A journey ends…

first draft

Almost five years after the initial idea was conceived…fourteen months and ten days after writing the first scene…after countless hours of thinking and working and absorbing inspiration and basically living mentally in a second world with five other people who are very real to me…it is done. Folks, you have West of Yesterday, thirty-one chapters and just under 87,000 words long.

I have been in love, crazy, obsessed with this story…but then, to write, I think you have to be, because if you don’t believe in it, no one else will–and what’s the value of a story no one believes in? Our art is merely sub-creation–but it is still done in imitation of our Creator, however imperfectly. There is a reflection of Him that becomes clear in us in a very real way when we use the gifts He gives to make something good, and beautiful, and true. I find a joy and meaning so deep in this process, even in the most frustrating parts of it, that it’s difficult to put it into words. I guess I just spent more than a year of my life putting it into 87,000 words!

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So I’m not really going to try to explain my emotion now, to describe everything that went into West of Yesterday…because I feel like I could go on forever and ever and still not tell everything that it means to me! There is a story behind the story’s coming-to-be that I will always treasure…but I’ll let the book speak for itself, one of these days soon! This post is just to celebrate the completion of a long and wonderful journey, an epoch of my life…and to explain why I have been so shamelessly neglectful posting out here!

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I will take a moment to wholeheartedly thank my two sisters, without whom there is no way this could ever have become what it is. Thank you both for sharing this journey with me!

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Novena to St. Achatius begins!

A most blessed Easter season to you all!!! Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia!

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Today marks the start of the novena to dear St. Achatius! I think it is safe to say that Achatius is one of the very least known of the Fourteen Holy Helpers…which might be why he is one of the dearest to my heart! The novena prayers to him are just beautiful, and equally meant for every soul because he watches over nothing less than our dying moments.

Having just journeyed with our Lord through His Passion and Death, and now celebrating the joyous springtime of His Resurrection, how the thought of our own death should be implanted more than ever in our souls! St. Achatius, a Roman soldier converted to the faith when divinely inspired in battle to pray to the God of the Christians, endured an agonizingly protracted death with zeal and patience for his newfound Lord. When questioned by one of his judges about his identity, he responded, “My name is Christian, because I am a follower of Christ; men call me Achatius.” He knew, upon discovering Christ, what his life and death meant and to whom they belonged. Do I? Do I live so?

Now is the time to deeply cultivate such courage and single-heartedness in our souls, to purify the direction of our lives, now, in the glory of the Risen Christ, knowing how He suffered for each one of us. How wonderful to have the feast of St. Achatius approaching to remind us that his legacy must be our own, and that we must echo his words by our lives: “I was so inspired by the combats and sufferings of the Christian martyrs I am resolved to shed my blood for Christ to attain Heaven.”

Preparatory Prayer

Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy Divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy Heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy Divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the Saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following his example imitate, like him, the life of Thy Divine Son.

Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through him I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of St. Achatius

O God, Who didst fortify Thy holy Martyr Achatius with constancy and trustful reliance on Thee in death; grant us through his intercession at the hour of our death to be free from all anxiety and victorious in our last combat with the enemy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Achatius

Valiant Martyr of Christ, St. Achatius, who preached Christ faithfully before kings and
judges, and didst gain the victory over the enemies of God; help me through thy powerful intercession to resist and gain the victory over all the enemies of my salvation, over the world and its allurements, over the concupiscence of the flesh, and over the temptations of Satan. I implore thee particularly to assist me in my agony, when the powers of Hell rise against me to rob my soul. Then do thou come to my aid and repel the assaults of the enemy, so that I surrender my soul into the hands of my Redeemer in faith, hope, and charity, and confiding in His infinite merits. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Closing Prayer

My Lord and God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the Saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

Novena to St. George begins today!

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A most blessed Palm Sunday to you!

I know it has been forever since I’ve posted anything, and I could do a lot of catching up…but before the day got away from me I just wanted to post a quick reminder for the first Holy Helper novena in quite a while, in honor of St. George. Whom I love so much!!!

Novena Prayers

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, St. George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. Amen.

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena. Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

My our triumphant Lord bless you, and St. George pray for you! Happy Holy Week!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

The First Step

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“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . .”

“We must ask for the love of crosses; then they become sweet.”

“The Cross gave peace to the world; and it must bring peace to our hearts. All our miseries come from not loving it. The fear of crosses increases them. A cross carried simply, and without those returns of self-love which exaggerate troubles, is no longer a cross. Peaceable suffering is no longer suffering. We complain of suffering! We should have much more reason to complain of not suffering, since nothing makes us more like Our Lord than carrying His Cross.”
-St. John Vianney (Catechism on Suffering)

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May you have a very blessed and holy season of Lent, and come to love the Cross as our Lord did for our sake!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Happy Feast, dear St. Pantaleon!

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When the Fourteen Holy Helpers first captured my heart with their devotion, I remember being overwhelmed with a sense of warmth and wantedness, the kind that only comes when you know a Saint (or, better yet, fourteen of them!) are looking for your friendship. I remember how delighted I was to learn that a song I’d studied once as a duet with Mary in voice lessons, Evening Prayer from the opera Hansel and Gretel, was written about them:

“When at night I go to sleep, fourteen angels watch do keep:
Two my head are guarding, two my feet are guiding,
Two are on my right hand, two are on my left hand,
Two who warmly cover, two who o’er me hover,
Two to whom ’tis given to guide my steps to Heaven.”

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A sketch I did of the Fourteen Helpers, the way I imagine them when they appeared as children

I’d been singing their praises long before I knew it!

I can’t choose favorites among my dear Holy Helpers. But if you were to ask which of them warms my heart the most–perhaps he’d be one of the “two who warmly cover”…you’d definitely hear St. Pantaleon’s name. Why? For one reason, because I discovered that my birthday today is also one of his alternative feast days. More than that, though, he is a patron against loneliness; and I have turned to him many times during some difficult battles with loneliness, especially throughout this last year. He is often known as St. Panteleimon, meaning “all-compassionate”, and rightly so. He is my compassionate, dear friend in Heaven, ever vigilant to remind me that I am never truly alone.

Happy Feast, dear patron!

 

 

My Valentine {a poem}

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

The poem below, revolving around the special love of God for His holy martyr, trickled into my heart over the course of the morning so far, and I thought I would share it here!

I love St. Valentine, and although of course the holiday has been secularized and commercialized half to death, I still believe it is worth celebrating as a great feast of true love, in honor of a great Saint who loved as ultimately as any human being can, through his martyrdom; for “greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life…”

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Is this not the most beautiful depiction of St. Valentine ever?!

May you have a beautiful day of celebrating the endless love of God, and the love you share with those He has placed in your life! Now for the poem (hope you enjoy!)

My Valentine

With flaming pen,
With darts of fire,
Didst on My Heart his name inscribe
My Valentine,
In script of gilded mastery,
Singly a martyr’s art.

A crimson rose,
A serenade,
Didst fly straight to My cloven Heart
My Valentine;
On virgin dove’s wings borne
To Me, an ecstasy of love.

Unto warm arms,
To My embrace,
Didst the cruel ax commend
My Valentine.
From anointed hands, dyed deepest red,
Bloomed forth a priestly gift.

Upon his brow,
His wounded brow,
Dost find My tender kiss impressed
My Valentine.
His eyes, delighted, now behold
His beauties in Love’s eyes:

A golden name,
A crimson rose,
A song My angels do not know.
My love, my dove,
Anointed one,
Thy dear face radiates My Son.

My Valentine, my Valentine,
The art of love is wholly thine.

A Young Lady’s Daybook {on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes}

Today…

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Monday, February 11th, 2019, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Also Ss. Saturninus and Companions, Martyrs.

This is always a special day in our family because, out of all the many, many Marian feasts throughout the year, we mark this one as Mary’s name day. Why? Well, at some point years ago, my parents chose Our Lady of Lourdes for Mary because it falls close to my birthday, while my name day, the feast of St. Clare, falls close to Mary’s birthday. Also, I was born on one of the alternative feasts of St. Bernadette. Isn’t that a pretty cool connection to have with a dear sister? I think so.

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As we won’t all be together tonight, we celebrated in anticipation of today’s feast last night with one of Mary’s favorite meals, a special prayer we pray on our name days, and Mom’s fabulous bread pudding. I love this tradition (similar to how we keep baptism days), and hope to incorporate it into my own domestic church one day, God willing!

Outside my window…

Weather-wise, today is a rather gray, misty, chilly day that looks more like February than did the several warm, brilliant days last week that tricked us and many of the trees around here that it is really May. But the daffodils are coming up just on time, and our house has been surrounded by birdsong since my younger sis put up several birdfeeders (from my grandmother) around the yard; so I believe Spring is still lurking around the corner, in spite of the drab weather!

Home around me…

I spend a great deal of time in this spare bedroom upstairs, adjacent to the bedroom I share with my two sisters; my desk and computer reside here (which means my book resides here!), along with my many notebooks, drawings from some of my favorite kiddos in the world (taped in a proud display above my desk), my Robert Fuller poster (which is really big…it was a surprise for Christmas…I did not get that size myself!), and the remnants of the stuff-to-go-through-from-my-grandmother’s-house-that-won’t-go-anywhere-else. Yeah.

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The poster I have!

But, a couple weekends ago my mom threw her energies into knocking out a ton of organizing/decluttering up here. Now I can actually walk to the windows on the far side of the room; there is a nice assortment of pictures she hung up (she didn’t make me take down my poster!), new curtains, and now the remaining clutter is at least sorted into organized piles. It’s much nicer than it was.

We recently rearranged our living room, moving the couches and recliner to face each other and the fireplace (above which hang our images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts), instead of the TV. It’s really beautiful and has facilitated better interaction as a family. I look forward to when it gets cold enough to have a fire (the only time we have this winter was when the power was out back in December…which wasn’t quite the idyllic, fun, lets-toast-marshmallows experience).

Thoughts on friendship…

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While I know that friendship is one of the arts of life that you continue learning all of your life, I feel that in a particular way, I’ve been discovering what it really means more than ever in the recent months.

Whatever else it may include…humor, shared experiences, like-mindedness, moments of excitement…friendship, in its essence, has to be a Christ-like love in order to survive and flourish no matter what. In other words, it has to be a death to self.

Through my adolescent years, I often wondered why it was that I could be so close to some friends for a period of time, and then completely fall out of touch and each other’s lives. I also noticed when there were some friends…few and far between…who, even if we didn’t see each other for years at a time, seemed just the same when we encountered each other again. It’s taken me a (ridiculously) long time to figure out that they were the friends who really loved me–not just the good times we had or how my affection flattered them–and that that is the kind of friend I should always strive to be. True friendship had to mean something deeper than the flighty, petty, girlish affection that came naturally with some girls and then died off just as easily.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only love.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta

Growing from a child into an adult teaches you much about the real nature of love; especially through the difficult, unpleasant experiences that we all encounter. You learn, the first time a dear friend passes away, that even the holiest human friendship must still encounter grief. You learn when you lose a great friendship through no fault of your own, if your own love is strong enough to accept hurt and keep loving, no one can make you stop. You learn that if whatever you shared with someone can be ended by them, even inside your own heart, it wasn’t love in the first place. You learn that true love can survive hidden in the catacombs of life, even when there is no way to reach the person you love anymore, except to pray for them.

You learn that prayer is the one thing you can still give the most hindered relationship. You learn that bitterness is more your enemy than anyone else’s, and that forgiveness is the truest proof of love that exists.

You learn that if you look more for what you’re getting from a relationship than what you’re giving, it’s doomed to shallowness. You learn that if you try to rush into closeness or confidence with someone at an unnatural pace, you’ll end up hurting you both. Only generosity, of time and service and a listening ear, and the patience to grow with someone can form a true bond that will withstand the fiercest tests of life; and generosity and patience only come from charity.

Of course you can’t be close to everyone, and you shouldn’t even try with people who might constitute bad company. But we all need a faithful friend, a sturdy shelter; “for it is not good that man be alone”.  I’m coming to see that if I can possess genuine friendship–which is love–readily in my heart, whether alone or surrounded by others, the souls that I am meant to travel beside along part of the road to Heaven will find Christ, the one True Friend, waiting for them in me.

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“A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek,
humble, and patient soul.”
-St. John of the Cross

From the bakery…

Not too much has been happening in this area lately, although I did make some of my molasses cookies last weekend for a very special police officer (hopefully he enjoyed them), the remainder of which we brought to share with some friends who welcomed us to their home, when we took them up on an open invitation rather last-minute! They are a beautiful, large family who live on a farm about an hour away from us. It’s the prettiest place you can imagine (I would so love to live on a farm!); and talk about baking! The bread, cinnamon rolls, and pies I’ve had (and I know they can make much more) are just about the most amazing thing you’ll ever eat! One of these days I hope to take some lessons from them.

At my desk…

I’m still basking in how organized it is since I cleaned it off (it was in dire need…) last week. I’ve been keeping the keyboard dusted, first by writing a 2,600-word scene that took three tries before, per my sister/editor’s advice…I canned it. It’s so sad at first…but really, I knew deep inside it wasn’t working from the start, and so I should have let it go long before I did. Oh well. Lessons learned.

Since then I’ve been working on another scene, nearly as long and rather complex because it involves a first conversation between two major characters who’ve never spoken and yet are connected/paralleled in many ways…I finished a rough first draft last night and am hoping that, after a little editing, it will turn out a whole lot better than the previous scene!

Also, my dad just helped me update my computer to Windows 10! Yay! (I’d been putting this off for forever, but now it’s so nice!) It’s been a pleasant change of scenery.

Beloved TV shows…

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While our family’s been cutting back considerably on TV intake lately, on a couple of occasions we’ve taken trips down memory lane to some of our favorite old fandoms. (Of course Laramie hasn’t ever become an ‘old fandom’ to me; I watch about half an episode every normal weekday while I walk on the treadmill in our basement…whatever keeps you exercising, right? And I count it as story inspiration!)

We watched a small Adam-12 marathon the other night (so fun! I love this show!)…

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And also watched a great episode of Emergency! the night after that…

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I really love shows that revolve around awesome partnerships…Reed and Malloy, Johnny and Roy, Slim and Jess…

Prayerfully…

Newly refocused on praying and doing penance for an end to abortion and all threats to the lives of precious babies. Praying for different extended family members experiencing health challenges. Praying for the grace to strive after penance, as our Lady of Lourdes asked us to, for there is much to make reparation for and to pray for.

A parting thought…

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A year ago at this time, I was emailing back and forth with the Benedictines of Mary, about details for my discernment trip. I was approaching my nineteenth birthday thinking it could be the last I’d celebrate at home with my family. I cut off a lot of my hair, thinking I wouldn’t need it…as girls who want to be nuns do.

Today, I cherish in my heart the desire of being married and raising a family; I’m still so grateful for the huge experience of that discernment trip, still benefitting from the graces and growth given me there, but I don’t desire to go back (except maybe to visit the lovely sisters one day!) And I am so grateful to be at home. I am approaching my twentieth birthday with the joyful expectation of celebrating it with the family God has given me, treasuring it specially because it will be the last with all of us kids together at home, the last before I am the oldest at home.

And my hair is growing longer…just last night, my younger sister was practicing styles worthy of a maid of honor.

What a beautiful, rich, exciting mystery life is. What can change in a year!

“What should you fear, my dearest one,
since you belong to God Who has so strongly assured us
that for those who love Him all things turn into happiness.”
-Fr. Jacques Phillipe

May God bless you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

That Sweet “Ave” {my wonderful sister’s new blog!}

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It is so amazing having Mary as my older sister. I think that there’s nothing quite so special as being in a family, because while every person in the world is a unique and highly lovable image of God, in our finite state we can’t possibly know and love all seven billion other people here on an intimate level. In our family members, God has entrusted us with the sharing of a very special knowledge and love of particular souls He was delighted to create.

While no one can deny that living in a family has its challenges and griefs as well as joys, I can attest to what an amazing blessing it is to share the close bond I do with the five people in my home.

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Mary and I share a best-friendship-sisterhood that is and always will be irreplaceable to me. We compliment and connect on so many levels, even if, to the death, she is Joy and I am Sadness! Everything we share just can’t be put into words. I feel so sorry whenever I hear of sisters who, for one reason or another, have less-than-close relationships; my sisters are two of the closest people in the world to me! For almost a year now all three of us have shared a bedroom; not out of necessity (actually there’s a whole other room next door one or two of us could occupy) but out of love. Our room is one of my favorite places in the world. And it’s going to be very hard when Mary isn’t there anymore!

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Mary and I, Autumn 2018

Watching her enter into engagement is surreal. I don’t think I slow down enough to really think about it…though maybe if I thought about it too much, I’d be “too sad to walk”! And yet even though I can’t really fathom home without her, and know it will be a very difficult transition for everyone (especially me!), watching her dreams come true gives me intense joy. Watching her with the Dash (whom I love dearly even though he’s taking her away!) gives me great hope that there is someone just as wonderful for me somewhere. Being a witness of this whole journey has helped me to grow, challenged how I face life on many levels, increased my love for my family, and taught me so much to “keep and treasure in my heart” for when my own hour comes. She is paving the way, and I know that my own journey down it will be the smoother for it. That’s how it’s always been with Mary; though I doubt she thinks of herself much this way, in the little world of us four siblings, she is the first daring explorer embarking on the great expedition; the road-builder braving a wilderness; the first soldier to charge from the trenches into the line of fire. She is, and always will be, the Peter of us Pevensies!

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And so, in this time of transition and new discoveries, she has started a new blog (the perfect timing, I think), That Sweet “Ave”, which I wanted to share with you here. I know that, like me, you’ll be blessed through her and her journey!

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Hello there…

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I hope that your celebration of Christmas and the Epiphany has been full of many graces and joys this season!

I just wanted to peep out here for a couple of reasons; one, to say that I haven’t died or dropped off the face of the earth. It’s just that I’ve been, since the middle of Advent when I was out here last, sick or busy or absorbed or sick or spending time with family or busy, to the point that blogging has had to take a backseat to life. It’s hardly that there haven’t been lessons, graces, and joys worth blogging about; it’s that there’s been too many to leave time for blogging!

I also wanted to extend to you a request that a friend from out of state shared with me this morning. I’ve never been able to participate in the March for Life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very important to me! It seems that the church group my friend is going with are in need of additional funds to make this trip possible for them. In a desire to help more than I can help by myself, I thought I’d share the GoFundMe link she forwarded me here, in case you’d like to help out. Please at least say a prayer for God to provide the means they need!

Also, if you would say a prayer for a very dear friend of mine who was involved in an awful car accident on Christmas Eve. She was injured in so many ways; thanks be to God, there should be no lasting damage of any kind, but it is still a long road to complete recovery. There couldn’t be a more precious, talented, lovely young lady–if you don’t believe me, just check out her YouTube channel here.

I was hoping to be able to visit her today, but we’ve just found out we have flu in our house, and that’s the last thing I need to share with her! Offering the disappointment for her…and hopefully, God willing, the visit will work out soon. One thing I’ve learned through all this happening is that you truly never know how precious the time you might have shared with others was, until you come close to not having a chance to share time with them again. It is a huge blessing to me that my friend is alive and seems as eager to cultivate our old friendship as I am. She inspires me, and through her, God has given me the gift of a new perspective on life and true friendship this Christmas season.

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Thank you, dearest Lord and dearest Blessed Mother, for answered prayers and second chances! Let us not lose heart in prayer or zeal to make good use of the time we’re given!

God bless you!
In our loving Lady,
Lena

St. Joseph’s Advent

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We knew on the threshold of it all that this would be a busy, and potentially stressful, December. There would be a big downsizing move to make happen for my grandmother; there would be a big graduation to celebrate and a party to plan; there’d be a couple of birthdays, special Masses and lots of church obligations, a great many of which included singing. We knew we were really in need of good health at the very time of year when everyone–especially us–gets sick. Weather forecasts looked uncertain–not a great sign for the move–there was Christmas itself to prepare for individually and as a family. Throw in an orthodontist appointment here and school to wrap up there, and all in all it was promising to be the busiest month yet of a busy year.

And yet I think many of us entertained a determination, as we formed our Advent resolutions, that we would manage to find the space for the deep quiet, prayer, and contemplation that Advent ought to thrive in. Our family loves Advent. It’s like a brighter and easier Lent. As always, by the first Sunday, we had each chosen something to work on in ourselves, to really cleanse and prepare our souls for the coming of the Christ Child. As a family we made our typical resolution of not watching TV so much in the evenings. We kept our simplified gift-giving plan which worked so well last year.

We all knew what kind of Advent we wanted; we all were as determined as ever to keep the ridiculous secular “rush” of the “holiday season” firmly outside of our little domestic church so we could look forward, well-prepared and full of peace and serenity, to a delightful Christmas–probably the last family Christmas with all us kids at home.

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Fast forward to sometime amidst the first week of Advent. The first venture out to help my grandmother pack has been a less-than-encouraging taste of the amount of work to be done and left us all pretty tired and a little overwhelmed. We’ve managed to keep my mom’s birthday in our sacred tradition of family birthdays, but my brother had to go to the doctor to see about a cough he can’t shake from a month-old cold. We’re all holding our breath to see if he picked up some far worse germ in the sick waiting room of the pediatrician when my younger sister is struck down by the nastiest, tonsillitis-inducing, most miserable cold virus imaginable. Her head aches, her throat is blistered, she has a cough. Back to the pediatrician. Of course, it’s just a virus, and there’s nothing to really do but give her a symptom reliever and wait it out (and hope no one else catches it). And there’s nothing to do when you feel that way but lie on the couch and watch TV to get your mind off it.

Meanwhile, the weather forecast is only worsening, and planning the upcoming move becomes a constant frustration to my dad and mom, who try to keep their spirits up by walking around singing “If we make it through December” to each other. A completely forgotten dentist appointment springs up for my sister and I. Come to find out, I need my bonding replaced where I knocked half of one of my teeth of at a playground when I was eleven. But we manage to celebrate St. Nicholas day, complete with slippers and homemade St. Nicholas cookies, before more packing finishes the day.

My younger sister worsens, now fighting nausea because of the Mucinex. The weather is nasty outside. We split the family up between the vigil and morning Masses for the Immaculate Conception so someone can be home with her; instead of snow this year it is nasty, cold, drizzly rain all day. But at least we’ve gotten a date set for moving my grandmother, hired some movers to help with the furniture. That’s a load eased on Dad’s mind. The Dash is able to spend a lot of the weekend with us and we have a movie night Saturday. But by the time it’s done, the wind outside is so bad that Mary convinces him to spend the night again, for fear that he’ll be crushed by some tree falling trying to drive down off our mountain. We all get to sleep in spite of the howling wind (and any jitters left over from watching The Village), knowing we needed to be up and to church for choir practice the next morning.

I wake up on the second Sunday of Advent, glance over at my clock to see what time it is, and find it blank. “Oh,” I exclaimed with sleepy placidness, “the power’s out.”

Come to find out, it had been out since about midnight, waking most everyone up. Mary and my younger sis had also been up for a while that night because younger sis was feeling miserable. I’d slept straight through it all.

Okay, so now the house was freezing and we had to figure out a way to get ready for church in the cold dark without running water (we’re on a well so no power means no water as well). The power company hadn’t even sent a crew to locate the problem. My dad’s generators, which he invested in and kept ready for situations like this one, decided to fail on him. Everyone but me, it seemed, hadn’t slept half the night and was at least exhausted if not cranky. I wasn’t feeling too excited about life myself.

And then, as if on cue, the symptom relievers finally got the best of my sister and she got sick. That wasn’t the greatest morning ever. But eventually, Dad had got a fire going in our fireplace (the first of the season), my younger sis was snuggled on the couch near Mom, and the Dash whisked Mary, myself, and my brother off to choir and Mass.

Our pew felt sadly empty with just the four of us as we knelt there, drowsy and wrinkled, through the rosary and Mass. As I tried to keep my focus on the mysteries (and not on the manifold abundance of cute little kids everywhere), I wondered at the craziness of this Advent. I missed my sister and thought about how much I hurt when she suffered. I thought about my resolutions–to be strictly faithful to my daily prayer routine, which had, because of all the busyness, not changed too much from the norm. I heard the voices of my dad and mom and Mary all confiding in me how impossible it seemed to just settle into Advent this year, to be still long enough to draw in a breath and think about the meaning of the season.

And then, somewhere in those decades, it came to me that maybe we were looking at all this the wrong way.

I contemplated the fact that God was in control of everything happening, from the weather to the electricity to my younger sister. And it was all beyond our control. We weren’t filling up the quiet of Advent with the secular cacophony of parties and shopping extravaganzas and Elfs on Shelfs. We were literally trying to “make it through December”, to reach Christmas all alive and together and in one piece. That was all, and boy howdy, this year, there wasn’t room for anything else.

Last Advent, I was working through all the emotions of truly believing that I would be in a convent in Missouri next Christmas. Looking back, I now realize with gratitude and joy that God has perfected quite different plans for me this year.

But I also realize that, if I were at Ephesus now, I would be living that Advent that my family dreamed of at the beginning of this crazy December; a season of silence, deep prayer, sweet contemplation and undisturbed preparation for Christmas. In the monastic life, there is room for all of that; the monastic life revolves around that. I remember my spiritual director talking of how the ability to live the liturgical year so deeply is one of the great perks of the religious life.

And then I understood, as I toyed with my rosary beads and murmured Hail Marys. All this month had seemed senseless simply because we’d been expecting to be able to live the Advent of a religious, and instead was getting a good taste of the Advent of the laity, the faithful living in the world. We’d been God expected us to participate in the Advent of Our Lady when in reality, ours was the Advent of St. Joseph.

If one considers that first Advent and the Holy Family on their way to Bethlehem, this makes such sense. We see Our Lady, who trusted St. Joseph to guide their way and protect them, with God Incarnate within her womb, and was able to spend her Advent in holy silence, in the glories of her deep contemplation and prayer, her soul lost in the wonders of the Child within her.

And then we look at St. Joseph. He knew that he was with the Mother of God, and God Himself in her womb, every waking minute of that journey. And yet he didn’t have the option of simply sitting and focusing on the sublime joy and mysteries at his side. His soul probably ached to be able to do so. And yet, he had to focus on getting them safely from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to make sure they were headed in the right direction every day, to try to find the smoothest road. He needed to keep Mary warm and comfortable as he could, to find food when there wasn’t enough, to bear with his stubborn donkey and his aching feet, to cross rivers and rough landscapes, and eventually to shoulder the stress of trying to find a place for the birth of God when nothing but a stable was available. And we feel certain he never failed to brush down his donkey at the end of the day and make sure it was fed. We are confident that he never failed in his love and gentleness towards Our Lady in the most frustrating times, and that God knew what He was doing when he chose the foster-father of His Only-Begotten Son.

God needed St. Joseph to focus on the numberless cares and concerns he shouldered during that first Advent, and trust that Our Lady and our Lord were ever at his side and ever mindful of his efforts. That was, simply put, his state in life, the duties that made him one of the greatest and dearest Saints in Heaven. And, as the laity, we find that is also ours. Those called to the religious life are invited into the deep Advent of our Lady; but we who are called to serve God in the world are given a share in the Advent of St. Joseph.

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It seems that God knows what He’s about. Sunday, with the power still out, we ended up going to my grandmother’s house to get warm. After spending the night, we spent Monday morning helping with more packing–and realized that we really needed to be there to help get ready for the move the next day. Things continued to be, as they had been all month, a tapestry of little joys and little stresses. Younger sis was finally beginning to pick up a little bit, and the power came back on earlier than expected. And then we got home and had to throw out a refrigerator full of food because it hadn’t been running for over thirty hours.

But we got dinner, and slept well, and then tackled the move yesterday–all things considered, the day couldn’t have gone better. In spite of some worries over icy road conditions in the morning, the day grew beautiful and God worked the timing out just right.

And today, I find that Advent is half over; Christmas, less than two weeks away, the Golden Nights fast approaching. There’s still plenty to do, and probably some unexpected challenges ahead of us. But I can already see how my family has grown together in a beautiful way this first half of the season, and I’m really thrilled to be able to look forward to celebrating this Christmas with them, whatever the externals look like. I feel pretty confident that, with St. Joseph’s help, we’ll find a way to make it through December.

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So, a blessed Advent to you all…and happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

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Novena to St. Barbara

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Today marks the beginning of St. Barbara’s novena! I just wanted to share the prayers for now, and hope to post and catch up at length soon. God bless!

Prayer in Honor of St. Barbara

O GOD, Who didst adorn Thy holy Virgin and Martyr Barbara with extraordinary fortitude in the confession of the Faith, and didst console her in the most atrocious torments; grant us through her intercession perseverance in the fulfillment of Thy law and the grace of being fortified before our end with the holy Sacraments, and of a happy death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Barbara

INTREPID Virgin and Martyr, St. Barbara, through thy intercession come to my aid in all needs of my soul. Obtain for me the grace to be preserved from a sudden and unprovided death; assist me in my agony, when my senses are benumbed and I am in the throes of death. Then, O powerful patroness of the dying, come to my aid! Repel from me all the assaults and temptations of the evil one, and obtain for me the grace to receive before death the holy Sacraments, that I breathe forth my soul confirmed in faith, hope, and charity, and be worthy to enter eternal glory. Amen.

St. Barbara, at my last end
Obtain for me the Sacrament;
Assist one in that direst need
When I my God and Judge must meet:
That robed in sanctifying grace
My soul may stand before His face.

A Young Lady’s Daybook: November afternoon

Today…

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Image from Wikipedia

Friday, November 9th, 2018; the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. For St. Alphonsus Liguori fans, one might remember today also as the founding of the Redemptorist order…which, like everything else St. Alphonsus did in life, was hardly easy but very worthwhile.

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I always remember this day as such because it is also the day which begins my 33-day preparation to renew my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary (according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort) on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Oh, joyous breath of fresh Marian air which this renewal of consecration brings each year! I know that it is not necessary for one to repeat the preparation period after the initial consecration, but I find I need it very much to keep my devotion to our Lady fresh in my mind and heart.

Outside my window…

November! Perfect November! It is only at this time of year, when the trees reveal their true beauty that has lain dormant for so long and there is a comfortable nip in the air, can I really love gray weather, even drizzly weather. I don’t know why exactly that is; my best guess is that the autumn colors show up just as well, and perhaps even better, against a smoky gray sky as they do a clear blue one.

In any event, this November stands out as a particularly enjoyable one in my memory, not because the weather has been particularly nice but because the cold waited to come for so long this year that the leaves took their sweet time turning–and not into a blaze of glory after all, but a sweet and gentle warming of color and beauty that grows deeper the longer one gazes upon it. And so the sense of delight in looking outside that I usually experience mid-October is filling me now, in November, a month which is usually not among my favorites. It’s a little like suddenly finding you are in love with a friend you never thought you could care for in that way. Oh look, I just made a nice segue into…

Home around me…

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Why couldn’t there have been a movie based off Anne’s House of Dreams?!

Although I have hardly left home more than necessary over the past couple of weeks, having been in an extended battle with a rather nasty little seasonal cold which is only just opening its jaws to let me escape, I’ve been avoiding cabin fever by plunging into a really good read of some of my favorite books in the whole wide world; the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery.

I first read the eight-book series when I was about eleven, and I remember loving them fondly then. But in my re-read of three of them in the course of this cold (I started quite un-chronologically with Anne’s House of Dreams because I wanted a cozy, romantic, comfort-food read, enjoyed it immensely, and then doubled back to Anne of the Island because I knew there was so much I was forgetting, and am now enjoying Anne of Windy Poplars) I have realized just how much more a book can mean when you’ve grown to be the main character’s age and can empathize with them and their experiences. Anne of the Island begins with Anne as a nineteen-year-old, and I can hardly express how much I love that book after having re-read it. It holds so much life in its pages; it’s really my favorite love story I’ve ever read.

But when I come back to home from my sojourns in Avonlea or Redmond or Summerside, home is a lovely place to find myself. It is quiet and cozy, especially in the afternoons; most of us are recovered or at least on the mend from the life-halting cold that brought all of us down. Things are not quite so messy as they were when everyone was sick; I’m still regaining my energy and am not back in full house-cleaning mode, but hope to be there soon and have been able to do some baking here and there this week. There’s certainly nothing like being sick to make you appreciate good health and energy, and give you a brightness about life upon your recovery. I think that is why I feel particularly cheerful today!

And there is so much to look forward to…two family birthdays are drawing closer on the calendar; I love birthdays. Then Thanksgiving–I love Thanksgiving and am entertaining hopes that we might be able to get ahold of a fresh pumpkin so that I can make a from-scratch pumpkin pie this year. I’ve made them before, but never with a homemade crust nor at Thanksgiving…we’ll see what this year brings! Though different years hold varying plans and locations for our family Thanksgiving dinner, this year we shall be hosting it at our own table, and I am so excited!

And after Thanksgiving, it will hardly be any time at all before the first Sunday of Advent; the new year. Wow.

Thoughts on money…

I’ve often been asked by friends or siblings, “If you could buy ANYTHING you wanted and you could ONLY spend the money on YOURSELF, what would you get?”

I used to enjoy frustrating people by coming up with cleverly selfless answers, but usually settled on something concrete. These days I find myself, unasked, coming up with lots of ideas for things I would like to get if I had money…but really don’t have the money for.

Of course, I try not to let the thought of material things consume me and make me avaricious or discontent with what I have, but in humility I have to admit that there are many things it would be nice to have. Like just about every dress on Jen Clothing because I really would love to have day dresses to wear all the time, as well as dresses for church and dances and social events that are beautiful and feminine. And it would be lovely to have so many of the saints I love from Portraits of Saints. And I could probably think of so many little kitchen accessories…new baking sheets…a cookie jar…biscuit and cookie cutters…a cake pedestal…I really could go on and on!

It’s probably easy for anyone to make a wish list of shameless, practical things they’d like to have. But there’s also much to be said for doing without having everything you would like. After all, who really wants to be a spoiled person? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a moderate desire, kept in check with gratitude; it can be transformed into virtue as it  provides an opportunity of embracing sacrifice, which is the key to joy. I think of the married life I hope and pray for, the large family I hope and pray for, and the inherent likelihood of most always “treading water” and “making ends meet” financially. But that image of the future makes me smile, in the spirit of Maria von Trapp; “We aren’t poor; we just don’t have any money.”

And really, I feel grateful that, in this time of life, I do not have significant financial means at my disposal that could easily get me any little thing I want on a whim–or a bigger thing, either. It is good to keep self-denial in healthy practice, especially when I already am far better provided for by my hard-working dad than most people in the world today.

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And, when all’s said and done, you can make some pretty nice cookies without cookie cutters!

From the bakery…

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The result of quickly-ripening, abundant bananas! I’ve been making this muffin recipe for years and we love it. This picture is from a different batch than the one I made this week, which contained variations such as walnuts sprinkled on top and mini muffins chock-full of mini chocolate chips (which only my sisters and I like and happily eat every one of!) I love muffins for their versatility and dainty irresistibleness.

At my desk…

This is really the most I’ve done in days, having spent larger quantities of time downstairs lately. I need to work on my book…and to answer a couple of letters from good friends which brightened up cold-weary days considerably!

Movies…

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So it’s not quite a movie, per se, but The Waltons has been playing a lot around here lately with the discovery that, in addition to the first two seasons (which we own), we have all nine seasons available on Amazon Prime. Binge watching!!!

In all seriousness, though, there is something very special about this show, especially the earlier seasons and some of the big episodes (like people getting married and stuff like that). The writing is so good; the family dynamic so natural; the life lessons so true and heartwarming. I’m a huge sucker for the time period and setting alike, in love with old-fashioned things and the simple country life as well as adoring the South, and being something of a Mountain girl myself. And who couldn’t love John-Boy?

Speaking of the South, we recently re-watched one of our favorites, Gods and Generals. That movie really ranks among my top ten favorites of all time.

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It just makes me depressed that we lost the war…

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Prayerfully…

I am praying especially right now for my grandmother, who recently lost her eldest sister as well as a brother-in-law and is now with her family at the funeral (none of us could make it due to sickness). She is such a generous, caring, and strong woman and I love her so much!

Also, of course, praying for the souls of the faithful departed, especially my own family members and friends. My dear mom always puts up pictures of our departed family members on the refrigerator throughout November as a reminder to pray for them, along with a calendar designating each day of the month to a particular soul. This is one of the wonderful domestic church traditions I hope to carry on in my own home one day.

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A parting thought…

The other day as I was doing some random research I stumbled across a collection of the most adorable pictures of actor Martin Milner (whom my siblings and I love from the old cop show Adam-12) with his wife (to whom he stayed married!) and beloved children, as well as a quote from him that, along with the pictures, positively warmed my heart.

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“Sure, stardom is swell, but so much depends on luck and timing, things like that. Love and marriage don’t depend on luck. Those you have to earn; but once earned, they’re yours for life!”
-Martin Milner

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

 

1P5 :: ‘Take Me to the Pigs’: Finding Hope in Dark Times — Benedic, Domine, Nos

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I just had to share this truly inspiring article with you that my wonderful sister Mary wrote and had published on OnePeterFive this week. I’m so very proud of and grateful for her! Enjoy!

OnePeterFive graciously published an article of mine yesterday; you can find it here 🙂 Have a blessed Monday!

via 1P5 :: ‘Take Me to the Pigs’: Finding Hope in Dark Times — Benedic, Domine, Nos

A Young Lady’s Daybook, October 26th, 2018

Today…

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Friday, October 26th, 2018. Commemoration of St. Evaristus, Pope and Martyr. From the Epistle for the common Si diligis me, of a Pope:

“But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will Himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.”

Outside my window…

It finally feels like October!!! Although the leaves have taken their time catching on to the fact that it’s Fall and they’re supposed to be changing colors, I think that glory of color is just around the corner. It will just be a little later than usual this year! But I’m really so happy it’s cool outside. We’ve been pulling out sweaters and all sorts of fun, warm clothes that haven’t been seen for a long time. Of course I managed to already pick up a touch of some kind of seasonal cold…but I think I’ve about kicked it.

Today is gray–but that kind of Autumnal gray that is somehow more beautiful than gray at any other time of year. Last night I fell asleep to the gentle sound of rain plunking down on the roof…there’s no cozier feeling! Except for that magical moment the first time Dad turns the heat on and it begins to steam through the vents with that unique smell that has thrilled me as long as I can remember (for us that happened just the other day).

Home around me…

Dad is working from home today…which always makes a day brighter…no plans to go out today as far as I know, especially for me as I’m trying to shake this cold and the weather could be more clement for my immune system. My younger sister and brother are, I’m sure, glad it’s Friday. I’m so proud of how hard they’ve been working this school year, as well as of all the effort and patience Mom has put into teaching them. Our homeschool really is very blessed, even on the challenging days.

Being at home and not in school anymore, it’s a walk down memory lane to watch them both doing what I was doing not too very long ago. I feel very blessed to have been given the education I was, to have the chance to learn and develop the skills I am acquiring now, and to have such a great example if it is God’s will that one day I have a homeschool of my own.

Thoughts on my career…

On the note of what I am learning now, as of late I’ve been mulling over the best way to respond to those scenarios that inevitably happen: you run into a friend at a party/dance/annual event that you only ever see at that party/dance/annual event. A conversation is struck up with the question: “Are you still in school?”
“No, I graduated a while ago.”
“Oh, that’s right. Are you in college then?”
“No. I’m still at home.”
“Oh. What do you do?”
And it never fails–although I know perfectly well what I do with myself during the day, that I spend my time productively (or at least strive to) and am quite affirmed in all the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing (and, by extension, not doing what I’m not)–I scramble for something to say. Maybe because I know that whatever answer I come up with probably won’t sound impressive to whoever it is, because it’s probably going to be a short conversation without the time or attention span required to delve deep enough into my convictions for them to fully resonate. Maybe because we’re dancing and it’s extremely difficult sometimes to speak intelligently when I’m dancing. Maybe because I spend my time not doing one very impressive, concrete thing, but rather a bunch of small things. Maybe most of all because this time of life boils down to a waiting for God to work, which requires a constant internal faceoff between trust and insecurity; and in the mindset of the world, “security” is the most important thing a young person can strive after.

I sometimes feel as I stammer through, “Um–I help around the house–and help my siblings with school–and do little things…”,  I can just hear the opposite mindset blaring in the back of my mind, making whatever I say sound somehow pathetic, insignificant, or insufficient.

Sometimes I weakly fall back at last on the most impressive-sounding thing I do, which is, “I do a lot of creative writing.” But that leads to… “Oh, that’s cool. Do you want to be a writer?”

Thinking back on the many conversations I’ve had like this–all with well-meaning and loving people, of course–I can see how that default of my vanity can lead in a direction I’m not trying to go. Because, sure I love writing, but no. I don’t want a career in writing. That is not the goal I have in mind in this time of my life. I want the career of getting married and raising kids that will be saints. I don’t want to be famous; I want a husband that will love me. I don’t want to spend my time chasing false security; I want to rest in God’s hands, to be a homemaker and stay-at-home mother with tons of kids who relies on my husband as provider, God willing, as it was meant to be. I want to make the sacrifices that requires. I want to be part of the solution to our broken culture and backwards line of thinking.

Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, I find great joy and meaning in writing. But how I could ever think that could be more meaningful or fulfilling–that any worldly career sought after for “security” could be more meaningful and fulfilling than a life of service and sacrifice, of love and learning, of holy joys and holy sorrows with a husband and children–that is beyond me. How empty anything less that I could seek for myself would be. How infinitely insecure.

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(This is from Unbroken: Path to Redemption…a movie that stole my heart and I personally found amazing. Maybe I should just carry this picture in my pocket to show people…”this is what I want!”)

One thing that I’ve identified in myself that has made those conversations so difficult for me at times is that I’ve let myself fall into the trap of feeling ashamed of my dreams. Shouldn’t I be proud that I am aiming for, praying for, waiting and preparing myself for the most noble and beautiful career any laywoman could achieve? If a given college student is happy to announce, “I’m in medical school,” “I want to be an interior designer,” “I’m aiming for a culinary degree,” “I’m studying to be a teacher,”, then shouldn’t I be insanely proud to announce that I’m hoping, when the time comes, to take on all of those things at once?

So, as of late, I’m thinking that the next time I get that question, “What are you doing?” or “What are your plans?”, I might playfully say, “I’m taking courses in medicine, interior deign, culinary arts, and teaching. What are you doing?” Or simply, with the glow of confidence with which an idealistic young lady should announce her hopes, “I hope to be a wife and mother one day, if that is God’s plan.” Because isn’t God’s plan the ultimate–the only–real security?

Wow. That was a ramble, wasn’t it?

From the bakery…

Lately it’s been oatmeal cookies every Wednesday for our local Fraternus chapter’s weekly meetings. I’ve been informed that they are a favorite for more than one fella there…the only thing that’s hard about them is keeping my own dad and brother out of them during the day!

Also, my younger sis and I made a Hershey’s chocolate cake last Friday when we had some friends over for desert and music. It turned out amazing because she was involved–she is so much better with cake than I am!

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This is actually a different cake, but the same recipe. It’s like my dad’s favorite thing in the world.

I’m reminded of a quote…

“Mr. Biddle is on a chocolate cake diet. He says it’s the perfect food, containing every essential element.”

(From The Happiest Millionaire)

At my desk…

Currently, my desk is, I will admit, a bit of a mess. But that’s okay. There is a rather precarious stack of notebooks near one elbow, a cooling cup of coffee near the other, and a couple of really quite amazing drawings of birds (one of hummingbirds, the other of a blue heron) on printer paper, waiting to be taped up as promised above my computer (they were done for me by the two oldest of the family of seven kids I’ve been so blessed to be able to spend some time helping out–but mostly learning from–over these past weeks. They are just the most adorable kids ever!) On Spotify, my soundtrack for my current novel (right now, the song Leaving the Compound from the soundtrack for Hostiles [which I’m never going to watch because I’ve confiscated the music for my story!]) is being slightly eclipsed by my younger sister practicing piano in our music room, directly below me.

Speaking of my current novel, I just realized that the last (and only, I fear) time I made one of these daybook posts, back in June, I was on Chapter Three. I’m about to start Chapter Eleven! Yesterday I realized this will probably mark the midpoint of the story–or at least, as far as someone who neither plots nor structures her novel can predict! It’s really going so well. Slower than Paint Everything Blue (I’ve already spent more time on West of Yesterday than it took to write the whole first draft of P.E.B.!), but that’s okay. To me it’s worth it. I didn’t think I would ever be as in-love with another novel as I was with my first. But here I am. I’ve never loved a story like I love West of Yesterday.

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Yes, I’m kind of hoping that it won’t take as long to write the second half of the story as it has the first, mainly because of one friend who is quite ready to read it (and because I do want all my characters to be happy and fulfilled!). But really, this stage of being in the middle of a book is so much more fun than trying to get one started, trying to settle on an idea, or just having finished one (incredibly bittersweet!) that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Movies…

Last night I managed to get in a Laramie night because some of the family was out, but I was home with a cold, with Mom (who is my Laramie buddy) and my younger sister. We watched The Lost Dutchman. Poor Jess had another rough day. And another bullet in the arm. It’s really kind of ridiculous how much I love this show…but it makes me so happy (I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with Jess…My mom keeps telling me that I’m going to end up marrying a cowboy!)

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“Can I interrupt you long enough to ask one question? What in the foggy blue mornin’ are you talking about?”

Earlier this week Mom, my younger sis and I happened to catch the second half of Crimson Tide (the language-edited-for-TV version) on TV. None of us had ever seen it before but my sisters and I have been enjoying Hans Zimmer’s magnificent soundtrack for the film for years. It was amazing! So cool. Some truly awesome, noble men and tons of morality-testing, conscience-crunching situations that had me kneading the hand my younger sister generously gave me to hold onto (as melancholics need to do when watching emotionally pressing movies. I’d better limit the emotional movie intake beside my fella when I’m in a courtship!)

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At least in the portion of the movie we saw, Viggo Mortenson was a seriously awesome character!

We also watched one of our favorites, The Winter Soldier, not long ago. That film is by far my favorite super hero movie, and probably my favorite action film I’ve ever seen. It has some seriously well-done cinematographic moments.

I’ve been mentally concocting a long post comparing the underlying messages that make two classics, Little Women (which drives me insane) and Anne of Green Gables (which I will love forever!), fundamentally different. I’m pretty excited about it. Hopefully it won’t be long in the making!

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She should have been Jo Laurence!!!

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Thank goodness someone got it right!

Prayerfully…

As I look back on this week which contained both the feast of Blessed Karl of Austria (the 21st), and of St. Raphael the Archangel (24th), I pray in gratitude for the protection and aid of my patron Saints, and for their continual intercession. I pray to them for my future husband, for their guidance in my own vocational journey, for, if God wants me to marry, the man I am meant for to pursue me as soon as God’s will permits and it pleases Him. And then, it’s a matter of trusting Our Lord, our Lady, and these dear patrons of mine to take care of it all–and to be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing. A daily exercise, an ongoing battle; but a beautiful thing.

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I’m also just about to finish my novena to Blessed Chiara Badano, whose feast would be this coming Sunday…and before I know it, it will be All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, and the month of the Holy Souls. Inevitably, the older you grow, the more you experience the loss of people you know and love. As time goes on I realize more and more that prayer for the souls of those I’ve lost is the real and concrete way in which I can continue to love them. I’m looking forward to the special graces and special focus of November to help me to remember to pray more for the faithful departed.

Wow, it’s been nice to catch up here! I just realized I wrote enough words in this post to equal two average scenes in my story 😉 If only it were that easy to write fiction sometimes!

A parting thought…

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“I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.”
-C. S. Lewis

God bless, and St. Evaristus pray for, you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Endlessly {a new devotion}

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Blessed Emperor Karl and his wife Empress Zita greeted by their children after a trip

It seemed ordinary enough–I was sitting with my sisters eating breakfast, relishing the fact that today is the first day of Fall to feel like Fall around here (in the forties, windy, bright and crisp…happy sigh…), chatting happily. Mary‘s phone signaled an email just received. “Ah, the Missive,” she said, and mentioned that it had something to do with the FSSP’s Mater Dei parish hosting a Symposium on Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria.

Later on, when checking my own email (which is of course also subscribed to the Minute Missive), I opened the same email and glanced over it. And then I felt a familiar, warm, gentle tug–that inexplicable, irresistible nudge that I’ve experienced every time a Saint, Blessed, Venerable, etc. was just about to make me fall in love with them.

I resisted for about half a second and then followed the provided link to a website dedicated to Blessed Karl. As I said, moments like that are just about irresistible, because I know by now that, for some reason known only to Heaven, that particular Saint is reaching down to me and hoping I will be their devotee and a child.

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Karl and Zita on their wedding day

So I poked around the site, reading bits and pieces of his bio and quotes, falling in love with photos (as I tend to do) of both Blessed Karl and his holy wife. What an amazing, inspiring couple; what a story! I still have much to read and learn about, but one doesn’t have to look far to see the beauty of their story.

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“Now we must help each other get to Heaven.” -Bl. Karl to Servant of God Zita, the day after their wedding

As I was reading and saving photos galore, the inspiration touched my heart to ask Blessed Karl to take my future husband (God willing that I get married) under his special protection and patronage, to ask Zita to take me under hers, to ask them both to lead us together and keep our marriage under their patronage all the days of our lives, guiding us together to Heaven and Sainthood.

Of course, my devotion to St. Raphael is unchanged (it’s not that I feel he’s not moving fast enough or something!); but I can’t help but feel that my future husband, whoever he is, and myself need the special patronage and protection of this holy couple who walked the walk and exemplified Catholic marriage and parenthood.

I wish I could accurately describe how encouraged and hope-filled I am by the new love I’ve found today for Karl and Zita. But it gets even better…

After a while of research and then getting off my computer to tend to other things, I remembered that I ought to look and see when Bl. Karl’s feast day is so that, whenever it next comes around, I can pray a novena.

Come to find out, his feast day (which is the date of his wedding to Zita), is October 21st. Exactly a novena’s worth of days away.

I suppose it goes without saying what I’ll be praying for the next nine days! And although I can just hear the half-joking voice of one of my best friends exclaiming, “Not everything in life is a sign from God!”, I don’t have much doubt about this one!

I thought I would share the prayers I found (kind of painstakingly) for Karl and Zita both; they appear to be the official prayers to me, but I’m not positive. They are both beautiful!

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Prayer to Blessed Emperor Karl

O Blessed Emperor Karl, you accepted the difficult tasks and burdensome challenges that God gave you during your life. In every thought, decision, and action you trusted always in the Holy Trinity.

We pray to you to intercede for us with the Lord our God to give us faith and courage, so that even in the most difficult situations of our earthly lives we may not lose heart, but continue faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.

Ask for us the grace that our hearts may be molded into the likeness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Help us to work with compassion and strength for the poor and needy, to fight with courage for peace in our homes and in the world, and in every situation to trustingly place our lives in the hands of God, until we reach Him, as you did, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Prayer in Honor of Servant of God Zita

God our Father, You redeemed the world by the self-abasement of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was King became the Servant of all and gave His life as a ransom for many; therefore You have exalted Him. We ask You that Your servant Zita, Empress and Queen, will be raised upon the altars of Your Church. In her, You have given us an example of faith and hope in the face of trials, and of unshakable trust in Your Divine Providence.

We beseech You that alongside her husband, the Blessed Emperor Charles, Zita will become for couples a model of married love and fidelity, and for families a guide in the ways of a truly Christian upbringing. May she who in all circumstances opened her heart to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy, be for us all an example of service and love of neighbor.

Through her intercession, grant our petition (mention request), Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And I couldn’t make this post without wishing you a joyous anniversary of the heavenly birthday of Venerable Carlo Acutis, one of my favorite young men ever!

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“We have always been expected in Heaven.” -Carlo Acutis

What an extraordinary soul he is! You can read more about my love story with Carlo here, or visit his official website here (also his portrait on Portraits of Saints here!)

God bless you, our Lady keep you, and all the holy Saints watch over you!

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Karl’s last words to Zita before his death.

(All images of Blessed Karl and Zita from http://www.emperorcharles.org)