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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Summertime Sadness

*some quick ways to cure summertime boredom and blues*

 

This is my first year as a teacher, and it’s wild that as someone whose out “adulting” I actually get a summer off.  Whoa. It was the best thing ever.  At least, it was the best thing ever… throughout those first few days of freedom.  Then it kicks in.  It’s like an itch. Creeping around me.  Boredom.

I cram as much as possible into my life.  It’s insane. I chronically fill in every moment of my existence until my schedule is bursting at the seams.  So when my schedule is empty, my mind is helplessly confused.

Maybe you’re in the same boat.  Maybe you’re in college, finding yourself with an empty plate after all-nighters and study “parties.”  Maybe you’re a SAHM who’s found the house full of kids with no school and lacking any semblance of sanity.  Maybe you homeschool, but what kids don’t get a little antsy during summer? Maybe you’re still working that 9-to-5, but those long days and beautiful nights have you wanting a little more.

Whatever the cause of your “Summertime Sadness”, here are some quick ways I’ve found to cure summertime boredom and blues:

1. Invest in those “boring” moments: During one summer, my husband went underway, so I moved back home to fight hardcore loneliness.  I became my 12-year-old little sister’s chauffeur. I’d drive her to swim practice, play practice, friends houses, anything.  And believe me those hours in the car in the heat could’ve been the closest thing to purgatory this earth will ever know. But instead we dug into conversation starters (I loved these: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3e/ef/66/3eef66e84ba5ff65ee6fed10a43e5cce.jpg), picked apart songs on the radio, people watched at busy intersections.  It was one of the few times I’ve been able to really invest in my relationship with her, and I really cherish those “boring” moments.

 

2. Start a summer devotion: More free time means more time to pray! Take these extra moments to turn your heart to the Lord.  I’ve recently taken my daily rosary outside, walking around my quiet neighborhood while I pray.  Such a great way to connect with God and His creation. You could also make a chalk rosary with kids, pick up a holy hour at your local adoration chapel, pick out a series of summer novenas (this website is awesome: http://www.praymorenovenas.com/novenas) and really commit to them.

 

3. Volunteer with/send your kids to a Vacation Bible School: Summer is VBS season!  Vacation Bible School is such a beautiful way for kids to become more connected with God during the lazy summer months.  Having both attended and volunteered with VBS, I can see just how much kids get out of having fun with their faith.  I still remember a song I learned about the fruits of the Holy Spirit!  And believe me, VBSes ALWAYS need more volunteers! You can work with the kiddos, or if that’s not your thing, they definitely will need help with set up, snacks, registration, tons of behind-the-scenes stuff!  Check out your local parish or a neighboring parish to sign up!h

 

4. Re-read a great book: I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough energy over the summer to commit to a book I might hate, lol.  It just would be such a downer! Instead, I set aside some alone time sitting on my front steps and dig into a book.  I just read Pride and Prejudice in under 24 hours a week ago! I’m probably going to read Middlemarch next, maybe some Agatha Christie (I’m a sucker for mysteries!)…ooo maybe read some Jane Austen I haven’t read yet.  If you have kids, might be time to set out the blanket outside and read them some of those books you just loved as a child; for me, it would be Madeline, Magic Tree House, Harry Potter). Winter is for new books, new thoughts.  Summer is for settings and characters you just adore. (If you’re really stuck for ideas, I’m intrigued by this list from National Catholic Register: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/catholic-fiction-picks-for-your-summer-reading )

 

5. Eat Outside: Make your back deck a place o’ beauty!  String up some Edison lights, clean off that glass-top table, top it with a vibrant potted plant, pour a class of chilled Sangria, grill some burgers!  I have so many childhood memories of eating on the back porch. Taking the family out of the normal routine always drummed up new conversation and put everyone in a more congenial mood.  Maybe you don’t have a back porch, but you can always pack a picnic!  When I lived alone, I would pack my lunch and sit out at a park. Just getting in the fresh air got me thinking of different things, and really brightened my summer.

 

6. Write Letters: I find summer to be the perfect time to building up those relationships that you’ve let slip over the course of the year.  Maybe you’ve taken the kids to the local pool…bring a notebook and a pen and get writing! It could be an old friend from college, or it’s colleague from two duty stations ago…I’m sure they’d love to hear from you, and who doesn’t get excited when there’s more than just bills in the mailbox?  If you’re looking for a way to reach out to someone via letter which would really make a profound impact, try writing an inmate.  I’ve recently began a correspondence with an inmate in jail, and it has been such a journey of spiritual growth (you can read more about it here: https://www.catholicsistas.com/2018/05/visiting-the-imprisoned-an-encounter-with-an-inmate/).  If you ask your pastor, I’m sure he’d know a local prison chaplain who could safely connect you with someone in desperate need of hope.

Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Michelle

Memorial Day: In Honor of Their Sacrifice

In Honor of their Sacrifice

“Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Today on Memorial Day we remember those who have died while in active duty for our nation; those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for each of us. We know that it is through their service, their sacrifice, that we are gifted another day. To honor their memory, let us live our lives in a worthy and meaningful manner- lives that allow Christ’s light and love to always shine forth. Let us live bravely and faithfully. To do any less would be to waste their gift of life and freedom.

If there is someone you would like to remember today, please post their names below or on our Facebook page. We would like to honor in grateful thanksgiving your loved ones who have given their lives so that we may continue to experience a life of freedom.

May you have a blessed Memorial Day.

My father and hero Master Gunnery Sergeant Clifford J. Dow
My father and hero- Master Gunnery Sergeant Clifford J. Dow
Categories
Allison Current Events Ink Slingers Parenting

How We Honor Memorial Day

memday2Our family marks Memorial Day by beginning with a visit to one of two local cemeteries. We stroll along the walks, “looking for soldiers,” as we remind the younger ones what US service stones look like. Since we have done this for years, we notice new graves and how familiar ones look that year (“Someone brought flowers for Sgt. Boyle,” or “Let’s clean up this sailor’s stone; no one’s been here.”). Both cemeteries have been carved out of the Alaskan forest so there are plenty of wild roses, dog woods, and yarrow flowers to tie into bouquets for neglected markers. Our mood is somewhere between comfortable and serious as we visit all the servicemen and women, reading their names aloud and decorating the lonely ones.

Of course, there are many other graves that we notice and wonder about: elaborately decorated boulders with someone’s story and photo etched into the stone; simple slabs with just a name and dates; spousal plots half printed and half empty ~ waiting; and the terribly tiny ones. I always cry in the reminder of searing pain, in the gratefulness of my family all together, in the acknowledgment that this is part of life, and in the great pride of being an American.

We complete our visit by tucking ourselves into a corner for prayer and a picnic among our fallen brothers and sisters. We remind the kids of what the day is a memorial for; we pray for their souls; we thank them for their service; we pray for their sad families; we thank God to be living in America. Our day at home ends with some night-time reading of a pertinent storybook (They Were Strong and Good, The Blue and the Gray, Pearl Harbor-ready to read are some on our children’s bookshelf) and a war film of Ken’s choosing for the older members.

Today is Memorial Day, my Sistas. May it be happy; may it be prayerful; may it be honorable.

*The history of the holiday*

Categories
Ink Slingers Molly G

Let Freedom Ring

As Americans, the 4th of July is one of our biggest holiday celebrations.  It marks the very important anniversary of our Nation’s independence.   Growing up as a military child, holidays celebrating our country meant something very special to me.   Even as a child, I remember the wonderful sense of Patriotism building up inside of me.  I didn’t know the ins and outs of our country’s politics, or the serious problems we faced everyday as a nation, but I knew I felt proud.  I knew I loved our country.  And I knew there was something special about being American that was innately rooted in my being. A lot of this Patriotic sentiment came from my father.  He, being a Navy veteran, and also the grandson of Immigrants gave him a unique perspective. My father was not Baptized, nor a Catholic for a large part of my childhood, but ironically, he made it clear from early on to always instill in me the greatness of our nation as rooted in God, not man. (a perspective which I feel may have helped in his conversion later in life).

 

I remember a personal experience while attending Mass with my mother when we lived overseas.   I arrived early with my mom, and we walked in as others were walking out.  Being the only base chapel, we had to share the building with other religious denominations.  As I sat in the pew, I looked around.  I noticed the priests quietly come out to the altar. I was confused, as it wasn’t time for Mass to start yet.  What I witnessed next made an everlasting impression on me.  The priests carefully placed the Tabernacle with the Host at the front on a table.  The large plain wooden cross was loosened and flipped over to reveal an ornate crucifix now at the center of the wall behind the altar.  The vestments were laid and the candles lit.  It was quite a transformation to see and is something that has stuck with me to this day.  The physical way the chapel was changed that day represented a much larger picture to me about the tradition of our faith and what it can offer to our American heritage.

Several years later, when traveling in Northern France with my high school band program, we came to the small town where we were going to stay.  Our bus pulled up, and the townspeople had gathered along the street.  The Mayor of the town came to greet us, and started to speak.  I assumed we would hear a welcome speech and then be released to our homestays.  Instead, what I heard was an elaborate history of the town, and how American troops had liberated and protected the town in World War II from complete destruction.  The Mayor concluded by saying that he did not want the townspeople to ever forget what had been done for them, and he wanted us to know, as young Americans, that he would keep this promise.  He then came around and shook each of our hands and said, “Thank you.”  I was amazed at the story, and even more so that someone, in a small town in France, would take the time to acknowledge America for her charity and greatness over 50 years later.

It was in that moment that I realized being American was much more than just a nationality.  All of my dad’s lessons came back to me in a flood of thoughts.  There was something special about our country, the people in it, and what our destiny was in the world.  America’s founding, based on freedom and liberty, was definitely rooted in something stronger.  My dad had said to me in a recent email, “Our founding fathers believed – rightly, I think – that God gives us the blueprint for living life properly. Our task is to discern his plan and live by it. In return, one prays, He will give us His grace – Grace that we are not entitled to and that we cannot earn, but that grace lies at the very root of our freedom.” He also told me, “When Jefferson wrote : ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” it wasn’t designed to be a bumper sticker, it was a statement of truth – self-evident truth derived from faith.”

I began to think about his statements, and all our founding fathers had to go through to establish a document as bold as The Declaration of Independence.  Then it hit me.  Faith.  Faith is why the Declaration signers had the courage to stand up, and why we are truly a free people.  The founders were referencing God.  Just as my dad had always taught me.

When telling my dad about my upcoming 4th of July blog post, he told me about his own Russian born grandfather, whom he called ‘Pop.’  Pop’s chicken farm had failed – being taken over by larger chicken businesses. He was then made to supplement his social security by taking a part time position as a maintenence man at one of those larger chicken processing plants.  My then 14 year old father, seeing what hard times his Pop had come upon, asked him if he ever regretted immigrating to America. In his own broken language made up of English, Yiddish, Spanish, and Polish, Pop told my father emphatically and almost angrily:

“I am an American. I know why I came here. I worked hard, I sent two sons to college (Pop had only completed 3rd grade), I own property, I worship as I please, and I do what I want.”

My dad went on to tell me, “It wasn’t until after I had traveled the world and gone to war that I began to understand.  After seeing how the rest of the world lives – even the “developed” world, I started to grasp what Pop meant. He was thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and he knew from whence those rights came as did our country’s founders: God, not man.”

 

So this Wednesday, when we are celebrating the wonderful gift of independence of our great nation, we must also remember the gift of our faith. Freedom and liberty were surely found in America that day in 1776.  But it was through God given talents of great men, we were given a vision no other country had previously embarked upon.  True freedom came through faith in God, which shaped the immigrant’s faith in the American promise.  For it is this faith that allows us to live out that vision set forth by our founding fathers; and will allow us, as citizens, to continue to strive for a better America.  In the words of the time honored hymn “Faith of our Fathers:”

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death

Mother Mary, pray for us!

God Bless America!

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Ink Slingers Patty

History lesson

History was my first love as a child. As far back as I could remember my father would bring home The National Geographic and even before I could read I would spend hours and hours poring over the photos and later the articles. I was fascinated by the powerful words that created the stories of what had happened in the distant and recent past and the lessons we had (or hoped to have) learned from those who had long since died. Simply put History Is Awesome. If I could have chosen a different occupation in life, archaeology would have definitely been one of those choices.


So what have we learned from the past in this country and in our lives? We live in a country that has been slowly but methodically peeling away layer after layer of our constitutional rights until they are threatened to be taken away altogether.

Recently in New Jersey a case came before Judge Solomon A. Metzger. A lesbian couple wanted to rent facilities to celebrate their civil ‘union’ in Ocean Grove New Jersey. The facilities they wanted to rent are owned by the Ocean Grove Camp meeting association, which in turn is associated with the United Methodist Church, a Christian organization that believes that ‘the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching’ and that, ‘ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.’ In keeping with their teaching, the association had declined to rent their facilities out to these two women. The women sued claiming discrimination based on their sexual orientation. The judge ruled for the women and against the association. In his ruling he made some rather astounding claims.

Statement #1 Judge Metzger states that, ‘this isn’t a case of religious liberty.’ Hold the presses, did I miss something?!? The church cited their spiritual beliefs and yet he is claiming that this isn’t about the free exercise of religion? What IS it about then if it isn’t about making decisions based on firmly held religious beliefs?

Statement #2 (and this one that really shocked me) was his claim that the free exercise of religion was not factored into his decision but rather: ‘a much lower standard that tolerates some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals.’ Wait, I thought this WASN’T about religious freedom. I would certainly agree with him on part of his statement. It is a much, much LOWER standard that he is trying to support. In fact, I feel completely justified in saying that the standard he is basing his ruling on is entirely and completely unconstitutional.

This is certainly not the first time that an organization or individuals have been legally pummeled and fined for refusing to compromise on their religious beliefs. The Health and human services department, run by one of the worst Catholics of our day-Kathleen Sebelius, is going to attempt to force Catholic Institutions from Hospitals to Colleges to small parochial schools to cover artificial contraception and sterilization procedures under their health insurance plans. The Church has never wavered on her belief or teachings that the use of artificial contraception and sterilizations to prevent birth is inherently wrong and immoral. The religious exclusions to this are so narrowly defined that few, if any Church run organizations would qualify. In essence, to qualify the organization would have to fire all non-Catholic employees, refuse to serve anyone BUT Catholics and their primary purpose must be spreading the faith. Now, if this is not intrusion into the free exercise of religion, what is? Where in the constitution does it say that your religious freedoms end if you employ or serve a person not of your faith?

Now I have a history assignment for all of you. Do a little bit of research and find out what happens to the free exercise of religion in countries where behavior or decisions based on religious beliefs are no longer respected or tolerated. Start with Nazi Germany in WWII, move over to China and Mexico in the early 1900’s and then take a peek at Russia and the Soviet Union. Get back to me and let me know how many of these countries have not prosecuted and persecuted churches, their clergy and parishioners both in and out of courts. Tell me if our country isn’t going down the same path these other countries have already travelled and if we are, reveal to me how we won’t end up with an almost complete loss of the right to practice and live the way our faith dictates.
‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ George Santayana.