Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hope in a broken world: a newsletter project

I am not an adventurous person, and there are certain things I would rather not try anytime soon (entering a submarine, skiing downhill, and climbing a mountain are on that list), but even I must recognize that it is good to try new things. We don't have to love whatever new thing we try, and we don't have to do a good job. We probably won't do a good job. Still, utilizing a growth mindset and simply trying--and learning from failure--is good for us. It helps us stretch, grow, and develop. 

Well, it's important to "practice what you preach," so here we go...

A few years ago, I thought it would be fun to create a newsletter for this blog. No huge vision or ambitions, but it would be fun, right? So, I looked into it, and discovered that it wouldn't be feasible at that time. There were lots of elements involved and I didn't feel like shelling out money for a newsletter on a blog that makes no money. I shelved that idea, and didn't think of it again...until 2020. 

I can't even remember what caused me to think of a newsletter, but in Fall of 2020, I decided to look into it more. I researched marketing companies, obsessed over the pros and cons, and an unexpected vision for a newsletter began to form in my mind. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Beauty Will Rise

Watch out for the broken glass, I cautioned, moving my sons away from the piles of shards that lay in our path. 

I hate broken glass! my four-year-old declared. Why couldn't we just drive to the library?  

I lifted my face, caught in thought for a split second. Then, I heard it: a melody lilting among the trees. 

Because, I responded. If we drove in the minivan, we wouldn't be able to hear the birds sing. Listen-do you hear that?

Our view may have been full of trash and glass pieces, gray snowy slush and the mechanical hum of the busy street, but beauty blasted through any ugliness; a lone bird sang praises on this dreary winter morning. 

How often do we miss the glimmers of God's beauty that dance on the fringes of our days? In that conversation with my firstborn, I simply spewed out the first response that popped into my mouth--but it has continued to gnaw at me. Because we chose to walk, and inconvenience ourselves with navigating through the mire of littered streets, we could experience the beauty of a bird singing. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

An Open Book: December 2020 Reads

 Happy New Year! Last year was rough for so many people in many ways, but something good that came out of it was my reading stack! I managed to read 126 books in 2020, and a lot of them were fantastic. Let's link up with Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book to chat about the books that took me through the end of 2020. 


Saturday, January 2, 2021

A Blank Calendar: Musings on the New Year

I wasn't planning to stay up until midnight to ring in 2021, but my teething, sleep-regressing baby had other plans. While I do like getting to enjoy our Christmas tree in the quiet hours of the late night and early morning, the abundant touch from an infant and the lack of sleep is not my favorite. But, I bought a bunch of coffee beans today, I'm thoroughly sugared-up on Christmas chocolate, and God is merciful. Thanks to the sleep deprivation and a lack of motivation brought on by Christmas vacation, here's a peek into my scattered thoughts as the new year begins. 

After we returned from a short trip out of state 
to see family, one of our neighbors showed up with this beautiful
poinsettia. I am so grateful for our wonderful neighbors!

A steady drip drip drip of water is plunging off the roof to fall onto the snow-covered ground. Our tiny Christmas tree brings holiday cheer into a living room that is cluttered with the aftermath of unpacking and presents. Across the room, I see the fresh calendar that hangs on our wall. A month of (mostly) blank boxes offers hope, promise. After the [insert adjective of your choosing] year that was 2020, I'm sure we are all more than ready for a fresh start. Yes, we're still in a pandemic, and yes, we're still suffering from a deeply divided political climate, but there is always hope

We are still fully in the Christmas season over here, and as I contemplate the Baby Jesus figurine in our nativity--and as I see the Wise Men that my children have pulled out in anticipation of the Epiphany tomorrow--I am filled hope. I am sure that challenges will come this year, but God is with us. I don't know what this year will look like, and I am very hesitant to make concrete plans, but I am excited about the possibilities! 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Weary World Rejoices

If there's one word I can think of that encapsulates a general feeling among people at this point in 2020, it's weary. Months of isolation, division, and frustration have built, leaving many of us exhausted. We are tired, but life keeps happening--bringing with it unpredictable curveballs and heartaches. 

Into this weary world, Christ enters. 

Over the past several weeks, I've been pondering the prophets as they prepared the world for the Messiah. Rather than their work being confined to a few weeks each winter, it was a process that took place over generations. It was long, slow work. Into a land that was filled with division and bloodshed, hope was proclaimed. 

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel." (Is 7:14)

We may not experience feelings of delight of happiness as we prepare for celebrations full of restrictions and masks, but we can still grasp onto the hope and joy that go beyond a mere emotional lift. We can gaze upon the Christ-child with wonder and awe as we contemplate just how incredible and deep God's love for us is. 

We may be worn out by the events of this year (I know I am!) but we cannot let our fatigue keep us from celebrating the tremendous gift of the Incarnation. Just a week ago, we lit a pink-colored candle on our dining room table. That rose-colored hue reminded us to rejoice, for the Lord is near! The Light is shining forth into the darkness of the world. 

Geertgen tot Sint Jans, The Nativity at Night (1490). Public domain.

We have just a few days left in this season of preparation, so let's persevere. The final days of Advent often slip by quickly, and are filled with many physical preparations as shopping is finished, food is purchased, and presents are wrapped. In this busy time, let's all try to remember to make space for prayer. It may be only a few minutes here or there, but setting aside small moments for silent reflection is a wonderful way to prepare our minds and hearts for Christ's birth. When we enter into the great feast of Christmas in just a few days, may we truly rejoice from the depths of our beings. 

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Our 2020 Trip to Tennessee

In the past, I've talked a little bit here and there about the Domestic Church, a Catholic lay movement from Poland. As part of our involvement with the Domestic Church, my husband and I took our kids on a weeklong family retreat (called an Oasis retreat) in Summer 2019. Due to our schedule, we knew that we'd be unable to attend a retreat in Summer 2020, and then the pandemic hit-so most retreats were cancelled. 

But. 

Another Domestic Church Oasis retreat was scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving 2020. It would be on the smaller side and have certain restrictions, but it would happen. We signed up, and then waited. The pandemic raged on, our lives continued in an unpredictable manner, and I told people that I honestly didn't think we'd actually get to attend retreat until we were there. This is 2020! Everything gets cancelled! The week we were supposed to leave, New Mexico closed down. I kept checking for updates in Arkansas (which we would drive through) and Tennessee. They both were still open. The retreat was still happening. We hoped, we prayed, and I tried not to panic. The day before we were supposed to leave, I began throwing clothes into bags. Would we actually get to go? I felt like Indiana Jones, racing to leave a room as the door slid down. We just needed to make it to Tennessee. Then, the state could close down. But not until we were safely in Tennessee, at the camp.

My husband recently discovered these at a local Korean grocery store.
They are SO GOOD. High in protein, not too sweet, and a perfect mix 
of peanuts and sesame seeds. They are now our go-to car snack. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

All I wanted was to eat a gingerbread cookie

It had been a week. 

After spending several days on a family retreat in Tennessee, we were back to "normal life," and it was not going well. Between a child who screamed every time he needed his nose wiped, a child breaking a glass bowl in the kitchen, a child who had run into a major street without warning, a cranky baby, piles of clothes and crafts to unpack, and two children who were refusing to nap, I was done. On top of that, we no longer were surrounded by friends, walking down a dirt path to Mass every single day, and my husband was back at work. The weather in Oklahoma had turned to winter when we returned, so instead of spending time outside with neighbors, we were stuck in the house. My neighbor's tree had been cut back severely in our absence, and Nintendo was making some controversial decisions (we are a Nintendo household, so this was a big deal for us). 

In case some of you out there feel bad for not having Instagram-worthy
Advent decorations, let my dining room table
reassure you that you are not alone ;) 

But, it was the weekend now, and things were looking much brighter. After taking a family trip to Confession (which I desperately needed), we enjoyed a fun dinner at a new-ish Japanese restaurant we'd driven by many times. When we arrived home, I happily began taking out ingredients for a double-batch of gingerbread cookie dough, so that the next day, we could make "crosier cookies" to celebrate St. Nicholas. As my husband, baby, and four-year-old listened to music in the office, my two-year-old creamed together sticks of butter and glistening sugar. I smiled, thinking about all the fun we would have cutting out cookies and eating them together. I cracked an egg, and grabbed an extra bowl to separate the yolk and the white...

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Advent & the Creative Life

The onscreen inbox lights up expectantly: a response from another publisher! With a resigned-yet-still-eager-spirit, you click on the e-mail so your eyes can read what your heart already knows: another rejection. 

Your brain immediately begins firing at high-speed as you rapidly configure ways to revise your work and find another editor, another publisher. You begin scrounging around for bits and pieces of time for creative work amid the newborn diapers, sibling squabbles, and endless piles of dishes. You spew out words frantically, just wanting to put something, anything down on the page. 

Stretching your fingers across the keyboard day after day, week after week, all you can do is create--and wait. You wait for ideas to manifest themselves on the screen, you wait for the arduous process of wading through paragraphs and edits to end. You swallow a dose of courage and send out your work, powerless to do anything more but wait...and wait...and wait. As rejection slips pile up, you continue waiting; waiting for the day when the words of your heart reach the right person at the right time. 

You've never been good at waiting, particularly as the cultural attitude towards instant gratification slips into your subconscious. When you first embarked on your writing journey all those years ago, when your small hand penciled a fantasy story into a notebook, you never imagined that this life would be one of waiting. And yet, it is. 

The path of a writer is long, hard, and slow; but there's something seeping through this space, something that wasn't here before: joy. 

You're beginning to find that your personal timeline looks more insignificant when you focus your gaze on God. You're beginning to discover that you don't actually desire fame and glory, but would far rather send your words into the world and then slip from view. You're beginning to learn that this writing journey was never really about you, for it is directed towards the glory of God. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

An Open Book: November 2020 Reads

 Happy new liturgical year! Now that December has rolled around, I'm linking up with Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book to talk about what I've been reading lately. In the month of November, I did not read as much as I typically would. I was making more time to dive into creative writing projects, we went on a big out-of-state trip, and my children all seemed to be clamoring for attention more than usual. So, not as many books, but there were some great fiction and non-fiction selections that I enjoyed! Let's dive in. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

When Christ is our King

I remember flipping through Christian book catalogues as a kid, and seeing sparkly pink designs that proclaimed a statement like: "Someday, my prince will come" or "I'm a princess!" All of these t-shirts, notebooks, or stickers reflected the truth that Christ is our King-and we, as sons and daughters of God, are princes and princesses. In fact, by virtue of our Baptism, we are made sharers in the kingly office of Christ (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #873)

As a young kid and teenager, I loved thinking about this royal connection. It was a time when movies like Princess Diaries and Ice Princess were making their way onto our television screen. I loved thinking about being a princess, of wearing the sparkly tiaras and fancy dresses. 

However, as delightful as this image is, we cannot simply stop at the tiaras and chocolates, as I once did. Rather, we can--and should--think about the way that our very lives can be impacted when we recognize Christ as our King. As I ponder all of the unpredictable events of this year, I am comforted by the realization that Christ reigns. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The quiet of November days

It's fire season, when bursts of red-orange leaves flutter, forming an image of flames licking the breeze.

Branches and tree limbs line the streets, a multitude of unlit funeral pyres that dot the city, reminding us of nature's power and our powerlessness. 

Cold gray tombstones stand silently as young voices-chattering, praying, laughing-shatter the desolate atmosphere of the cemetery. 

We hear a thump thump as a woman down the street rolls the trash can up her driveway, and my sons look after her, excitedly. I want to say hi, they declare, their small feet and short legs propelling them quickly towards her house. 

The air is tinged with nicotine and cars rumble down the road as we sit and rock back and forth in tall chairs. My firstborn struts in front of us, launching into a monologue about anything that crosses his four-year-old mind. My baby cuddles into our neighbor and we laugh as the boys excitedly talk over each other and scamper around the driveway.