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Faced with denying your pet medical care because of the cost? Now help is available through Four Paws Lifeline

four-paws-and-31-talesUPDATE: Four Paws Lifeline has released a book of pet stories, told from the point of view of the pet. This lovely book will help raise funds for this organization which provides help for vet expenses. Four Paws and 31 Tales is available from Amazon for only $10 — pick up your copy today and support this wonderful organization.

My guilty pleasure is my love of cats. I have two that I spoil (Jenny and Rameses); I also spend time watching live kitten cams and chatting with other cat lovers. I grew up with dogs and love them too.

jenny and rameses

Along with the pleasure of their company is the responsibility for their well-being. What happens when your beloved pet is struck with a catastrophic medical emergency? What do you do if the lifesaving procedure your pet needs costs more than you can afford? Continue reading “Faced with denying your pet medical care because of the cost? Now help is available through Four Paws Lifeline”

All the comforts of home

It feels like home to me
It feels like home to me
It feels like I’m all the way back where
I come from
It feels like home to me
It feels like home to me
Feels like I’m all the way back where I belong

Chantal Kreviazuk

This was the song (sung by Linda Ronstadt) that played in my head when I attended St. Elizabeth of Hungary church in Seabrook, NH for mass while on vacation at Hampton Beach. It was the same song that had come to mind years ago when a friend said she felt at home after I had invited her to a recitation of the rosary at our parish.

“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

This common saying plays out over and over when I attend mass, whether it’s hearing 1 Corinthians 13 proclaimed for the umpteenth time, or witnessing the bread and wine blessed and broken before communion. I always feel guilty when that contempt creeps into my worship but it’s hard to ignore. Repetition does that. I can only imagine how the priest must feel with that temptation to tune out because the words and rituals are so familiar.

Copyright 2009 Carmen Zuniga. Via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Being away from all that was familiar taught me that such sameness has an upside; one that I need to recall whenever the temptation to tune out comes to mind.

At home while away

A change of scenery is a healthy thing in that it refreshes the spirit; one is relieved of the monotony of the daily routine. Yet, at the same time, there is that feeling of being at home, that comfort and security of familiarity that I miss when I’m away. One of the reasons why I loved our motel room was because it had a full kitchen making it possible to enjoy the pleasant aspects of our morning routine. The motel was nestled in a neighborhood so that when I went outside, I saw homes rather than tourist attractions. I talked to the neighbors. I felt like I belonged there.

I had that same feeling of security and comfort upon entering St. Elizabeth’s. It was one of the highlights of the vacation for me to worship there. I even recognized the same lector and cantor from the previous year when we had attended. It made me smile.

The Church as home

Copyright 2011 Dave Emerson. Via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This is the beauty of the Catholic Church to me. No matter where you are in the world, no matter what church you enter, you will have the mass. The language may be foreign and the hymns unfamiliar, but the Word of God is still proclaimed. I can still receive the Holy Eucharist. The congregation is there to worship the one God.  I can count on that routine and participate as if I were in my home parish. I have an immediate connection to the community.

In its wisdom the Church established such rituals and routines not to add a burden but rather, to address our needs. Those familiar hymns and readings along with the Eucharist deepen the beauty of a wedding and offer comfort during the funeral mass. Notice that when Jesus taught the people, he used common everyday moments and elements in his parables; those who were truly listening would connect those concrete symbols to the deeper spiritual meaning. Our Lord understood how the familiar can open up the heart and soul to his message of love.

Coming prepared

It is these things I will remember the next time I am tempted to tune out at the liturgy because I am hearing 1 Corinthians 13 yet again. To remain mindful of that temptation, I will need to prepare beforehand by asking God to open my heart and keep it supple. Then perhaps I will know enough to whisper a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit as I enter the church so that I can be enveloped in the beauty of those familiar words and rituals.

Here is “Feels Like Home to Me” sung by Linda Ronstadt. Listen and think about the Masses you’ve attended while away from home. How did you feel?

From the Catholic Free Press, August 11, 2017, and Catholicmom.com.

Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Living with thorns in my side

This is my latest column in the Catholic Free Press, also running on Catholicmom.com.

Why is it that some wounds remain even when one has been healed? Several years ago I lost my singing voice due to acid reflux. I gave up singing thinking I would never do it again but after three years of rest, my singing voice returned (and I am sure St. Blaise had something to do with it). I happily joined the adult choir at my parish and took on cantering duties. I feel deep gratitude that God restored his gift back to me.

Accepting fear

Yet I had a new and most unwelcome guest with me whenever I sang—fear. I had never experienced stage fright before I lost my voice and now it is my constant companion. It causes me to break out in a cold sweat and I become tremendously self-conscious. Sometimes when my head and heart feel confident, my body still responds with that fear welling up deep inside of me.

One day while leading a song for the congregation I felt a sense from God that I was to walk side by side with this new companion for the rest of my singing days.

Does this mean my healing which I believe I received through the intercession of St. Blaise was somehow incomplete? No. There’s a reason why the fear is present. And it relates back to St. Paul.

Running side by side with a marathoner

Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. St Paul the Apostle, Flickr Creative Commons

I love St. Paul; he is a part of the entourage of saints to whom I pray for intercession each day. On my holy card he stands tall, a long sword by his side. Paul was fearless because of the armor provided to him by the Lord. His wisdom and clarity guide me on my spiritual journey. At times he has run beside me, urging me on through this marathon. He will be with me at the finish line.

Paul however had a thorn in his side. While he never revealed the nature of this thorn, still he tells us in 2 Corinthians 12 that the thorn remained despite his pleas to the Lord to remove it. God’s reply to his prayer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Thus St. Paul declared, “I am weak, then I am strong.”

Reflecting on these verses, I accept my companion of fear and use it as a reminder that God is in control of all things and that through our difficulties he works out his plan for the good.

More than one thorn

Andreina Schoeberlein Thorn in my side, Flickr Creative Commons

How nice it would be if there were only one thorn but there are others. One thorn in particular has me running to the Cross every morning asking for forgiveness for a particular sin. If only I could live with this thorn and not sin, but thankfully, forgiveness is just a prayer away. With God’s grace, someday that thorn will not lead to sin.

A friend’s thorn

I think of the thorn my friend Jackie must endure. It is deep and heavy, a true cross to bear. Her thorn requires her to lean on Jesus every step of the way. Someday I may have to endure such a thorn. It frightens me until I am reminded to stay rooted to the present moment and cling to Jesus.

I must remember to invoke St. Paul the next time one of my thorns trouble me. I can’t think of a more capable and understanding companion.

Sing about grace

If you want to be reminded of God’s promise that his grace is sufficient, listen to Matt Maher’s wonderful song, “Your Grace is Enough,” found on YouTube. The melody will stick in your mind in an instance. And in singing that line “Your grace is enough, your grace is enough, your grace is enough for me,” perhaps your thorns will become easier to live with too.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Book Review: “Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief” by Roger Lundin

Emily Dickinson and the Art of BeliefEmily Dickinson and the Art of Belief by Roger Lundin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew nothing about Emily Dickinson before reading this book. Now I feel like I have a good running start. As the title suggests, Roger Lundin sets the book against the backdrop of the religious, political and social events of the times and the extraordinary changes that took place in all those areas throughout the 19th century. Despite the fact that Dickinson was an avowed recluse, she was profoundly affected. Despite seeing people on very rare occasions, she read voraciously, kept up with current events and most importantly, carried on many intimate correspondences by letters with dear friends over years, both men and women. Considered an enigma by many, she left behind an incredible legacy of words through her poetry and letters.

Admittedly I am completely dense when it comes to poetry. Despite the fact that I have written song lyrics, I just don’t understand poetry. And here I choose the most difficult of them all to read! But Emily Dickinson is also considered one of the greatest.

Lundin’s book was a page turner for me. I knew I was hooked the moment I whipped out my pencil and started my customary conversation with this book. Many underscores and notes later, I am sad that my read is over.

As I had hoped, he devoted a chapter to examining some of the poetry she wrote during her most prolific period which aided greatly in my understanding. Against the backdrop of the Civil War for which she had little first-hand contact save the death of friends and neighbors who fought, she fought her own war within herself, a great turmoil that produced her most brilliant work.

I was most fascinated by her seclusion and how many in her own family accepted it as normal to her character. Her sister-in-law Susan wrote in her obituary the following which I think sums it up perfectly:

“Like a magician she caught the shadowy apparitions of her brain and tossed them in startling picturesqueness to her friends … who fretted that she had so easily made palpable the tantalizing fancies forever eluding their bungling, fettered grasp.” (pg. 265)

From Lundin’s description of Dickinson I got the impression that she fashioned her life exactly as she wanted it. She saw her limited options as a mid-19th century woman and made her choices. She was indeed fortunately to have family members, especially Lavinia (“Vinnie”) protecting that choice and allowing her to live it even if they did not begin to comprehend Emily’s genius.

I can’t say that I can now go and read Dickinson’s poetry and “get it.” But I can certainly try. I can also visit her home in Amherst which is only an hour or so away from me.

How I do love living in New England!

View all my reviews

Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Interview with Pat Gohn on the Discerning Hearts website about my book, River of Grace

In this wonderful podcast known as Among Women, Pat Gohn and I discuss the themes of my book, River of Grace, now available on the Discerning Hearts website. We talk about loss, grief and the wonderful transformation possible through suffering.

This episode Pat Gohn talks about finding a way through grief, loss, and tribulation. She speaks with Catholic author and singer-songwriter Susan Bailey. Together they talk about the recovery from loss or grief and how to deal with it creatively and with the help of prayer and the sacraments. You’ll enjoy her talk about her kayaking experiences and the spiritual lessons she learned from it, as captured in her book, River of Grace.

LISTEN TO “AMONG WOMEN: RIDING THE RIVER OF GRACE”

River of Grace along with my other books is available through Amazon.

Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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For all you cat lovers – a heartwarming book of tales from The Critter Room live kitten cam

The past 6 weeks have been so busy! It’s been worth every moment. I offered to become a part of a 5-person committee of dedicated cat lovers whose goal it was to get one very talented British author and illustrator published. We were on a quest to get her collection of stories printed and made available to the public.

Those of you familiar with The Critter Room and TinyKittens will know to whom I refer. Viewing live kitten cams along with thousands of other rabid fans from around the world, Jill Pickford began writing fanciful stories about individual cats and kittens that had captured her heart. In the midst of writing these tales she created a magical world that kept readers clamoring for more.

And thus was born Sing to the Moon: Tales from the Kitten Cam.

It’s been a long time since my reading experience has been truly visceral. While reading Sing to the Moon, I laughed out loud many times. I was also as quick to grab a tissue. There was something about these stories that truly touched my heart. And it’s not just because I am a self-confessed cat lady. Sure, I love cats (having 2 of my own) and I am as addicted to live kitten cams (and the daily reports on Facebook) as anyone. What really grabbed me about these stories was the world that unfolded before me as the book progressed. It was a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting and was very sad to leave. When I finished the book I felt like I had gone on a long vacation in my head. And it was a really nice feeling.

Jill Pickford is not only a marvelous writer but a terrific illustrator. Several of the stories are graced with her simple drawings which embody the spirit of the book.

One aspect of Sing to the Moon that I appreciated was that “hoomins,” (aka, people) were portrayed as compassionate and caring. This is not always the case in animal stories. Pickford’s book reflects that aspect of the Live Kitten Cam community that I find so wonderful. Taking after the leaders (John Bartlett, aka “Foster Dad John” of The Critter Room and Shelly Roche of TinyKittens), this community is filled with people as generous and loving towards each other as they are towards cats and kittens.

It helps to know the backstory of these tales along with their very special language (including British colloquialisms). If you are unfamiliar with the world of live kitten cams or if you are rusty with kitten cam language, there is a glossary of terms on the Sing to the Moon Facebook page along with pictures of the many cats and kittens featured in Sing to the Moon.

Want to know more about what went on behind scenes of this quest to bring this book to print? Check out the blog post of our illustrious editor and proofreader, Mar Penner Griswold.

All the royalties from sales of this book support a wonderful no-kill cat shelter known as Purrfect Pals, located in Arlington, WA; this is the shelter that sponsors The Critter Room. Your purchase helps abandoned cats and kittens find good and loving homes.

Be sure and join the Sing to the Moon Facebook page where you can talk with the author and join a wonderful community of fans.

Nancy Freeman, the creator of our committee, had a dream to bring a collection of . Sing to the Moon will be a constant reminder to us that dreams really can come true!

I close with some more illustrations from the book.

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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A special offer for Be as One readers

I was approached by a website called Personal Creations and they have offered you, the reader, a special discount. There are all sorts of lovely gifts from religious to gifts for Mother’s Day, Birthdays and so forth.

Their community outreach specialist writes,

Personal Creations, an online site specializing in one-of-a-kind personalized gifts. With sacrament season on the horizon, baptisms, first communions, and confirmations are surely on everyone’s mind. And with these important milestones in one’s faith comes family gatherings and celebrations of worship.

To help you and your readers celebrate all of their faith-filled occasions, Personal Creations would like to extend a 15% discount on our Religious Gifts collection (http://www.personalcreations.com/personalized-religious-gifts-prelbsl/) using the code GIFT15 during checkout.
They have received a 90% rating from Google reviews. I am happy to share this with you.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Rocky Mountain High

One of my favorite songs, it beautifully describes the essence of the spiritual life — connection with Someone far greater than ourselves, a connection that helps us to see the vistas beyond our own limited vision. In harmony with creation, the beautiful evidence of the One who is unseen. Being part of the community of humankind and yet taking the time to enjoy the solitude that is the gift of grace.

Rocky Mountains image: “Bo Insogna, TheLightningMan.com Rocky Mountain Cloud Layers” courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Good Friday multi-media meditations to fit your schedule

I wish to offer to you a couple of Good Friday meditations.

Short meditation

If you only  have a few minutes today, here is a short meditation on the Stations of the Cross:

Longer meditation

If you have 45 minutes to meditate, try this meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary with scripture and sung prayers:

May you have a meaningful, blessed day today and a Happy Easter. Remember that with God, we can overcome anything and come out transformed.

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Yearning for perfection, longing for home

Note: This month’s column for the Catholic Free Press.

A couple of weeks ago our family and friends gathered to give our daughter Meredith a bridal shower. We had the entire first floor of the Asa Waters mansion in Millbury for the event. Tables were set up in the gracious hall, food was served in the elegant dining room, and drinks were offered in an adjoining room. Gifts were displayed on the winding staircase.

The theme of the shower was Harry Potter, brilliantly executed by Meredith’s matron of honor, Roxanne, and her bridesmaids. For our entertainment there were games and a photo booth with a glittery gold backdrop; masks were provided to don for comical photos, many of which were posted on Facebook pages.

Meredith and her finance Jimmy opened the many gifts and were overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of their family and friends.

The whole affair was perfection. All I wanted to do when it was over was to relive the day again and again.

Yet I had an odd reaction of sadness after the shower. It felt very similar to the days when both the children moved out of the house for good leaving a void that would never again be filled. As on those days, I went to Meredith’s room and had a good cry.

In reflecting upon those emotions I thought about other momentous occasions in my children’s lives. The day they were born. Their first day in kindergarten. School plays. Graduation from high school, and then college. Meredith’s engagement. Important days to be sure. And yet, none of those days conjured up the sadness and yearning I felt after the bridal shower. Why was that?

Perfection in life is rare, one might even say impossible. You recognize it when you are living in a perfect moment and you know it is something that will never happen again. It is fleeting; it cannot be held onto or possessed. It is to be lived only to slip away out of our grasp. We are left with the shadow of a fading memory.

And it occurred to me that I was mourning the loss of perfection. For three hours I was able to experience it only to have it end. Things of this world are temporary; everything decays and dies.

I began to wonder how Adam and Eve felt after leaving the Garden of Eden—did they mourn their loss of perfection? During His time on earth, did Jesus long for home? Did He too experience times of melancholy and yearning, remembering his existence of perfection?

We were meant for perfection; created in the Garden of Eden we were destined to live in sublime harmony with our Heavenly Father. Somewhere along the way we were misled into thinking perfection meant being God rather than being with God.

And now we are left with the shadow of the memory of perfection. And once in a great while, we taste it, reminding us perhaps of we had lost in our arrogance. We mourn the loss, we hunger for home, we yearn for what we were meant to be.

The words of St. Augustine are true: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Meredith’s bridal shower was a gift of grace, a moment to remind me of what perfection can be like. And why it is worth enduring life’s trials in faith to reach that final goal of perfection—the reunion with God which will last for all eternity. Only then will our restless hearts be satisfied.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Book review: A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim

When asked by Eerdmans Publishing Company to review A Gathering of Larks by Abigail Carroll I hesitated at first. I am dense when it comes to poetry. Unless the language is plain, the meaning escapes me. I don’t know how to read it nor can I write it, despite the fact that I have written a plethora of song lyrics.

The cover and the title won me over. I am a bird lover yearning for Spring when scores of birds will fill my yard again with song. It seemed like a good way to prepare for that eventuality.

I cannot judge Abigail Carroll as a poet as I have no point of reference. What I can say is that her lines moved me. More than half the book has turned-down page corners to mark poems that struck a nerve. Her writing is accessible to anyone whether or not you are a poetry connoisseur. She addresses her poems as letters to someone who is on the minds of many because of his namesake, Pope Francis.

Carroll offers a brief biography of the life of St. Francis of Assisi which is helpful when reading the letters that follow. He was born around 1181, the son of a wealthy Italian cloth merchant. He was expected to follow his father into the family business but instead became a French troubadour. Eventually he chose to become a knight and joined the Fourth Crusade. That plan was thwarted the very first night by a disturbing dream which drove him back to Assisi in shame. Over the course of time he abandoned his wealth and adopted a life of poverty, caring for lepers and rebuilding the church (sometimes literally). An order of friars grew around him along with a sister community led by St. Clare of Assisi.

St. Francis is affectionately remembered for his love of nature and animals along with canticles and poems he wrote in his later years while afflicted by poor eyesight and chronic illness. He never lost his ability to lift up the spirits of those around him with his creative skills.

Carroll’s letters to St. Francis are deeply personal without falling into sentimentality or lament. Her intimate knowledge of Francis aids her in building a bridge between his world and hers. That bridge extends to the reader who is brought along on the journey through her use of everyday cares and concerns.

Randy St. Francis of Assisi, Flickr Creation Commons

During her course of writing the book, Carroll suffered a foot injury which left her totally dependent on others to take care of her needs. She weaves this experience into her letters discovering through her correspondence with Francis that ability to let go of control over her life and revel in the unexpected freedom her injury brings.

Illustrated with drawings by John James Audubon, A Gathering of Larks is an easy read filled with wonderful messages. Read to get the overview, and then prayerfully study with pencil in hand to ponder the many messages within.

A Gathering of Larks by Abigail Carroll
Published by William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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