Book Break: The Ladies of Grace Adieu

LadiesGraceAdieuMany years ago—based upon a radio interview, I think—I read Susanna Clark’s massive debut novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. As I recall, the book combines historical fiction and fantasy to tell the tale of two somewhat friendly, rival magicians rediscovering actual, practical magic in 19th-century England. The book calls to mind the Harry Potter series in the sense that this is our world as we know it, but with wizarding world just beneath the surface that breaks through into the open. It recalls Tolkien in the depth and detail of its footnoted backstories.

More than a decade later, I see I did not blog about it, and today I remember little about the plot, other than it involved a young woman tormented by a fairy who drew her, night after night, into his realm to do his bidding. What I recall most was the atmosphere of the book: Clarke’s descriptions of “the man with the thistledown hair” and the world of Faery are terrible and otherworldly—you feel every bit as transported and disoriented as the characters; their thoughts and fears become your own.

I remember thinking highly enough of the book that when I ran across Clarke’s collection of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, I snapped it up despite the pink flowers on the front. And now, a decade later, I’ve finally read them. Continue reading

In the Belly of the Beast

I started a new routine this week, of rising at 4 a.m. to stretch and make coffee, then sitting down to write before the family rises to start the day. Getting up each day has gone well, stretching has been adequate, and coffee is always good. But the last thing I wrote for public consumption was Monday’s post, which in truth I wrote over the weekend.

Three days with no posts. Yesterday I found myself melancholy in mood and frustrated in prayer. I am doing exactly what I set out to do: putting my experience and gifts to work for the church. I have freedom, flexibility, and just enough money. So why, when I am free to write, do I have so little to share?

This morning, I sat down to pray before writing. Once again, my initial thought was that I have nothing to say. But as I prayed, I noticed something that put the fear of God in me—and, providentially, provided me a topic.

Continue reading

Lying to Myself

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” — Matthew 6:24

I caught myself in a lie the other day. Over the past few weeks, I’ve told this lie to many others, but most frequently to myself. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “I’m glad I made the decision to leave my job at the parish, but I still need to find steady work.”

I’ve uttered that statement or variations of it countless times in the past month. It is only half true—and the other half, I am realizing, is a lie straight from the serpent’s tongue. Continue reading

Book Break: Resisting Happiness

ResistingHappinessThis morning I finished Matthew Kelly‘s 2016 book Resisting Happiness. I opened this book several weeks ago while staying at a friend’s, after reading the cover blurb: “A true story about why we sabotage ourselves, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves…and how to start choosing happiness again.”

It seemed relevant.

Although his books are very popular in our local parish and in the Church more broadly, this is my first cover-to-cover reading and mini-review of a Matthew Kelly book. Resisting Happiness was clear and concise, personal and practical, naming and describing dozens of little things we do that keep us comfortably stagnant and offering simple ideas on how to overcome those tendencies and start living intentionally for God. Continue reading

Scuttle It and Swim

Shortly before I left my job at the church, a long-time parishioner and “straight shooter” stopped by the parish office. Seeing me there and knowing I was leaving soon, she inquired what I would be doing next. I told her I hoped to be writing full-time for the Church. She gazed a moment at me, a slight smile creasing her face, then asked, “Are you seeking a life of poverty?”

Her practical candor caught me off guard, compared to the wonder and well-wishes I had received up to that point—as did my off-the-cuff reply: “Well, there are worse things!”

I have now been a month without work. Our bills are paid thus far; I’ve done one small freelance job for a former colleague, and I have a couple more freelance proposals out for review, but no response to date. I’ve applied to a handful of full-time communications jobs at Catholic organizations and several non-Catholic (and even non-writing) positions. The budget will be tight in the coming weeks.

There are worse things. Continue reading