Tuesday, February 25, 2014

L'Chaim! To Life!

I’m all about symbolism.

So when we decided to give away copies of the newly released, 2nd revised edition of All Things Girl: Truth for Teens, symbolism was bound to play a role! LOL!

My decision on 18 copies is based upon the number representing “life” in Jewish teaching. That just resonates so deeply with me. I pray for great life for the book and for those who will read it.

That is why we are giving away 18 copies of All Things Girl: Truth for Teens. The link to the giveaway is on the new Facebook page being administered by one of the amazing new contributors, Heather Renshaw.

Heather is a blast. She’s a mother of five youngsters who somehow found the time to write a chapter on vocations in general and motherhood in particular. Because of her honesty and great sense of humor, I am convinced that her chapter will deeply affect the teen girls who read All Things Girl: Truth for Teens.

If you’d like to enter the contest, visit the new Facebook page, like it, share it, and good luck!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Saying No to God

As Catholics, we make a lot of Mary’s fiat. Her “yes” to God.

And rightfully so: we get how that “yes” gave us a chance at salvation.

Unfortunately, in seeking to imitate Mary, we have almost crushed ourselves with consequences of a life filled with our own “yes” responses and have, ultimately, been saying “no” to God without often realizing it.

Somehow we have translated Mary’s “yes” to mean that we ought to say “yes” to everything that comes our way—to every idea that pops into our heads and to every opportunity to do something good; we’ve mistakenly believed that our lives are meant to be filled with fiats when, in truth, these fiats have often taken us away from God. They have filled our lives with obligations and busy-ness that may not actually be God’s will for us.

 I’m at the age where all my friends and acquaintances are caregivers of one sort or another. They are grandparents doing everything they can to help pick up the slack and they are volunteers at a variety of different, amazing organizations. Some are caring for older parents and working full time while others are blogging and running home businesses and still others are young women who have filled their lives with exciting and rewarding prospects to do great things in the world.

Without exception, each considers her lot in life to be one of “yes.”
And on the surface I agree. We do serve God through others; it is a good thing to model Mary’s fiat.

However, it is important to overlay the entirety of Mary’s life upon our own if we choose to imitate her. It is imperative to see that her “yes” involved the fullness of her time.

What does this mean, though?

Well, there’s only so much we can do in any given day or week. When we begin saying “yes” to everything that comes our way—and don’t discern God’s will but just assume it—we actually have less time for God. In that way our “yes” actually begins to be a “no.”
First and foremost we have to take back the understanding that everything life is a vocation. And every vocation is a call from God. It isn’t a willy-nilly stumbling along doing lots of “good” things.

We each have a specific call and we all certainly have different seasons in our lives in which the call changes, grows, evolves. What was right yesterday may no longer be right today. But how can we know what we are called to be doing at any given point in time if we just keep piling on things in our lives with a “yes” to every request that comes along? Looking at the fullness of Mary’s life, we see that her “yes” was an anointed journey from beginning to end. God did not have her going in a thousand different directions.

This is actually what God asks of us: to discern his will and take it from beginning to end; in that way our own “yes” has the full impact it was meant to have—just as Mary’s did.
Maybe you are called to be a caregiver for your aging father. It is a noble call and one that will be demanding and even difficult. Chances are you will find, because it is God’s will, that this “yes” will take you into a deep, profound relationship with God because there will be much for God to teach you in the midst of this time caring for your dad. You might learn forgiveness and unconditional love—or patience and perseverance, and so on.

If now, you also say “yes” to the local school because they need a volunteer to read to the kindergarten kids, you have less time for the care of your father—and certainly less time for God even though reading to the kindergarten kids is a beautiful and valuable thing to do and it seems on the face of it that you will find God there, too. But maybe, just maybe, God’s will was to use that time quietly with him in prayer so that your time with your aging father would be more meaningful and not just an obligation.

Both caring for your father and reading to the kids is good—and that is what makes the negative ramifications of our “yes” to everything so difficult for us to see.

Then your place of employment decides to have a retirement party for your favorite co-worker. You love her, she has been a real confidant and friend, and you are sincerely sad to see her go and so of course you will spearhead to event! How could you not? Again, a good and kind and loving thing to do—nothing sinful about it. So why shouldn’t you? The way you see it, it is an opportunity to say “yes” with bells on and to serve God. You will make your friend happy and she will know how much you cherish her. On your way to seeing your dad you will order the cake and tomorrow you will just spend a half an hour less with dad because you will go print out the announcements for your friend’s retirement party…

But women are excellent at multi-tasking you say?

I can also eat a quart of chocolate gelato but that doesn’t mean I should.

That’s why we have to go back to Mary’s fiat and see that the thing to take away from it is that the “yes” was an agreement from beginning to end—and that was enough. That is what God asks of us: to say “yes” to his will and then to stay with him for the duration, which will be clear to us because we are serving him so fully and thus are hearing him more clearly.

What is God really asking each of us to say “yes” to today? Because he isn’t asking us to say “yes” to everything; of that we can be sure. Otherwise, there is absolutely no point in free will or discernment. Ironically, we might actually begin to push God out of the picture with every “yes” we proclaim. Instead, let us learn from Mary’s fiat to run the race God has invited each of us to run. Let’s each say “yes” to our individual races with excitement, anticipation, love, and faith—for it is there that God is patiently waiting for each of us and where our fiats will bear the most fruit, just as Mary’s did.

(The illustration is by Shannon Wirrenga and is from the Elizabeth Ficocelli vocation awareness book Where Do Sisters Come From?)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Apparently a Steal....

When All Things Girl first came on the scene there were a lot of mixed reviews. People said things like "it is terrible; it seems homemade" to "the best book EVER for young Catholic girls." Of course, once those books went out of production (there are new ones now in print), everyone clamored for them. I suppose that's how it always goes, right? We don't know what we have until it is gone.

We are now excited to say that the newest All Things Girl book is out! In the 2014 release of Truth for Teens you are going to find the same great open and honest talk that girls love but with fresh, new, relevant voices!

Peggy Bowes (best-selling author of The Rosary Workout and popular speaker) writes about health and fitness. Heather Renshaw, mother of 5 youngsters, somehow found the time to write about vocations in general and motherhood in particular. Kayla Brandon, a journalism major with time in at Fox and other cool places addresses the "Me" in social media. All women speak from a place of passion and experience.

It is awesome and since the ones that are out of print now sell for a couple of hundred dollars (who knew! LOL!), this 2014 All Things Girl: Truth for Teens is a steal at less than $20!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tea Time and New Friends


The timing was perfect! The last meeting for the women’s book club was the day before Valentine’s Day and the “tea” theme (based upon the book) was lovely!

 So it was that I spent a beautiful afternoon yesterday with a small group of women whose book club had just finished reading my fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. They were so welcoming! What a wonderful group of women!

 It was a very relaxed gathering as they asked questions about the book and shared their own epiphanies while reading it—or their own personal experiences that mirrored Elizabeth’s (the main character). The conversation ebbed and flowed and, as can be expected when a number of women gather, covered a wide variety of topics! LOL!

There is something very special about the sort of bonds that women share and yesterday was a gift from God as I sat with these women and enjoyed a cup of tea, some yummy cookies, and had a chance to be part of a conversation that truly was blessed.
Thank you, women of St. Joe’s, for inviting me into your lives—into your hearts—and for what will always be a special day for me!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lousy Godparents

You’ve been poorly catechized and didn’t really understand the role of a Godparent for your newborn baby and so you gave this honor to your best-friend-since-3rd-grade. It made sense at the time and you both giggled and loved the whole idea of it. Now, years later, you no longer speak to your best-friend-since-3rd-grade. You’ve come to regret this poor choice—in a very big way—and don’t know what to do about the lousy Godparent you chose.

You have been blessed by faith-filled parents and have been living your faith in a constant manner for as long as you can remember. Bestowing the honor of Godparent upon your cousin was a good choice. After all, she’s family and your lives have the blood connection that will stand the test of time. A few years later you see that she didn’t really get how important this honor was and has really failed. She apparently didn’t read up on the “job” description and now your daughter is burdened with a lousy Godparent. And your daughter sees this at every family Christmas where other Godparents give their Godchildren gifts and hugs and special attention and your daughter gets nothing. Nada. What do you do?

The fact is, most of us are somewhere in the middle when it comes to selecting Godparents for our children. We get that it is an honor and we know it is somewhat important. (And the people we ask probably get it to a degree, too.) Since we can’t predict the future, we do our best and ask the person we feel would be best suited for the role—and he or she accepts—all without anyone necessarily understanding the entirety of the Godparent moniker. I inquired of a friend, a faith-filled practicing Catholic and the mother of a rather large brood, if she was “happy” with her choices of Godparents. Without skipping a beat she replied, “Nope.”

So what is the role of a Godparent in the Catholic faith? To answer this I asked my own Pastor who is always so generous with his time whenever I am trying to get to the bottom of this or that question about our faith. Father’s answer easily sums up the “official” and “unofficial” roles of a Godparent:

The “official” role of a godparent is to be a religious or spiritual example for the child. They are also the official witness of what is taking place.  Unofficially a godparent is supposed to be a loving presence in the life of the child.  I often tell folks at baptism that it is through the love of a godparent and grandparent that a child learns unconditional love.  Mommy and Daddy have to say “no” but a grandparent or godparent doesn’t have too.”

The first line really had an impression upon me: …to be a religious or spiritual example for the child. This is so clear cut. It should become the litmus test for each time we choose a Godparent. It isn’t meant to be an indictment of the possible Godparent, but forces us to look at whomever we are considering for this important role through the eyes of the young person to whom they ought to be a “religious or spiritual” example. I really, really like the words used here: religious or spiritual example.

It doesn’t mean we must seek out someone who goes to daily Mass (although there isn’t anything wrong with that!) but rather we should find someone whose countenance is loving, selfless, and kind: an embodiment of Christ. If we’ve experienced them in this way, we can count on them fulfilling their role as Godparent as they should. As Father then says, they officially witness what takes place at the baptism which is the Sacrament of Initiation.

Father’s brief explanation continues to impress upon me the role of a Godparent:…be a loving presence. In other words, be a presence. Again the words are important. What does it mean to be a “presence” in a child’s life? It means remembering birthdays, graduations, basketball games, acknowledging successes and offering encouragement in difficult times. “Be a loving presence” is as clear as “be a religious or spiritual example.” If we’ve witnessed that this person, this potential Godparent, has been a loving presence to others, chances are he or she will be that same sort of loving presence to our child—his or her Godchild.

As Father continues and mentions the “unconditional” love that a Godparent shows a Godchild, we again see that for this to occur they have to be a “presence” in the child’s life. Does this mean they must live around the corner? No. Especially with all the ways in which people can stay connected nowadays, we can select a Godparent who lives near or far; in the end what matters is that the Godparent must choose to be “present” in their Godchild’s life.

So we missed the boat and are stuck with lousy Godparents. Can we do anything?

No…and yes.

No we can’t re-baptize our children and pick new, better, more-improved Godparents.

No we can’t change their status or demote them because they were the witness to this incredible event in our child’s life.  

But we can make sure that our children have other people in their lives that fill the role of Godparents—just without the official title. “Foster” Godparents, if you will. We can also make a concerted effort to be a religious or spiritual example to our children and to practice more unconditional love towards them. If we feel something is lacking in our children’s lives because of their lousy Godparents, then chances are we are up to the task of all this!

And it makes perfect sense if our children are a bit older to even share the role of Godparents and let them know that while their own Godparent(s) may have missed the mark (it is probably best not to use the word “lousy” when talking with our kids), their baptism was a joyous day in the life of the Kingdom of God! Help them focus on the day of their baptism. This is particularly important if, within a family, you have one child whose Godparents are especially lousy and some of your other children have exceptional Godparents. Kids should never think they somehow failed to “earn” or “deserve” a Godparent’s love or interest. (On the other hand, if you’ve been given the honor of being a Godparent and have not lived up to the responsibility and the privilege, it is never too late to start.)

We can and should pray for the Godparent(s) we have chosen, especially the lousy ones. At some point we thought they were the best candidate for the job and although we now know better, it would be a beneficial experience for us to offer up our sorrow and sadness for their sanctification. While there may not be earthly rewards for such an exercise in humility, the eternal rewards might be significant—for us and for them!
Cheryl Dickow
The illustration used is from the children's book "Where Do Deacons Come From?" written by Elizabeth Ficocelli and illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga