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Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Home Is Where the Church Is

We are moving…again. This is my husband’s and my third cross-country move in six years as a married couple, fourth if you count me moving in once we were married, and our first with kids. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in temporary military housing on a base in the Keys as we wait for our new house to be ready in a few weeks. After being on the road for a month, taking our time to visit with friends and family along the way, it feels good to be at our final destination, and a beautiful one at that. But I’d be lying if I said I love the transition from one “home” to the next. 

Having to find new grocery stores and doctors’ offices, favorite breakfast spots and parks, making new friends and play groups is not something I particularly enjoy, especially with the memory of all the familiar places, faces, and routines still fresh in my brain from our last home. 

The transition process is exciting, but disorienting; necessary, but isolating. And each time we experience it, I spend a lot of time doing some inward reflection. Where does my stability come from? Where can I find peace when all things familiar are suddenly gone? Where is HOME? 

The answer is always the same. Home is where the Church is.

We went to Mass at our new parish the first Sunday after we moved here and I was taken aback by the hodgepodge of people who filled the charming basilica. Tourists and locals, children and elderly, people of all different ethnicities and social status—the church was completely packed. It was uplifting to witness a full melting pot of people from so many different walks of life joining together to sing and worship in humble adoration for an hour. 

I was reminded of James Joyce who wrote that Catholicism means “here comes everybody!” It was obvious that the church was home to all of us, even those who had never been there before. 

Eventually, my family and I will replace all of our old steadfast staples with new ones. I’ll get to know the hairdresser here as much as my last one, our new neighbors will fill the void that our previous ones left behind, and comfortable routines will be established. In a year’s time, we’ll feel as content here as we did in any of the other locations we’ve lived in the past. 

Time has a funny way of making the foreign become the familiar, but the truth is familiarity isn’t what brings us peace. Only Christ can do that.

When I’m lonely or tired, homesick or overwhelmed by so many changes, I know exactly where to go to find consolation: the Church. There Christ will be waiting for me in the tabernacle, just as He was in California and Virginia and everywhere else before those places. 

Our last stop before we got into Florida was to the Gulf Coast to visit family. On our last day there, we had breakfast at a diner. I met two older gentlemen there who asked where we were headed. “Key West!?” they said. “Well, y’all have a good time, but don’t forget where home is.” 

Trust me, I won’t.

 

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Anni Ink Slingers Prayer

The Power of Prayer: A Reminder of Mercy

A couple months ago, my husband and I received some news which made me deeply question my Catholic identity. In short, it was a period I found myself struggling with Church teachings, and I was angry with God. I was taking it to Him in prayer on a daily basis, and while I would leave room for Him to answer, it wasn’t a clear answer. Life would have been so much easier if He had said, “Anni, I want you to do, or not do, this,” but of course, He doesn’t typically make things that clear.

While I struggled, and while life caught up with me, I found myself distancing from the routine devotions I try to spend time praying. The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary were set aside while I poured forth from the depths of my angry heart. Even when I picked up my beads to pray these prayers, I would get angry, and set them back down. The desire to pray them was not even present. 

The last day of May, a fellow Catholic Sistas writer reached out to me in a private message, inviting me to participate in the 31 Day Divine Mercy Challenge being held during the month of June. 

Her reaching out to me, combined with the repeated failed attempts to pick up my Rosary beads and actually pray, led me to grudgingly acknowledge I was being led to spend time praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet again. So, while it was last minute, and we were in the thick of a move, I accepted that 31 Day challenge.

Within a week, peace settled into my heart over the situation which had led me to be angry. I experienced several epiphanies regarding the situation. And, while I will carry the cross that He has handed me for quite some time, there is peace in my soul about the situation and the resolution.

As I solidly entered into the second week of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, during the recitation one day, my thoughts turned to a phrase not even found in the chaplet – “The Lord is slow to anger.” Based on Psalm 103:8, “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy,” I began to consider during that day’s recitation the many ways in which we, as a collective human race, have had occasion to anger God. Yet, through all the moments we have occasion to anger Him, He patiently waits for us to turn back to Him.

Let’s face it – human beings are flawed. When we face temptations, we have a tendency to (hopefully) come out batting a 50% average – half the time we fall into temptation, half the time we are able to stand faithful to God’s desires. We make false idols out of so many things these days, we engage in activities which make God upset, and we sometimes overlook our relationship with Him for a relationship with others. In short, we all sin, and we all sin repeatedly.

And yet, the fact we are alive today, living in our world at the moment we are, is solely because God had, and has, faith in our ability to overcome the adversity and temptation! He knew precisely what He was doing when He decided we would be in the world today. He knew the obstacles we would be facing, and He knew the challenges we would experience as part of a journey toward our eternal reward.

God is perfect. He is omniscient. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And, as the perfect parent, He has faith in us.

As humans, we waiver so much, going back and forth. It’s difficult to always make an executive decision. And yet, God has faith in our abilities to make the correct decisions. Even when we are finding it difficult to follow the path which will lead us closer to Him.

We are right to focus on the eternal reward. We are right to make decisions based on eternity – in fact, Our Lady of Fatima has been credited with saying, “If men only know what awaits them in eternity, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.”

However, focusing on the eternal reward, and worrying about reaching that eternal reward are two entirely different concepts. As St. Padre Pio is credited with saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

Too often, humankind gets hung up on the worrying aspect of life – and, we fail to adhere to the prayer and hope that St. Padre Pio encourages. Living with a focus on the eternal means we aren’t making lighthearted decisions. Rather, we are living intentionally, and discerning major decisions, aware of not just what is being told to us through the whispers of our secular society, but also aware of the greater, more lasting ramifications of the outcome of our decisions.

And, ultimately, focusing on, rather than worrying about, the eternal reward also gives us reprieve. It gives us a chance to heed Jesus’ words to St. Faustina, “Look into My Heart and see there the love and mercy which I have for humankind, and especially for sinners. Look, and enter into my Passion.” 

Through our life’s experiences, and the decisions we intentionally make, we are fully able to join ourselves with Jesus, and to envision the love and mercy He extends by virtue of His Passion. We are able to vividly imagine the Sacrifice He made for love of our souls – for a shot with spending all of eternity with us.

And, He encourages us to bring our anger, our sadness, our troubles to Him. God knows our weaknesses and doubts – and, He has faith in our ability to turn to Him when we experience those emotions and when we hear the doubt creeping in to our hearts.

A chaplain pointed out during his homily a while back that a saint isn’t called to live a perfect life. Rather, a saint is a sinner who continuously picks themselves up after erring, and relies on the mercy of the Lord. Saints in the making learns from their mistakes, and commits themselves time and again to correcting their ways. The souls who are oriented toward God and His infinite mercy are the ones who acknowledge their difficulties and weaknesses, and yet continuously search to build the relationship with God.

During the trials of life, it is common for individuals to turn away from God. Yet, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it best, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

God offers us the chance at the perfect relationship with Him – warts and all. And, He shows us His infinite mercy as we take our anger or sadness to Him. We just have to open ourselves up to hearing His message of mercy, and accepting that mercy.

Rather than pointing out the flaws in my thinking as I angrily spoke to Him, He allowed me the chance to wallow in my misery. Like a parent who turns to a child throwing a tantrum and quietly asks, “Are you finished, yet?” God gently called back to me, asking me if I was ready to heed His call in my life.

The comfort I have found in His gentle consistency, and His reminder of mercy has been astounding. And, while I don’t know if the choices being made in life are the correct ones, I am able to fully embrace His message of love and mercy, and ultimately, rely on His love and mercy – not just for myself, but for all of mankind.

How has praying either the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Rosary impacted your life? Has there been a time in which the struggle in your life was diminished through the power of prayer? I would love to hear!

Categories
Anni Discipleship Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Journeying to Christ

Last year, The Shepherd on a Search was all the rage. Touted as a Christian-based answer to the Elf on the Shelf, the premise seemed to follow one of the shepherd children on a search for the newly born Babe in a manger. While my family participates in “Elf on the Shelf,” – to the extent of moving said creature nightly – I never thought about participating in The Shepherd on a Search. The elf took enough brainpower to remember to move!

This past year, I didn’t see much about The Shepherd on a Search. I also didn’t see many posts about Wise Men traveling to the nativity set in homes, as their movement toward the nativity is similar to that of the shepherd.

However, this time of year inevitably leads all of us to embark upon our own quest for a deeper relationship with the Babe, turned Man, in the manger. During the Christmas season, the Church readings remind us of the Christ Child’s lineage, His mother’s fiat, and the Holy Family’s. Days later, the tragic fate of the Holy Innocents, whose martyrdom serves as a clear reminder of the hunt for Jesus from the time of His birth. We are reminded of the safety, security, and love of the members of the Holy Family, which provides the perfect example of safety, security, and love to emulate in our own homes and families. Lent is a time in which we reflect on the Man the Babe grew to be – the One who would prepare for and ultimately sacrifice His life, for all of us.

Which leads me to ask, what about our own search for Jesus? During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and the inevitable exhaustion of post-holiday euphoria, where do we go to find Jesus in our hearts?

Where do we go to find Jesus in our homes?

Is it…

  • in the stillness of the early morning, before the rest of the household awakes?
  • when the house winds down, the lights are off, and the house is tucked into bed?
  • in the middle of the day, amidst the hectic pace life finds us scurrying?
  • that we find Jesus in the smallest or most inconvenient times of the day when we look to the heavens and ask why?

Everyone’s search for Jesus is as unique and individual as our fingerprints. No two searches are the same, although many times there are similar features and themes throughout the journey. We can pretty much be guaranteed there will be peaks. Where we experience the glow of love, shining as radiantly as the sun on a warm summer day. There will also be valleys, in which we feel a void, a chasm of silence in our souls. We will turn and wonder why, or wonder if we are truly alone.

Yet, all of our experiences are meant to do what the star did for the shepherd and the wise men centuries ago – our experiences are meant to draw us closer to our Savior!

Jesus was not born imposing Himself on us. In fact, even before His death, He gave those who doubted Him an opportunity to walk away during the Last Supper. He doesn’t force Himself on any of us!

Instead, He awaits our journey to Him with open arms. Gently, He calls to us. Patiently, He travels with us, waiting for us to recognize and acknowledge Him.

And, when our travel to Him is complete, He openly embraces us.

Lent is the perfect time for us to assess our individual quest to Jesus. It’s the perfect time to consider how close we are desiring to get to Him. We desire to see Him face to face the way the wise men did centuries ago. If there is something holding us back from desiring that intimate, we should seek the close relationship He offers.

DISCUSS

Where are we on our journey?

What help do we need to move forward?

How can we help others along their travel?

Where will each of us find Jesus during Lent 2018?

Categories
Domestic Church Fatherhood Ink Slingers Linda Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth Vocations

The Innocence of Childhood

Innocence of ChildhoodCan one recapture the innocence of childhood? Unfortunately not. But what a gift if we choose to recapture the path that leads us there.

The past several weekends, my husband and I have enjoyed a rare phenomenon in our lives – an empty house. With no ball games to attend or social functions for the kids, we’ve enjoyed some unexpected relaxation. It’s the first time in years that we’ve wandered through the yard just to take in its beauty, relax with a book, or (shhhh) take a nap! As we remarked about our new-found time, I couldn’t help but remember this once busy backyard filled with the sound of squealing children; days where barefoot dancing and unfiltered imagination were abundant. In Matthew 18, we hear Jesus remind us about having a childlike faith. For a moment, I close my eyes and imagine what that looks like.

I imagine the serenity of a sleeping newborn filled with trust as it settles down to the smell and feel of their parent or the big smile that appears when their awakened eyes finally come into focus with them. The complete abandonment the child shows reminds me of the absolute abandonment God asks of us in response to His depth of love for us. When my daughter was about three years old, I caught her speaking softly as we drove in the car. When I asked her who she was talking to she said “the angels”. My response was what you might imagine – “Oh, ok honey, that’s nice. Say hi for me!” The truth is, I believe that as children we are all born with this innocent trust, this profound humility. After all, weren’t they the first gifts given to Adam and Eve?

There is magic in watching that kind of abandonment in a child. The glee in jumping on the bed, pouncing in a puddle, and dancing in the rain. A place where curiosity exceeds fear and exploring leads to answers. The innocence of childhood is unhindered, authentic. This innocence is still of the heavenly realm. But, to live in the earthly realm, we are introduced to its earthly ways. The battle of love and hate begin and they wage war over every soul. As parents, we do everything in our power to protect this innocence and mourn the day evil disrupts it in the form of distrust, hatred, prejudice, etc.

As individuals, we may not remember the day or time our own innocence was lost. For many of us, it’s a slow fade. Those little moments when our confidence is shattered by an unkind word, or we are laughed at when sharing something from our heart. It leaves our world of trust and safety a bit bruised and our inner walls of protection develop. One day we realize we’re seeking God instead of conversing with Him. We lose that sense of abandonment and we begin our life’s journey in search for it once again.

This deep-rooted desire for meaning and purpose we often look for, leaves us with a void throughout our life. We are all called to seek God to fill that void with His love, but for some, that void is filled with earthly possessions,  and sadly for others, its filled with drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. Years ago, I remember reading in a book called To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, that the soul is timeless and comes to earth in order to learn something new or otherwise attain spiritual growth. With that understanding, it would seem that we could never recapture the innocence of childhood because we are brought here to learn more – to be more. Is it, perhaps, in the learning that we slip away from our connection with the Divine?

To stop and see the world through the eyes of a child is to recapture the sense of awe in the ordinary. The delight in seeing their fascination with the color of a bug, or the exhilaration of chasing a firefly. There is such happiness in their freedom to simply stop and spin around with joy. Who wouldn’t want to recapture that?! It’s the difference between finding happiness and seeking joy. Joy is the happiness that only God can instill in one’s soul; a trusted sense of wisdom – of knowing. Something that assures us that although this moment is fleeting, God’s love isn’t. Happiness is based on what’s happening around us where joy is based on what’s happening within us.

So although we may not be able to recapture childhood innocence, we can recapture, with the grace of God, the joy He intended with the right attitude for the experiences of our lives

Happiness is smiling when the sun is out. Joy is dancing in the downpour.

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7 Quick Takes Books Christi Getting to Know the Ink Slingers Homeschool Ink Slingers

7QT – Seven ‘Must Have’ Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and EducatorsI have not been this excited about a QT post in months. Thanks to a friend who inspired me by saying that she’d love to see a 7QT of must have books that every Catholic should have on their shelf, I have had the opportunity to chat with and reconnect with some great Catholic authors. I also got to learn a little more about one of the owners of Holy Heroes, a fantastic Catholic Educator company.  When I reached out to our own Ink Slingers, as well as a number of well known and upcoming authors, here is how I posed the question. “After the bible, if you had to pick just one book, to have on your library shelf what would it be?” Well, brace yourself my friends – do they have some great books suggestions for your summer reading! 

 

Quick Take 1) 

Regina Doman author of The Shadow of the Bear , which is just one of her many books and accomplishments, when asked what would be the one other book shared with me:

“My favorite book aside from the Bible would probably have to be Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. That was the book which, when I encountered it as a teen, opened my eyes to the scope and beauty of the Catholic faith for the first time, as well as setting off an explosion in my imagination that I have never really recovered from. Every time I re-read this short book of nine world-shifting essays, I encounter something new, something that makes me think, something that makes me laugh, something that makes me cry. It’s one reason why I am setting out to do an illuminated version of it with illustrations done by Catholic artist Jason Tako, to help other people encounter this amazing book, which was Chesterton’s personal manifesto of why he believed in Christ and His Church, and which has become mine. Pray we are able to finish it!”

I told Regina after she shared this with me that her description of this book has inspired me to look for a copy for myself. Perhaps I will wait for her illuminated version of it!

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

 

Regina Doman is the author of Angel in the Water, the Fairy Tale Novels, and edits and publishes other works of fun Catholic fiction.

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and EducatorsYou can find her work at www.ChestertonPress.com

 

Quick Take 2)

Philip Campbell whom my family discovered through Homeschool Connections is the author of  the sourcebook The Rending of Christendom which I reviewed last June. When I asked him to pick that one book he responded with:  “One book I think every Catholic should have on their bookshelf is Socrates Meets Jesus by Peter Kreeft. Though the book is older (1987), it is truly timeless in its message. The book tells a fanciful tale of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, who is mysteriously brought back to life on the campus of a modern divinity school in New England. Here Socrates comes face to face with contemporary Christians and uses his famous Socratic method to discover the identity of Jesus Christ. Socrates Meets Jesus gives us Peter Kreeft at his best, demonstrating the rational foundation of the Christian faith while taking us beyond reason to encounter the God-Man who came to redeem humanity. A classic study of reason-meets-faith, Socrates Meets Jesus is must reading for any Catholic.”
7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

Philip Campbell, author of  a Tale of Manaeth, is a popular history teacher  with Homeschool Connections, a Catholic provider of online live and recorded classes for high school and elementary homeschooled children. He is currently writing a series of four middle school history textbooks for TAN Books. The series called “Story of Civilization”. Volume I, “Ancient Times”, will be available this May, with subsequent volumes following each year thereafter.

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

 

 

Quick Take 3)

When I posed the question to Jenny Ryan, owner of Mothering Sunshine, she  shared: “I would choose, Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking because, as she says, “The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.” If I can’t be entertained by endless books, I could be entertained by endless cooking. I love reading this book and learning new tips and tricks from Julia. She didn’t even begin to learn to cook until she was into her late 30’s. Her book and her life are an inspiration to me!” 

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

Jenny Ryan is the mother of five and runs Mothering Sunshine, a website for moms. She can also be found over at the Holy Heroes’ Blog, and wrote the Catholic Children’s book, Love With All My Might

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

 

 

Quick Take 4)

Kathy Clark is the Canadian author of Guardian Angel House , The Choice  and A Whisper in My Heart.  When asked what would be the one book on your shelf after the bible she shared this: “For a lover of good books and reading, answering the question what ‘one’ book should be on everyone’s shelf is both extremely difficult and yet at the same time, simple. As soon as ‘the one’ book pops into my mind, hundreds of others line up behind it clamoring to be included. Yet each time, it is that ‘one’ that always comes first. It is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Majestic in both scope and length, for me it is a book that contains all the elements that a good book should have: it is well written; has an engaging plot; has strong, clearly defined good and bad characters as well as those who grow from flawed, into good people. Through the lives and circumstances of its main characters most of our emotions are aroused. We come to understand the plight of the less fortunate in our society and grow in compassion towards them. We are challenged to reflect on our own lives and ask: what would I have done? Les Miserables is a book that shows, in a many faceted way, the challenges of living a noble, Christian life.”

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

My children and I have read both A Whisper in My Heart and Guardian Angel House and, really, every home library should have these books on their shelves. I am looking forward to reading The Choice her third and most recent novel, which is set in WWII. 7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

You can read more about Kathy here

 

Quick Take 5)

I decided to ask one of the faces behind Holy Heroes,  Kerri Davison. She shared the following: “If I had to choose only one book to have on my bookshelf I would choose, Introduction to the Devout Life  by St. Francis de Sales.  I would choose it because it was written by a Saint (who is also one of the Doctors of the Church) for the sole purpose of directing souls to Heaven–a practical guide for people busy living in the world! It is organized so that you can pick it up, read a short section in any time you can snatch from the day and still benefit from it.  Or you can look up a topic of interest and just read that section and come away enlightened.  The benefits can be reaped without needing to read it straight through, and every time you pick it up, you will find something quickly that will resound in your soul and inspire you to amend your life. It is easy and accessible for a busy mom like me, yet is so complete and profound in its content and guidance that for 400 years Catholics have continued to read it.  Like the teachings of the Church, it is timeless.”

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

Kerri & Ken Davison, married for 27 years, have eight children. They are the co-founders of Holy Heroes and are committed to teaching and living their faith with their children and through their business.  Kerri has a BA from Rutgers, an MA from the London School of Economics, and a JD from Syracuse University, but she prefers to go by Mom.  

7QT - Seven 'Must Have' Books Shared by Catholic Authors, Writers, and Educators

 

Quick Take 6)

And here are a few must haves suggested by some of the Catholic Sistas’ Ink Slingers:

Misty: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. A beautiful story of a deeply flawed but grace-filled Catholic family as observed by the adult son’s secular friend. Shows the myriad ways God works in the lives of people of diverse backgrounds and temperaments.

KarenA Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. I have read the book at least twice and while the strategy for ordering life to be daunting, incorporating the smallest morsels of her advice have really produced good fruit for my family. She offers an order for your commitments in life (prayer, self, spouse, children, home) and several questions reflections before laying out a strategy for a daily and weekly schedule.

KerriRule of St. Benedict: St. Benedict’s Rule was intended for monks as their rule of life. Written in the 500s it helped form monastic life throughout medieval Europe and is still applicable today. Families can find a lot that applies to family life since the Rule was written for people living in community. It’s also a great guide for living a simple life.

Quick Take 7 Allen Hebert, one of our writers who pens for us under the category of Perspective from the Head when asked to choose the one book shared that for him it would be In Conversation With God. Because as he put it “this book is a very thorough and motivational companion to sacred scripture and always encourages me to go deeper in my relationship with Christ in the midst of everyday life.” 

As you can see I have, once again, cheated and slipped in a few more than seven but one can never have too many books to choose from, especially when it’s a list like this one. This was so much fun that I hope to repeat it again. In the meantime be sure to share in the comment section what is the one must have book you would keep on  your shelf, after the bible and catechism, of course.  

Don’t forget to visit This Ain’t the Lyseum.

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