Entering Advent

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Since getting engaged, we’ve been working through every weekend making sure that we get everything ready to send out Save-the-Dates, setting up all the wedding preparations, and figuring out everything that needs to get done, and when it needs to get done, in 2016. On top of that, the fiance and I have been looking for our first house together. As of right now, we are under contract on a house, but the inspection didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Pending whether or not some of our issues can be fixed by closing, it looks like we might have to start the whole process over again and our dream of closing on a house before the end of the year goes out the window.

It’s easy at times like this to become discouraged. You build up all of these expectations for yourself and the moment that something goes wrong it feels like nothing will ever go right again. It happens in my writing career all the time- a short story I love doesn’t get published, a book release doesn’t have me reach any best-sellers lists, a beta reader tells me that they hate my favorite character in one of my projects-in-progress, I get stalled in my edits. It’s so easy to let myself take these things as proof that I’m not cut out for these kinds of things- to be an author, to be an adult.

As a Catholic, I’ve just entered in to the season of Advent. These four weeks before the Christmas season begins symbolize the period of waiting before the birth of the Savior. They symbolize desire, waiting, patience, preparation and readiness. I feel like I could learn a little from Mary, here, to apply to my own unease- as a consecrated virgin she was suddenly told she was going to have a baby that no one had planned for, that she was going to have to rely on Joesph to protect her, and then because of the census they were going to have to travel a long distance, while she was pregnant, so that she could have birth far from her family. And in between that she even went to visit her cousin who was also pregnant. That’s a lot of ups and downs in preparation for a pretty big up that wouldn’t come until nine months of anxiety and suffering.

So this Advent, I’m going to practice my patience. I’m going to pray for the Virgin’s help in calming the storms currently raging in my heart. I’m going to pray that she helps me both stick to my plans as best I can, but also be able to let them go when I need to.

Whether or not you are Catholic or Christian, I do think that this time before Christmas, before the end of the year, is a good time for this kind of reflection. Take a look back at all the plans you made for 2015. How many of them worked out for you? How many of them fell apart, only for better things to fall together? How many were you unable to recover from? How could you better enjoy the moment in the coming year? To go with the flow both in your daily life and in your career? The truth is that we can make all of the plans we want, and life is still going to go the way it’s going to go regardless of whether or not it fits into your plans. To be prepared without being unmoving, to be patient but not overly stubborn is a gift. One that I think is imperative to both living as a good, well-centered person and to having a good, healthy career.

What do you think, readers?

Retreats

Thank God for retreats. Literally.

As a reminder for those who don’t know, I am Roman Catholic and I am fairly active in my church. I go to mass every week, try to attend as many feast day celebrations as I can, have a strong devotion to the rosary and volunteer as a team member for a local youth group (which is quickly morphing into me being in charge of a small high school women’s group). retreat

This past weekend I was invited to be a chaperone for a group of high schoolers to the Steubenville of the Rockies conference in Colorado. I’d attended the conference myself as a high schooler, and the youth minister I went with had even been with me on that trip years ago. I went in with expectations of what it had been like to be there as a young teenager, entirely messed up in terms of my self-identity, and came out with the experience of a young woman who is on much better ground, self-awareness wise, but still needed a ton of guidance on where to go next.

I love retreats. I always have. I went on my first retreat back in middle school when I was undergoing preparation for my Confirmation, and from then until my senior year of high school I would average probably three big retreats a year, with a couple of small day-two day retreats sprinkled in here and there. I lived for retreats. I got into college and was immediately disappointed with the lack of retreats for young adults- I was limited to one retreat a year (unless I wanted to straight up find a separate community just for retreats which wasn’t feasible with school, work, etc).

Though in that came a kind of a small blessing. See, I was living for retreats in middle school and high school. I loved to get away, I loved to get all hyped up on my religion and surround myself with hundreds, sometimes thousands of teens who thought just like me, who agreed with me. I held this kind of aloof disdain for my every day life where I was mocked for my prayer life, where people had very solid views about what my beliefs were without asking me, where people refused to dialogue with me because they thought they knew what I would say, where people were harsher about my unnamed disability because they weren’t as involved or trained-to-be-compassionate like my church crowd was. (Not saying that church people are inherently more compassionate than nonreligious people- I’ve met both kinds, believe me. Just that in my particular community I found more inclusive acceptance in my church circles than anywhere else in my particular community). It was like I trudged through daily life so that I could prepare for the sweet release of a retreat.

After being forced to cut down on my retreats, I’ve been learning how to retreat to live, instead. After graduating college I’ve still been able to average around one retreat a year (though usually now as a mentor). But I no longer see it as a party, or as a reward for trudging through my daily life. I see it as a beautiful tool through which to enrich my daily life, to recharge so that I can live my daily life to more abundance. I go into these intense weekends of prayer with the understanding that it’s not a break, or a freezing of life, or even really a full stepping away. It’s an intake of breath, and inhale to invigorate my lungs to give me the power to speak what needs spoken, to run what races need running, and to face each day with laughter and grace.

I know not all of my readers are religious, but I know that all of us can really relate to this kind of process. When have the things you’ve needed to take a ‘break’ from living for become your reason for living? When has self-care turned into an excuse to stop moving forward? How can we take these moments, these instances of saying ‘no’ to our normal routines, and turn them into opportunities to build into a more enthusiastic yes?

Lent 2015

So Lent begins this Wednesday (ah, so early!). Just like with my New Year’s Resolutions, I post what I’m doing for Lent (yes, I am proudly Roman Catholic) for accountability and solidarity reasons.

What I am giving up/doing for Lent this year is:

1) Veiling. I did this last year and it was super fruitful.

2) Abstaining from all fast food and limiting myself to a maximum of two restaurant visits per month (only for celebratory purposes. Never for an ‘I feel like going out’ sort of thing)

3) Praying my rosary more often. Right now, I’m at once a week (usually right before mass). I’m hoping that I’ll increase my devotion through making sure that I pray at least one rosary when I do my 45 min walks with the baby at work.

4) Cultivating a heart of gratitude. I will be offering my extra rosaries not for petitions, or for issues, but in gratitude for the blessings that I do have. I hope this will help me become more content and at peace with myself at the same time encouraging myself to do more with my life rather than becoming discourage by perceived failures, obstacles or shortcomings.

What are you giving up for Lent? If you are not Catholic/Christian, what would you give up for forty days in order to renew your life?

Happy Easter!

I hope all of my fellow Christians are having a wonderful Easter. Christian or not, I hope for all of my followers a day full of love, peace and contentment.

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“The fasts are done; the Aves said; The moon has filled her horn; And in the solemn night I watch; Before the Easter morn. So pure, so still the starry heaven, So hushed the brooding air, I could hear the sweep of an angel’s wings; If one should earthward fare.”

Edna Dean Proctor, “Easter Morning”

He Who Wrestles With God: Now Available!

My newest short story, He Who Wrestles with Godis now live on the hiRSCHworTH magazine website!

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   This short story is another one of my crisis of faith pieces, again inspired by real-life events. This story is part of an online zine and is free to read, so if you’ve ever wanted to try out the style of my writing, here’s your chance!

The Covers That Almost Were

One of the most fun parts of the authoring process has to be the making of covers for novels/ stories. I tend to do a lot of it in my spare time, just for kicks and giggles. So when I get to the part of publishing where I actually get to banter back and forth with my editors about what kind of cover is going to be used, I get rather excited.

To give you a hint of that- here is a peek at some of the ‘covers that almost were’ for my last publication (from last week), the short story Wanakufa:

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Pretty neat, huh? Each of the different covers highlighted a different aspect of the story. We went with the one with the jaundiced eye because, well… maybe you should read the story for yourself to find out 😉

Book Blog Tour: Second to Last Stop!

Well, it’s been a blast everybody! I’m glad that I got this awesome opportunity to tour around a couple of great blogs and meet some new potential readers, as well as take the time to really examine myself as a writer, and my book as a product.

So for my last stop, we have something most dear to my heart- On Day by Day I talk about my own faith and how I came to see how domestic violence is incompatible with a Christian worldview. Whether or not you subscribe to this particular belief, I know that many of us have been affected by the ways that religious doctrine can be used to keep people in bad situations. I hope that my arguments for the unacceptable nature of abuse in the Christian tradition will at least release women of that faith from their bondage- and give other tips on how to explain to victims they might know why they are allowed to leave their attackers.