Friday, August 15, 2014

Confessions of a Writer/Blogger/Editor

1. Please sit down, I have shocking news. The most un-detail oriented, un-tech savvy blogger just became the newest managing editor for Catholic Stand.  I read the offer-letter twice and yup, it was addressed to me. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m anxious to take on a new challenge, learn wordpress and pray to God I don’t mess up other people’s writing.
2. Tuscany Press featured the first pages of the two novels I submitted for the prestigious Tuscany Prize.  Here are the excerpts: Written in Sand and Stars  and Fireflies Dance.  Don’t bother wishing me luck, pray novenas STAT because I’m facing tough competition against a bevy of talented writers.  
3. Terry tagged me on a writers’ interview. So I’m answering questions and tagging two writers and novelists to find out their answers. Rhonda and Cristina, you’re its. I present… THE QUESTIONS:
What are you working on?
Finishing the homeschool room, growing a baby in utero, figuring out f/stop and shutter speeds--  Oh, you mean “professionally” speaking? I’m writing my third novel, trying to blog on my break, tinker with FB and Pinterest memes to go with the posts.
4. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?
*Shrug* I’m just another lawyer who swapped a legal career to stay at home with my children, homeschool, write Catholic novels, blog, try to get along with manual photography, and fumble with the newest hat -- editing.
5. Why do you write what you do?
On Catholic romance novels:
Short version: It was the crickets’ fault.

 Long version: My love affair with romance novels began as a pre-teen reader in the 80’s with those teen Sweet Dreams series.  When the series ended and I was in high school, I wrote similar novellas in ballpoint pens on spiral notebooks, which I repeatedly showed No One.  In college, I read mainstream romance, women’s, fantasy, legal thrillers, political intrigue novels (aside from the mandatory classics) but the smut and depressing immorality replaced the joy of reading with guilt, so I gave up on fiction altogether. I discovered light, wholesome Christian romance novels a full decade later.  I loved the humor, the cleanness, and the Christianity but it didn’t satisfy my craving for a good Catholic love story.
So I marched up to the big publishing world and demanded, “WELL? Where are the writers of supernatural romance who write about contemporary struggles Catholics face?”
The sound of crickets answered me and I think this is what they said, “Honey, you’re going to have to fend for yourself.”
So I took their advice and wrote Catholic fiction.   I hope the crickets enjoy reading my novels as much as I do writing.
6. Same Question.
On blog and articles:  I don’t have the gift for impromptu one-on-one oral evangelization.  I have friends who speak to random strangers about Catholicism and who manage to convert them.  Not me.  I censor my mouth in front of strangers and acquaintances.  (Except when I’ve written and rehearsed a talk for a roomful of strangers.) But see, I have no problem speaking to a laptop copiously with my fingers.  I write to process my reflections, and share to encourage Catholics to learn more about our faith, love it and grow in it. Writing is my strength as well as an offshoot of a weakness.
7. How does your writing process work?
A light bulb flashes, I’m momentarily blinded, the earth vibrates, I hear otherworldly voices …and then a finger pokes me, “Mama, when’s dinner going to be ready?”

After inspiration and reality collide, I mull over the ideas and jot down notes on a small notebook.  When there’s some semblance of flow or organization in my head, I turn on the laptop, say a prayer to the Holy Trinity, consecrate my writing to the two hearts, and write.

The books stay in my laptop for years, going through several drafts, before I’m satisfied.

The blog posts are revised, edited while I pray and wait for the Spirit to nudge me that the piece or time is right. Then I hit publish. And the world goes on. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Author Interview with Connie Rossini

Friends, I'm so pleased to host today's blog tour for Connie Rossini's new book, "Trusting God with St. Therese."  Read this inspiring interview and be prepared to be floored as I was about the real message of St. Therese. 

Connie, you just published a book on trusting God. Can you tell us why you wrote this particular book?

Well, I am a teacher by nature. Whenever I learn something new, I like to share it with others. I love learning and I get excited about it, especially when I learn something that's life changing. That's how it was with learning to trust God. I've struggled to trust virtually all my life, and suddenly I began to learn how to abandon myself more to God. I knew so many other people could benefit from my experience. I had to share it.

So you've always had trouble trusting God?

Yes, as far back as I can remember. Over the years, I've read about the need for trust several times. However, I didn't know how to go about learning to trust more. The things I tried didn't seem to work.

What made this time different?

Frankly, I wonder if St. Therese was interceding for me. I have been asking for her intercession as part of my morning prayer for a while. Sometimes you just happen to be in the right place to accept a teaching on a deeper level than you ever have before. This time, when the topic of trust came up, I was ready.

And it was reading about St. Therese's little way that brought it up again, right?

Yes. For my birthday a couple years ago, I asked my husband to buy Fr. Jacques Philippe's book The Way of Trust and Love, which grew out of a series of retreats he gave on St. Therese. Until I read that, I didn't realize how central trust was to St. Therese's little way. Like a lot of people, I thought of the little way as "doing little things with great love." I believe that quote is actually from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, not St. Therese. Therese definitely did little things with great love, but that was not the focus of her spirituality. Jacques Philippe showed me that the little way is primarily about placing ourselves and our destinies totally in God's hands.

Your book contains a lot of memoir. Can you tell us about some of the stories?

Two of the stories that made the most impact on my life are in chapters 3 and 10. In 1974, when I was six, our family was in a tragic car accident. My sister who was ten was killed. She had been the one who prayed we would have a safe trip. While on the surface I accepted her death at the time, the incident really sowed seeds of distrust that I wouldn't recognize until many years later. When  my husband and kids and I would travel, we would always start by praying for a safe trip. More and more I began to think about my sister's prayer. I began to fear that tragedy might occur despite our prayers. I began to question why God would not answer such prayers. If He didn't, what was the use of praying them?
In chapter 10 I tell the story of how I became involved with a non-Catholic church that used mind control techniques to recruit followers. That happened the summer after my sophomore year in college. It led to a deep spiritual darkness that, thankfully, only lasted a few days. But it also caused me to question what God's character was really like. Does He hear the prayers of sinners? Is He more exacting than merciful? Is He angry when we make mistakes? These questions were ones I actually needed to ask to come to a more mature faith. But it took me years to become comfortable with some of the answers.

How is your life different now than it was before your journey of trust?

I am so much more peaceful than I was just eighteen months ago. My outward circumstances, and even my exterior behavior, appear pretty much the same, but inside I am a different person. I no longer have the fears I once did. When I keep falling into the same sins, I don't get mad and frustrated with myself.  I am determined to believe in God's goodness, no matter what.

To read more of Connie's writings, visit her blog Contemplative Homeschool, where I'm a regular subscriber. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Feminine Genius is Not Just Barefoot and Pregnant

          This post is featured on Catholic Stand.

         “I could never stay home barefoot and pregnant with kids all day,” my twenty-four year old law student self thought. “I’d be so bored; I’d go crazy! I’ll miss adult conversation. I’ll waste my education. I couldn’t say goodbye to me-time. I won’t be able to afford designer purses and exotic vacations.  I refuse to be a slave to my ovaries and my children. I will lose my identity!”

            Through the seasons of life and through discernment with my husband, I worked full time, part-time, stayed at home barefoot and pregnant, and am currently launching a writing career from home.

            Fifteen years later, I can laugh at myself as I realize that all those arguments were borne from ignorance.  The stay at home wife and mother doesn’t have time to be bored with all the service to her family. She may go crazy if she goes through her vocation without relying on God’s grace but if she does, crazy becomes peace. She will use her education, no matter the degree, to teach her most important students, her children, whose souls she is tasked with nurturing. Being freed from her 9-5 office, she will surprisingly discover considerable time to pursue her interests: photography, writing, massage therapy, art, baking, knitting, homeopathy, decorating, music, blogging, craft, or gardening after taking care of home and family. She will shrug off designer purses from Europe a negligible loss to all that she stands to gain. She accepts her femininity, appreciates her fertility, owns her inherent dignity and finds her identity in the Feminine Genius.

            St. Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Women wrote: The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the "feminine genius" and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the "handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God's service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love.”

            Let me be clear: I don’t imply that only stay at home barefoot and pregnant women are qualified to be feminine geniuses. I owe my spiritual, intellectual and emotional formation to a working mother, who helped put food on our table.  I count the female nurses who ministered to me, the religious nuns who counseled me, the career friends and sisters who spoiled me, the teachers who inspired me, the lawyers who mentored me, as gifts of God.  In short, I believe every woman who continuously discerns and obeys God’s will is working in service to humanity right where she is. 

            There is a place for each woman in this world.  We are part of the Body of Christ. Many are called to serve exclusively in the heart of the home; others as head of a classroom, some as the healing hands of the hospital or fingers of a manuscript, a few the voice of the innocent, and for one special woman, the womb of the Savior.   If we women are working committedly as “handmaids of the Lord”, we are most certainly part of the feminine genius. The litmus test is beyond what we do and where we work; it’s Who holds our hearts and what we're willing to give up to follow Christ.

            Fifteen years ago St. Pope John Paul II’s definition of “feminine genius” escaped me.  I secured my own wants, needs, ambition, comfort, agenda, and fashion before everyone and all else.  I roared on the pedestal of self, fighting fertility, babies, children, men, tradition, Holy Mother Church, other women, and myself as I fought the path of happiness that God offered me.

            Thankfully, studying the life of Mary saved me from misguided philosophies and my ignorant self. It was her role in the Church, her presence in the gospels, from her Fiat at Nazareth’s Annunciation, to Bethlehem’s nativity, to the foot of Calvary’s Cross, via the kitchen of Cana, that helped me understand God has a destiny for me, and for every woman who loves Him, as He did for his Mother.  

             Christian women can learn tremendously by contemplating Mary’s example.  The Mother of God embraced her virginity and fertility, womanhood and vocation, practiced obedience and humility, in unwavering service to God.  Favored by God (Luke 1:30), full of grace (Luke 1:28), blessed is she among women (Luke 1:42).  Not even Esther, Ruth, Rebecca, Rahab or Hannah hold Mary’s privilege.

            St. Pope John Paul II explains a timeless Christian paradox: “precisely through this service, Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic "reign". It is not by chance that she is invoked as "Queen of heaven and earth". The entire community of believers thus invokes her; many nations and peoples call upon her as their "Queen". For her, "to reign" is to serve! Her service is "to reign"!

    P.S.  Allow me to share a recent spontaneous award from my art student...
Beats an apple.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And why not prophecy?

            The news is more unbearable than ever. Over at Facebook, there’s anger at Russian extremists downing a commercial flight, compassion for the genocide of Christians in Iraq, disbelief at Israel and Palestine’s violence, and rage over North Korea’s continuing nuclear tests. Locally, there’s resentment at the Supreme Court’s ruling on freedom of religion versus burgeoning discontentment for the current administration. There is an unstoppable war of cosmic proportions: good versus evil.

            It’s easy to wallow in despair.  I'm tempted to hide myself in lighthearted movies or pinterest projects, enjoy upbeat Instagram travel posts, or escape into another summer novel.  Or blog about yet another antic my children are up to on our sun and sand vacation.  But I catch myself.

             Just how did Jesus teach us to handle tribulations as they come?  He said: “Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand…”  Mark 13:23

            I don’t think that scripture passage means I should be glued to the news TV or social media commentaries. Rather, to be sensitive on a different, spiritual level… to be vigilant of how the unseen Holy Spirit is moving in the world and attentive to what corresponding actions are needed in my own smaller world. 

            And where exactly do I find this? Prophecy! Yes, prophecy, heaven’s messages to earth for this particular era that we live in.
            Pat Archbold from the National Catholic Register wrote an excellent piece entitled “Why Prophecy?”  He explains that private revelation (where Marian prophecy falls under) isn’t necessary for salvation, but we mustn’t despise it because it is for our own correction and hope.   (I’ll give you a few minutes to read it here.)

            Like Mr. Archbold, I am grateful for prophecy.  To be honest, the current political events on Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Israel, America and even the unexpected turnover of Popes were not a complete surprise to me.  I’ve been following various prophecies for a while now.  Many suspect ones I have discarded after discernment.  But quite a few, I have retained on my reader feed.  These are the ones that do not foster fear, but correct and have proven accurate (so far).    I read them not to stay abreast of what’s going to happen years or months before events actually happen, but because heaven’s words give me guidance and hope.

            Some people will argue that prophecies of tribulation  give them anything but hope.  I disagree.  In almost all the private revelations to which I’ve given the benefit of the doubt, there is a common thread of hope.  There is distinctly Mary’s motherly guidance for the souls that she calls to be in her army, in service to heaven during these crucial times for which we have been born and chosen.  There is caution on dangers we cannot see and tearful pleas for conversion for humanity. There is assurance for our eternal destiny if we choose to be on God’s side.  There is Mary’s obvious love for her children, whom she ushers to safety with promises of heavenly tools at our disposal:  repentance, prayer and fasting, repentance prayer and fasting, repentance, prayer and fasting!

             I see light in heaven’s prophecies, not darkness.   Yes, there is going to be difficulty up ahead for the world (Church schism, volcanos, earthquakes, persecution, wars, economic disaster to name some), and whether we like it or not, we are  caught in the middle of the battle of Armageddon.  But we have a choice to be on the winning side or the loser's, to be prepared or remain indifferent, to be part of Mary’s army or Satan's, to accept or ignore heavenly guidance, to despair or hope. 
            The final result of the prophecies I’ve read are better than today’s news. It’s the Son of Man coming on a cloud, a new heavens and a new earth, an era of peace where Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph and in the end, eternal happiness.   

            So why not prophecy?

            (If you are curious which prophecies I have been following its  {Volume 5 and 8 containing prophecies have been released}, and most prophets in )