Friday, November 15, 2013

5 Easy Tips to De-Stress Christmas

The Christmas season—which ought to be one of peace and good cheer—is often everything other than tranquility and happiness. For many people (women especially), family events, shopping, and fractured relationships bring stress and steal the joy of Christmas.

For a Christian, this really doesn’t have to be the case. It really shouldn’t be the case—and a few tips to take into the Christmas season will help replace angst and strain with harmony and pleasure.

1.     Remember that Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Christ; see others through His eyes. If you are in the process of forgiving someone, don’t feel you’ve failed if this Christmas you aren’t jumping up and down with joy to see that person. Forgiveness is a process. Take it one step at a time—and be okay with that.

2.     The physiological aspect of stress can be countered by breathing. That’s right—breathe this Christmas season! Breathe deep. Studies show that when we are stressed we don’t breathe deeply and thus only increase the way our bodies are succumbing to stress. Become conscious of your breathing during the Christmas season and make sure to take time to breathe deep and relax.

3.     Drink plenty of water. Water is a great part of staying physically healthy—which is a great way to combat stress. Water washes your body of toxins and keeps your “parts” in good order. Green tea is also a good choice. The point is: make sure that you are staying hydrated as this will help keep you feeling physically well.

4.     Invite the Holy Spirit into your life. Don’t pick up the phone or get in the car without asking the Holy Spirit to be part of whatever it is you are doing. Heading over to your in-law’s or company party? Breathe deep and ask the Holy Spirit to be part of the experience with you. This will allow you to rest in the spirit and see everyone through Christ’s eyes and speak words of love. Inviting the Holy Spirit into whatever you happen to be doing will also help you hear the words of others with kindness and charity. That friend who always seems to throw verbal zingers your way will be heard differently when you listen with the Holy Spirit in you.

5.     Finally, keep Christmas simple. The biggest gift has already been purchased: Your Salvation through Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Use this Christmas season as a time for personal relationships—more reflective of the one you have with Christ or are developing with Christ. The Christmas presents you give shouldn’t be bought in a frenzy or in haste. Let them become more special, more fun this year. Consider making the perfect Christmas basket for your friends and family.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ.

It is a time of peace and goodwill. It is a time of simplicity.

All the Black Friday deals in the world cannot beat the deal of a Savior being born. So as the stores ramp up their promotions and the hype increases everywhere that you are connected, take a step back, breathe deep, and rejoice in the birth of Christ in a purposeful, peaceful way.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Pefect Christmas Basket

As television commercials and store circulars clamor for you time and money this Christmas season, you may be feeling—like so many others—a yearning to get back to basics.

To reclaim Christmas and its meaning.

One way to do just that is to make a commitment to give gifts that matter—gifts from the heart.

A perfect gift to consider for friends, teachers, co-workers, and family this year is a Christmas basket.

A Christmas basket is something that you create with the recipient in mind which means you can make a dozen of them and they will all be a bit different, or you can consider ways in which all your friends and family are similar and make the same basket for a dozen different people.

Here are some easy tips to get you going for the perfect Christmas basket:

ü Make a list of the people for whom you typically shop so that you know how many baskets to purchase. Your baskets can be any size and kind of container (sewing basket, garbage can, pet bed, hat box, utility bucket—you get the idea) so when you take your list to the store, make sure you keep an open mind. Check out stores like TJ Maxx, JoAnn Fabrics, and Big Lots.

ü Include a Christmas movie or two. Maybe one that makes you cry and one that makes you laugh out loud. You can go with classics like George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol or something where the theme just revolves around Christmas time like Family Man or New in Town. Just make sure the movies are age appropriate!

ü If you bake, include some of your homemade goodies. Put them in new plastic containers so that the containers themselves are also gifts. To keep you goodies fresh you may want to purchase some Christmas cellophane bags so that the baked goods aren’t directly in the plastic containers. If you don’t bake, check out some of the amazing regional goodies at stores like HomeGoods or specialty stores where you can get gorgeous cookies from France or pasta from Italy!

ü Everyone loves a good devotional and one of the best you will come across is Tending the Temple by best-selling authors Kevin Vost, Peggy Bowes and Shane Kapler. This devotional combines health and faith and is a great gift to include in your perfect Christmas basket. It is the sort of gift that keeps on giving!

ü Have a Mass offered for the intentions of the recipient of the Christmas basket and include a card that lets her know so. This is a most appreciated gift for everyone!

ü Consider a set of pretty, padded hangers, a few new kitchen towels and oven mitts, a picture frame, or bath salts. If you would like to make bath salts yourself, here is an easy recipe: You will need Epsom salt, Essential oils, such as lavender, or orange and food coloring (certainly optional); you will Mix 1 cup of Epsom salt, ¼  cup sea salt, add 2-3 drops of essential oils, and food coloring to your preference. Put the colored salt in jars.  Decorate the jars with lace, sequences, or beads.

ü Then there’s always a new pair of scissors, a first aid kit, a nifty new level and measuring tape, or an in-a-pinch sewing kit.

As you can see, creating Christmas baskets is a beautiful way to explore a person’s meaning in your life and to show that you care for him or her in a special way because you took the time—which in and of itself is a huge gift nowadays! Besides, it is balm for our spirits to be imaginative and get engaged in creating and giving gifts that come from the heart.





Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Did You Suffer From Post Partum Depression?

I’ve begun writing the third and final installment for my Women’s Christian Inspirational Fiction series. The first title is Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, the second is Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Romeand the third is Sophia: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend.

I’m winding back to the United States with this book. The first takes place in Israel and the second in Rome. The reason I share all this with you is that in this last book, the main character Sophia (who is Elizabeth’s daughter and Miriam’s goddaughter) suffers from post partum depression—a topic that is very personal to me and one that I want to approach as honestly as possible in the book.

My hope is to gather some feedback from different women who have suffered through any of the symptoms of this illness, regardless of the degree. I want to offer Sophia’s experience with PPMD as a ray of hope to women everywhere; the questions for which I am asking feedback on are designed for me to draw knowledge from for the character.

If you would consider emailing me at Cheryl at Bezalel Books dot com. I would be very grateful—and I pray that your feedback will help another woman. And by all means, don’t feel you have to answer all the questions or even follow them precisely; consider them just a guide as I believe others will be blessed by your willingness to help understand this often debilitating disorder.

1.     Were you diagnosed by a medical professional as a post-partum mood disorder sufferer?

2.     If you were, what was the exact diagnosis? (depression, anxiety, psychosis or any other related diagnosis)

3.     If you were not diagnosed by a medical professional, how did you determine your PPMD?

4.     What were you symptoms?

a.     When did they begin?

b.     How long did you suffer PPMD?

5.     If you were to rate your symptoms on a scale from 1-10 with 1 being very mild, 5 being manageable, and 10 being debilitating, how would you rate your symptoms?

6.     Were you given medication—and was it effective?

7.     What resources were you given—and which were most helpful? (support groups, natural remedies, counseling and so on)

8.     Did you suffer any form of PPMD with each childbirth?

a.     Did the illness increase or decrease?

9.     Did your faith play a role in helping you cope?

10.                        Is there anything else you would offer about your PPMD experience?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Being a Fool for Christ

The rich man asked Jesus what was necessary to enjoy eternal life. Apparently the man had been a devout follower of the laws but still questioned what that final “piece” needed to be for his own salvation. I think it is interesting that the guy knew, in his heart, that more was still being asked of him. Unfortunately, the answer saddened the man, for Christ told him that he had to sell all his possessions—and the guy had a lot of stuff!

We don’t know, based upon the reading of the text, if the man did or did not do as Christ instructed. We read that he walked away sad but that doesn’t necessarily translate into disobedience.

I am often sad when I have to “do the right thing” but it doesn’t stop me from doing it.

So let’s give this rich guy the benefit of the doubt and say that he forlornly sold his possessions but then followed Christ. We know, of course, that his sadness would have been fleeting, right? After all, he was now in a position to enjoy eternal rewards with Jesus.

However, in this scenario we are then left with a bigger picture: what did all this rich guy’s friends and family say while he was liquidating?

“Are you crazy? Think how long and hard you worked for all this!”

“Why are you acting so irrational? There must be some other solutions!”

“You are being a fool!”

That, by my estimation, may very well be what Jesus was asking of the rich man—and what He asks of each of us: to be a fool. Which on the face of it sounds ridiculous; but when we contemplate what it means to be a fool for Christ, we can understand the depth of what we have to give up—or how we must be perceived—to be a “fool for Christ.” And then we see that being a fool for Christ takes us to the very heart of humility and selflessness where our ego simply cannot exist. We know in our hearts it is that “something more”—just as the rich man knew that there was something more being asked of him.

Being a fool for Christ often translates into doing things that make us look foolish—that even make us feel stupid or embarrassed. If we have become comfortable in our positions, aren’t risking anything for the Kingdom, and are surrounded by like-minded people, we can’t possibly be fools for Christ. It is when our egos take a hit, when our actions are questioned, that we become the real fools.

Being a fool for Christ means feeling embarrassed at your own passions because you are sharing them where they aren’t understood or even welcome. It puts your ego on the line and exposes you to ridicule and even mockery. Being a fool for Christ means people are saying about you, to you, or even behind your back, “What are you thinking? Who are you kidding? What are doing?”

You see, those questions have no sound, reasonable answers outside of the request Jesus makes of us to be in obedience. I can’t explain why I would write and publish Catholic books when I could be lucratively employed in the secular world—except that Christ has called me to it.

There are no rational answers to those questions, just as there were no sane answers the rich man could have given to his incredulous friends and family.

He was just being a fool for Christ.

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Souls Day: Why We Pray for the Dead

Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.  ~2 Maccabees 12:46

 November 2nd marks the Commemoration of All Souls; the day in which the earthly faithful are called to pray for the faithful departed in Purgatory.  Often considered connected to Pagan or other ritualistic ceremonies, All Souls Day is, in fact, a practice with roots in the early Church where the names of the faithful departed would often be posted so that church members could pray for each soul by name.

All Souls Day follows on the heels of All Saints Day, November 1st; which itself is traced back to origins as early as the fourth century when St. Basil of Caesarea invited neighboring dioceses to share relics of martyrs and to join in celebrating those whose lives had been given for the Church.  Eventually Pope Urban IV instituted the practice of using All Saints Day as a way to honor all saints, known and unknown, thus acknowledging our limited knowledge of how each person has responded to God’s call upon his or her life.

While All Saints Day commemorates the lives of saints, known and unknown, All Souls Day commemorates the souls of all the faithful departed.  Requiem Masses, or Masses offered for the dead, are celebrated.  Following in the Jewish belief that the just, after death, joined their ancestors, it became a common practice to offer prayers and oblations so that their “sleep” with the Father would be one of peace, thus “eternal rest.”  St. Paul, himself a Jew who would have understood this belief and practice, referred to this when he spoke of those who are asleep in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18).  Indeed, we read of him praying for the dead when he says of Onesiphorus, who has died, May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day (2 Timothy 18). 

Requiem Masses follow a particular format.  For instance, the Celebrant for Requiem Masses wears black vestments as this color sincerely reflects the mourning of the Church proper towards its faithful departed.  If All Souls Day falls on a Sunday it is moved to the next day.  The joyful and intrinsic nature of Sunday as a day of resurrection should not be diminished by the mournful prayers offered for the faithful departed.  Nor should the faithful departed be deprived of the sacrificial nature and benefit of the Requiem Masses. Thus a Sunday All Souls Day becomes a Monday All Souls Day.

At the heart of All Souls Day in the Catholic Church is the belief in Purgatory and the very real likelihood that most of us, even in God’s grace, will leave this earth in such a condition that we are not yet ready to experience the beatific vision.  Catholics follow the Council of Trent’s proclamation which in part states, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar.  The Council of Trent’s declaration on the existence of Purgatory and the nature of the relationship between the faithful living and the faithful departed is, interestingly, a very clear and significant portion of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.  After the Torah portion of Yom Kippur services, Yizkor is said.  Yizkor, which means ‘remember,’ reflects the Jewish belief that a soul is unable to perform mitzvahs, God’s call for His people to perform good deeds for one another, and as such relies on the merit gained through the charitable acts of the living.

So while we do not believe, nor have we ever believed, that by our works we can attain salvation for ourselves or our brethren, we do believe in responding to the call upon us to pray for one another, both living and dead.  We follow St. Paul’s example and understand that it is with humility and honor that we join our sufferings with Christ. 

Consider, also, the second prayer of the Jewish Amidah (morning prayers), or Gevurot, which extols God’s great mercy on the dead, His ability to resurrect, and His mercy upon the dead as they sleep.

You are eternally mighty, my Master, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save.

He sustains the living with kindness, resuscitates the dead with abundant mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the confined, and maintains His faith to those asleep in the dust. Who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout!

And You are faithful to resuscitate the dead. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who resuscitates the dead.

Weaving ourselves back in time, thousands of years before Christ, we are able to find the roots of our practice of praying for the dead.  While we understand and fully embrace the salvation that is only available to us through Jesus Christ, we also understand His call upon our lives to join our meager offerings to His magnificent cross and ask that He consider these offerings valuable for the poor souls of Purgatory.  And so, on this All Souls Day, let us remember our faithful departed and ask that God’s mercy be upon them.