Friday, February 29, 2008

Prayer Request

This evening I got a message from a grieving cyberpal -- we'll call her "Bernadette" -- who is going through a VERY rough Lent. Sick mother, older sister recently deceased, mayhem all around her. Please say a prayer for Bernadette before you go to bed tonight, OK?

She said she regretted giving up alcohol for Lent. I told her to hold on to the hope that after every Good Friday comes an Easter.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for Bernadette, and for all of us.
Now and at the hour of our death.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts on Mercy

This week's Catholic Carnival is up and running at Adam's Ale. Check it out!

(The little cutie here is my friend Denise's little girl, whom she was bringing home from Ukraine when this picture was taken. Adoption reflects in a special way God's love for us.)

On Catholic Exchange today I found a link to this article, in which artist Emma Beck committed suicide after aborting eight-week-old twins, at the insistence of her boyfriend. She left a note, saying in part, "My babies need me now ... I want to be with my babies."

It is a triple tragedy, of course ... a woman feeling so wracked with guilt that she would kill herself after aborting her children. I've had two women, on separate occasions, tell me their own abortion story; one of them is related to me.

As I listened to these two women pour out their profound regret, I struggled to not to let judgment or horror show on my face, or escape my mouth unchecked. It was all too clear that both women had been scarred for life because of their choices. In one case, the woman had had four abortions (such stories are not uncommon), and to this day struggles alone to reconcile her faith -- what she knows to be true about God -- with her lasting sense of shame and guilt that from which she could not get relief, no matter how often she went to reconciliation or "Rachel's Vineyard" retreats. She simply could not forgive herself.

On one occasion, after listening to the "confession" of another dear sister, I spent weeks afterwards chastising myself for not being there to help her, for not being the sort of person she felt she could turn to for help. What if I had offered to open my home to her, help her get herself back on her feet? Instead I had to sit there and listen as one of the women I love most in this world told me the dark secret she carried inside her for almost twenty years.

How many of us have made choices that we would give ANYTHING to be able to make over again? I imagine most of us have these kinds of regrets. In the Lenten issue of Canticle, I tell one such story about my own life ... how I lived through a time of profound regret, and how I found peace through God's mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation.

It was not easy to write this story, but it was a story that needed telling simply because of the women I've encountered in my life who feel as though they are beyond God's mercy, beyond the reach of grace.

Women like Emma Beck.

In reality, the ocean of Mercy that exists in the heart of God is deeper, and broader, and wider than the most hellish pit of despair.

In my article, entitled "Tender Mercies," I go on to recount the true story of Rudolph Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, who purportedly confessed and was reconciled with the Church shortly before his execution, making prophetic the words of Maximillian Kolbe, who just before his own death at Auschwitz admonished his fellow prisoners: “Let us pray for the Nazis, because no conversion is impossible!”

By the Mercy of God, there is grace for Rudolph, and for Emma. For each of my struggling sisters. Even for me. Even for you.

And so, I ask you to join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Emma Beck, that God would shower her with His great Mercy. And pray for the doctor who performed this "procedure," that this great tragedy would bring about a change of heart ... and change of vocation.

If you would like to read "Tender Mercies," call the "Canticle" order line at 800-558-5452 and ask for Issue #38.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Come and Join the Party!

Mark your calendars! The Ultimate Blog Party 2008 will be held March 7-14. For more information, click here:

Ultimate Blog Party 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 Catholic Blog Awards

What a cool surprise! Thank you to the kind soul out there who nominated "Mommy Monsters" for the 2008 CBA -- and to the several who nominated "Behold Your Mother" for the best new blog category. It really made my whole day.

Nominations for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards will open this year at 12:00 Noon CST on Friday, February 15, 2008 and close on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 12:00 Noon CST. Voting will begin on Monday, March 3, 2008 at 12:00 Noon CST and end on Monday, March 17, 2008 at Noon. If you haven't already nominated your favorites, be sure to do so here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Remedial Class Moms ... Untie!

My children attend a charter school that divides each grade into three classes, "Basic" (for those needing a little extra coaching), "Standard" (for the middle of the pack) and "Proficient" (for those who would benefit from some enrichment activities). So far Christopher has managed to keep his head above water in the "Standard" class (though if his reading scores don't soon improve, that may change).

I, on the other hand, have decided that I belong solidly in the "Basic" camp.

It all started in preschool. The first school we tried -- an expensive Montessori program -- was a disaster. We were asked to leave after a month, obstensibly because Chris (who was still getting used to life at Chez Saxton) kept using words like "kill" and "dead" (which apparently was a much more serious offense than the word he came home with ... "stupid.") The parents contended he was a "bad influence."

In reality, I suspect it didn't help that I just didn't fit in with all those model parents. I refused to get up at 4:30 a.m. when it was my turn to bring snack, so I could make homemade miniature cinnamon rolls for two dozen unappreciative toddlers. I stuck with Cheeze-Its and juice boxes.

And when it was time for the annual bake sale, I didn't contribute a half-dozen homemade New York Style Cheesecakes (complete with strawberries I had picked myself). I brought in three plates of homemade brownies.

And when it was time to pick Christopher up from school, more than once I was the L-A-S-T parent to screech up to the front door and take my son's hand under the eagle-eye of the teacher, who pointedly asked me if I owned a watch. (And I wasn't even late, mind you. I just didn't see the point of arriving twenty minutes early and pressing my nose against the glass partition, salivating like a Labrador in front of the butcher shop.)

Fortunately, the next place was more accommodating (it was a co-op, so I spent more face time with the teacher, which helped, I think.) But even there, with certain moms who made a full-time job out of bossing around the other parents. It amazed me at times how much these full grown women ... could act just like preschoolers. And I wasn't always good at hiding my impatience. So sue me.

Now, at South Arbor Academy we started over with a fresh, clean slate ... all of us. And despite the fact that I work whenever the kid are in school, I was determined to make a good impression. After all, at charter schools parents are strongly encouraged to participate as actively as they are able to do so -- and I didn't want to come across as a freeloader.

So, when Chris' teacher asked me to come ten minutes early on Friday mornings so I could monitor the class while she pulled car duty, I gulped and tried not to think about how many mornings we made a desperate dash into the school parking lot at 7:59. For Mrs McK, we would get our collective rears in gear.

And we did ... for about four weeks, until we started showing up too early. Next thing I knew, our services were no longer needed. This year, I volunteered to take home two large boxes of reading materials that needed collating and stapling ... and threw my back out in the school parking lot. (I still did the books, but the teacher felt compelled to apologize for weeks afterward.)

To make matters worse, my kids are always in the office for something: forgotten medicine or homework, failure to meet dress code (someone snuck her sparkly pink shoes in her backpack when mom wasn't looking) ... and of course a forgotten lunch on a semi-regular basis. They need continual reminders to eat their lunch, wear their glasses ... and not crawl around the floor like gerbils on crack or they will rip a hole in the FOURTH pair of pants that winter.

The teachers and staff are always unfailingly nice, models of compassion and kindness. They know my kids' backstory, and have worked really hard to help them succeed. But somehow, I don't know, I look around me at all the other parents who are pulling car duty and pushing pizzas and carpooling every class trip and assisting in the classroom every week and ... wonder if I'm the one who belongs in the remedial group. Most days I struggle just to show up on time.

Yes, oh yes I do. My personal low-point came at assembly last week, when awards were given out for "academic achievement" (how well they are doing) and "moral focus" (how hard they try). Awards are given out for "cum laude," "summa cum laude," and "magnum cum laude" for all grades -- even kindergarten. Every single one of my child's classmates got at least a "cum laude" in something ... except mine, who got a "participated" award. Ouch.

That day I drove home with tears stinging in my eyes. How can it be that we couldn't even pull off a MORAL FOCUS nod? I mean ... honestly, the school's "moral focus" was our primary reason for sending them to this school instead of the public school. We believe in those global virtues ... compassion and honesty and perseverence and cooperation and courage and goodness and self-control. Why aren't our children making the grade?

As it turns out, they are. The teacher called me later to alert me to an irregularity in a computer program that resulted in my child slipping off the radar temporarily. Thank God.

Still, it got me thinking: The next time someone out in cyberspace tells me how "together" I have it (I about fell over the last time it happened), to be able to work and raise kids and keep house (ha) and write books and ... and... and... I'll just laugh and point to my "remedial parenting" award. Here it is right here ... wait, I just had my hands on it ... maybe in this pile of papers over here... Oh, Rats.

Remedial Parents, Untie!
P.S. Today I held in my hands ... for the very first time ... my first copy of Raising Up Mommy. (What a rush!). The first six who want to review it get a free copy. Just drop me a note at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com!

Something for your Easter basket?


I'm so excited about this ... and I hope you will be, too!

Do you know someone (a non-Catholic relative, perhaps)who has had difficulty thinking about Mary as her own spiritual mother? Does Mary seem too exalted ... too, well, pristine ... to bother with colic and potty training? I used to think so, too -- and I write about it here.

Behold Your Mother is a revised, expanded edition of a book I did years ago with Loyola Press (it used to be called "With Mary in Prayer"). Since the first edition, a significant development in my own life made me see Mary with fresh eyes:

I became an adoptive mother myself.

This book includes three real-life (mine) stories about Mary and me, as well as 48 meditations based on both the devotional titles of Mary and her story in Scripture.

Author Ann Ball wrote about the first edition: "Heidi's imaginative personification of the life of the Virgin leads us to understand the humanity of the woman while drawing us to the divinity of her Son.”

Preorder and Save! Bezalel Books will be releasing this book in time for Easter (makes a great Mother's Day gift, too). And if you order this book right now, I am offering a special pre-publication rate of $10 per copy (autograph is free). Plus, if you order by 3/14/08, I will spring for shipping and handling - no matter how many books you order! (Free shipping applies to continential U.S. only.)

To order either or both my new books by PayPal or credit card, click here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Carnival #160 ... Is Up

Thanks, Melissa, for hosting the Catholic Carnival this week at "The Third Way."

Today the kids are back at school after five days of non-stop "Mommy Time." The highlight was our trip to the Ann Arbor Museum of Natural History (check out those mammoth skeletons!); the lowlight was a tie between my sprained ankle and the trip to the dentist. "Look mom! Only two cavities!" (Each.)
Looks like we should have given up sweets this Lent, too! Ah, well ... one vice at a time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catholic Blog Awards

The 2008 Awards have begun. To nominate your favorite blogs, click here!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Exciting Announcement ... a New Blog in Town!

Dear Friends: As I've been gearing up to start promoting BYM in earnest, I realized that I need to become more intentional about how and when I do my other writing. To that end, I've decided to discontinue "Streams of Mercy" for a time ... and begin a new blog that is dedicated to all things Mary. You can check it out here.

I've also issued an invitation ... which I do here as well. I'd really like it if the "BYM Blog" became a community effort, a quilt of love to Mary from all her daughters. Stories, prayers, questions, requests, quotes ... everything has a place in this little corner of cyberspace. I invite you to drop me a line if you'd like to share something at hsaxton(at)christianword(dot)com.

And now ... back to our regularly scheduled (adoptive parent and family life) programming!

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle on the International Congress in Rome

If you have not already done so, check out the "Dignity of Women" site, which has updated information about this recent Congress celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II's extraordinary letter on the dignity and vocation of women. I found the H2) New Clip on the Congress particularly interesting.

Donna-Marie just returned from Rome, and you can hear her being interviewed on EWTN and other media sources through her blog "Embracing Motherhood." Despite her neck injuries and lack of sleep, she continues to be a joyful example of authentic Catholic womanhood!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Favorite Mommy Quote of the Week

"I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon."

Mishelle at "Secret Agent Mama"
Favorite mommy quotes are chosen on the basis of how many drops of Diet Coke get sprayed on my computer screen at first reading. This was a six-dropper. Way to go, Mishelle!

The Great T.V. Experiment

Well, heading deep into week three of the Great No-TV-For-Lent, Gotta-Read-Five-Hours-A-Week-Or-No-Pizza-Party Experiment. While I've yet to get them to embrace fully my "five different types of books each week" idea, the basic plan itself does seem to be working.

Even for Craig and me. Which, the more I think of it, is really something because we have more control over our choices than our children have over theirs. But when Valentine's Day yesterday went to H-E-double hockey sticks in the proverbial handbasket yesterday ... we sat and talked. Till almost midnight. It's been a while since we'd done that. And at the end, just before he kissed me goodnight, Craig said to me, "You know, we hardly ever talk like this when the TV is on."

Hmmm... maybe my dad was on to something when he pitched our television set out the bedroom window when I was in first grade. (Not quite there yet. Sorry.)

Christopher is a "Stars Fanatic" now, though. Tonight on the way home from his piano lesson, he wanted to know if he could have a star sticker (which I've been giving for 30 minutes of reading) because he did well on his piano lesson. I about choked.

"Christopher," I said very seriously. "Those lessons are our gift to you, and you are very very blessed to be able to take lessons from someone as gifted as Mrs. Thoene. You should be giving ME a star for these lessons!"

That shut him up. Seriously, I was looking around the teacher's house tonight. In her living room she has a pipe organ, harpsicord, clavicord, and upright piano. Yes, that's right ... all in one room. And she charges the same as my parents paid thirty years ago for my lessons, which were done on a little Hammond electronic.

You know how you always want to give your kids what you didn't have? Jackpot.

It's not so bad, though. I still can sing every verse of nearly every hymn in my "Great Hymns of the Faith" by heart. And I was the only junior high (7th grade) student who had a regular organist/choir director gig at the local Lutheran church.

How is YOUR Lent going so far?

Valentine's Remembered ...

Today at "Streams of Mercy" I reflect on one of the harder sides of love ... forgiving even when the other person doesn't realize they've offended.

It's another opportunity to walk in grace, under the shade of Mercy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Does Your Mommy Monster Need Taming?!

Drum roll, please!

Simon Peter Press has just released ...

Moms everywhere will understand what I mean when I say that there are days when the monsters win. Those seven deadly habits -- pride or envy, gluttony or sloth, greed or lust or (in my case) anger -- eat away at the soul until the very fabric of family life begins to come apart at the seams.

Fortunately, as women we have also been blessed with extraordinary gifts, spiritual antidotes to these sinful inclinations. As we exercise ourselves in virtue -- whether that spiritual "weight training" be for endurance or strength -- we find the habits begin to fall away.

I should warn you: this book is not written from the perspective of one who has "arrived," but someone who is still very much sweating in the trenches of motherhood. Some days, by God's grace, I win. All too often, I don't. And yet, I have known women who have perfected themselves in these graces, and share their stories along with my own.

In the near future, this "Women of Grace LifeGuide" will be released in group study format, with a facilitator's guide and video, providing a next step for those who have been through the Women of Grace Foundational Study. For other, it may be your first exposure to the "Women of Grace" apostolate (in addition to "Canticle" magazine, I mean).

Either way, I hope you'll write and let me know if it's helped!

God bless you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Feasting!

Ebeth has posted this week's Catholic Carnival at "A Catholic Mum Climbing the Pillars." We foiled her in her "Valentine's Day" theme ... but it is still well worth reading. Enjoy!

Sunday was a special feastday ... although I didn't get anything posted about it (I don't think she'll mind ... St. Scholastica perfected the feminine virtue of hiddenness.) Instead, four dear friends and I gathered for our annual "Ladies' Tea."

Our friendship goes back more than a decade, when I first moved to Michigan to take the managing editor's job at Servant Publications. Shortly thereafter, I joined St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor, MI ... and started hanging out with Katy, Denise, Lilian, and Patty. At the time, none of us were married or had any children, and so we got together and started praying for our future husbands.

Within a year, three of us (myself included) were married, and a fourth had adopted a child from Ukraine. Fast forward years later, and we still make a point of getting together to pray for one another and catch up on each others' lives. Usually over pints of tea and plates of treats (good thing I didn't give up chocolate for Lent this year)!

Each time we get together, I wonder why we don't make these visits more frequent ... and each time, I am grateful for the time we do spend together. I imagine it's sort of like how Scholastica felt for her twin brother, St. Benedict. (You can read the story here.) Or here.

To be frank, the information we have about St. Scholastica is a bit sketchy ... only one story, captured in the hagiography of St. Gregory the Great. Still, I wear her medallion around my neck (along with St. Edith and St. Teresa of Avila) whenever I do any serious writing for one single reason: She understood when it was time to stop arguing, and to step back and let God intervene.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In honor of this feast, I'd like to recommend a little gem of a recording called "Famous Blue Raincoat," by Jennifer Warnes. "Song of Bernadette" and "Joan of Arc" are both wonderful cuts in this album (you can listen to a snippet by clicking on the link). Well worth getting.
Yesterday at tea, Patty talked about her trip last spring to Medjugorje (I always get this apparition confused with Fatima). I understand from Patty that one of the "children" (now an elderly priest) is visited on the 25th of each month by the Blessed Mother -- although no one can see her but him. I wonder why she would do that ... have a standing appointment at a specific place and time, but not let anyone else see her but the original "seer." Does anyone have thoughts on this?

Lourdes is a different story. There are many, many accounts of people receiving healing from the spring where Bernadette once stood ... and many more who receive the spiritual graces they need to endure. (Of course, I readily admit that the Blessed Mother can do whatever she wishes, whenever she wants, without it needing to "make sense" to me. I'm just puzzled by it, is all.)
Any thoughts?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thanks, Karen

Memorable Bedtime Moments, courtesy of Pachabel.

Lenten Progress

In my previous post, I announced that Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert -- a new, updated version of my book of Scripture reflections on Mary -- is being produced by Bezalel Books.
In honor of the first week of Lent, I thought I'd share a reflection from the book, based on the story found in Luke 9.

Months had passed since I’d last seen him.
So, wrapping up a handful of his favorite fig-pies,
We made our journey to see the Nazarene.
Even a Miracle-Maker must take a break
to see his mother! Surely … wouldn’t he?

The crowds huddled thick as we approached.
“Andrew! Andrew! Tell him we’ve come.”
Returning, he did not look me in the eye.
“My Lady, I’m so sorry, he cannot see you now.”
Through the blur I saw him, and remembered.
“A sword will pierce your heart”

For more information about how to order a copy of this book, and take advantage of the pre-pub rate, click here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Catholic Carnival ... Up and Running

Sarah at "Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering" has this week's installment of the Catholic Carnival up and running. Enjoy!

If you'd like to host a carnival one week, contact Jay at "Living Catholicism" by e-mailing him at

Have a Happy Lent!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Weekend

When we got married, Craig and I had a deal (not a prenup, exactly, as much as an ironclad understanding): He would watch no more than two sports events each year on television, if I would make those two events memorable.
Usually that means stuffed mushroom caps and a twelve-pack of Samuel Adams Special Lager. (He never drinks more than two; the others are there for decoration, I think.) This is followed by scintillating conversation, such as:

He: Who's your pick this year, honey?

Me: Well ... This is football, right? What color are their uniforms?

He: Patriots are black-and-white. Giants are red-and-white.

Me: Giants, then. Nicer uniforms.

He: (Humoring snort ... followed several hours later by) Wow! Nice call! Good thing I didn't have anything riding on that one.

Me: Have the last mushroom.

Yes, it was a super weekend. But not for the reasons you'd think -- it had nothing to do with a pigskin on the fifty yard line. Saturday morning I woke up, took one look at the house (which was suffering from the previous snow day, in which it seemed that the entire neighborhood was intent on tracking every last snowflake across my linoleum floor), and promptly got a headache.

Kids were banished to their respective rooms to create order out of chaos, while I stampeded through the downstairs, energetically putting things back in place and mopping up the floor. Craig, who had been at his computer all morning, kept typing. I sighed. Loudly.

"Isn't tonight that dinner-dance at the church, honey?"

"Yes. Which means we have a babysitter coming, and we need to get this mess picked up." (Note to self: Why is it that I won't let the babysitter see the same mess we live in most other days?)

Then, a miracle: The sound of the vacuum cleaner running. Not wanting to jinx it, I kept working in the kitchen. Next thing I know sound of vacuum is moving up the stairs ... and DH is coming back down, collecting trash. On his way out the door, he stops and brushes the top of my head with his lips.

"Wow! To what do I owe this?"

"Well ... I figure I have a choice: Keep working on my computer, and spend the evening getting you in a good mood again, or pitch in now so we can BOTH enjoy the night out."

Have I mentioned I married the most wonderful guy in the world?

The fact of the matter is that I've been on edge this past week. It's kind of a vicious cycle: I get stressed out, kids pick up on it, they get anxious and can't/won't sleep, they wake me up, I lose sleep and get even crabbier, they get even more anxious ... you get the picture. (Craig isn't sleeping well, either -- work related.)

So, after church on Sunday, another miracle: both children are invited to their respective friends' houses for a play date. With a shout of glee, they put on their snow gear and head for the hills. The door slams shut behind them, echoing in the empty house.

Craig and I look at each other, run for the bedroom ... and put on our jammies. I pop another migraine pill and put on my sleep mask (my favorite Christmas gift). He gets his sleep machine going. An hour or so later I regain consciousness, feeling like a million bucks. Craig is cuddled up next to me, some light classical on the set. And I feel ... happy.

Now, at this point you might have your hand poised over the mouse, ready to click at the first sign of TMI. But here's the thing: It wasn't about sex. (At least not at that moment.) It was about connecting with my husband. I'd missed him, and was having a difficult time articulating exactly what I needed.

Smart man that he is, Craig understood something was wrong, and did everything he could think of to fix the situation (hence the vacuuming and dancing and letting me sleep in Saturday morning). But at the end of the day, what I really needed ... was to be near him. Just him and me, alone. Cuddled up, and not having to worry about anyone else coming to crash the party.

I effects of that mini-vacation stayed with me the rest of the day. I forgot the mushrooms this year, but Craig didn't care because I figured out how to make Cinnabuns. The great mood stayed with me as I played Disney BINGO and read with the kids so Craig could watch SuperBowl in peace. The good mood didn't evaporate even this morning, when Sarah refused to get out of bed and Christopher was running around like a gerbil on crack, trying to find his homework.

'Cause this was SuperWeekend, and I feel good.

Friday, February 01, 2008

When Love Gets Expensive

After taking a bit of a break, I'm ready to jump back into the series about Mother Teresa, as revealed in the book Come, Be My Light. As I've said -- most recently in the last post in this series -- I believe Blessed Teresa should be (if she isn't already) the patroness of adoptive and foster mothers. Today I'd like to share with you another way this dear saint of Calcutta lived a life that is a model for adoptive and foster parents everywhere.

Reason #3: She continued to love, even when it cost her dearly.

It would have been very easy, after receiving the first resistance from her superiors, to shrug her shoulders and go back to teaching her students as a Sister of Loreto. Clearly, the girls loved her; just as clearly, she experienced profound intimacy with Jesus in this vocation -- a sense of intimacy that, by her own admission, she did not recover for more than fifty years in the slums of Calcutta.

In the May 2008 issue of "Canticle" magazine, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle encourages mothers with the idea that, although we must continue to strive to find time for prayer, the fact is that the essence of the motherly vocation is one of making all of life an offering to God. This is doubly true for those who choose to raise children with whom they share no biological tie, and foster parents in a special way. We intentionally form attachments for the good of the child, putting our own emotional well-being at risk in the process. And we do it even when the child in question ...

* is angry,
* is resentful,
* won't sleep or cooperate,
* is messy or destructive,
* is profoundly ungrateful, and especially
* makes unfavorable comparisons between her "real" parents and your pitiful efforts (for the record, my children don't do that ... but I know other foster parents have experienced this).

Living with even one such creature is bound to put a fair amount of stress on a parent, interrupting sleeping and eating patterns and generally leaving that parent with a sense of impending doom. Finding five minutes to pray when an anxious toddler won't even let you go to the bathroom in peace sounds no more plausible than flying to the moon.

The thing is, God understands this. He understands that what you are doing, each and every moment of the day, is being done for love of God. It is a conscientous choice -- often a difficult one. The darkness closes in, the pressure builds ... and still, you take a deep breath and (miracle of miracles) find it in your heart to pick up that little bundle of snot and dirt and hug him (gently) while you both cry a little, then go for a ride on the swing.

There now, don't you feel better?

The single most important lesson I picked up from CBML is that one needn't feel close to God, or even feel particularly loving, to be love to a suffering soul. "Love Jesus, and take what He gives you with a big smile." If your heart isn't singing, detach from it a bit and paste that look of motherly serenity on your face. Act as though you have the grace ... and the rest will follow.