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Empty is the new full

I can always tell when 6-year-old Chiara has had enough, or too much. She hangs onto my waist, cries at the drop of a hat, and, in the ultimate role-reversal, tells me she thinks she needs to go to bed rather than watch a TV show. You don’t have to be a parenting genius to figure out that her day was just too full.

Chiara needs her down time, even just an hour or so after school when there’s nothing to do but draw on the driveway with chalk, or swing toward the heavens in the backyard, or serve out some plastic ice cream in the play kitchen. She loves her dance classes and her Daisy troop and her karate, but when she gets a week where every afternoon is occupied, and maybe even a few evenings, the edges of her typically sweet demeanor start to fray. So why is it so surprising when the same thing happens to us as adults? Read more

Catching up now that the storm is over

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity here. One book manuscript was edited, and a second book manuscript completed. I’m getting ready to head into the edits on the second one, so I figured I’d better show up here for an update before I disappear again.

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Jesuit Father James Martin, author of so many great books, among them My Life with the Saints and Between Heaven and Mirth. His keynote address was so unbelievably good. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, and about faith and spirituality. If Father Martin is in your area, get a ticket and go. It will be a great experience. I promise. We need more joy in our Church, in our lives.

In other news, I spent time with Chiara and our Daisy troop at an “encampment” at Camp Is-Sho-Da this past weekend. Perfect weather for hanging outside with a bunch of energetic, twirling, dancing, giggling 6-year-olds. We made sit-upons and Memorial Day cards for veterans, decorated cupcakes, tie-dyed shirts, and sang silly songs. All the things Girl Scouts love to do.



Being let out of my basement office also means more time to get to know my “new” Nikon camera. I got it about nine months ago, but because of all my book deadlines, I haven’t really had a chance to explore what it can do. Here are some shots of the lovely flowers blooming in our backyard right now. 
Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

Trillium

Lilacs

Spring in our yard
Super Moon

Selling magazines by exploiting moms


Originally I wasn’t going to include the controversial cover of Time magazine because it doesn’t deserve any more press than it’s already received, but, if you haven’t seen it yet (how could you miss it?), it’s really a necessary part of the conversation.

I breastfed all three of my kids until they were ready to stop. With my youngest that meant nursing until she was about 2 years old. I have family members and friends who nursed their children until almost 4 years old. I am the biggest proponent of breastfeeding that you are going to find. Anywhere. I believe every child should be breastfed for at least a year, longer whenever possible.

But I was stunned and disappointed and disgusted to see this exploitative photo on the front of Time magazine in the name of attachment parenting. What a disgrace and a disservice to mothers everywhere. As someone who has received looks of shock and disapproval even when I was discreetly nursing my babies with blankets and coats piled on top to hide us, I can tell you that no one nurses a child like this, and no mother-child nursing scenario has both participants looking away in total disconnection. This is the most false photo I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something in this photoshopped world of ours.

Breastfeeding (and attachment parenting if that is your choice) deserve to be promoted and supported and encouraged at every single turn. This photo may have people talking about the topic, but not in a good way. In a provocative way. In a controversial way. In a maddening way.

Something as beautiful and natural as breastfeeding deserves so much better than this. Something like this much more realistic photo.

Book #6: The Aftermath

You can always tell when I’m nearing the end of a book project. All the signs of a small bookcase explosion. Actually, this is what it looks like in my office right now, as I put together the resource section for Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Prayer, which will be released later this year. Still some finishing touches to go before the manuscript is complete. Stay far away until you’ve received further notice.

Seven Last Words

Father forgive them, they know not what they do…

We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?

Today you will be with me in Paradise.

The “good thief” has always been a favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.

Woman, behold your son…

At last a comfort in the midst of all this misery. God gives us a mother for all time. He reminds us that his mother is our mother, who, with a mother’s unconditional love, will open her arms to us when we are desperate, when we are hurting, when we are searching for peace and a way back to the Father.

My God, my God, why have you foresaken me?

Despair, despair. If Jesus can feel despair, what hope is there for me? Then again, Jesus’ moment of despair reminds me of his humanness and that gives me hope even in this dark moment. God became man, walked on earth, suffered torture and death beyond our comprehension. My God is fully human and fully divine. My God knows what it means to live this earthly life, and so my God knows my small sufferings and heartaches and will not turn His back on me.

I thirst.

The wretched physical anguish of the Crucifixion is coming to bear. It is almost too much for us to take. Jesus, water poured out for the world, thirsts. And yet in the midst of this suffering, we remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, the woman to whom he first revealed his identity: “…whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:14)

It is finished.

Jesus has completed his mission of redemption. Darkness descends, the earth shakes, the temple curtain tears in two. We see Jesus’ anguish near its end. We should be reduced to trembling at the enormity of his suffering, his gift to us. Unlike his followers who were plunged into fear and despair at this moment, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what is coming. We know that his Crucifixion was cause for our salvation. His death a victory. His earthly end our eternal beginning.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Jesus is going back to the Father, back to where he started before time began, but he will not leave us orphans. We patiently wait to celebrate his Resurrection, to rejoice in our unearned windfall. We wait, pray, watch, listen — hopeful, trusting, faithful. We begin our vigil now, waiting for the darkness to turn to light.

A perfect companion for the Lenten journey

My post from OSV Daily Take today:
By Mary DeTurris Poust
I was planning to write a review of Amy Welborn’s new book Wish You Were Here: Travels through Loss and Hope (Image Books, $14) just as soon as I finished reading it, but this morning I realized two things: You need this book for your Lenten journey, and I don’t want to rush through it to make that possible for you. Selfish, I know. I’m about halfway through, but I feel confident telling you that you should go get this book now and let its beauty, its sorrow, and its hope seep into your soul during these forty days. But I really didn’t need to get even that far into it to tell you that; I knew from the opening pages.
I received Amy’s book one afternoon when I had a pile of books to review sitting on one side of my desk and a pile of books to research for my own book project on the other. I assumed I would wait to read Amy’s book until I had a chunk of time to dedicate to it, which, unfortunately, usually translates into never. But I decided to read the first few pages of the introduction. Within a few sentences, I saw all the signs of a great book. As I stood there, leaning against my kitchen counter and reading the opening lines, I felt myself wanting to race forward so I could take in as much as possible as quickly as possible. At the same time, I felt myself pulling back, wanting to savor every sentence, re-reading a phrase here, a paragraph there. As far as I’m concerned, that’s really all you need to know to convince you to order this book, but perhaps you’d like more.
Wish You Were Here is the story of Amy’s trip to Sicily with three of her five children in the aftermath of her husband Michael Dubriel’s sudden death. Her pitch-perfect prose moves seamlessly from the winding, unknown roads of Italy to the winding, unknown roads of grief. At times I would find myself moved to tears. Other times, laughter. And in between were moments of recognition because I feel a connection to Amy even though we’ve never met in person. We are about the same age, “older” moms with young children. We both married men in the “business” of the Catholic Church. We are both writers whose work has focused on our faith for many, many years. Mostly, however, as I read Amy’s book, I found myself deep in thought, reflecting on her observations about life and death and her ability to mine the darkness of loss for signs of light and hope.
Here’s a powerful passage about seeing her husband’s body in the casket at the funeral home:

I saw his body lying there and while it echoed his presence, it just wasn’t him. I turned to his poor mother and I whispered that. “It isn’t him,” I said, which I doubt helped her one bit, but it was true. I cried, but I’ll tell you the truth, out of the hundred reasons I cried when I saw him there, one of them was relief.

All I can do is tell you what I felt at the moment. I felt that he had gone ahead, had cut through the layers of ambiguity and paradox, of irony, of confusion and darkness, and even though it looked like he was lying there perfectly still, he was actually moving, pointing, just like he always had, telling me God Alone, and this cold heaviness was not the end. He had gone ahead, and because he’d done that first, I knew I could go too.
And just like that, standing there, I wasn’t afraid, not for him, and for the first time ever in my entire life — I wasn’t afraid for myself, either.
The fear was just — gone.
If that isn’t a story to take you through the desert of Lent and into the lushness of Easter, I don’t know what is. And, if the spiritual journey isn’t enough for you, there’s plenty of real travel to draw you in and inspire you to renew your passport and get on a plane bound for Sicily.
Maybe this isn’t your typical Lenten spiritual reading, and maybe that’s exactly why you should read it. I can promise that you, too, are likely to look forward every night to the half-hour or so when you can join Amy on her pilgrimage and come away one step closer to knowing your own heart.
For more information on Amy’s books, her blog, and her husband’s books, visit her website at www.amywelborn.com.

The world in silent wonder waits…

It’s Christmas Eve. The waiting is almost over, but not quite yet. Although the busyness of the holiday will probably push you from every direction today, try to find some time to sit in silent wonder of the One who was…and is…and is to come.

May your night and your Christmas be holy and happy and grace-filled. Merry Christmas!

The world in silent wonder waits…

It’s Christmas Eve. The waiting is almost over, something

Celebrating old St. Nick. For real.

My post from OSV Daily Take today:

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! This day has become a favorite at our house, ever since I began the tradition years ago of leaving little gifts in the kids’ shoes the night before. This morning when they came downstairs, they didn’t even remember it was St. Nicholas Day until they saw the chocolates and little items lined up in shoes by the front door. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces as they came down for school one by one. And, let me tell you, getting a smile out of the almost-15-year-old is not an easy feat.

It’s not too late to celebrate this feast day, which has come to mark a deepening of the Advent season for me. I’m not one of those early shoppers or early decorators. I like to wait — longer than my family likes to wait. But I have to admit that this feast usually puts me in the mood to start making the physical preparations for Christmas.

If you want to know more about St. Nicholas or would like some activities to share with children of all ages, check out the St. Nicholas Center, an awesome website chock full of resources, stories, coloring pages, games, history, and more. The image above is from the site.

And if you didn’t get to put a little something in the kids’ shoes this morning, leave a little chocolate, an orange or some small gift item for them to find when they come home this afternoon. If your house is anything like my house, there’s no shortage of shoes lying around just waiting to be filled.