Honoring Milestones

The other day fifteen-year-old Chris came home from school and said to me, “MOM! You’re FAMOUS!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot having the slightest idea what he was talking about, but not wanting to show my hand, I hedged: “Really? Where?”

“On the Internet! I typed in your name and got ALL THESE PICTURES! Some of them are me, too!” (To my relief, he wasn’t unhappy about this.) “I showed the kids at school and they all thought it was cool!”

And, just like any mother, I smiled. Not at the thought of being famous, but at the thought that my son thought (at least for the moment) that I was . . . cool.

His comments prompted me to go back and look at some of those images, and to be honest, my favorites were not of me. I’ve never been particularly photogenic . . . but looking back and seeing all these photographs of the kids at the various stages of their lives made me realize just how blessed I have been.

If that wasn’t enough, one of my old professors at Bethany (where I got my degree in missions as well as my start in book publishing) reached out to me to tell me he’d seen my blog and was so pleased to see all the things I’d done with my life.

Your career and your interests and your schooling and your authoring of books–how many people have done what you’ve done? Impressive. But I’m sure you’ve discovered, as I have discovered, that all the accomplishments and really wonderful things God has done as you’ve been out and about really pale compared to your family and especially the kids. All of that is great, but without the love and joys and challenges of the family, the other stuff doesn’t mean much.

He was right, of course. That’s not to say that it’s been easy, or that there haven’t been other things I’ve enjoyed doing as well (including my day job). But even during the rough patches, my family has been the centerpiece of my crazy, frenetic life. And today, as Ave Maria Press (the company I work for) celebrates 150 years I decided to take a moment to honor the “big picture” of my life.

It all goes in the blink of a moment. But there’s so much treasure there. Including my two beautiful teenagers, who think I’m “famous.”

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The Road Trip Begins

fireplaceYesterday I arrived at Ave Maria to find my coworkers had transformed the office into a real “winter wonderland.” Up to and including the fireplace, fashioned from glittery paper and Christmas lights hidden behind a Yule log. Clever, huh? Made the sixteen-hour journey in the snow the previous day via train, two airplanes, and car . . . worth it.

“Journeying” is a popular metaphor in the publishing world. A good book is supposed to be transformative, leaving you better off simply for having invested yourself in it.

Parenting is also a journey. You start out with a little bundle (or, in my case, three larger ones), and discover a whole new side of yourself emerging. More love than you ever thought you had. Also more less flattering emotions (sleep deprivation does that to you.) But over time, you realize that even these begin to mellow into something more . . . human. Authentic. More fully “you.”

In the coming year, I’d like to invite you to journey with me on that parenting road trip. Sometimes that road trip will be literal (on Fridays I’ll be blogging about memorable places I’ve been to over the years, and invite you to join in the fun). Other times it will be more literary. (Wednesdays here will be my “Book Whisperer” column, where I point you to books and other resources that I’ve found helpful both in writing and in raising two special-needs kids, and invite you to share yours as well.) On Mondays, though, I hope to post about the journey of parenting. Feel free to play along!

Finally, I recently redid my “About” page (thanks to Michael Hyatt’s timely advice in Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World). If you’d like to guest post, to share your favorite book or not-to-be-missed road trip experience, please let me know!

The Adventures of Sister Scream

sister scream

“Sister Scream” made an appearance at Ave Maria Press today …. Well, she was there in spirit (Skype wasn’t working.) I had tried to find my “old hag” mask, and it must have been mis-sorted during the move (my “Fall” container had nothing but my wok and a fruit juicer). So . . . “skeletor” mask was all they had left at K-Mart, and I went with it.

Now, some might find this a bit tasteless: mixing the costume of a nun (my original costume is based on the Carmelite habit, because Teresa of Avila is one of my heroes) and a skeleton. And perhaps they would be right. And yet, I think you could also argue that it could be regarded as a kind of … “secular sacramental.” (The sacramental principle, the cornerstone of the Catholic life, is that God reaches out to us through the “stuff” of the physical world.) 

“Memento mori” (remember death) was one of the themes of the early Church. During those first four centuries, martyrdom was commonplace, and there were times when “Christian” was a truly dangerous association. And yet, the Church continued to grow because, in the words of 2nd century Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

On All-Saints and All-Souls Day, we remember that life and death are inextricably entwined. For the Christian, to experience life to the full, is to die to self; to die is to experience life in its sweetest perfection. Not because life isn’t a beautiful gift — it is. But because it is a prelude to something infinitely better.

And so, I think Sister Scream … is a comic figure. She reminds me to live with heaven in view, but not to be afraid of death. It has no lasting power over us, for Christ has already conquered …

And that is something to scream about!