Life in Lent

autumn11I have noticed a definite trend as I move through the homeschool week….

On Monday morning, I am speaking in active sentences packed with spelling words, circulating around the room, radiating energy and enthusiasm as I multi-task to my heart’s content.

On Tuesday, I am still circulating, albeit a little slower, my sentences are a bit shorter, more to the point, there’s a tad less spark to my demeanor.

On Wednesday, I’m still moving but rather jerkily; my sentences no longer bear any resemblance to the week’s lessons, as a matter of fact, I am struggling to remember what language I speak.

By Thursday, I’m sitting in my chair as I ply through the texts, gesturing for the kids to come to me and explain what’s happening in history, writing, science, math, and whatever else I dare to teach.

By Friday, a grunt, a gesture, a sticker, and we’re good to go.

Well, it’s not quite that bad…. But the trend from energetic to slow motion is real enough. So is the brain-drain. I suspect that as coffee drinkers hooked on the whole concept of fast and effective, we tend to give ourselves little space to be anything but perfectly attuned to the nuances of constant multi-tasking. Yet, is that real? Are we real? What happens by the end of the week is reflected in what is happening inside of us as we attempt to be what we are not.

No one is perfect. No one can be “up” all the time. No one is beautiful every minute of the day. We get tired. We get exhausted. We get messy. To be honest, I think our whole nation is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We try so hard to be up and energetic, beautiful and cool. Yet, we have been tucking our problems out of the way: debt, family breakdown, cultural divisions, spiritual emptiness.

Next week, Ash Wednesday kicks off the start of Lent. Some might think that this is simply another task to put on the to-do list. But on the contrary, it is really a call to freedom. “Remember, Man, from dust you came to dust you shall return.” In our Lenten reflection, we actually become free to take a little “down time” to think about who we are and where we are going. We may not be effective and efficient for six weeks, but consider this as our “fast” for the duration. We can offer up our never-ending multi-tasking schedule and spend some time thinking about who we are and why we are alive. Life in Lent can be a soul-nurturing event.

Maybe by Easter, we’ll feel reborn. Well, after all, that’s kinda the point….

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

The Blessed

Boldog-Batthyany-Strattmann-LaszloIn this troubled world where it seems that there are very few heroes left, except the imaginary ones, it is nice to come across a real, beautifully valiant spirit.

I was reading The Knights of Columbus magazine Columbia and came across an article on the life of  Blessed Laszlo. So I looked him up and discovered a hero.  A man who, from an early age, felt drawn to helping the poor, who became a doctor and stayed true to his dream and assisted the poor even after inheriting a title, a castle, and all the good fortune of such an honor. He married, had a large family, and raised his children in the faith, teaching them the value of concrete acts of charity. This was a man who could have gloried in his good luck but rather gloried in God.  He is remembered as “the doctor of the poor.” Not a bad way to be remembered. I doubt God forgot his kindness.

There are heroes in our midst, but they may not be saving the world. They may be saving a life, or someone’s sanity, or mending a broken heart. They may be holding a limp hand, encouraging a discouraged heart, staying faithful to a vow, or working behind the scenes without notice.  But in their honest endeavors, the heart of a valiant spirit beats in tune with God’s mighty rhythm. Their work is not their own. Their lives reflect the best humanity has to offer the universe for the present and in the future.
They are The Blessed.  
Blessed László Batthyány-Strattmann. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.mindszentyalapitvany.hu/products/blessed-laszlo-batthyany-strattmann/
László Batthyány-Strattmann (1870-1931), 23 March 2003, biography. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2016, from http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20030323_batthyany_en.html

Faith in God

history imageI love history and I enjoy looking back at where we’ve come from – be it the 1660s with Samuel Pepys and Charles II or the 1770s with Jane Austin and her clear-eyed look at the sense and sensibilities of those around her.  Every time I reencounter humanity, no matter the age, I reencounter an aspect of our larger culture as human beings.

One thing remains the same, no matter the era—we struggle for control.  We struggle to understand the natural forces which can so easily destroy us.  We also struggle with the God who made us, defining Him by our standards or rejecting Him—to our peril. In these duel struggles, we find some small measure of security. By studying the elemental forces around us, we manage our natural fate.  By defining God, we manage our supernatural reality.

Or do we?

Samuel Pepys lived an odd faith life, going to church every Sunday, frequently sleeping through the sermons, but he also made personal vows before God, which enhanced his business success, though he was a rake and a scoundrel when it came to women. Jane Austin does not often refer to a personal relationship with God, but her characters reflect the faith values which held her society together, however fragilely. Both were aware, however grimly, of their limits and their need for introspection.

Today we live in a time where faith in God is frequently treated as a child’s game, a myth to be swept aside by the serious work of “real” lives—lives ironically filled with games and fantasy.  It seems that truth must be spoon fed to us through fiction in order to be acceptable. We can tolerate the good and evil of Star Wars, the corruption of Sauron and orcs through The Lord of the Rings but not the convictions of people of faith. Even real-life stories of “good people” is too didactic, since we all know we are a mixed lot with good and evil inside each of us.

Yet, history teaches us, and current world events should remind us, that good and evil can be rather simple and obvious.

I have been enjoying some Christian movies this Christmas season, though not all of them would be classified that way: A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and some modern movies – Do You Believe? Little Boy and Mom’s Night Out. They each speak to the reality of good and evil in the world of human beings. I am looking forward to seeing

 God's Not Dead 2 

 God’s Not Dead 2. I am relieved that some people are unafraid to see what is right in front of them. Truth is present in every age, with or without the sermon. Perhaps the reason we have become so intolerant of Christian stories is that we have become intolerant of the truth they tell.

History Minor. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2016, from https://www.sju.edu/majors-programs/undergraduate/minors/history-minor
God’s Not Dead 2. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4824308/

Encounter Culture

Advent wreath 2014I am blatantly stealing the term “Encounter Culture” from Pope Frances—but I don’t think he’ll mind.  I hope not….

As I consider the last days before Christmas BEGINS, I think about the ways in which I miss the whole point of the season, year after swiftly passing year.  I tend to get caught up in the details of shopping, sending out cards, finishing school assignments, getting cookies baked and decorated, remembering to take things out of the freezer to defrost…. I get so tired that my soul lays down and begs for a rest.

So, I try to make up for my spiritual emptiness by praying in the evening.  Unfortunately, my body thinks this is a good time to turn off my brain.  And so it is.  I am finding that praying is a sort of emptying experience.  I have to stop and not be efficient for a bit.  My to-do lists get shoved to the side and my self-esteem wilts as guilt kicks in, but then, I reevaluate my life.

Here is a little thought that has helped me remember the “reason for the season” and hug my relationship with God a little tighter:

If I miss God in my life, will I find Him at my death? 

December 15th was the 2nd anniversary of my husband’s death after a four year battle with leukemia.  My daughter and I went to his gravesite last weekend and placed flowers next to his tombstone—which bears my name as well. Charles Dickens was right on the mark when in The Christmas Carol he has old Scrooge finally relent and change his life when he sees his tombstone bearing his name.  There is something very “relentless” about confronting your name inscribed in stone and place your feet on the dead grass where your body will someday lie.

My heart beats at the command of God.  I don’t want to face a hole where a relationship with the Eternal should have been.

Each Christmas is a reminder of a universal truth—God lives and He comes to us as both Man and God for our salvation.

I may not be able to tuck and that under the tree, but my life can live the truth of it as I unwrap the gift of each day.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

A Culture of Encounter

autumn11Sister Constance Veit wrote an article in the Catholic Times recently where she relates meeting Pope Frances when he showed up at the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington D.C. Her joyful experience reflects Pope Frances lived message, calling us toward an “encounter culture” lifestyle. I love that expression and I have thought about it a lot these past few days.

As I go about my daily duties, teaching, studying, cleaning, cooking, talking with the kids, I am reminded that every moment can be an “encounter moment.” To be honest, my day often feels like a well-intentioned resolve which devolves into a series of colliding events: a day at the circus, but nobody gets paid.

But every so often, I catch myself in the midst of what might appear to be random chaos, and I stop and pray the moment from meaningless madness toward a purposeful encounter. I have prayed in an encounter moment while correcting papers, I have prayed in an encounter moment while standing outside under a perfect autumn sky, I have prayed in an encounter moment while chatting on the phone, while talking with one of my children, while making bread, while knitting…. In fact, I have discovered that there is no moment that can’t suddenly be lifted from the mundane to the momentous by a few seconds of reflected prayer. In those brief ticks of the clock, I become truly aware of the present value of the encounter before me, opening myself to all that grace has to offer. Long evening shadows falling against a wall, the smell of wood smoke curling up the chimney, the wispy tendrils of hair falling over my daughter’s cheek, all become sources of wonder. I discover treasures hidden in plain sight.

I suspect this meaningful moment is the whole purpose of art, to remind us of these mysterious treasures, to have an “encounter” with our own lives. Pope Frances speaks to the whole world, reminding us of profound realities when he reminds us to live intentionally, to live as a culture of encounter. In truth, there is nothing too profound for the human heart, if we allow God’s grace to enter and encounter Him in everything.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Love is Life

summer flowers 2015I graduated from college a long time ago.  But I’ve never stopped learning. In fact, as I served in various schools and in Peace Corps and eventually became a home-schooling mother, I have encountered a multitude of new, rather steep, learning curves. Presently, I am learning at a faster rate than ever before.

This past year I learned how to help my son navigate through the difficulties of a long-distance, online college education, and I am presently considering the next three kids’ futures. They are facing a vastly different world than the one I grew up in. Technology is huge and understanding its place in the world is necessary to succeed in pretty much every field. College tuitions are so high now that for one child, I could easily spend more than I did to buy my house. The consequences of accepting loans are considerable. Choices have strings attached and learning everything I can about higher-education options is vitally important for my family’s health.

I have also been learning how to handle the many house and property issues which creep up on a daily basis. I’ve learned to ask for help and hire experts who can solve issues like broken stoves and stuck drainage pipes, but I’ve also learned that there are things which I can do to avoid problems before they arise. The old adage, “A stitch in time….” is very true! It helps to know where the well-pump turn-off value is too.

There was a time when the mere thought of handling large gatherings at meals, organizing classes day-in-and-day-out, and maintaining a bustling home would have sent me into a panic.  But panic really isn’t an option. In every home, the hardest part is being involved in the daily lives of those around you. I should say, being aware of the spiritual welfare of those around you. The “stitch in time” adage applies. As human beings, we go through an incredible amount of change and stress in the course of a day, a week, a month and a lifetime.  What happened yesterday may still color our mood tomorrow. In today’s techno, information overloaded society, this is especially true. Our kids are immersed in a turbulent sea of information and disinformation. Recognizing mood swings, depression, creeping irritation, a deep-seeded sadness, over-arching pride, or a whole host of other emotional and spiritual dangers is vastly important for the success of a family. And deciding which action to take involves another field of expertise. Not something one learns in a day…it takes a lifetime.

But in all these learning experiences, I have found one common ingredient: to care makes learning meaningful. Whether I am learning how to teach, how to fix a faucet, how to love, I know that the most vital aspect of life-long learning is the love with which we approach the situation, be it a lecture or a broken heart.

If I have learned anything, it is that love is life.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

When a Leaf Falls

Autumn harvest 2015 5As I look out the window watching the autumn leaves swirl to the ground, I can’t help thinking about my brother’s death last week.  There is a parable of sorts in every bit of nature; the autumn leaves are no exception.  I find nature’s lessons to be healing in a sad and troubled world.

The first thing that strikes me is that when all is calm, the leaves appear to fall one by one. You can sit by and appreciate their particular glory as they fall.  Yet, when the wind blows harshly, the swirl becomes overwhelming and you lose the individuality of each as they become part of a massive array of color and texture so strong that it takes on a power all its own.

Hence the reality of the refugees who are suffering and dying as a group, as numbers in a tragic statistic. My brother could have been regulated to a statistic, but for those who knew and cared about him, he was much more than that.  Though my family is imperfect, our efforts to do right by him remain none-the-less.  His life was personal, his death was personal, and he is more than another sad statistic.

There are times for statistics.  There are times to analyze the big picture. A large-scale framework allows us to take a proper assessment of what is happening and take proper action.  But if all we offer is large scale solutions, clean-up services for the yard, relief-services for the poor, money allotted to causes, we forget there are unique and poignant stories in every life and death.  There are at this moment: hearts in grief, aged people suffering loneliness, frightened children, and hungry families.

When a leaf falls, it is a bittersweet beauty because though it is an end, it is also a beginning. Spring growth will rise from the death of the leaf.  But when a heart falls, when a person’s soul despairs, there is no new growth. There is only death. That is the greatest tragedy that can happen in this adventure we call life.

Yet, there are solutions to our problems.  Lots of solutions.  If only we are willing to engage.  Projects and plans for the poor, political solutions for the refugee crises, money for the needy, are all valid and helpful.  But above all, we must never forget the beauty of the individual life.  There is no one so isolated from the rest of humanity that he or she can’t find someone to care about.  In caring, so we find our beauty and when it is our turn to fall, we’ll find ourselves more than a statistic in the hearts of others who will discover in us the strength of new hope.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Historical Fiction

ARAM http://amzn.to/2lTHVXR

Ishtar’s Redemption http://amzn.to/2kHKLtN

Neb the Great http://amzn.to/2kS1Ylm

Georgios I—Hidden Heritage http://amzn.to/2lscPWg

Georgios II—A Chosen People http://amzn.to/2lTK0mu

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00