River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times was my first book, written in 2015. In the book I reflect upon suffering in my life which included the deaths of my parents and the loss of my singing voice. By trusting in God even when I had no idea where He was leading me, I experienced transformation as a result of the creative power of grief.
River of Grace provides powerful personal stories of loss and grief along with creative ways to cope through trust and faith. It’s a book of hope during this difficult pandemic.
To give you a better idea of the nature of River of Grace, I invite you to watch/listen to a 40 minute presentation on the book which also includes some songs that amplify the meaning.
Where to order River of Grace
My publisher, Ave Maria Press, is holding a Labor Day Weekend sale — go to their website for 10% off the purchase price.
It was an exciting wonderful summer day. My thoughts went back to the time when my children were little. Now they are all grown up with children and some grandchildren of their own. For a second, time stood still. In my mind I watched them play and giggle and laugh. They were so happy. Thankful to our Lord for being able to remember it all. I thought, “Today is a good day to paint a special bouquet.” As I started to play-paint, I truly felt this was my playtime.
I put a first layer on and washed it off, this was a perfect background. As I started to paint, I could picture this in my daughter Carmen’s kitchen. With so much love in my heart, my brushes moved over the canvas with such ease creating this beautiful bouquet of flowers. I knew God gave me this special gift for my…
Note: This is my June, 2018 column for the Catholic Free Press.
Recently I brought the Eucharist to a loved in the hospital. It was hardly the quiet and reflective moment that we had hoped for with doctors and nurses buzzing around us. But we were both certain that Jesus was with us in body, blood, soul, and divinity. It turns out he was closer to us than we ever could have imagined.
All I know is that on the way home I felt full. I still cannot find the words to describe it. All I could think of was that scripture passage from Romans 8:26, “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The best that I could muster was to just lose myself in thought, contemplating what had happened at my loved one’s hospital bed.
On the surface it was nothing extraordinary; no one would have ever guessed what was truly going on. A few prayers were said in haste so that my loved one could partake of the Eucharist before the medicine she had taken kicked in. It was hardly the holy moment that we desired.
In the middle of it all
Yet later in the car God made it plain that in fact it had been a holy moment as evidenced by my “groanings.” Jesus, incarnate, present in the plain, thin wafer was in the room, so close to us that we could not perceive him. It reminded me of a line in a song by Amy Grant called “Ask Me How I Know;” it describes it perfectly:
He’s in the middle of her pain …
Mercy brings life
He’s in the middle
Mercy in the middle
When I got home I mentioned to my husband what had happened and I was surprised to hear that he had gone through the same thing just a few days earlier after he had taken communion to a priest in the hospital. His description of the encounter was quite unremarkable, just like mine. And yet, he had the exact same experience of the groanings too deep for words.
I realize now that these times of such groanings are wonderful and blessed gifts that cause us to transcend our earth-bound lives and enter into the mystery of God. We are lifted up beyond the need of empirical proof. We don’t need facts and figures and logical arguments; it is enough that the heart knows that something extraordinary is happening. We don’t need words because they are quite inadequate to describe the width, height, length and depth of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18).
A gift of grace
I even wondered how I could craft a column about this experience given the inadequacy of words. I am grateful that I could even get this rough description down on paper for as I write, I can relive that amazing moment of grace. And, better yet, I was afforded the opportunity to experience such grace with my loved one in the hospital and with my beloved at home.
Grace is not a moment we can manufacture; we can only recognize that God is about to bestow a gift. It requires having an open heart, ready to receive at any moment. It may mean doing something unexpected, or giving up something we desire. It could take us out of our comfort zone. It cannot happen if we rely on ourselves rather than him.
O Lord, may I be ever ready to receive your gift of grace!
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River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.
Note: this is my Catholic Free Press column for December; it is also running on Catholicmom.com.
Here’s an except:
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?
Welcome to this Lenten Mini Retreat of self-examination and discovery:
“The Journey Within: Seeing Ourselves in the Eyes of God by Following the Path of Jesus”
This retreat consists of an hour-long presentation of word and song. It is broken up into sections and features several short videos. You do not need to do the entire retreat in one sitting. In fact, I recommend that you do a portion each day over several days so that the lessons really sink in.
You will need three additional items in order to participate in this retreat:
I present this retreat to show that by following our Lord’s example we find that the journey of self-discovery is not a self-indulgent act but one of love, towards ourselves and our Creator. It is an act of humility where we come face to face with the ugly truths and weaknesses in our lives and give them over to God. It is a fruitful action, empowering us with the confidence and vision to carry out the wonderful life plan that God has given to us.
This presentation is drawn from chapter 6 my book, River of Grace. You will be led on a rich journey where you begin to see yourself as God’s beloved child, fearfully and wonderfully made with a glorious mission to fulfill.
Listen to Part One of this retreat–it is the longest segment, lasting approximately 34 minutes:
a. Watch the video:
2. Listen to Part Two (3 minutes, 55 seconds):
a. Watch the video:
3. Listen to Part Three (6 minutes, 35 seconds):
a. Watch the video and sing along:
4. Listen to Part Four (1 minute, 50 seconds):
a. Watch the video:
5. Listen to Part Five (1 minute, 41 seconds):
a. Watch the video and sing/pray along:
6. Listen to the last portion, Part Six (13 minutes, 1 second):
I hope you have enjoyed this mini retreat–perhaps it will lead to a lifelong habit of self-discovery. Remember always to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and follow every footstep of his path.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court on the legal state of marriage has reverberated across the country. People cannot stop talking about it and the conversations are often heated. A seismic shift has taken place in our culture. It caught me unprepared for the personal storm of confusion and fear that I would experience as a result.
Facing the inevitable
Christians are facing a “brave new world.” Confrontation is now inevitable; I cannot avoid it no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel. I have to be clear as to what I think and how I feel and learn how to express it both firmly and in love, as Jesus would do. Continue reading “Confession of a timid soul”→