Category Archives: Faith

In Memoriam…

The story of this death began when I was 17 years old. I was smart and driven, but without any other notable talents that would’ve distinguished me from any other smart, driven teenager searching for college scholarships at that time. I had started working at a young enough age, delivering newspapers on my bike (or out of Dad’s van for those early Sunday mornings) before moving up to selling shaved ice at local festivals and then beginning my “real” jobs in retail. But there was only enough money to pay for my car, insurance, gas, and trivialities. Not college. My family ethic and understanding at the time was that if I wanted to be educated beyond high school, I had to make that happen for myself. And I wanted to go to college more than anything. I wanted to teach… but in some unconventional way.

As a senior in high school, we were required to formulate a year-long project that was supposed to be a sort of capstone to our studies. Despite being an outstanding student and winning some academic awards, my senior project was on the failure of public education itself. Mildly precocious, I must say. Still, I did some community service tutoring an underprivileged kid or two and then presented my thesis which damned the school system in front of a panel of 3-4 teachers and the school principal. I received the highest grades possible and promises of a job down the road if I kept up my passion. Uncanny. But academia itself was still my goal.

My scholarship efforts weren’t yielding a lot so I started flirting with the Air Force. I walked into the recruiter’s office— less than a mile from where I now live— and introduced myself: “I want to go to college and I want to travel.” No problem. I took the ASVAB and scored high enough that the recruiter squashed my “errant” interest in photography and steered me towards linguistics. My subsequent scores on the DLAB settled it: I was going to be a linguist. Exhilarating! I stayed awake at night dreaming of learning Russian or Farsi and parachuting into dangerous territories to translate important, intercepted communications. Which countries could I sneak into? What kind of weapons would I get? How awesome am I anyway?!?! I mean… what else could a girl (ahem… like me) want? This career step would all serve me very well with my ultimate life goal. And what was this goal? To find a man, get married and have a happy, suburban life? Hardly. It was to get multiple degrees and then travel somewhere foreign and exotic where I’d teach the local bush children how to read. So I signed into the Delayed Entry Program, began processing at MEPS, and encountered a medical speedbump when I mentioned something about hypoglycemia. They wanted documentation. I left intending to resolve this.

Very shortly after this, one of my guy friends I had been hanging around with kissed me. Shock. Thrill. New feelings. And it was at this point that my life pivoted with such force as to cause my dream to nearly vanish in the fog. I never went back to MEPS. I got wrapped up in someone else instead.

Fast forward a couple years and I’m now 19 years old, in Port Hueneme, California staring at two pink lines with my brand new husband by my side: “Wow, I guess I’m a mom now.” God was inviting me to vanquish my pride. I needed it.

Becoming pregnant was exhilarating in an entirely unexpected way. I never planned on being a mother. (Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago that I never even planned on getting married!) But life is a mysterious thing and there I was. And happy to be there. Most of all, I felt genuinely excited to raise this little human (“Please God, let this be a boy.” It was.) Before he was even born, I welcomed new, domestic dreams to replace the Hollywood Spy Fantasy I had put to rest. My young husband deployed to Guam shortly after our wedding and I grew swollen with cold, fried chicken, salt and vinegar chips, and this child. I planned for the days to come. I knew I wanted to homeschool. I began envisioning what that would be like…

In those early years before kids, I did some things to fill this teaching itch. I volunteered at the Oxnard Public Library as an Adult Literacy Tutor, where I taught ESL adults how to read. It was very meaningful. Then I became a budget counselor with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and taught little workshops to servicemembers on how to create a budget and Plan for Baby. I remember bringing a teddy bear and cloth diapers to one class and showing the group how easy it was to do cloth diapering and excitedly creating graphs that showed how much money they could save. (Most yawned and just waited impatiently for me to finish so they could get their free swag bag of gear.) Then I taught first grade catechesis at the tiny chapel on base (St. Joseph the Worker, ora pro nobis!). After my son was born and doing some volunteer work, I decided to work on finishing my bachelor’s degree. Then Baby #2 was announced (“Please God, let it be a boy.” It was.) Towards the end of this pregnancy, I traveled down to Malibu for several days at a time to do some training on Infant Massage. Got certified. Taught that to a couple small mother’s groups. I began my early learning exposure with my first son at this time, walking around the corner to the tiny library and making sure we were at the bilingual story hours. He used to know a smattering of Spanish. I was intentional about teaching it to him… once upon a time.

We moved back to our home state while Baby #3 was growing inside me (“Well God, I got my way twice so I will accept very happily now, a boy or a girl.” Another boy. Cool!) I began homeschooling in earnest up on Whidbey Island and my husband allowed me free reign on deciding how to go about doing this. I researched and researched. I devoured curricula guides and gorged myself on books about the philosophy of education. Utterly fascinating! I was influenced by all the greats: Charlotte Mason, Dorothy Sayers, John Holt, Ruth Beechik, Maria Montessori, and on and on… I began to formulate ideas on what kind of teaching I wanted to do. I felt so alive and right when I was in this mode of thinking. I knew I was gifted with the mind and opportunity to do this well. And it provided such purpose to my life as a mama.

After I got my BA, my own children were still quite young, so I took on a temporary side job with a particular homeschooling company teaching 11th grade World History, which could be done from my home; papers were sent to me and I graded them. I had phone calls with students on a regular basis. It was fun. During this time, my father began homeschooling my youngest brother in his middle school years. And Dad consulted with me on how how to go about doing this well. This was Ellie’s jam. So, I designed a 7th grade curriculum for him with delight.

But my own children?

That was where I was very eager to begin in earnest.

After my first daughter was born and we moved a bit south, I began to focus in and formalize my free-spirited kindergarten efforts. I joined and eventually led the homeschool group at my parish. I designed a unique curriculum for each of my children every year, carefully noting their needs and styles of learning. I attended conferences and workshops on education. I read books and more books and more books. I scoured internet forums. I grew bleary-eyed reading about pedagogy and reviewing literature. And I was abundantly happy to do this. I was fully alive and fully me during this period. I could teach my children the gentle glory of nature walks and journaling, introduce composers and teach careful copywork, while simultaneously weaving in logic and grammar. I designed entire lesson plans around community events or liturgical feasts and once created an entire tour of the world, using the alphabet and picture books. For a while, I helped the boys produce and publish their own family newsletter. We played games where logical fallacies were identified. I had people send postcards from every state in the nation to my boys. Piano lessons were on schedule for a while. It was brilliant. We allowed the quotidian rhythm to rock us gently. E.g: daily Mass (where a couple of my boys were probably altar serving), coffee, oatmeal, nurse the baby, Morning Basket (mythology, Latin, music, art, or poetry), Math, Writing, Reading, Lunch. Quiet Time…

And my children had the best books. I mean that. I had learned to develop a sharp eye for quality literature (“living books”) and was able to devote lots of time to thrifting around and filling our shelves with beautiful, wholesome books, which as some of you may know, was the whole catalyst for me to start my children’s book blog “BiblioZealous”—which morphed into what you see here today. It was all very good. It was all very right.

Make no mistake, I’m not romanticizing these days. My children rebelled and resisted as any do. I was tired a lot. Second-guessed some of my decisions. Agonized over not doing enough. Dinner was sometimes rushed, behavior issues were a struggle, and the housework suffered. I wasn’t a Pinterest mom. But I was one woman showing up, every day to something noble, meaningful, and true. While my marriage may have been difficult, my identity was very rooted and secure in the virtue of this endeavor.

Many parents choose homeschooling because they want to protect their children from the immorality found in public school. Some do it because they feel obligated to do so for faith reasons. Some want to do it to enjoy an unstructured lifestyle where you can vacation in October and not have it be a problem. None of these were my primary goal exactly, even though all factored in. I wanted to homeschool because I wanted to bring the world to my children and I wanted nothing but the best for them. I wanted to set fires in their minds and hearts wherein they would love learning as much as I did and and I figured that I was the best person to provide this for them. It was as simple as that. Despite the foibles and flaws in my domestic environment and in my own self, I was good at homeschooling. And it was good for my kids.

I struggled a lot during these years… psychologically and spiritually. There were some really dark days with some really clear causes, but that’s not the story here. The story here is about what gave me structure, purpose and meaning through it all: raising and educating my children.

* * *

As my marriage began its most rapid nosedive in 2016, the strain became too much for stable homeschooling. We enrolled the kids in brick and mortar schools (the details of this are another tragedy for another time, but suffice it say that it involves emergency court hearings, splitting of babies, and many tears spilt at initial parent-teacher conferences from pain and jealousy that someone else was teaching my children how to read) and I started working as a restaurant hostess while my baby was forced through weaning at an earlier age than he was ready.

Homeschooling was definitively over; And I was helpless in watching this iteration of my identity breathe its last while other professionals took over in the academic formation of my children.

* * *

There has not been time to fully feel this weight of this; there were dragons yet to slay. For the next 4-5 years it seems. Battles. Crises. Trauma. Court. Devastation after Devestation. And a warrior can not properly reckon with her grief until she is finished fighting for survival, shelter, and security. So the grief waited. Seeping through the walls of her soul. Manifesting as disorganization. Irritability. Numbness. Depression. Confusion. Anxiety. Name-what-you-will…. Grief absolutely must complete its cycle and will show up in covert ways until it’s allowed the time and space to be overt.

Today, I am in a grieving season. My dragons seem to be mostly dead… though the ground still trembles here and there and sometimes I see wisps of smoke emitting from unknown caverns. Like a dormant volcano perhaps…

But in the meantime, it is time to do the work. For me, this means doing a proper memorialization of what was lost.

Mothering has not come natural to me the way it seems to for some others. I am mildly awkward around kids who aren’t my own. I don’t feel a natural desire to snuggle up with other people’s babies. And I’m not a particularly fun and bubbly person that children gravitate towards. Still… I know how to educate. And I have loved my children as fiercely as any parent has. Despite my long list of shortcomings, I have given up so much for my kids to be where they are and have what they have. I don’t take a lot of shortcuts and indeed, my life is quite a bit more difficult than it has to be because of my refusal to capitulate on some aspects of my children’s formation.

So being a divorced, working mom whose kids go to ‘real school’ has not been easy. Just the opposite. There is of course, the hampster wheel of all the driving around (so much driving around) and forced attendance, homework (*shudder*) and balancing their needs with my work, our family’s needs and my own needs—all by myself (albeit with a very loving and present support system here, Deo gratias). But it’s been difficult in existential ways too. In this chapter of my story, reclaiming my joy and purpose as a parent has been very challenging. Homeschooling was the heartbeat of my mothering. It was integral to how I even conceptualized being a mom! And there has not been an intuitive way for me to recalibrate in this life I now live, without a husband and separated from half my kids. These youngest four children of mine are fortunate to attend a private school. I recognize this and am grateful for it. (My oldest three have been mucking through the bowels of the public school system hours away from me and I struggle to find ways to stay connected to their learning. Again… this is another agony for another time.) Still. STILL… this experience is something like watching people feed your kids crackers and cheese whiz when you have an entire cornucopia of nourishing foods which could be offered to them instead. Adding insult to the dusty, injured cornucopia: I am expected to cheerlead my children through the (comparatively) impoverished education they do get. Because that’s what good moms do. So it seems.

My books. Requiescat in pace. I gave away most of our school books and have only kept those treasures of literature that are too agonizing for me to surrender. Some of them will absolutely never be read to or by my children. This is a fact. And the books haunt me from the shelf. But I can’t let them go. I allow myself to be haunted because the alternative feels even more painful. Maybe this is okay. There’s not one right way to go through this. And I sense that I’m trying to strike a balance here, which feels healthy…

I swallow my internal frustrations with our school lifestyle a lot, with the rushed mornings and inane busywork they bring home a lot, but I do try to muster up some encouragement and interest when they demonstrate some glimmer of eagerness about sharing a science fact or art lesson. They’ve each been blessed with good teachers. (I suppose if one is eating saltines and Cheese Whiz, at least it is being served with dedication and love.) And I am utterly thrilled when I catch them staying up late to read for fun… not all is lost.

But it is important for me to name what was lost. It’s only by doing this and properly honoring The Good That Was— that will allow healing to ultimately happen. There will be new connections made. I will broaden my experience of what it means to be Mother and I will eventually settle into this life. I will laugh more, get lost in my own head less, delight in my children more frequently, and allow the grace of God to infuse my vocation with new meaning.

Grief, when all is said and done, is a testimony of love. And above all else, I will continue to love my children in the space where I am entrusted to do so.


On Annulments

It’s been a few weeks now since the Church has found my marriage to be invalid. My initial reaction was jumbled confluence of emotions. Some friends immediately said things like “Congratulations!” complete with confetti, balloons, and heart emojis. But that didn’t feel accurate. Other people have shared nothing but a silence that maybe betrays the personal feelings they have on the Church’s decision. Somehow… also inaccurate. And I’m sure there are many, who simply don’t know what to say or make of it all. Still. (And this, I understand.) The best responses were those that were tentative and unsure, curious ones like “How are you?” and such. This was right. But it’s taken me a while to know “how I am.”  I found myself scratching out some thoughts a couple days after the decision and shared what’s below on social media. Despite being a logical, rational woman in how I think (most of the time), I often  feel—and subsequently write— in fragments of light and shadow, from a mudbank of memories, colors, and awkward analogies. So this was my authentic response as I began to internalize what it all meant:

𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘋𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘯𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘍𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘓𝘪𝘬𝘦?⁣⁣
It feels like intersection between sorrow, relief, and disorientation.⁣⁣
The pumpkin at the end of the ball.⁣⁣
Aloe vera on sunburned skin.⁣⁣
And maybe some confusion about the sun’s existence itself.⁣
And who’s skin this is anyway. ⁣⁣
An annulment feels like Oxegyn.⁣⁣
Water in the desert.⁣⁣
Grief over the work, the blood, and the love that was given away.⁣⁣
And grief over what never was.⁣⁣
Grief over what should have been.⁣
⁣⁣It’s a refund offered on a name.⁣
An annulment feels like a confrontation with the words Attachment, Belonging, Identity.⁣
⁣⁣It feels like a lesson in pride. ⁣
And in humility. ⁣⁣
But also Shelter.⁣
A coming home to myself.⁣
It is both Agony for my children. ⁣⁣
And Hope for my children.⁣⁣
⁣⁣A hot shower.⁣⁣
Bleach that burns.⁣⁣
A prayer petitioning mercy.⁣⁣
A prayer of gratitude.⁣

All said, I expected to feel mixed emotions, but with an emphasis on psychological freedom. Instead, I felt an emphasis on grief. But it’s a disenfranchised grief isn’t it? Grieving something that never existed… perhaps similar to the disenfranchisement an infertile woman feels when she mourns the baby that she has been unable to conceive.

Today, the feelings are still mixed, but ordered rightly. And stronger. I think the tribunal made the right decision— the congruent decision based on my experience as a 19 year old consenting to marriage in the circumstances I did.

But the freedom and peace I feel has a much more surprising origin than I expected. I thought I’d simply be relieved to not be spiritually tied to this man as my husband, for the rest of my life. This is not primarily what I felt. What I experience is a freedom and peace in being affirmed as a sojourner here. This world is not my home. Temperament, number of children, marital tragedies, and awkward analogies notwithstanding— I simply don’t belong here. And this is more than okay; it is right. Demographically, I don’t match up to the norm. And even within the beauty and solace of my Faith Community (that blessed hospital for sinners!), I feel a bit like a black sheep. Thankfully, my Shepherd loves me as much as His lily-white others with cleaner stories and more predictable flaws. He pursues me unceasingly. And I know that I am His. Through the very disorienting process of going through an annulment, I am reminded of the freedom available to me by burrowing deep into the humility of His most Sacred Heart (“…within Thy wounds, hide me.”) And I am grateful.
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A Father’s Love

Last night I saw my father on a bicycle. The sunset was fading and he was alone in the park ahead of me. Recollecting that he’s been dead for almost three years, I didn’t call after him. And he didn’t look back. That man will never know the scar he ripped off in me.

Unbeknownst to him, I wept while this father figure of mine teetered north, his flannel jacket softly flapping in the breeze. 

I have many things to say. 900 stories to tell. But a Wisdom invites me— nay, warns me— to wait. In the meantime, I marshal my body forward at a time when the inclination to hide, defend, and protect the soul inhabiting within… is very, very strong. 

Please pray for me and for my family. Thank you. 

God, the Father of Mercy… see me. I call after You. I won’t mistake who You are. I am Yours and within Your wounds, I hide.  You are Love and in this I find my peace. Stay with me.


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The Very Last Beginning Again

15 years ago, I waddled with a heavily pregnant body around the corner of my little rental house, past a ditch with a small, crawdad-filled stream, past the scent of tamales and Suavitel laundry soap hanging in the air, and past trees with initials carved into them from starry-eyed teenagers. I was bringing my first-born toddler son, faithfully each week to the story hour at the little library closest to us. It’s there that we discovered the likes of Eric Carle, Jan Brett… finger rhymes and overdue fines. We might’ve packed a lunch and walked a little further to the sunny Californian seashore to enjoy sandy, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and saltwater soaked shoes, before returning home for naptime. He was my world. We did stories, park days, mommy groups, daily Mass… and we did Joy.

Life orbiting around one young child at the epicenter is a marvelously unique and precious time in a woman’s mothering career.

I am here again in the very same and entirely different way. Six of the seven children are all in a place that They call school, where an education is promised even if Real Life must be sacrificed. There are some things I can not control.  And my youngest 3-year-old boy will also begin pre-school tomorrow. Just twice a week for what amounts to only 8 out of 168 hours in a week. He may as well have been conscripted into a foreign army by the way my heart is hemorrhaging for this separation. I never wanted this. I am a mother ripe with jealousy for those given the privilege of educating my own children now. But I digress…

All mothers taste a piece of this on some level. And all homeschooling mothers who resort to brick-and-mortar solutions know the pain more than most. We’ve known Real Life and have steeped our children in the riches of a homegrown education. But circumstances change things, slightly for some and drastically for others. And by loosening the fists that protects our ideals, we open our palms to a surrender that we never wanted, and may even adamantly object to. But such is life. Such is Calvary. 

For now, there will be some days when it is just him and me. Today, we ran errands. We folded laundry. We read stories. He played with blocks and cars while Mama answered emails, paid some bills, wrote to professors, read some textbooks, scheduled appointments, and scratched her temples the way she does when she’s overwhelmed. We ate leftover tacos for lunch and giggled at the sudden rain that came through the sunroof of the car. He told me he loves me “bigger than the world”. And it was such a very different beginning to a one-on-one relationship with this child. My very last, first time. He was not exactly the epicenter of my life that has astounding demands and pressures now. But, like my firstborn… we still did Joy.  

What gives the most extraordinary peace is knowing that the most beautiful thing in the world once came from a place called Calvary if I’m not mistaken. And though on an infinitely smaller level,  I am not the first Woman who has ever had to give up her own flesh and blood…



Everything Does NOT Happen for a Reason

One of the really common lies that gets told over and over by well meaning people is this: “Everything happens for a reason.”  Usually this is the response offered to people who’ve gone through or are going through very difficult times. It is said to offer hope and encouragement to sufferers everywhere. The only problem is… it’s not true. Additionally,  I think that deep down, there is something in the emotional response of humans that senses that this isn’t true. Who has ever drawn great comfort from this platitude? At best, suffering people think that they ought to feel better upon hearing that “everything happens for a reason,” but even the heart knows what the head refuses to acknowledge: things sometimes happen for no reason at all. And I wish people would grow a lot more comfortable acknowledging this.

Evil needs no reason. In fact, since God is a god of order and love, disordered things simply can’t make sense! Psychology and pathology aside, the devil is behind disorder, disunity, bitterness, hatred, and sin. Without reason. Try telling a child who has been sexually abused that it happened for a reason. Try telling someone who watched their loved one commit suicide that it happened for a reason. Try telling anyone who is enduring the scalding fires of sin, broken promises, fear, shame and abandonment that it’s happening for a reason. It’s not true. What’s more is that saying this invalidates the pain a survivor has experienced. The brain will then try to sell this awful distortion: “If terrible things happen for a reason, I have no right to be upset about this. Something is wrong with me.” 

This (ineffective) comforting line reminds me of a couple other truisms that often get told to people who are going through hard times. One being the “Everything is going to be okay.”  And that’s not true either! Somethings things just aren’t going to be okay!  (… and that’s okay) Finally, in efforts to console others we also like to say “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  False. Patently so. People are just very unsure of what to say to people in pain… and sometimes these well-meant phrases can do more harm than good. Here are a sprinkling of more affirming alternatives to say to suffering people; the internet provides more with a simple search, I’m sure.

  • That wasn’t fair.
  • That should never have happened to you.
  • You won’t always feel this way.
  • God will see you through this.
  • I’m sorry you went through that/are going through this.
  • It’s okay to feel weak.
  • What can I do to support you?
  • Life is really hard sometimes. I’m with you.

At the end of the day, we don’t need to feel like our entire faith system has crumbled if we realize that everything doesn’t happen for a reason. This is very compatible with Christianity. God has a master plan, sure. But that includes true freedom that is born of Love. We are not predetermined to choose evil or to suffer evil “for a reason.” Indeed, we must suffer the consequences of our own poor choices and the poor choices of others and the incomprehensible, natural tragedies that no one can make sense of. God doesn’t promise us that there is a reason for these things. In truth… we should expect to not understand everything (Do you really want to be an expert in evil anyway?!). He only promises that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  He is a master, artisan weaver. And our lives will present to Him both beautiful, vibrant threads and the ratty old, ugly threads. He doesn’t just use the good in our lives. He also uses the evil to bring about His glory, and He will weave a stunning masterpiece if only we let Him.



God Will Probably Give You More Than You Can Handle.

They say “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

And not only do I think this is untrue, but I think it can be incredibly damaging. Very often God DOES give you more than you can handle. Telling someone that He won’t, will only cause them to feel inadequate or confused since they wonder why everyone is shouting out encouraging platitudes from a boat while they are drowning in the ocean: “Don’t worry! At least you can handle it!”

So… what if you can’t?

Oh you can’t handle it? Well, God certainly wouldn’t allow that so the problem must be that you aren’t faithful enough, not strong enough, not virtuous enough… etc. etc. etc.

What is left for an overwhelmed person to feel but utter discouragement?!

There is so much I have yet to learn. Each day I feel like I know less and less. Today the stars hide in the night sky. The wind chills to the bone. The very ground beneath me is uncertain. I have been given more than I can handle. Far more. On so many levels. And I rather resent hearing “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” because so very many of my days prove otherwise. What then, is my conclusion?! That God is a cruel and overbearing taskmaster throwing wrenches left and right at me just for fun?! That I’m not ‘good enough’ or ‘strong enough’ or ‘holy enough’ to handle it? None of these is a satisfactory answer. I know my power is in my weakness. My freedom is in my littleness. And my peace is in my surrender.

The only satisfactory answer left is that sometimes God DOES allow far more than you can handle!

But this is okay. We aren’t asked to ‘handle it.’ We are asked to be faithful. Plans might crumble. Hopes might be dashed to the ground. People might fail you. You might get sick. Life may be hard. And suffering may pitch a rather sturdy tent in your soul for a while…

Let it be done unto me.

Let it be done unto us. He never asked us to be strong enough. To carry the cross, perfectly, without faltering. He asked us to be faithful, even when—especially when— He gives us more than we can handle. His grace is sufficient.

“Jesus offers you the cross, a very heavy cross, and you are afraid of not being able to carry it without giving way. Why? Our Beloved Himself fell three times on the way to Calvary, and why should we not imitate Him?”

—St. Thérèse of Lisieux



One of the more painful parts of mothering alone is the fact that no one is there to help you sweep out your head trash.  And this happens to all of us. All mothers at some point or another snap occasionally; we lose our tempers. We say regrettable things. We stomp our feet, slam down dishes, yank arms too hard or yell at the children. Even typing this out causes feelings of shame to resurface. It’s awful.

The good mothers recover well. They’ll cry it off. They’ll apologize to their children and beg forgiveness and smother them in hugs and kisses. And all will be well. We are human. We are weak. We are breakable.

(Sometimes pride stands in the way of this necessary contrition and reconciliation. But that is a topic for another time…)

What needs to be addressed loud and clear is the moral MANDATE we have to not let our failures define us. Yes, this is a moral mandate. This isn’t about feelings of self-esteem. This is about taking Jesus Christ at His word when He says that we have been chosen, we have been redeemed, we are His beloved children, and that nothing in this or any other world can ever separate us from the love of Christ. This is not an optional belief. This is a creed given to us by Scripture and to dismiss it, as we wallow in shame and self-pity, is to dismiss Jesus.

When we are confronted with our own weaknesses and failures, we have to remember our identity. For mothers who are going it alone (and alone can be emotional as well as legal…), it’s an extraordinary challenge. In a healthy marriage, where two become one, a husband can reassure his woman of all the good things about her. He can remind her who she is. And that she is not “the sum of her weaknesses and failures” and that he too, accepts her and loves her; today was just a bad day.

But when we are by ourselves, women have a taller hill to climb. We are left to brood alone about all our shortcomings and we’re tempted to allow lies to creep in that undermine our vocation… our self worth. No one dispels them for us when it’s 11 pm and we are crying in our rooms alone.

Yet there is a beautiful irony in this… a silver lining.

Being on your own forces you to cling to your Divine Lover in a much more profound way than many happily married women do. I have never been more certain of my identity and of His love for me than I am now. I spent 15 years of married life looking for affirmation in all the wrong ways, while Jesus waited patiently for me to turn to Him. He was always there with open, blood stained arms ready to hold and affirm and cherish me in all the mess that I am. I just needed my life to fall completely and utterly apart in order for me to internalize this (I’m a slow learner…)

Today, I am still weak. I am still breakable. I am still prone to failures. That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is the deep, searing conviction that I am a daughter of a good, good Father. I have family. I have a home. I am worthy by His blood. He said so.

I scribbled these verses that were singing in my head this morning… if I were to clean it up and try to be official, I’d probably title it “Be a Smart Consumer of Media.” I hope there is a woman somewhere in cyberspace who sees this, who needs this and who knows that she is not alone…


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Plan B: Chapter 2

I’m beginning a new chapter of life. One that developed as a sort of plot-twist to the plan I had written out for myself. And it is filled with goblins and shadows. 900 different reasons to be afraid, to doubt and to run away. Starting in early May, I will begin full-time studies in a grad program working towards my Master’s degree and licensure in professional counseling. There has been well over a year of discernment on what exactly I ought to do with my life since it hasn’t gone how I anticipated. So I had to adjust. Per court orders, I had to get a job, wean my baby and find somewhere else to live. I have worked hard at the bottom of the ladder as a restaurant host for a year. It was humble work but I have been thankful for that paycheck… and getting paid to greet people and invoke in them a genuine smile is something kind of on the spectrum of wonderful. I learned a lot about the real world outside my stay-at-home, homeschooling mommy bubble and developed a genuine love for my coworkers. I am grateful it provided the stop-gap for me to make ends meet for my children.

During this time, I have been blessed in astonishing ways by countless people. Childcare that I couldn’t have otherwise afforded. Helping hands in repairing one home and setting up another while living with friends in the meantime. Anonymous monetary gifts that appeared at just the right time.  A three hour road-trip to bring my children to me for my father’s funeral. Homemade soup and a bottle of wine left on my front porch, a safe place to call home with generously reduced rent… the list of blessings goes on despite the continual onslaught of challenges during this time of transition. I have never known such kindness. And it hurts in the most painful, beautiful way. Turns out that people can be rather extraordinary…

And now, I am quitting my job and taking a massive leap of faith in God (and in the federal, student loan program), to devote myself full-time to these classes. The demands of solo-mothering seven incredible children and working part-time are already very challenging for me. Adding in a full academic load would make for an unsustainable lifestyle.

So I’m all in.

Regarding the counseling profession: many people go into counseling because they have a tremendous amount of compassion and empathy for others. That wasn’t my story at the outset. I have always found the human mind and heart intriguing… where people come from, why they think the way they do and how their experiences have shaped them. I used to pore over psychology textbooks in my early teens just to feed my curiosity. It’s been a fascinating study for my intellect. But a shift happened when my passion for understanding morphed from a purely scientific interest into a truly more genuine love for others. I have benefitted so much from my own counselor and the healthy thinking that has been offered to me through the past couple years of upheaval, that it has awakened in me a desire for helping others be restored to wholeness also.  Not that I have all the answers now (I don’t) or that I’m the perfect specimen of emotional-cognitive balance (Who is?).  But Peter Kreeft once said something to the effect of “I’m just one bum pointing out to another where there’s free food.”  And I like that thought. I don’t know exactly in what capacity I’ll practice this profession, but somehow, I want to point out bridges to wellness and authenticity for those struggling in their own minds or in their relationships too. There’s a part of me that is able to see and connect and love others through their own trials in a way I wasn’t able to before. I guess counseling for me is a career choice that began in my mind and perhaps only after taking a scenic route through the backwoods of trauma… did it find its way to my heart.

To be honest, what I choose to do to provide for my family is almost beside the point. Because above all else, I simply want to be as available and present as possible to my children. They deserve the best of me, not just me scraping by for the next 20 years trying to hold it together. I can do more for them. And through God’s grace, I will.

There have been many lessons for me over the past couple years… new understandings of what humility, love, mothering and friendship actually mean (and don’t mean) in practice. I know I still have so much to learn. Everything must be held with an open hand… all I can do is the next right thing—which is always providing what is best for my children. If I get the honor of helping others along the way, all the better. And so, this is the door that has opened in front of me that will provide a means to care for them the best way I can. 900 goblins being on the prowl and all…

So, yes; there are fears. Absolutely. But I can’t be a slave to those fears. There is an extremely questionable amount of “certainty” in front of me. Everything may not be okay for some time. However, I know that I’ve survived “not okay” before.  And I don’t expect my Jesus will abandon me now. I’m a great excuse for Him to show off His goodness to an unworthy woman who happens to be in very difficult circumstances. So to be courageous, for me—in this case— is an act of the will. I.e., there are so very many things that could go wrong, it is laughable in fact! But I’m choosing to not let that stop me. I am casting my net out into the deep and committing my will to my God, Whose ways are mysterious and Who can bring good out of even terrible situations. Because He is Love.

I know there is much unseen and perhaps misunderstood in all this. That’s okay. It’s not right to bare all the mysteries of the soul. And I don’t have time to agonize over that in the way I used to anyway. I am simply thankful for coffee, rain, juncos chirping in my yard and being Christ’s littlest idiot. May He do with me what He will.

Thank you all for your love and support.


An Open Letter To Overthinkers

I know it’s a not a matter of being hard headed. Actually, you probably have an incredibly sharp intellect that wants to believe everything you read in the Gospels so you dedicate yourself to the path of understanding. Brilliant. A hunger for truth puts you in the good company with the likes of Augustine and Aquinas. So why can’t you just get on board with the idea of how simple faith is?  If you could only believe the wonderful promises of Jesus Christ… this would not be a difficult task. I’m sure you’d willingly walk through fire laden down with the cross. Because Jesus said we would not be overcome. Jesus said this was the way to truly follow Him. Jesus said there is merit in this. And Jesus said He was going ahead of us to prepare a place in His Father’s house.

So rise up and go.

Oh, you can’t?  It’s not that easy, you say? I know, because I’ve said the same things. The good intention is there but so is the doubting and the analyzing. “What if it’s all a lie?”  “How can I make sense of a benevolent God in face of all the suffering in this world?” “What if Christianity is a masterful delusion and becoming worm food is the end of my story?”

“Just have faith!  Keep praying! One foot in front of the other!”  These are usually the answers from devout Christians. (As if we don’t want to have faith or move forward in the hope that they seem to have.) But what they don’t understand is that you’re stuck wondering if these characters are part of the fairy tale chasing a fantasy castle or credible, rational, tried beings who simply haven’t thought this issue out as thoroughly as you.

Pascal and Peter have already offered some guidance for those of us plagued with second-guessing. Pascal in reasoning that it doesn’t matter if it’s a worm-destined fairy tale or not… we’ve got nothing to lose by buying in.  And Peter by reasoning “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  Peter was no philosopher. So he hadn’t weighed out the nihilism of Nietzsche or the atheism of Dawkins. But this fisherman did have some business savvy. He knew hope when He saw it. He knew which path offered life and which one didn’t. So he picked his investment accordingly, and unto death, by the way.

Well there’s a third route to faith for non-simpletons, that isn’t as famous. It’s a second-hand, rabbit trail through the woods of your intellect.  And it is good.

If you can’t buy into faith because it’s a smart gamble, and you can’t buy into faith because it is the most attractive narrative explaining human existence (relativism being patently irrational and worm food being patently depressing), perhaps the proper marketing technique is celebrity endorsement.  And I’m not just talking about “Oh look how awesome Mother Teresa was! I want to be in her club.”  There are hundreds of extraordinary examples of saints.  But before going on, I want to preemptively address the devil’s advocate in you that wants to retort “So what? Gandhi was awesome and he wasn’t Christian. Buddhism produces nice people. And my atheistic neighbor is one of the most generous people I know!”

And I say “Good for them!” There will always be exceptions because Truth trickles its way into every human heart, regardless of the straw house resistance we might unwittingly put up around it.  But even you, YOU—the one who prizes science and logic— can’t overlook the data while maintaining intellectual honesty. This isn’t as cursory as “There’s been more admirable Christians than people of other faiths…” because numbers aren’t enough to justify the fairy tale.  However, what you begin to learn… what you begin to experience upon studying the saints of history and by rooting yourself into a life of prayer (even if it’s praying to a God out of a Petrine default, rather than having a zealous belief in Him), is that something changes.  You change. Prayer is always heard. Always answered. But a god of any sort can’t be confined to our finite understanding.  Letting go of the demands we want to make of Him in light of the intricate, stringy mess we are facing, and trusting the Weaver’s Hand to do His work on the other side of the loom will do massive work to you and for you and in you.  It will slough off pride. It will expand the heart. It will inspire true compassion and a beautifully genuine faith.  And you will access that part of your spirit that can’t be counted, classified and filed into your mental hard drive.

And it will be good. You will be good. The kind of good that reverberates through the ages because Love that lives in these changed sorts of people never dies. These are people from every age and from every nation. Universal people. Easter people!  Magdalen. Francis. Kolbe. Bahkita. Miguel Pro. And countless others who’ve lived hidden lives in the shadows of the cross. These are the lives well lived. These are the ones who spilled their blood with a love that lived on far longer than their bodies. These are my people. The ultimate non-conformists who mastered their intellects by subjecting their wills.  When I am skittish about Pascal’s wager… when I lack the devotion and certainty of Peter’s commitment… I think of what kind of person I want to be. How do I want my story to play out? To end?

So I rise up. I pack up my doubts, intellectual hesitations and fears in my rucksack to carry with me through the woods. They are part of my cross as I stumble towards the light. Because who wants a god that can be fully comprehended anyway? Folly or not, the love that the saints had transformed their characters. If they were wrong, I want to be wrong with them— but going down that mental vortex is ultimately a fruitless exercise. Because genuine love doesn’t die and can’t be convincingly imitated. By its very nature, love transcends our mental calculations and understanding. These people were radiant and fully alive. So the idea of believing and living and dying like these saints is enough. And meeting up with them for the greatest after-party we could ever possibly imagine is far too enticing for me to pass up. That’s where I want to be.

How about you?

Very respectfully from my own overthinking, underloving heart-under-construction:



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Saints Through the Year in Picture Books

While I have a “motherload” list of Catholic picture books, I wanted to update and talk specifically about saint books.

When you find a beautiful picture book about a saint… you have a treasure indeed. And this book will do more to form the heart and mind of your child than dry readings from a text or even a decent saint anthology.  The Church Triumphant is our victory crown—our brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve run the race and attained the prize. Nothing in life matters except getting to Heaven.  So emphasizing the stories of those who’ve gone before us in a lovely and accessible way is of extraordinary importance to a child’s education. Many books exist that are great for read aloud times and don’t need picture illustrations. (I am a big fan of the Once Upon a Time Saints series for example, especially to share more obscure saints with kids) But picture books specifically, offer a unique way for young children to metabolize and begin admiring their faith.

How to Incorporate Saint Stories into Your Day

There is no sense in purchasing saint books if all they do is sit on your shelf making you feel guilty for never using them.  I have three favorite methods of incorporating saint picture books into our lives, for three types of people:  The Ambitious Ones. The Focused Ones. And then The Rest of Us. Many of the picture books on my list focus only on a particular legend or anecdote of a saint’s life or even just illustrate a prayer they composed. I like to follow up these books with a very brief biography from a solid anthology of saints.

-For The Ambitious: The answer is obvious. Read the saint stories on their feast days. In my glory years, I had created a liturgical year booklist complete with all the titles I owned and their corresponding feast days. I would pull out the books each month and have them sitting in our monthly picture book basket along with our other seasonal titles and simply read that saint’s story on his or her feast day.  It worked very well. I still practice this method when I can, although my summer saints suffer from neglect with more outdoor/less scholastic-reading time in general. So I just do a modified version of this and try to read about the saint in the month the feast is celebrated. A goal of mine was to have at least one or two saint picture books in the book basket for each month of the year. This is why I’m listing them in monthly order on my site.

-For the Focused: Save all your saint picture books for November—the month of All Saints. And dedicate that month to getting to know our heavenly family better through the reading of their lives. Consider using All Saints Day as an excuse to gift picture books on saints to your family or godchildren.

-For the Rest of Us: Practice the ancient art of “strewing”… and simply leave saint picture books lying about where children can discover them at their own leisure. On coffee tables, in the bathroom, on nightstands, etc. Making sure the saints are part of our everyday lives is important in demystifying them and living the faith in a holistic way.

Disclaimers, Exclusions, Alternatives

As with all my picture book categories, I don’t list every single book on the market simply because life is too short for the mediocre. You’ll find other St. Francis of Assisi books than the ones I have listed, for example. But I only bother including picture books if they are worth the time and can hold their own on at least some level of beauty.  Children are naturally attracted to the beautiful and the true.  So I avoid the Saturday Morning Cartoon illustrations even if they are saintly themed! This last point is personal preference. You may find a deep enjoyment of titles like this or that. Further, perhaps there is a great place for graphic comics like this for your older children.  That’s fine! Just not the focus of this post. The picture book industry has boomed in recent years with its offerings of faith-themed books. Sadly, most of these are repeats of older stories… that had better illustrations anyway. (How many new St. Patrick books do we need anyway?!  Why can’t someone produce an excellent picture book on St. Kateri or St. Francis Xavier)

I have (with hesitation) decided not to include some beautiful books that have been published regarding saints of the Orthodox Church. If the saint is recognized in the Catholic Church as well, those are included.

I have read most, but not every single title here. I included books that appeared—from reviews and research— to be worthwhile. Lastly, while you can be sure that despite my passion and diligence in research to create a very thorough and quality list… I may have overlooked some books that rank as treasures in your mind. In all things, to God be the glory.

The Books

Onward now to the list.  I intend to keep this post updated with the best of what’s out there and encourage you to chase down the out-of-print titles listed here as well… they are worth it.





St. Anthony the Great

St. Felix

St. John Bosco


St. Brigid

St. Pascual

St. Scholastica

St. Modomnoc

St. Valentine

St. Valentine


St. Patrick

St. Patrick

St. Patrick

St. Cuthbert


St. Bernadette

St. George

St. George


St. Brendan

Our Lady of Fatima

St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc


St. Kevin

St. Boniface

St. Columba

St. Columba

St. Josemaría Escrivá


St. Junipero Serra

St. Benedict

St. Benedict

St. Christopher

St. Christopher


St. Clare

St. Tekla


St. Teresa of Calcutta

St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Ciaran

St. Hildegard

St. Sergius

St. Wenceslas

St. Wenceslas

St. Jerome


St. Barnaby

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. John XXIII

St. John Paul II


St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres

St. Frances Cabrini

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

St. Catherine of Alexandria


St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

St. Lucy

“In every young person, a point of goodness is accessible and it is the primary duty of the educator to discover that sensitive cord of the heart so as to draw out the best in the young person.”

–St. John Bosco