Lifted up and out—breaking free from dejection

jenny on my lapJUNE 20, 2016 — We all go through spells where we feel blue, even downright dejected. I know lately I’ve been waking up in the morning and feeling a sense of dread about facing a new day. Those fears and anxieties that lie just below the surface tend to be magnified in the wee hours of the morning before the alarm goes off. A quick cup of coffee, some time in prayer with Jenny on my lap purring, and those feelings begin to dissipate. Lately however, I’ve had a harder time getting them to leave me.

One of the psalms that I pray each morning describes dejection to the point of despair:

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

Psalm 88, 6-9 NIV

Most days I think of those I have known who have experienced that kind of despair. I think too of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, overcome by the knowledge of the suffering he would experience. But some days, I think of me.

I pride myself with knowing why I feel the way I do—I am introspective by nature, and to a fault. But lately I am not clear as to why I feel the way I do. Perhaps it’s the cycle of days seeming to go by faster and faster. It could be those small aches and pains of age reminding me that youth is long over. Maybe I need to stop paying attention to the news because the world no longer makes sense. Maybe I need to stop being so introspective!

I prayed to God today during that psalm and I prayed again during the one o’clock hour when I lift up petitions of healing for family and friends. I rarely include myself but today I did. I asked for grace to come up out of myself, to be lifted up and out. And my prayer was answered.

pedlar's progressI am reading an antique book printed in 1937 about an historical figure, Amos Bronson Alcott. The book is large, its pages browning, the paper soft to the touch. The spine is such that that the book stays open by itself. The cover is exquisite, vintage 1930s art in earth tones. The biographer is totally immersed in his subject, revealing to me the mind and the heart of one of recent histories’ biggest conundrums. Alcott was a man of extremes—at once brilliant, original, insightful while at the same time blind to the physical needs of his family, unable, unwilling at times to work to support them. He drew amazing creativity out of his daughters but inflicted great scars through his demands for perfection and virtue, causing one to become a workaholic to support the family while constantly striving to prove her virtue (Louisa) while another found that virtue perfectly in death rather than life (Lizzie).

peddlar's progressWith all his fatal flaws, Amos Bronson Alcott is a fascinating figure and Odell Shepherd, the biographer, writes about the man with incredible beauty and insight. Some call it “old-fashioned” but I say that Shepherd, because he wrote the book only forty-nine years after Alcott’s death, was closer to him that current biographers could ever hope to be. Perhaps the writing style is “dated;” the fact that there are no footnotes proves to be frustrating for scholars. But there is general agreement that the work is authentic. And that’s why it speaks to me.

And today during my lunch break as I read, scribbling notes in the margins, I found myself being lifted out of my dejection by the sheer beauty of the words and the tactile experience of holding that magnificent old book.

God answered my prayer. Through the experience of reading, I could be lifted out of the prison of myself, my eyes no longer dimmed with grief, my spirit no longer overcome with waves. Because I could get lost in the life of another through the exquisite writing of his biographer, I could receive a gift of grace.

We all have tools we use to help ourselves feel better when we are blue. Some like to listen to music, go for a walk, take a swim or see friends. These are all gifts of grace from God who knows our every need. In my case, rather late in life, I was given the grace to lose myself in a book and in the lives of fascinating historical figures.

Thank you Lord.

 

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Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

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Can’t go away on retreat? Try this stay-at-home multi-media retreat for Lent, “A Journey Within”

Jesus in the desert

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:

Following the example of Jesus

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.

Let’s begin.

  1. 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.

Citations:

  • 00 cover smallThis retreat quotes extensively from Chapter 6 of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times
    by Susan Bailey and published by Ave Maria Press. Flow Lesson handouts also come from this book.
    Copyright 2015 Susan W. Bailey
  • “Lead Me to the Wilderness” copyright 2016 Susan W. Bailey
  • “In His Eyes” sung by Mindy Jostyn; written by Mindy Jostyn and Jacob Brackman, available on the album In His Eyes. Song used by permission.

Share with your friends

Going on a retreat with a friend can make it extra special. You can easily share this retreat with your friends
on social media – just click on the links below:

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For more aids to your Lenten journey, visit the Lenten Resources page for posts, podcasts, music and videos.

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Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
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Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Book #2 is here! Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message book signing this Sunday in Concord, MA

barrow bookstore with books

Louisa May Alcott:Illuminated by The Message is here!

Book Signing/Launch this Sunday, Dec. 6, 4 pm (I will also be signing copies of River of Grace – bring yours!)
Short presentation followed by conversation and signing.
The Barrow Bookstore, 79 Main Street, Concord, MA (rear of the building, behind Fritz & Giggi)

introduction graphic

Part of the Literary Portals to Prayer series by ACTA Publications.
Other classic authors in the series include Elizabeth McGaskell, William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

You can purchase your copy of Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message online: Regular edition and Large Print available. Makes a great gift!

See you on Sunday!

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river first-640Join my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Official release of River of Grace – now available on Amazon

00 cover drop shadowToday is Launch Day–5 days early!

Physical copies of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times are now available on Amazon. You can also purchase it for the Kindle and the audio book is available through Audible.com. You can order your copies here.

CD cover front only for webThe music CD, River of Grace: The Soundtrack, is also available; you can listen to songs and order your copy here; it will be available on iTunes soon.

I have received some thoughtful and amazing reviews of the book so far that I’d like to share:

5 starsAn inspiring and uplifting book!

This is an insightful and inspiring book that takes you on a transformative journey. A beautifully and gently written story, we are shown how loss in our lives can ultimately lead to positive change and the blossoming of creativity, positive outlook, and happiness. At the heart of this story and the messages of the book is a deeply spiritual connection which is both comforting and supportive. I loved this book! It comes with “flow lessons” which are meditative exercises matching with each chapter. There is also a CD that has a song for each chapter. Chris Houde (on Amazon)

5 starsA thought-provoking spiritual read (5 stars)
Susan Bailey shares about the trials and triumphs in her life in her new book River of Grace. She tells how God’s mercy has shown her a greater kind of essence, once she let herself glide along with His unending grace.

A running theme that you learn all throughout this book is how creativity and spirituality go together, hand in hand. Susan illustrates this time and again. Susan pauses to personalize the reading and ask you how you can create new life in your surroundings as you allow the river of grace to run through you. In each chapter, she takes time (and allows you to take time) to reflect and focus on your emotions, thoughts, and defining events in your own life. If you take a few moments to perform the suggested activities, and allow creativity to lead the way, you will be blessed with fresh insight and positivity.

For people struggling with grief, this book shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Freely, the author doles out the pain she encountered on the deaths of her parents, and how greatly her life changed under those circumstances. She then dispenses the successful tools and mental thought process behind obtaining victory over death. Triumph is available to anyone! This is not a story of how to get over grief fast — but how to deal with it and give your afflictions to the Almighty. You will get through your time of sorrow, and when the grief cycle has ran its course, you will become a more complete person.

Susan Bailey is an accomplished researcher of all things pertaining to American author Louisa May Alcott (Little Women). Myself, also being a reader of Miss Alcott’s books, found joy in the way that Susan Bailey shares about her favorite authoress. Miss Alcott’s books, which all exude child-like happiness, wedged themselves into Susan’s soul and allowed her to identify parallels and discover herself again. It’s funny how words that were penned over 100 years ago still create fresh currents in our minds and hearts; it can happen to any of us.

And here’s something else I gleaned: Susan and I are both Christians; Susan is a Catholic and I am not. Our religions may differ in actuality, but the similarities are so close. We both believe in God, and that’s what counts. In fact, I never realized how closely that Protestant and Catholic Christians are… (You may wonder how I didn’t realize this fact growing up — as I do myself!). My point here is that Susan’s writings will touch the reader, whether you believe the same way or not. I know she greatly affected me.

“The river of grace is in constant motion and only when I submit to that motion will I discover the many blessings that lie in the present moment. The longer I am in the river, the richer my life becomes…” (Susan Bailey, River of Grace)

Lovely book. Many a person could benefit from reading it. It can guide you to a discovery of healing and of breaking free from darkness.

Find the flood of God’s mercy that flows within, by reading River of Grace by Susan Bailey. (Tarissa, In the Bookcase blog, from Amazon)

A special thank-you gift

If you ordered the book ahead of launch day, I have a thank-you gift for you. And if you order the book before November 15, you can have the gift too!

web picThe gift? A full-color PDF workbook of the Flow Lessons (prayerful exercises) found in River of Grace. There are live links to videos and music in the workbook that will enhance your experience with the lessons.

Simply forward me your receipt and I will email you the workbook right away.

I pleased to give this to you for all of your support of this project.

 

 

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Changing your Outlook: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (John 6:1-15) 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 morning the U.S. Surgeon General was interviewed on the radio. Not surprisingly, he was talking about medicine and health.

He said, “People tend to think that healthy people are happier people… That might be true.”

“But,” he added, “ so much science and research is pointing to the fact that happy people are healthier people.

People who choose to be happy, end up being healthier overall. So it works the other way around. Choose happiness first and health follows. “

Riccardo Cuppini Happiness, Flickr Creative Commons
Riccardo Cuppini Happiness, Flickr Creative Commons

That’s an interesting way of looking at it: Happiness is a choice we make. It isn’t something that just suddenly “happens.” A person’s chosen outlook can often change the course and outcome of things.

That goes to the heart of this week’s gospel: Jesus feeding an immense crowd of people with very few resources, some bread and a few fish.

Some argue that Jesus simply got  everyone in the crowd to share what they brought with them. Who would bother to leave home and travel in the wilderness without food in the first century? If people saw Jesus and his disciples sharing a few loaves and fishes with others and by that were inspired to share what they had brought themselves, isn’t that miracle enough? Good point.

On the other hand, if humans can fly to the moon and defy the laws of gravity, why couldn’t God defy the laws of nature and “miraculously” multiply loaves to feed a huge crowd in order to teach a lesson about how we ought to live? Can’t God do more than our minds can imagine? That’s a good point too.

Either way, there is a lesson here about life: God begins to work in us when we focus on what we have rather than what we lack.

BK Gratitude changes the way we look at the world, Flickr Creative Commons
BK Gratitude changes the way we look at the world, Flickr Creative Commons

Start your day, start your next big project  focusing on what you have been given, blessed with.

Focusing on what you lack, on what you don’t have will leave you disappointed and afraid.

Jesus got people to be grateful and use what they had. He dared them to trust that what had would go much further than they imagined.

And somehow,  they ended up dealing with the challenge at hand: everybody got fed.

Outlook can change a lot. Jesus knew that.

Our way of looking at the day can leave us feeling happy or starving.

You choose.

I choose.

We all choose.

00 twitter profile 400x400River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
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Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Change is afoot … Exciting new developments on Be as One

Note: Be as One subscribers–go here to find out this change will affect you.

Change can be disconcerting but also invigorating. A perfect example is when I switched from the iPhone 4 to the 5S. The feel of the phone was completely different due to major changes in the operating system. It yanked me out of my comfort zone and at first, I had a hard time adjusting.

iphone 4 and 5-horz

And then, I discovered Siri. I found I could dictate my emails, text messages, Facebook posts and tweets. I tend to brainstorm a lot in the car and need something that easily captures my thoughts. Enter my new best friend. Siri. 🙂

iphone 5s siri

Now I love my iPhone 5S!

I say this because Be as One is about to undergo a major change:

  • A whole new look.
  • Lots of resources including:
    • Videos
    • New Music
    • and practical exercises known as Flow Lessons from my book,
      River of Grace.
  • Blog posts, past and present, will be easier to find.
  • And hopefully this will translate into a more enjoyable experience for you.

Here’s a preview of the new logo:

be-as-one-alone
How will these changes affect you?

If you subscribe to Be as One through my email list, you will still be notified when something new is posted.

However, if you subscribe through WordPress, you will no longer receive email notification (although your Reader will still feature new posts).

The best way to stay connected to Be as One is to subscribe to my email list.

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesI have many wonderful things to share with you, the most exciting being the launch of River of Grace on October 30.

I will be offering some wonderful freebies and incentives over the next few months to celebrate my book launch (including sneak peaks at the book) and I want you to be a part of it.

Wait until you see what I have planned for you!

So, be sure to subscribe to my email list today.
And be ready for Be as One, version 2.0!

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Slave or Free? Less or More? Reflections on the Sunday Readings for May 31, 2015 by Father Steven LaBaire

The Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40, Psalm 33, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28: 16-20

Why is it that so many people today attack Christianity?
What are they so afraid of?

Is it because the Church is perceived as an authority figure bent on depriving us of personal freedoms, especially that of choice?

Is it because it is seen as an institution that deprives rather than as a life choice that fulfills?

For it is a choice.

Continue reading “Slave or Free? Less or More? Reflections on the Sunday Readings for May 31, 2015 by Father Steven LaBaire”

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?

Tito Slack Paris Riots #2, Flickr Creative Commons
Tito Slack Paris Riots #2, Flickr Creative Commons

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?

Roger Sadler JESUS HEALS THE SICK, Flickr Creative Commons
Roger Sadler JESUS HEALS THE SICK, Flickr Creative Commons

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

Waiting For The Word I am with you always, Flickr Creative Commons
Waiting For The Word I am with you always, Flickr Creative Commons

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.

 

Waiting For The Word Resurrection 60, from Flickr Creative Commons
Waiting For The Word Resurrection 60, from Flickr Creative Commons

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

Click here to continue reading.

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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. 

Benurs - Learning and learning... Love is in the subway
Benurs – Learning and learning… Love is in the subway, from Flickr Creative Commons

 

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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