A novel gift idea this Christmas: just let each other BE

Note: this is my Catholic Free Press column for December; it is also running on Catholicmom.com.

Here’s an except:

Pressure!

By Eric Mueller (2003) via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a lot of pressure applied to people during the holiday season to conform to some artificial standard. Society tells us to behave in one way while the opposite is preached by our Church. Newlyweds are expected to be present at all the family gatherings despite the impossible logistics. The financially strapped are supposed to spend, spend, spend. The domestically challenged must entertain and cook up a storm. Those still licking wounds from Christmases past are supposed to act like they were never wounded. The lonely should not be lonely and the grieving should stop mourning and put it behind them.

So how can we be of help? And what if we fit one of these categories — can we be kind to ourselves?

Read on …

Continue reading “A novel gift idea this Christmas: just let each other BE”

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When faith is tested: He’s got this.

My monthly Catholic Free Press/Catholic mom column.

When I awoke to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas, I felt numb inside. It was all too much. First the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Then the devastation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. And now this. (And after initially writing this, the fires in Northern California). I had not been directly affected by any of these events and yet a heavy sense of dread lay on my heart as I began to pray for those who had been affected. In reciting words that praised God and spoke of his protection, I felt a thud inside my heart saying, “no, they had not been protected.”

Where is God?

Later in the day I had a short conversation with a good friend on Twitter. She had written, “Las Vegas makes us ask God: where are you? The answer: God is here, asking the same question of us: ‘Where are you?’ Seek and let him find you.” I answered, “Got to admit, this one is shaking my faith a bit. I will never abandon my faith and I will always love God, but it did give me pause.” She answered, “I understand. What God permits is always jarring, but He sees the whole picture. That doesn’t make it any easier to trust Him.”

She thought her reply had not helped but in fact, it did. I felt the burden lift just a bit at the thought of God alone knowing the whole picture. I answered, “Actually, in a way, it does. He’s got this. Thank you; your words brought me comfort.”

He’s got this.

It’s not for me or for any of us to know the entire picture. He sees the world in its entirety from the beginning until the end of time. I don’t know why that comforts me, but it does. It is not within my ability to be omnipotent and therefore, not my responsibility to know it all. I am only asked to know enough to offer prayers and supplication, to lend a hand, to offer some words of comfort.

All I ever have to be …

This all reminds me of a song written by Gary Chapman and sung by Amy Grant,

“And all I ever have to be is what
You’ve made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find
… all I ever have to be is what You made me.”

One day at a time

It’s the same idea. None of us were made with the capacity to carry the whole world on our shoulders. And that is a comfort to me. Somebody Else is in charge of that. All I have to do each day is to do what I am supposed to do. I can’t physically be in Houston or the Keys or San Juan or Las Vegas. But I can pray. I can carry these people in my thoughts and in my heart. I can choose a favorite charity and donate. I can give blood even though it may not be of help in Las Vegas; it will, however, help someone in my own backyard.

The suffering in our world is overwhelming; it’s impossible for me to wrap my head around it. Thankfully I am not asked to do that. I can leave it to the Lord; He’s got this.

A prayer

“Lord, guide me in your wisdom to those little things I can do to help ease some of the suffering of this world. Chase away my dread and those nagging doubts and show me what I can do in this moment to be of help. And please, keep reminding me that all I ever have to be what is You made me.”

Listen to Amy Grant singing the song:

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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 Recommendation: Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles and God

Note: I was sent an advance copy by the author for review purposes.

I am so pleased to recommend the debut book by a blogger whom I have come to regard as a friend – Lori Erickson’s Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles and God.

Erickson describes herself as a seeker and a pilgrim:

In my search for the holy, I’ve wandered down many paths. I’ve been a Lutheran, a Wiccan, a Unitarian Universalist, a Buddhist, an Episcopalian, and an admirer of Native American traditions. I’ve been spiritual-but-not-religious and religious-but-not-spiritual. I can read tarot cards and balance chakras. My spirit animal is a bear, which is a great relief because for years I thought it was a raccoon, an animal that while perfectly fine lacks a certain gravitas.

After many years of spiritual wandering, I’m now a committed Christian, but one who frequently flirts with other religious traditions.

Nature of the spiritual journey

The way to God is always a crooked path; it’s up to us to approach that path with an open mind: with eyes ready for new vision; with ears that will hear a something different and absorb it; and with a heart ready to accept, listening to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit to help us understand. This is how I see my spiritual journey; I recognize that same spirit of pilgrimage in Holy Rover.

Pilgrimages across the globe

I discovered Erickson’s blog right around the time I created Be as One. She wrote the way I wished to write, creating a sense of longing for God while at times evoking strong emotions. She and her husband Bob are experienced world travelers, having taken numerous pilgrimages and documenting them in words and pictures.

Sharing her travels

I am a decided homebody, being most happy in familiar territory. There are times however when I know I need to emerge from the cocoon. Lori’s writing about her pilgrimages have enabled me to where I would never have normally gone; exotic places that have been home to saints and spiritual guides from all over. I found myself frequently engaging in discussion on her blog with both her and her readers, all of whom struck me as fellow travelers.

Now I have all that beauty and wisdom packed away in a lovely book (complete with an autographed name plate, thank you!). It is something I can turn to when I need to “get out of the house” whether it be my physical home or just out of myself. When I find the need to expand my horizons, I can turn to Holy Rover and never be disappointed.

Lori Erickson writes with refreshing honesty about the spiritual journey, free from judgment and dogma. Whether your wanderings take you around the world or into your backyard, far from the religion of your youth or just a few steps away, you will find a fascinating, wise and compassionate guide in Lori. I have. Thank you, Lori.

You can read a sample from the book here.

Order Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles and God from Amazon.

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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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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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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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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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