The Manger is Empty

It’s the Eve of the birth of Our Lord.  The manger is waiting, somewhere in time, to welcome Him, the Word Made Flesh.  He comes to the world in the form of humanity, to take on humanity; to take on all that is human, yet still remain divine. He gives us, as a gift, all of Him.

But what does He ask in return?

He wants all of us.  He wants us to fill the manger before He comes, so He can dwell with us and our humanity.

Take some time today and give Him all of you; all of your fears. loves, desires, sufferings and concerns.  Place them in the manger.  And when He comes, at midnight, at that timeless, glorious moment, He will take onto Himself all that you are, all that you have.

He will carry your burdens as He grows, and they will be with Him on that excruciating walk to Calvary.  It is why He comes to us, to bear our burdens, because we cannot possibly bear them alone.

Close your eyes and go to the cave in Bethlehem, where a young virgin is waiting and making preparations.  Do you see the manger?  It’s empty, save for a bit of straw.  Go and kneel before it and unburden yourself.  Fill the cradle with everything that is in your heart:

“I’m afraid my husband will leave me.”

“My children are keeping company with the wrong people.”Empty_Manger

“My mother is dying and I don’t know how to live without her.”

“I’m next in the round of layoffs.”

“I have deep wounds from verbal/physical/sexual abuse.”

“Why, why am I unable to have a baby?”

“My wife doesn’t love me anymore.”

“I’m worried we can’t pay the bills.”

“I give you my motherhood/fatherhood, my vocation as a wife/husband, my work, my talents, my faults, my sadness, my joy, my worries and my temporal needs…I GIVE YOU ALL OF ME.”

Why do you think He came to Bethlehem–the City of Bread–and was gently laid in a manger; the place where animals feed?  In the humble circumstances surrounding His birth, He shows us that He loves us SO much, that He literally wants to share all of Himself with us, in the form of food. (See John 6: 35-58)

He asks no less of us.  He gives us all of Himself and He wants all from us.

So, this night, take a break from the busyness of the holidays and quiet yourself.  Then visit the manger and fill it to overflowing.

 

 

 

Don’t You Forget About Me Book Review

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Being constantly bullied by classmates is bad enough…but finding a corpse as well?  Mary Catherine Whelihan has shaken the dust of Walkerville from her feet and reinvented herself as Mary Cate Wheeler, best-selling children’s author.

However, when an invitation to speak at Our Lady of the Seven Dolors School coincides with beloved Sister Thomas Marie’s funeral, she is tempted to return to her hometown.  A cryptic e-mail from an old flame, and the promise of tomato pie, seal the deal.

Back in Walkerville, it seems that everything has changed, except for Mary Catherine.  She is still the same wounded soul, who insulates herself against being hurt, by distancing herself from everyone and everything.  Mary Catherine is so blinded by the past, that she is unable to see her classmates as anything but caricatures and completely misses the big picture.  Her childhood best friend (and crush) Gene Marcasian, MD, sees everything, however.

Once Gene clues Mary Catherine in about the ‘Curse of ’87,’ the danger begins.  Someone doesn’t want the duo to discover what lurks within Walkerville, and Gene and Cate find themselves running for their lives.

Erin McCole Cupp has created a quirky, fun mystery-romance that will tickle your funny bone while making your hair stand on end.  I highly recommend this entertaining read.

Click here to visit the Don’t You Forget About Me Amazon page

Book Review: Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent

cultivating God's garden

Lent and Advent are good times during the liturgical year to read books of reflections on our relationship with the Lord.  So, when I saw that Marageret Rose Realy had just published Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and made a quick survey of it, to see whether I wanted to use it this year.  From the first page, I was hooked.

cultivating God's gardenThis book, despite the title, isn’t just for gardeners.  And I’m thankful for that, because I have what they call a black thumb.  In fact, I’m so toxic to anything that grows, I’ve been banned from the family garden.  But that’s okay with me, because mostly everything about gardening (having to go outside, for example), doesn’t match my personal tastes.  Except for the flowers, of course.  I love having fresh cut flowers on my table.  I just like when they come from somewhere else and I don’t have anything to do with the process that happens before they appear in a vase in my dining room.  But I digress…

Margaret Rose Realy is a talented writer, who brings readers gently through the season of Lent, encouraging us, with earthy metaphors, to look at ourselves in a new way.  Realy’s reflections reveal the presence of God through nature and draw us closer to Him as we ponder her musings on gardening, neighbors and the cycle of life.  There is a peace that comes from meditating on Realy’s entries that I haven’t found in a book like this in quite sometime.  In this brief encounter with her thoughts, I was reminded that the Lord is often found in a whisper or a gentle breeze.

Pick up this book for Lent–in fact, download it right now— if you are looking for an oasis of peace in our often chaotic world.  You will be rewarded greatly.

 

7 Quick Takes Friday, vol. 4

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Once again, I’m linking up with Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary for a  7 Quick Takes post.

1. Valentine’s Day is coming up.  I honestly don’t like this holiday.  Well…at least the secular version of it.  If it were really all about how we should love our fellow man and have deep concern for his soul and pray for him to know Christ, like St. Valentine, then I’d be okay with it.  But the reality is that it’s all about trying to get someone into bed.  And I’m not talking about tucking in Grandma…

2. This blog post, 3 Things I Want My Son to Know About Porn, is amazing.  If you have kids, you should read it.  If you don’t have your own children, but know people who do, you should read it.  Heck, if you’ve ever even seen a child, read the post.

3. I love this website.  On Facebook, their page is called Bring Sexy Back.  According to the ‘About’ section on their Facebook page, they are “a grassroots movement in opposition to the use of artificial contraception within marriage, dedicated to bringing great sex to the entire universe.”  Cool!  Their blog posts cover a wide range of topics such as the effects of hormonal contraception,  fertility awareness, male reproductive health and any number of related topics.  It’s a great resource.  Check it out.

4. I’m still working on my second novel.  The working title is Finding Rita.  This story will be grittier than Angela’s Song and tackle the topics of sexual abuse and sexual addiction.  Heavy topics, I know.  But, not to worry.  There will be some humor in it and lots of food.  Life, after all, is made up of happiness, sadness and food as well.

5. So, what are your ideas for Lent?  If you don’t yet have any, here are a few suggestions:  say an extra prayer each day…turn off the TV once a week…that person behind you on the checkout line who only has 5 things–let him go ahead of you…set up the coffee pot for your spouse so the next day they can have a nice hot cup at the push of a button…read The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (it’s free on Kindle)…go to confession more often…use foul language less…keep up with the laundry…stop eating junk food…eat more veggies…pay a compliment (make it genuine) to someone you don’t particularly like…spend more time with your spouse and kids…tithe 10% of your income…volunteer for a ministry at church…  The goal is to grow closer to the Lord.  Go for it!

6.  Speaking of Lent, it has actually started early this year, based on the incident that happened last Monday evening.  Our cute little Shihtzu-Poodle mix came in from the yard and wiped her little bottom all over the living room carpet.  Ewww.  So, I scrubbed the carpet and got it all clean.  A little while later I picked her up and was bowled over by the malodorous cloud that enveloped her.  After some investigation, I realized–much to my horror–that the…uh…product of digestion…was never actually completely eliminated.  So, I had to perform an…extraction…of sorts.  I got the deed done, with the help of my very brave 11 year old daughter.  However, there was quite a bit of dry heaving going on during this process.  I felt like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.  You know, the scene where they cut open the shark’s stomach and he has to examine the contents and he’s on the verge of vomiting the entire time?  That.  That’s how I felt.

7.  Still speaking of Lent, as one of our sacrifices, our family has decided to go wheat free this year.  Not gluten free (although I, personally, cannot eat grains at all), just wheat free.  So I bought a 25 pound bag of spelt flour.  We’re going to bake bread and make pizza dough using spelt.  My family’s sacrifice is that they’re giving up the wheat, but mine is that my workload increases because of the baking.  So, off I go to buy a couple more bread pans…

 

Good and pLENTy

I have to admit, I’m one of those scary, freakish persons who loves Lent.

I don’t exactly possess a lot of willpower.  So, it’s hard for me to work on overcoming my faults.  But, I love to follow rules, so Lent is perfect for me!  We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat on Fridays.  We choose to either let bad habits go or to add new good ones (or both).  Yay!  LOVE Lent!

Lent is the perfect excuse for me to work on those qualities I possess which I am not exactly proud of…all those things that put a barrier between me and growing in holiness.

This Lent in particular will be very difficult.  I’m on a restrictive diet.  All I can eat is meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.  I need a lot of protein at every meal or I begin to feel ill.  So, giving up a food item is not on the short list of what to give up for Lent.  I can’t just say, “I’m not going to eat candy,” and be done with it.

No.  Not at all.

My kids keep asking me what I’m going to give up if not sweets (which I’ve already given up).  They are watching Mommy closely to see how she handles Lent.  Mommy needs to be a good example, especially in the area of humility. So, this Lent Mommy will work extra hard to be a servant to her family, to be even more conscious of what she can do to help her children grow in holiness, both by example and by direction. Mommy will take good care not to complain when things don’t go the way she planned. And maybe Mommy will make a small difference in how her children embrace suffering and sacrifice.

One Lent, a long time ago, I gave up taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Never went back to it.  I wouldn’t have had the gumption to do that if not for this penitential season.  I’m glad for it. I’m glad the Church challenges me to become a better Christian. And I’m glad my kids haven’t grown up with a Mommy who throws the Lord’s name around like it’s a swear word.  Yay, Lent!

So, challenge yourself this Lent.  Don’t just give up chocolate or soda.  Really stretch yourself.  Be uncomfortable.  Do the hard work.  It will pay off.

 

F is Still for February…

On our last date night, my husband, Joe and I came up with the idea of doing/making/giving something each month that begins with the letter of that month.

Well, I wracked my brain and tore through my bookshelves and found the book, “For Better, Forever,” by Greg Popcak. This is a book about creating an exceptional marriage.  How fitting for this month!  So, I got my highlighter out and read through most of it.  Then, one night after the kiddos were in bed, I read Joe the parts I thought were relevant to us.

This activity sparked some good conversation.  We were able to discuss some of the areas we’d like to improve upon as well as where we thought we were doing things right. The whole process took about half an hour.  Not a large investment of time for a rewarding return.

Moments like these really help solidify a marriage.  Sometimes it’s difficult to discuss your life because it’s hard to be objective.  Reading and discussing a book can bring a couple closer together and help establish the emotional intimacy that is vital to an exceptional marriage.

Excerpt from Angela’s Song

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I kissed Jack Bartolomucci, and then I slapped him.”

“You slapped him?” he asks, incredulous. Then alarm spreads across his face. Father lowers his voice. “He did something to you that warranted slapping?”

“No, he didn’t, really…well, sort of, at least I thought so last night but today I’m not so sure.”

Fr. Sean sighs and rubs his forehead. “I’m confused, Jel.”

“Okay. Everything he did and said led me to believe he was going to ask me out and I really got my hopes up. But then he told me that, although he wanted to ask me out, he couldn’t because I’m not ready.”

“And then you kissed him?”

I nod. “And then I slapped him.”