Beauty Of the Everyday Kind

Beauty is missing from our culture. Oh, there are still a few beautiful buildings put up, and you can buy pretty things, and you can find artists making art, but the everyday making of beauty is missing.  We have devalued it until it has almost completely vanished. The mentality that if your work is not producing a paycheck then your work has no value is killing off everyday beauty. Home making is both work and an art form that is almost dead from neglect because it does not bring in a paycheck.

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Few are those who knit or crochet beautiful things for their homes. Most are now in the workforce doing jobs that bring paychecks. Few are the seamstresses who could make clothing for their families, and covers for chairs, and draperies–all things to make beauty–most of them are out in the workforce getting a paycheck. The person who created a beautiful table set, and home made beautiful food, is out getting the paycheck and hasn’t the energy for the niceties that make beauty happen.

Some amazing people manage to balance working for a paycheck and creating beauty, but far more cannot. The result is a loss of everyday beauty– the kind a parent at home with the kids was expected to at least try to create. My mother’s work could be seen in the afghan on the back of the couch, the needlepoint in the frame on the wall, the arrangement of furniture, the pillows, draperies,  and table settings(chosen or made), cleanliness, and meals. Our whole family benefited from her work.

Everyday beauty is created in the course of the work we call home-making.  Home making used to be considered a full time job, and women learned from childhood how to be good at it and bring their own unique touch to doing it. This effort takes TIME and ENERGY apart from the time and energy spent on the children and the marriage.

The hours reserved for the work of home making have been reassigned to the making of a paycheck because our culture chosen to demean all work that lacks a paycheck.  Everyday beauty is an art which our culture has deemed unfit to exist.  We need to see the sin in this, repent, and VALUE the making of beauty again.

Dear Lord, please help us to realize the value of beauty and the value of the person whose work creates it for us. Help us ALL come to the recognition that work worthy of doing sometimes has no paycheck attached and is still of great value. +Amen.

Visualizing A Tidy Home I

Reading in the book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo has gotten me visualizing my space and life as I would like it to be.  I am visualizing my house.

I can actually see it. I can see the entry, with the piano and two chairs with a tiny table, and the glass cabinets displaying that gorgeous type-writer collection of mine. A bench to the left as you come in to catch coats and shoes.

I next enter the Library. The walls are full of books, and in the center of the room is a round table with four chairs, ideal for school-work, or other study.

Turning the other direction, toward the kitchen, I see a wide open space with empty counters. I mean EMPTY. The beverage center has the coffee pot, clean and ready. Nothing else. The section of counter with the microwaves is EMPTY, clean, waiting for you to need it. The long counter under the window is EMPTY, clean, waiting. All needed tools and appliances are inside the drawers. There is only a lace curtain at the windows, letting in as much natural light as possible.

The living room is set up with my sewing machine, and the supplies and projects neatly on the shelves. Musical instruments in their cases sit also on the shelves. Long lace curtains give privacy without decreasing the view or the natural light.

My husband’s office has a closed door.

The air conditioners are working and the place is cool and dehumidified!

Upstairs, the children’s rooms are simple. Bins line the walls for toys and cleaning up is tossing toys into bins.

The master bedroom is also tidy. My side has book cases, my chair, and the baby swing. The TV is on the table which is empty otherwise.

I can see this book will be quite useful, but the exercises are not easy because they bring me up against the problems of shared space.

Dear Lord, please give me patience, with myself and with my family, as I struggle to change how I relate to our home. Help me to become clear in my mind and diligent in action to make what I visualize come to pass. Please help me as I work to master keeping a tidy home. +Amen.

Tidying Up

A friend recommended the book THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo. It only took a few clicks of the mouse for me to locate and purchase a used copy off Amazon. So here I am, as always, looking at the disaster that is my home, wanting it to be much neater and easier to keep nice, and as usual, I have NO idea how to begin. Or perhaps it is more the whole idea is terrifying to me.

Marie Kondo book image

I have no clue why it is terrifying, but it is.  My first exercise, according to the book THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, is to visualize my living space and life in that space. I have been doing that and plan to blog on various spaces as I visualize them.  I cannot see how this will make me able to keep my home tidy, but I am willing to do the work in the hope that a permanent change is possible.

My vocation includes making our house into a home, and I have never been very good at it. I WANT to be good at it. I believe my time writing will be freer if our environment is less cluttered. I believe everyone will benefit if our home functions better. I believe change is possible because God tells us that nothing is impossible with Christ. I also believe that God wills for me to keep our home well.

I intend to follow this author’s advice.  She says that it should be a six month process and that one should sort by category not by location. So while visualizing is about spaces, the step that follows is by category.  I think I can do that.

What concerns me the most is the problem of getting other members of the family on board with this project. I hope she deals with this issue somewhere in the pages of her book.

Dear Lord, please help me to make our home look the way I visualize it. Please help me to wisely declutter, keeping only those things that have a true use and are beautiful to me. Please help me to save and spend wisely. +Amen.

Patron Saints for Writers

I saw a wonderful blog post about Patron Saints of Writing Professionals which lists 7 excellent patron saints and tells a bit about each one. Noting that not one of my favorite Saints were on the list, I decided that I needed to do my own blog post about my “7” patron saints for writers. Each of these Saints were writers who left behind a body of work that has had a deep impact on me. Their books are cherished volumes on my shelves and their prayers I request every day.

Saint John the Evangelist: writer credited with the gospel I love re-reading the most, the gospel of John, a couple of letters and Revelation–some pretty amazing books of the New Testament. One of the original twelve. The words of his gospel are so deeply amazing and beautiful. I wish every child would memorize it so that they could carry those incredible images inside them their whole lives.

The Three Holy Hierarchs: Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory of Nissa, and Saint John Chrysostom. Yes, this is a group, that is because in the Orthodox Churches, with whom we share these and other patristic Saints, these three Saints writings are often grouped together for study.  I get a thrill out of reading anything from the patristic period, but these three in particular I ask to pray for me.

Saint Benedict: Founder of the Benedictines; wrote THE RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT which is still read daily by many people throughout the world and when they finish it, they start over. He understood work, and the need for it to be dedicated to God.

Saint Teresa of Avila: doctor of the Church, Carmelite reformer and foundress, and the writer of a whole lot of books, every single one of which is worth reading more than once! Top it off, she did all this writing while founding monasteries all over Spain and suffering a debilitating illness. She understood offering the writing up to God.

Saint John Paul II: This amazing Saint and Pope, wrote in all forms! He wrote poetry, plays, encyclicals, documents of all sorts, works of philosophy and theology, defender and preserver of culture, and an actor and lover of the outdoors and young people. I want him praying for my writing!

Saint Josemaria Escriva: again, this man was a writer. He fit his writing in around all his other ministry (like the founding of Opus Dei). He wrote extensively on offering your work to God, and letting your work, being well done, to be sanctified and sanctify. He taught about vocation, and as a writer, I have a vocation and I want it to be done perfectly and to be pleasing to God.  This man understood writing and vocation.

Saint Edith Stein: philosopher and carmelite. This Saint wrote a LOT, and the books she left behind are deep and profound and amazing. She offered it all up to God. Every bit of it, and even her sisters in the monastery did not know that she was a world class scholar and writer.  I want her praying for me too.

Beyond the Saints I ask to pray for me, there are others, who I do not include but perhaps ought to include. For example:

Saint Paul: who, while traveling, preaching, and spreading Christianity in a hostile culture, still found time in his busy life to write a huge percentage of the letters in the New Testament of the Bible. He clearly had a gift for writing, and the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce writing that was worthy and pleasing to God. I won’t ever write scripture, but who better to be praying that my writing please God?

Saint Thomas Aquinas: another brilliant writer whose works are read today. His “Prayer Before Study” has long been a favorite of mine. The worth of his writing is unchallenged and ought to be studied by everyone. He wrote hymns and theology that are unsurpassed.

Saint Ephram the Syrian: poet, hymn writer, theologian,  lived during the patristic period. His poetry is worth taking a look at, and such skill ought to make him a good patron for a writer.

I suspect I could find MANY others, but these are all Saints, and all writers whose work has lasted and who offered their gifts and words to God for His pleasure then shared them with the world. I pray we do the same.

Dear Lord, thank you for the many writers who are Saints; may they pray for those of us who are writers too, that our work be of the highest quality and please You oh Lord. +Amen.

Historical Fiction for U.S. History

Did you know that Louis L’Amour would scour libraries, court houses, and museums for original source materials such as diaries, old letters, records of all sorts, in addition to newspapers before writing his stories? Supplement a unit study with his books or build an entire unit study around them, Mr L’Amour’s intense research makes his stories a good source for educational enrichment.

His westerns are Historical Fiction and better researched than nearly anything else in that genre.  Westerns are a form of Historical Fiction that often gets overlooked. As parent educators we have the opportunity to bring history to life for our children with biographies and well researched historical fiction.  For the history of these United States, there is hardly any author better than Louis L’Amour.

So as you teach American History, and after the Little House books are read by the younger children, give the growing mind another set of stories to enjoy. Give them a stack of books by Louis l’Amour,

Currently his Short Stories are being reprinted. So far, the Louis L’Amour short stories are: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, & Vol. 3: Frontier Stories, Vol. 4 part 1 and,  for pre-order on Amazon, Vol. 4 Vol 2:Adventure Stories. Currently in print and at a reasonable price,

These collections of his short fiction do double duty for teaching American History, American Literature, and the Literary form of the Short Story.

Dear Lord, please bless the parents who choose to educate their children well. +Amen,

How Catholics Understand the Bible

I hear claims that because there are stories of violence in the Bible that we should reject the claims of Christianity.  This is a straw man argument; it ignores the actual manner in which Catholics understand and use the Bible.  For us, the proper way of understanding all scripture is within the context of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.  This teaching authority comes to us from the Apostles who got it from Jesus.

An excellent resource for reading scripture in context is the Ignatius Press version of the DIDACHE BIBLE. Or, if one prefers, the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC) is free at the Vatican website. Please note that the CCC is heavily footnoted to the Bible, and that the DIDACHE BIBLE is a study Bible that uses the CCC for its commentary.

History demonstrates that humans are a violent species. Just read up on ancient cultures. In the region where the Hebrews lived there were religious groups that practiced all manner of sacrifices, including human and even infant. So common was it, that when asked to give up his only son, Abraham dutifully went off to do exactly that, trusting that God would fulfill his promise of descendants through this son even if he were to sacrifice him on the altar. We learn from the Church that this story from the Old Testament demonstrates the supernatural nature of Abraham’s faith in God.

Living with the deeply ingrained belief that sacrifices were essential to the atonement for sin, in a time when some cultures went so far as to throw infants into fires before idols in the hopes of a good crop or other necessity, the leap of understanding from human sacrifice to the sacrifice of a Ram was significant.  It was a HUGE conceptual leap.  We are taught by the Church that it showed Abraham and his descendants not to copy the human sacrifices of their neighbors.

Another example: God commanded the Hebrews to go to war and leave none alive, not even the livestock.  We understand that in that time, humanity was violent and cruel. Genocide was a common practice, and to preserve the Hebrews and the ideas God was teaching them to comprehend, God had them do what was necessary to survive. Without their survival, the ideas they gave to the world would have been lost.

If YOU lived in a time when the ONLY way your children and extended family could survive was to be so powerful and violent that potential enemies left you alone, what would you do? The Hebrews, without great armies, without walled cities, were without any defense against being killed off.  God said, attack and I shall help you; and with their tiny group of men they did as God commanded and, against ridiculous odds, succeeded and survived– would you not be rejoicing for having won the right to exist?

The Catholic Church teaches the validity of self defense. These stories serve to illustrate the extreme violence of the human race before Christ.  This was how humans were, and the Hebrews, while carrying many concepts that were new, were still people of their time. The historical tales of the Old Testament illustrate where humanity goes when apart from Christ, demonstrates how God intervened and, because of the obedience and faith of Abraham, began the long process of forming the Hebrews into people from whom Jesus could come.

To further understand some of the ways that God changed the understanding of the Hebrews during the many years represented by the Old Testament, you might enjoy the book, THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS: HOW A TRIBE OF DESERT NOMADS CHANGED THE WAY EVERYONE THINKS AND FEELS by Thomas Cahill.

CHILDREN’S BOOK: Sisters of the Last Straw, Case of the Stolen Rosaries

This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring’s book Karen Kelly Boyce’s delightful children’s book Sisters of the Last Straw, Case of the Stolen Rosaries. It’s an SOA winner as well as an award-winning novel.

Summary: The Sisters of the Last Straw are a group of sisters struggling hard to overcome their bad habits. Sister Krumbles forgets everything. Sister Shiny can’t stop polishing and cleaning everything. Mother Mercy has a terrible temper. Yet when the misfit nuns band together to form a new order, lessons on tolerance and forgiveness (as well as much hilarity!) ensue. In this, the third of the series, the adventures of the lovable sisters continue! New troubles for the Sisters of the Last Straw require courage and cunning! A renegade rooster terrorizes the Sisters’ back yard and a mysterious thief snatches the Sisters’ rosaries. The Sisters struggle with their problems while seeking to love Jesus more. The Case of the Stolen Rosaries is a fun story that teaches tolerance and forgiveness in the midst of many comic exploits.

It’s available in paperback or electronically. You can read the first few chapters here: http://reginadoman.com/CP_book_previews/Sisters_of_the_Last_Straw_3_sample/index.html

Find it (and the other books in the series) on Amazon or get it from Chesteron Press. http://www.chestertonpress.com/sisters-of-the-last-straw-3-the-case-of-the-stolen-rosaries/

Karen’s website: www.karenkellyboyce.com/

 

Dear Lord, Thank You for writers who produce delightful books for children and adults to enjoy. Please bless them with abundant imagination and joy in their writing. +Amen.

True Devotion To The Holy Spirit by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez

I chose the book, TRUE DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT by Luis M. Martinez, as my spiritual reading and having finished it this morning, I thought to review it while still fresh in my mind. I HIGHLY recommend this book!

In the first notes the publisher tells us that TRUE DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT is an abridged edition of the book, THE SANCTIFIER, from the original by Archbishop Luis M, Martinez, EL ESPIRITU SANTO. This translation is by Sister M. Aquinas, O.S.U. copyright 2000 by Sophia Institute Press.

Archbishop Luis M. Martinez was archbishop of Mexico. His friends saw him as “a philosopher, a theologian, a teacher, an educator, a superior, a sociologist, a sacred orator, a writer, a poet, a director of souls, and a humorist.” My reading of this book gives me no doubt of the veracity of such accolades. The interior life of the person who wrote this book must have been as deep and fruitful as that of any Saint. If you read it, you too will see how true this is!

The book is divided into several parts, and each part is divided into chapters. My method of reading was to read only one chapter for each day and give myself time to think about the material before moving on. My experience was that for every insight that installed itself into my mind, there were great riches I passed by.  This is no shallow book.  This book is filled with fountains of richness.

True Devotion to the Holy Spirit is Part 1. The chapters cover topics pertaining to the meaning of devotion, entertaining the Holy Spirit as a guest in the soul, the Holy Spirit as director of the soul,  the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to the person to possess and to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit to form Jesus within each person and to perfect the soul, to lead you to Jesus and the Father, to reveal the mystery of the cross and teach us to love the cross and to love the Father’s will; our proper response to the Holy Spirit via loving attention, faith, hope, & love.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit is Part 2. The chapters cover the many ways that the Holy Spirit perfects the person by way of growth in the many virtues both natural and supernatural, and intellectual gifts.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit is Part 3. Here the chapters carry the subject of virtues further, teaching how the Holy Spirit brings about fruits that grow from the gifts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Three parts, and many chapters later, my word to you is to pick up this book and plan to read it over and over again.

Dear Lord, thank you for the wisdom of archbishop Luis M. Martinez; may Archbishop Martinez rest in everlasting peace and love. +Amen.

 

A Traditional Prayer to the Holy Spirit

I love this particular prayer. I love it because I love the Holy Trinity. I love the Our Father, because it references the first person of the one God. I love the Jesus Prayer and the Hail Mary for their focus on the second person of the Godhead. Few prayers say much about the Holy Spirit, third person of the Triune God, so I find myself praying this one in honor of God the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,

enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.

And you shall renew the face of the earth. +Amen

I love this prayer. Sometimes I even add it to my Rosary the same way I add the Jesus prayer (which I say for the intention of all the Church being united).

Today, let’s pray it together.

Jesus Meant What He Said

We lack comprehension of Scripture.  For example, Jesus meant what He said, and He said that it would be better to die than to harm a child.  Commonly we pass over the millstone around the neck/thrown into the sea passage, but should we? Is it not important to understand the magnitude of that little statement about the fate of those who harm even one child and view with horror their and our potential fate?

Ours is a callous age. We execute infants placed in the womb by the participants in the reproductive act. This is not an invader, this is an innocent who exists by the willful actions of the adults involved.  Yet, rather than the adults paying the price for their actions and allowing the birth of the child and giving him into the arms of parents who will love and protect the child, the price for the inconvenient pregnancy is paid by innocent blood.

Historically it hasn’t been much better. In 602 AD the Eastern Roman Emperor Maurice was executed.  The usurper Phocas did not stop with the execution of his predecessor but also murdered his five sons.  He must have ignored the words of Christ, with whose words he presumably was familiar as an educated Christian, for he murdered a three year old child. I feel horror at that act and its implications for the souls involved.

Better to die a sudden death by drowning than to harm/kill a child is a powerful statement.  Hell must be the destination of such a person; be they a new emperor in 602 AD, or a Muslim extremist in 2014, their eternal welfare would be greater were they to die before harming a child. We ought to pity them and pray for them. For Jesus meant what He said, and their fate if they die without repenting is the complete loss of Heaven and an eternity in Hell.  The woman who grieves an abortion is in infinitely better spiritual shape than the terrorist who kills children or the ancient emperor who executes the children of his predecessor. She repents deeply and with great pain but did/do they?

Dear Lord, thank You for forgiving the women who repent of abortion, grant them healing and do not let them be reproached by anyone; please end violence against children and bring everyone who harms children to full and complete repentance so that they too might be saved. +Amen.