Courage to Grow

Little Chestnut: I will not put out roots and shoots. It might not be safe. I’ll remain locked in wood–pure polished potential.

God: Will you not open yourself up and grow into a tree?

Little Chestnut: How can I become a huge towering tree? How do I know there will always be enough sunshine and rain? I am far too little to grow so big. It’s too scary to try. I prefer to keep the doors closed.

God: Little Chestnut, you are filled with treasure. I have made you for growth. I will provide the sun and the rain. But you must reach out with your shoots and roots to receive them. To sun and rain you must add risk. You must add the courage to try—to hope—to believe that it will take someone bigger than yourself to help you grow, but that together we can!

Little Chestnut: But it is painful to open myself up…to split open and expose myself to your gaze.

God: One thing I can promise–to always look on you with love. Will you allow yourself to be loved unconditionally? This is the beginning of growth.

Little Chestnut: So, fully aware of my weakness, I am supposed to hope for greatness?

God: Change is founded on hope. I have great hopes for you…for everyone! Will you take risk of cracking your polished exterior for the chance to grow into a great tree, one who will make the world a more beautiful place? Or will you slowly fade into the dirt, become wrinkled and rotten, and never look outside yourself for nourishment? I am offering you everything you need…but it is up to you to reach out and receive.

Little Chestnut, do you have the courage to trust?

Selfishness, Responsibilty and a Blue Couch 


Selfishness is so easy. It’s so easy to focus on yourself and blame all your troubles on others. Doing so allows us to stay in a state of inaction: there is “nothing” we can do about our problems because they are “not our fault.” Someone else is to blame. But this attitude dooms us to shadow-boxing all our lives–flailing out our arms uselessly to hit the imaginary causers of our own difficulties. 

If we are honest with ourselves, we discover that the source of our brokenness is within. Even if we were isolated from all others in a tiny hermitage, we would still struggle. This is a sobering thought. It means we have to rise from our stupor and take responsibility for our lives. Only we can change them for the better. 

But while we can take positive steps towards small changes for the better, healing our brokenness is not something we can do alone. We can’t make ourselves never grumpy, annoyed, snappy, imprudent, lazy or selfish etc by our willpower alone. We are like broken light bulbs whose wires are not connected, so the electricity can’t flow through them. We need to reconnect those wires by joining our hands in prayer, so the grace of God can flow through us and help us to shine. 

In the bustle of daily life, it can be easy to forget this. We get wrapped up in our troubles and forget to ask for help. We forget to pray for our needs, and for the grace to bear hardships cheerfully. But God is just waiting to show us signs of His affection, if we open our hearts to receive it. Sometimes His generosity is very concrete. Recently my Dad and I went on a wild goose chase search for a second-hand dresser for my eldest daughter. We drove all over, even out of town, and checked three stores with no luck.  We saw a couch I liked which could replace our old beat-up red one, but I couldn’t get a-hold of my husband at work to ask his opinion. It was a hot, tiring day and nothing seemed to be quite working. 

But the next day, the reason for our fruitless search was made clear: there was something  better waiting for us. A block from our house, my Dad spotted an estate sale with gorgeous furniture. There was a beautiful maple dressed in perfect condition for $45. And even more lovely, an antique Coombs couch and matching armchair, with wooden finish and lovely blue upholstery for $250 together. I don’t know what their original price would have been, but the reupholstering alone would have cost $2000 in the ’80’s! Talk about score. Furthermore, they were willing to deliver the furniture to our house, which was another godsend, because some things are just too darn big for my double stroller (we don’t have a car). 


So this is just a little reminder, to myself as much as to anyone else, to take time to join my hands in prayer, reconnect with God and let His love flow through me. If we could all shine our little lights, instead of staying in the darkness of anger and blame, how gorgeous the world would be. Like a glowing Christmas tree, every little light sharing its warmth with the others. In a time of uncertainty and violence, I think the peacefulness of this image is one worth focusing on, hoping and praying for. God bless you all. 

Awaiting Spring

The faith of a flower bulb,
allowing itself to be entombed
in the earth,
awaiting spring.

Believing that from nothing
could spring something,
from the darkness,
new life.

Give me that faith
in Your ability
to bring forth greatness
from a tiny seed,
buried in the darkness
of weakness and failure,
of unkept resolutions
and missed opportunities.

Help me begin again–
a new spring–
and as the sunlight
pours down upon me,
give me the courage to grow!

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Sisters of the World

How beautiful it is to be here with so many sisters

Of ages 18 to 80
From many countries

And many different pasts
Learning together, growing together,

Dancing through the differences to find

Our common heart

Our shared desire for

A life with deeper meaning

A world with brighter hope

And warmer love

Embracing everyone
With our prayer and affection

Those confiding smiles

That sincere understanding

And  many little acts of kindness

May this better world

Where each person is sacred

Begin with us

Pink Rose Blushing

This Sunday I saw a rose so lovely one could get lost in it’s petals, contemplating beauty while the blossom blushes sweetly. It had the rich scent of a real rose, the kind you want to just drink in again and again…the kind that makes you think of romantic English gardens and quaint little thatched cottages.

Thinking back, it was a funny little gift to see it growing there, just outside the church, where moments before I had been talking with my friend Sherri, and joking that all the pretty women were wearing roses that day. She had a beautiful white dress covered in red roses, and I had a rose pattern white t-shirt. She told me she wanted to dress up extra today, on the feast of Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit, with whom she has such a love affair. “He just always takes such good care of me,” she smiled.

“Today is my 10 year anniversary of baptism,” I told her, “10 years since I joined the church.” For her it had been almost 16. I remembered rubbing my belly with childlike excitement in the days leading up to my baptism…God Himself was coming to dwell in my soul! We marvelled at how lucky we felt, knowing God’s love, His desire to be close to each and every person, to bring depth and meaning to our lives.

So who is this person Sherri and I are enamoured with, who inflames and guides our hearts? Isn’t going to church just for stodgy old ladies…people who recite pious prayers but aren’t really spiritual? As a convert, I haven’t found this old stereotype to hold water, nor have I found the supposed opposition between being religious and being spiritual.

For me, finding the faith helped me begin a very intimate and interior journey, one of growing closer to God while at the same time becoming more free to truly be myself…learning to trust the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, the one who nudges me to grow, to give, to respond to His creative impulses, to be optimistic and ready to dream aloud. To trust in something bigger than myself. To be willing to take creative risks.

Growing in my spiritual life has been essential to my growth as a writer. I find there is such a direct link between prayer and creativity, because prayer helps me be aware of the beauty around me, and to be still enough to let it enter my heart. Then it’s just a matter of sharing what’s inside. I once compared writing poetry to sitting still enough for a butterfly to land on you, a matter of receiving an inspiration and sharing it, a little gift

So if I haven’t been blogging much at times, you can guess I’ve been letting myself get too busy, and you can write me a comment and say, “Anna, stop running around… sit still and pray more; we want some poetry! ”

When I don’t take time to pray, to be still, to talk to God about my life and especially to listen, my creative well runs dry. I run like a little hamster in a wheel, very busy but very superficial. It is exhausting and empty, and I think our souls need to love deeper…ha, that was a typo but still true: we need to live deeper and to love deeper. This is what helps us see the beauty in life, despite suffering; this is what helps us live for something bigger than ourselves, and in the process become more the people we are meant to be.

Maybe I’ll write more about this soon, but as we’re all busy people I’ll let you go for now. I hope you’ll find a little time to seek out that special stillness in which God whispers to our hearts and inspires us to help Him create a more wonderful world.

Lent: A Season to Grow in Love

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As we feel spring breezes shaking us out of the slumber of winter, and see little signs of new life popping out of the ground, we all feel the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. This is one aspect of Lent, examining ourselves to see which areas of our life need revitalizing, and praying for the grace of the Holy Spirit to blow away the cobwebs and bring us to new and deeper life.

Trees teach us so well. They know how to strip themselves bare and stand naked before God, honestly revealing all their bumps and scrapes, and asking to be healed and covered afresh in a robe of spring blossoms.

When we look at ourselves without excuses and pretence, we can all see areas in which we need to grow. Faults we have that cause others pain or inconvenience, like being sloppy, indiscreet, insensitive or impatient. Lent is a time to move forward with hope, choosing a few small ways to try to improve ourselves, with the help of grace, so that we are better able to love.

We should be humble enough to realize that rather than sudden showy or impressive changes, it is the small steps taken consistently that usually lead us to improvement. (Stinker! Fast and flashy sounds much more fun! 😉 Where’s the fairy godmother’s wand when you need a makeover…)

Ultimately whatever we decide to give up or take on this Lent, should have this goal in mind: to become better versions of ourselves, to grow interiorly, to make amends for our mistakes, and to grow in our ability to love God and love the people we encounter each day. Perhaps we can smile at a stranger and ask how they are, or take time to speak to a lonely co-worker instead of eating lunch alone with our iPhone. Let’s push ourselves to reach out to others in love, and fight, as Pope Francis calls it, “the globalization of indifference.”

Many of the little acts of denial we might choose may seem very mundane, like clearing off the table and doing the dishes before getting distracted on the internet, reading the kids their bedtime story or calling a lonely relative, even when we are worn out from a long day. Yet it is in these little things like cheerfully serving others, finishing what we start, and doing things on time, that make our homes run more smoothly and harmoniously, and less like chaotic zoos (trust me, living with 5 little monkeys, I know about zoos!). With our example we can foster an atmosphere of generosity and concern for others in our families. Happily kids do copy the good things we do as well as the bad.

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It can be hard to keep giving, remembering that all these little acts, when done consistently and with love, add up to a quiet heroism. At least, it can be hard alone. Which is why I think community is so essential, for everyone, but also for moms, who tend to work long hours as the sole adult aboard ship Kidalot. Having community with other moms to laugh, cry and share stories is so healing and helpful. It makes life so much more full and rich, and reminds us we are not alone on this journey. I couldn’t do it without my mom buddies or cheer me up and cheer me on!

If you feel like you could benefit from the encouraging company of fellow moms who want to remind you of the depth and beauty of your calling as a mother, and to encourage you to grow in your faith, please check out the upcoming (March 6-9, 2015) online conference for Catholic moms (or anyone else interested, of course!). It’s free and convenient, and once you register you can view any of the talks online, from the comfort of home…perhaps while your little ones take a nap or have an outing with daddy.

If you enjoy the talks you’re able to see, and want to view them again, or see the ones you missed, you’ll be able to purchase the entire conference package afterwards. This is not part of registering, but an option afterwards. The talks will be a great resource for discussion at your parish or mom’s group, and give you a chance to be a leader in fostering community among mothers in your area.

Having looked myself at the extensive panel of speakers, many mothers, writers, bloggers, foodies, etc, I can’t wait! Hope you’ll join us online!

Check out the
Awesome Presenters
And the
Great Prizes

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Freedom in Giving

I was reading the encyclical “The Splendor of the Truth” by Pope John Paul the 2nd, when I came across an amazing statement: that it is by giving ourselves away freely and totally, dedicating ourselves to others, and to something greater than ourselves, that we become free.

This struck me as something beautiful and challenging, the idea that it is in seeking to go beyond ourselves, to reach out to the other, that we find true freedom, rather than by seeking first of all ourselves.  It is impossible to possess ourselves completely, to be in control of all things around us, and have things always our way (the dream of children). But it is perhaps possible, with struggle, to let go of ourselves.

If we can give ourselves fully to something we are passionate about–our family, our community, our faith, our work, our art–we can gradually be freed from the entanglements of resentment, bitterness, and self-pity that come from failing to give fully. When we only give half, we feel trapped, because we are still trying to hang on to control, to measure how much we give and make sure we are rewarded.

On the contrary, the person who gives freely, does so because she is inspired to do good; the beauty of goodness urges her on. The reward lies in overcoming herself in order to serve others, not being trapped by her own selfishness but escaping into the beautiful freedom of love, which seeks only to bring joy to others.

It’s a wonderful ideal, which flashed before me this morning like a shooting star…it made me realize that the more fully I give myself, the more I embrace my exact circumstances, the more I rejoice in serving my family, the more free and happy I will be. I guess my whole life will be a climb towards this freedom, an emerging from myself, a lesson in love.  Cheers to all my fellow climbers, and to never giving up, despite the struggles of each day.