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Fun Facts Friday: from Kayaking to Babs to Jackson Galaxy and beyond!

 Fun Facts Friday is back! Lots of great stuff this week:

kayaking in the front yardOn the kayaking front …

There’s been a drought on west of epic proportionstwhen it finally did rain, check out how this man celebrated!
Kayaking in his front yard!

  2015-05-15-1431702652-819795-palm_cover-thumbBaby animals galore!

 women making whiskeyHere’s some interesting women in history …

Women Making Whiskey: An 800-Year History

and speaking of interesting women …

barbra_streisand_behind_the_screenBarbra Streisand to Pen Memoir

Finally!

butterfly at camp-640On the Nature front …

Students help Dunwoody Nature Center save butterflies

and finally,

19-cat-daddy.w529.h352Is your cat out of control? This guy can fix him!

TV’s Favorite ‘Cat Daddy’ Helps Me Train My Cats From Hell

 Any fun facts from you? Leave a comment with a link so we all can see. Have a great weekend!

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Love begets love: how can something you love to do spread love to others?

This past Tuesday I did something I love doing.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have several chapters of WINGS, an organization dedicated to gathering together women of faith in an effort to support and deepen that faith.

WINGShead

I was pleased to be invited to speak this past Tuesday at Christ the King Parish in Worcester, MA, at their first WINGS meeting of the season. I  presented my “Let’s Go Swimming!” talk with songs, ending with a rousing rendition all together of “Can You Teach Me?”

susan bailey, author of river of grace, speaking and singing-640

The best part by far was after the talk when we all sat around and talked about a favorite topic of mine: seeing God in everything we do.

What we love can spread love

Based upon a Flow Lesson from my upcoming book, River of Grace, called “Finding, Creating and Using Your Own Spiritual Disciplines,” we talked about those things we love doing and how we can create a connection between that activity and God, which in turn, benefits those around us.

This was one creative group with so many great ideas and suggestions!

Love of gardening

One woman shared her love of gardening and how she prays as she plants and tills the soil. She admitted that while she doesn’t enjoy getting her hands dirty, she knew it was a healthy thing to “dig in.” She even cited a recent study which suggested that the soil is full of microorganisms that are good for us; now gardening is no longer therapeutic, but healing!

Ponder for a moment …

If you garden, where and how do you see the Spirit of God as you till the soil, weed and plant? I will certainly be pondering that question this weekend as I weed and transplant (praying that I don’t kill my plants – no green thumb here!).

Love of decorating cakes

Another woman decorates cakes. Her friend, sitting next to her, sang her praises. I listened to this woman describe how she decorates her cakes and realized a lot of love and care went into the work. If I were a recipient of such a cake, I would be deeply honored. So much love in those little roses and flourishes of colorful frosting! The woman had not thought of it that way before but her artistry was a means of spreading love to others.

Ponder for a moment …

Do you cook? What are your specialty dishes? How do you see God at work as you prepare your dishes and present them to your family and friends?

Sweet reflection

Upon returning home and today too as I write, I can’t stop thinking about those wonderful and insightful women and how their daily activities, their “creations,” honor our beautiful Creator.

What do you love to do? Do you see it as a way of honoring your Creator?

Think about it … then share with us what you do!

 

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Announcing my first book to be published this Fall! River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times

I am pleased to announce that my very first book, River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times will be released this Fall, published by Ave Maria Press!

A memoir with life application

River of Grace is part spiritual memoir and part life application, offering true and hopeful stories of growth and transformation after hard losses.

Father Robert Reed, president of CatholicTV and author of Renewed writes of the book:

“If you, like me, have experienced failure or loss and can’t quite find your way out of the darkness, Susan Bailey offers gentle reflections with graceful tools that bring light, creative renewal and a fuller Christian life.”

Amy Belding Brown, author of Mr. Emerson’s Wife and Flight of the Sparrow (which I reviewed last year) writes:

“Susan Bailey’s powerful and beautifully-written book is much more than an insightful spiritual memoir.  River of Grace is also a brilliant reflection on the connections between creativity and grace. Deeply grounded in a profound Christian faith, the author chronicles her personal experiences of loss and shows how they were transformed as she learned to accept and respond to new challenges. This wonderful book also includes a valuable assortment of exercises that will enrich your spiritual life and gently guide you to confront your own difficulties and deepen your relationship with God. Anyone who seeks to discern God’s purposes in life’s most challenging situations will find this book one to cherish.”

Seasons of loss

Just about all of us can cite a time in our lives whether now or in the past, where we have lost something precious to us.

  • Perhaps it’s been the death of a parent or a child.
  • Or, you yourself are suffering through a long illness.
  • It could be a long stretch of unemployment causing financial difficulties, even the loss of your home.
  • Maybe you’ve lost a best friend due to a falling out.
  • Perhaps you’ve recently put down a beloved pet.

These are all serious losses that tear at us, causing grief or anxiety or anger. Where do we find the strength to pick up the pieces and carry on?

Could a serious loss signal a new life, even a transformed life?

This is what I write about in River of Grace, beginning with the loss of my parents and then my singing voice. Through the means of a kayak and my love for Louisa May Alcott, God led me on an amazing, joy-filled and sometimes crazy adventure within his river of grace, leading up to this book and beyond.

Stories and tools

River of Grace is not just book of stories. I provide practical tools so that you too can go on your amazing adventure. These “Flow Lessons” appear throughout the book and will also be available on this website.

In the weeks to come, I will share quotes and stories from River of Grace. Please spread the word to everyone you know who has gone through a season of loss or is just looking to jump start their spiritual and creative lives.

Available in many formats

River of Grace will be available as a print book, e-book and audio book (through Audible.com and iTunes). Just this past week I started the process of recording the book. My thanks to producer extraordinaire Ron Zabrocki for his expertise (he produced several of my music CDs).

recording montage

Here is more on River of Grace:

Writing River of Grace and having it published by such a well-respected publisher has been a dream come true. I would definitely classify it as a “crazy adventure!”

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesPlease share this post on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, through email with anyone whom you think would benefit from reading my book. Feel free to share the book cover. Your recommendation is the best way to get the word out.

I will let you know just as soon as it is available when you can order River of Grace. Signing up for my email list is the best way to be the first to know.

I can’t wait to share this book with you!

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Dealing with the problems in our country: One person, one step at a time

This is my most recent column in The Catholic Free Press:

stephen's classroomOur son called the other day to share a lovely story about a former student.

Until recently Stephen had been a pre-school teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Although he had neither experience nor background in education, he took the job because he was desperate, having been unemployed for months.

Even as he fumbled in the dark with no idea as to what he was doing, Stephen managed to touch the life of a then 3-year-old boy.

Surprising encounter

Stephen knew well the thankless nature of teaching. So imagine his surprise when the now five-year-old boy recognized him on the street and ran up to him, throwing his arms around him. The family followed up with a phone call and Stephen is planning an outing with them as a result.

Give what little we have

We never know how we will affect other people’s lives. We think we have to be experts; my son’s experience says otherwise. We don’t need to know anything—we just need to be open and vulnerable, willing to give whatever we have.

What can we do?

We have witnessed the horror in the streets of Baltimore and around the country. A large group of disenfranchised people are protesting the purgatory of their daily lives, ones of poverty and hopelessness.

While the means of “protest” through robbery, arson, assault and defiance are wrong and cannot be tolerated, we as a nation are stilled forced to consider the deeper questions: what went wrong and how to fix it.

The problem is overwhelming in its scope and it’s tempting to just tune out. After all, what can one person do?

What did Jesus do?

The problems that Jesus faced during his time on earth appeared overwhelming as well.

Streams of sick people dogged his every step, begging for healing. Being God of course, he could have just gathered all the sick together and granted a mass healing with the wave of his hand.

But he chose a different way, the way that we are asked to follow: deal with the problem one person, one step, at a time.

One person, one healing

Jesus sought intimacy with the sick.

  • Consider the paralyzed man, lowered through a roof on a mat, called “son” and forgiven of his sins before being told to pick up his mat and go home.
  • Or the blind man, healed from a mixture of mud and Jesus’ own spittle.
  • And the hemorrhaging woman who touched the Lord’s cloak in secret, called forth from her shame and brought back out into the open.

People who changed the world

While Jesus often taught thousands, he also counseled Nicodemus in the middle of night.

He formed his small band of disciples, pouring out his heart to them and washing their feet.

These men, imbued with the Holy Spirit, would go out and change the world following their Master’s example.

Daring to step out

Recall Philip, teaching and then baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.

Or Ananias, daring to obey the Lord and lay hands on Saul (aka St. Paul) despite this man’s relentless persecution of the early Christians.

We only need to give what we have

Even in the midst of the staggering problems of poverty and race in our country, the Gospel reminds us that it is possible to become part of the solution.

We don’t have to be experts in education, community organizing or social work. We don’t need power or money. We need no other means but the simple offering of self, in partnership with our Lord.

Power in weakness

Stephen reminds me that in our weakness, we can make a difference. In the midst of chaos we can touch that one person, changing their lives forever.

We need to be open to our Lord’s prompting, committing ourselves to doing the best we can with what little we have.

This is when good happens.

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Laying down one’s life: the decision to adopt a special needs child—a conversation with Allison Gingras, host of “A Seeking Heart” on Real Life Radio

From my current post on Catholicmom.com:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13

In this new commandment Jesus took, “Love your neighbor as yourself” several steps further. Now love involves sacrifice. His greatest demonstration of this commandment was his death on the cross. But because he was willing to sacrifice his life, he rose again to new life in a body glorified.

 

This is the love he requires from us. It’s a radical love, a sacrificial love.

What does it mean to lay down one’s life? Are we literally to die a martyr’s death? What other ways are there to lay down one’s life?

Recently I had a chance to hear fellow Catholicmom columnist Allison Gingras describe a way. Speaking at the Springfield Women’s Conference in late April, she told the story of how she and her husband Kevin were led to adopt a three-year-old deaf child from China. This adoption involved preparing their two sons (one of whom was reluctant) for a new brother or sister. It entailed a three-year wait followed by a grueling sojourn to China by parents who were homebodies. Their lives would be transformed by the arrival of this child in ways they could never imagine. In essence, the entire family lay down their lives in order to welcome its new member.

What does it take to make such a life-changing decision? How does one prepare to lay down one’s life in this manner? I recently corresponded with Allison and asked her to describe the experience of adopting their daughter, Faith.

from right to left: Allison and Kevin Gingras and their daughter, Faith

from right to left: Allison and Kevin Gingras and their daughter, Faith

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Traveling a life of transitions: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel John 17:11B-19 by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

Life is full of transitions. The longer we live, the greater the number of our years, the greater the number of transitions.

Some transitions are rather universal like adolescence and leaving home, marriage and childbirth, illness and aging, or separation through death. Other transitions feel as if they are thrust upon us like the loss of a job or an unwelcome medical diagnosis.

In every case we’re forced to look at life anew in order the rebuild our lives.

In this week’s gospel Jesus’ disciples are struggling to deal with his departure from this world. They will be forced to let go of their former ways of relating to him. In the future, Christ will be present to them, albeit in a new and different way.

Sorting all this out is something the disciples will have to do together. So Jesus prays that “they may be one.”

It has been said that most people belong to two families:

One family is your biological family. These are the folks with whom you share a common bloodline, genetics, DNA.

The other family is your psychological or spiritual family. These are the people that care for you, love you, stand by you. These are the communities that give you strength and hope when you need it most.

Biological families and spiritual families are sometimes the same.  But frequently, they are not.

The disciples needed a community of faith to get through the transition.

We, modern-day disciples need spiritual families to navigate and find strength through the changes and upheavals of life. The big transitions of life are not meant to be travelled alone…

Who are the people that make up your “spiritual family?”  Who are you a “spiritual family” to?

How are you traveling life as the years (and the transitions) add up?   Traveling alone?  Or, with companions?

We pray for the grace to have and to be, faith-filled, hope-filled and loving travel companions.

Copyright 2015 by Steven Michael LaBaire

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The divine flavor of love: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel John 15:9-17 by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you.”  (John 15:9-17)

I once knew a marriage therapist who used to say to couples:

“Love is less about what happens when everything in your marriage is going ‘OK.’ Not much effort is required when things are ‘OK.’ Not much work or sacrifice is needed when the day or week has been ‘OK.’

No, love is about how you treat each other when things are definitely not ‘OK,’ when your world is falling apart.

The acid test of love is when you’re in terrible pain and how you treat each other in the midst of the pain. 

 

Love is easy only in dreams in fairy tales. 

But this bold-flavored love, that is attentive yet strong when life is rough and mean: This is the love that will change your life. 

When you give it or receive it, you get to glimpse your better self.

And as seasons pass, you become grateful for the privilege of having experienced this love … a love that dared to soar above just ‘OK.’”

It would seem that this reflection on love could apply to any type of human community:  friendship, family, neighborhood, or parish.

This is the “flavor” of love that Christ revealed in his work and supremely on the cross.

This week, pray that we’d all be able to soar, buoyed by this Love Divine.

Copyright 2015 Steven Michael LaBaire

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