic track star who signed up when the US entered World War II. He survived a plane crash in the Pacific theater and spent a month and a half drifting on a raft only to drift into enemy hands. He then survived nearly three years of brutality in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Both of Hillenbrand's non-fiction works are well researched and well written and worth the reading.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Time in Between

This hefty tome is written by Maria Dueñas and translated by Daniel Hahn. It tells the story of Sira Quiroga, a young Spanish girl living in Madrid with her single seamstress mother. Sira becomes an accomplished seamstress and affianced to a nice young man. Instead, she runs away with a man who excites her. They live a grand life in colonial Morocco, until she gets pregnant and he gets in over his head. Then the cad leaves her, taking all her money, leaving her responsible for his debts. Worse still,  she can't go home; the Spanish civil war has closed all borders. She opens an atelier to support herself with the help of a new friend. She reinvents herself to appeal to her clients. As a result, she makes powerful friends among those clients. She manages to get her mother out of war-torn Spain. Later, some of these same friends approach her with a proposal: open an atelier in Franco's Madrid to serve the many German ladies there. As a spy for British interests, she would be well placed to hear what those ladies' Nazi husbands were up to. The goal is to keep Spain from entering World War II on the side of the Axis. (Gibraltar is key, I believe, though that was never stated emphatically.) Sira is sceptical, her mother, who has been through a war, convinces her to do it. She has a gift for it.

A good editor would not have been amiss here. The timing dragged occasionally. I have found this to be true of other "international bestsellers" I've read before though. Perhaps the writing is not expected to be tight. There is more patience for the quotidian in the life of a character. This novel is a fine blend of historical and fiction; quite well researched. Altogether, a good read if you've got some time. A great read if you're interested in the era.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard

Tracy Chevalier has created a mesmerizing tale of a pioneer family on the American frontier. Their tree claim is a character itself, playing a large role in the thoughts of James and Sadie Goodenough. It is made up of eaters, sweet apples that James tends carefully as they remind him of his Connecticut upbringing, and spitters, the tart apples that get pressed into cider and from there into applejack, Sadie's alcoholic refuge from daily life in Black Swamp, Ohio. Their youngest son, Robert, is a tree man like his father. After some time spent telling us of James and Sadie in 1838 the novel switches to a series of letters from Robert to his brothers and sisters that span the years 1840 - 1856. During this time he moves from location and job fairly randomly. In 1853 he meets William Lobb and begins collecting seeds and saplings for him to send to England. We are then treated to a flashback to 1838 and the reason Robert left home. Next comes a series of letters to Robert from his sister Martha covering 1844 - 1856. The novel concludes in 1856 California.

The jumps in time are not confusing at all; they do serve to move the plot along. Chevalier has masterfully handled the letters sections to set apart great passages of time, giving depth to the characters in few words. Though the novel initially deals with a dysfunctional family it ends in hope, showing us it is possible to overcome your background. A luminous work.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

You Will Know Me

By Megan Abbott, this novel takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics. It is a suspenseful family drama that asks, literally, "how far will you go to achieve a dream?" And it answers what we might be prepared to do for our children in a disturbingly profound way. I tore through this book in a single day; an intense, satisfying read.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd

By Alan Bradley, this eighth installment of the Flavia de Luce mysteries is as charming and delightful as the others. Flavia has been ejected from Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Canada; she sails home to England expecting to be greeted joyously at the docks by her family. But there is only Dogger, her father's man-servant and her friend, waiting for her. Her father is ill in hospital and the house is in disarray as a result. Her sisters are short tempered; her cousin incorrigible. Flavia must get out of the house!

Thus she is delivering a letter for the vicar's wife when she finds the recipient...dead. Hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The 12 year old Flavia is thrilled, for she is a crack investigator, with a prime chemistry laboratory in her ancestral home of Buckshaw. The novel deals with her investigation and her family situation. The mystery is solved. The family situation is left murky; bearing an implicit promise of another Flavia de Luce mystery in the series.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Age of Miracles

This is the debut novel of Karen Thompson Walker. It is a coming -of-age tale of Julia, a California tween who suddenly finds herself in uncertain times. The Earth's rotation is slowing, which affects the gravitational field, the magnetic field, the tides, the weather, people's health.... At first, though, all it seems to affect is length of days and nights.

I found this novel incredibly disheartening. It seems to end abruptly; one moment Julia is 12, the next 23. And in spite of the title, there are no miracles here. Unless it's the one where people just keep putting one foot in front of the other despite the circumstances. Maybe a miracle after all.

The Yellow - Lighted Bookstore

Part memoir, part history, by Lewis Buzbee, this book is terrific. It took me a while to get into, because I was not familiar with Buzbee's style and wasn't sure I liked it. As I continued, the writing grew on me, drew me in. He mixes his own experiences as bookstore employee and book sales rep with the history of books, production, printing presses, bookselling, bookstores, publishing, etc. For a bibliomaniac like me, it turned out absolutely fascinating.

Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen...

...And Listen so Kids Will Talk. A parenting classic. Written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish many moons ago, this gem has stood the test of time and has been updated by Faber's daughter for today's family. The book deals with communication skills that show respect for the children and the parents. It focuses on helping children deal with their feelings, engaging cooperation, alternatives to punishment, encouraging autonomy, praise, and freeing children from playing roles. Each heading is backed with pertinent advice, techniques, and engaging cartoon illustrations to set the ideas more firmly in your mind.

And it works. That's the real reason for the endurance of this book. I've tried just a couple of these ideas with my children in the past two weeks as I've read. We had an open relationship before, good rapport. Since just acknowledging her feelings, my youngest daughter seems much more relaxed and eager to share hugs. My middle child, a son, can hardly stop talking. My fourth, another daughter, is learning it's okay to share even negative feelings in a respectful manner. Before, in the role of "the good girl", you wouldn't know she had negative feelings!

They will be emotionally healthier if I can change the way I speak to them, modeling for them respectful ways to speak to each other. These "techniques" become a way of life; really listening and effectively speaking to everyone you come in contact with. I look forward to that. I borrowed this from the library and took copious notes. I may have to get my own copy.

The Terrible Two

Written by Jory John and Mac Barnett, this older children's book is just plain fun. Miles Murphy is the best prankster at his school, but he's moving. To Yawnee Valley, known only for cows. And it seems his new school already has a prankster. A very good one. Will there be a prank war? Or will these two team up? The book is illustrated by Kevin Cornell (I especially like his placid cows). This is the beginning of a series.

The Little Bookstore...

...of Big Stone Gap. An informative yet delightful memoir by Wendy Welch. It tells the the story of how, burnt out and jaded, she and her husband fell in love with a house  in a town they could love among mountains that felt like home and decided to pursue a dream of owning a bookstore. Used books. And how they made it work, becoming part of a community along the way. Personalities and experiences spice up the pages as well as book talk.

This book really struck me as helpful as well as good reading material. For my husband and I hope to open a used bookstore in the next couple of years. It provides a cautionary tale (what not to do) and some assistance (what to do) as an entrepreneur. And it's just good reading!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

84, Charing Cross Road

A collection of letters between Helene Hanff and the staff of Marks & Co., London booksellers, 84, Charing Cross Road is completely charming. Miss Hanff lived in a New York brownstone writing television scripts, children's books, and magazine articles. She could not be troubled to walk to an American bookstore for a mediocre edition of any of the eclectic books on her list for research or pleasure. Thus began the letters (and gifts) to Marks & Co. in 1949, lasting two decades.

One gets to know people well through letters. I should know; my husband and I corresponded through snail mail for months before we met. The letters in this delightful book are gentle reminders of a more mannered time, when people could carry out long-distance friendships with more than a hashtag or Facebook post. There was less chance of being misunderstood; more chance of that friendship lasting a lifetime.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair is a non-fiction book by Anne Lamott. How do we find meaning and peace in the face of personal or public devastation? We gather the shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and begin sewing. Lamott shares poignant personal experiences as she shares the best way to overcome is to rebuild, renew, repair. When the world seems falling apart we hold it together with the thread of hope.

Lamott is broad-minded: her tales should resonate with people from any faith tradition. She is well traveled, giving interest to her stories as well. Stitches is a short book, six chapters. A determined reader could easily finish it in a day. I would suggest savoring it a little more, internalizing some of the truths found therein.

Dragon Seed

This book by Pearl Buck follows one man's family through war. Ling Tan and his family have a peaceful existence in their village outside the city of Nanjing when the Japanese invade in 1937 (otherwise known as the Rape of Nanking). The atrocities are mentioned, but not in great detail. Rather, the thoughts of the fabulously drawn characters are the main emphasis of the book.The war is ongoing at the end of the book, yet we are left with hope.

It was a bit difficult for me to place this historical novel into history. There are no clues in the beginning of the story as to which invasion we might be speaking of. The nearby city is not named. My library copy did not have the publication data. Dragon Seed was published in 1942, with World War II still raging. Perhaps there were worries of ramifications for those left in Nanjing if identifying characteristics were published?

Another informative book about this time is American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking by Hua-ling Hu. This is the well researched biography of Minnie Button, an American missionary, teacher, and the administrator of Ginling College who took in thousands of women and children to save their lives. She eventually had to leave China when her health failed and considered herself a failure. Yet if she had not been in so brave and in such a position many more women and children would have been violated and murdered.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Listen: Wonderstruck

The next challenge was to go through your music collection, selecting a song meaningful to your spiritual journey. Listen to lyrics and tune with eyes closed and consider how this song reminds you of God's presence and faithfulness. Then spend time in thankfulness for His faithfulness.

My  collection of Christian music is fairly poor; and my daughter has swiped our CD player. Hello, YouTube! I chose Creed by Rich Mullins. It is the Apostles' Creed set to music. He plays a hammered dulcimer throughout. He also inserts a chorus:

And I believe what I believe.
It's what makes me who I am.
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man.

What I believe (and I do believe the Apostles' Creed) does form me, makes me who I am. And truth is Truth, no matter what I do. God gave this truth, He is faithful to form our minds and consciences with Truth if we just believe. I am grateful for this. Finding truth = the wonder of listening.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Gratitude: Wonderstruck

"Gratitude is the acknowledgment of God's wonder in our lives. It keeps us from walking past wonder unaware." This challenge was to set an alarm every three hours and write down three things for which you're grateful when the alarm sounds.

Some challenges have been more fun or easier than others. This was both. I managed to get fifteen hours of semi-wakefulness in. Not bad, given my health lately. So I began at 9:00 am, just after my devotions, in my morning routine. I wrote that I am grateful for; sunlight, medicine, Jesus.

I had my breakfast, checked email, read awhile. And fell asleep. But the children's dentist appointment...I sluggishly pulled myself out of bed. At 12:00 pm my list read; sleep, pajamas, hot water showers.

Awake. Three kids to dentist, errands run. Steak N Shake for lunch. My 3:00 pm list read that I am grateful for; my children, laughter, adequate money to occasionally eat out. But my energy was flagging; I nearly fell asleep driving as I neared home. Once I got there I slipped into my jammies and into my bed. My 6:00 pm list read; someone else as cook, my husband, music.

Then the migraine hit. My sweet husband crawled into bed with me and rubbed my head, which helps greatly. My grateful list at 9:00 pm reads; books, massage, sips of water in the darkness.

Gratitude. Thanksgiving. In Latin Eucharisteo. The Eucharist. That's the Real reason for and wonder of gratitude.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sitting with God: Wonderstruck

This challenge was to take an opportunity to simply be with God. To go to a place where God is most real to you and take twenty minutes to sit with your Maker. Allow prayers, worship, thanksgiving to emanate from your soul, naturally, wonderfully.

I suppose there are many places I could have chosen; church, nature, surrounded by my family. God would have seemed real in any of those places. But I am Catholic, blessed enough to have a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel nearby. Where God is real and waiting for me.

O Sacrament most holy
O Sacrament divine
All praise and all thanksgiving
Be every moment Thine.

I prayed. I sang (in my head, for there were other adorers there). I sat and looked at my Lord and my God. He looked at me. Before I knew it, fifty minutes had passed. I left reluctantly. That's the wonder of sitting with God; you want to stay.

"Stay with me Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation because I do not merit it, but the gift of Your presence, oh yes, I ask this of you."  Padre Pio after communion prayer

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kindness: Wonderstruck

This challenge is to express kindness to someone in your life whom you don't naturally connect with or who intimidates you. Demonstrate God's goodness and love in a practical way, reflecting on how your actions affect your attitude with this person.

Well. Sometimes the person who intimidates you is someone quite close to you. It can sometimes be hard to naturally connect with someone with whom you have natural connections. My mother.  I love her dearly, but I often feel marginalized by her. It has gotten better as I have gotten strong enough to stand up for myself. But I have bipolar disorder. If I am struggling and have to deal with her, I allow her power to make me feel an inadequate child.

This happened recently as I went through a depressive episode. She reduced me to histrionic tears by criticizing my choices. I resolved not to contact her until I was stronger. Then this challenge....

So I called her. I asked leading questions. I even pretended interest when she told me about the TV shows she was watching as we spoke. (She rarely gives me her full attention, even when we're face to face. Another way to make me feel unimportant.) But I showed her kindness, no matter what she said or how she said it. I hung up from our conversation a bit frustrated, but not inconsolable. Actions do affect attitude. And that's the wonder of kindness.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Meaning: Wonderstruck

This challenge is to research the meaning of your name. God is involved in the details, even our names. Often, our names signify who God has created us to be or the work God wants us to do in our lives. Once you know what your name means, spend time in prayer reflecting on the demonstration of God's love and goodness in the meaning of your name as well as who He has called and created you to be.

Depending upon which language you use, the name "Lisa" means either "Devoted to God" or "Oath of God". If I live as though I am devoted to God, I will become a saint. Motivation follows action. This is how I am to live.

The second meaning gives me recollection and renewal of the love of God for me. He didn't just casually throw out a promise for my welfare; He made a covenantal oath. (Anyone who has read Scott Hahn knows what this entails and that it is deeper, richer, and binding to the end.)

God is deeply interested in my welfare. He took an oath on it. I am interested in His welfare and image. I will live devoted to Him. This is the wonder of meaning; of my name, and of my life.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Forgiveness: Wonderstruck

Today the challenge is to spend twenty minutes in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to reveal where you harbor unforgiveness. Write each down and forgive each one. Pray for your own forgiveness for holding unforgiveness in your heart, then pray blessing each name on your list.

I won't share in detail the results of this challenge. Most of the folks on my list probably wouldn't see a valid reason for being there. The others would have valid reasons to put me on a list of their own. Most of us don't set out consciously to harm those we love. And usually only those we love harm us. Obviously, I'm not speaking of being the victim of a crime. Just those niggling emotional pains that are so hard to overcome and so hard to forgive.

Which is why we don't forgive just once. People can't just forgive and forget; we're not wired that way. We are hurt. We forgive. Then, like a dog toying with a bone, we pull that hurt out at a low point and examine it anew. So we forgive again. Sometimes we're forgiving ourselves over and over.

Confession. Reconciliation. Penance. All names for the wonderful Sacrament where Christ, through the priest, forgives and ABSOLVES our sins. Even the same ones, over and over. That IS the wonder of forgiveness!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Generosity: Wonderstruck

This challenge dealt with generosity. And surprise.  The book suggested giving gift cards to unsuspecting people, but we live so close to the bone that really wasn't an option.

To celebrate my 50th birthday, I wanted to do something different. Something altruistic. Again, there's the lack of money. I asked all my Facebook friends to do a random act of kindness in my honor while my family and I did fifty (or more) acts of kindness during my birthday week. This was surprisingly generous ... to us!

We would make a fifteen minute trip to the library but put two hours worth of coins in the meter.  Pay for the coffee refill of the elderly man at McDonald's. Hold the door. We got the biggest kick out of engaging strangers in conversation, or just giving a smile to someone who looked like he needed one. Random acts of kindness are akin to good manners. They are a form of generosity. They are unexpected, more's the pity, by the receiver. And they grant the giver an opportunity to be wonderstruck!