Coming spring of next year … a new book!


Think back over the last twenty-four hours.  Where and how did you encounter God’s goodness?

Odds are good your answer sounds something like this:

*I saw God in the morning sunrise
*I heard God in the voices of my kids at play
*I smelled God in the honeysuckle in the neighbor’s yard
*I touched God in the healing warmth of a friend’s hug
*I tasted God in that cup of dark delicious coffee

The last few years, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the role that the senses play in my spiritual life.  I’ve realized that my daily experiences of God end up reading a lot like the list above.  I’ve learned that faith is not purely an abstract, intellectual thing; it’s a full-body experience.  I’ve discovered that God reaches out to us through the language we know best: the language of the senses.  And I’ve realized that my Catholic faith, with all its stained glass and rosaries and music and smells and bells, has me by the heart for precisely this reason.

And I turned all of these thoughts into a book!  It’s called Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses, and it will be published next spring by Loyola Press (insert happy dance here).

I’m really excited about this book.  It was hugely rewarding to write, and I hope it’ll be just as rewarding to read.  It’s divided into five sections, one for each sense, and it looks at the various ways that God speaks to us through that sense.  Some are everyday, universal experiences, like hearing a friend’s voice or holding a loved one; some are specifically Catholic, like praying with a rosary or partaking of the Eucharist. There are prayer exercises for each chapter, too, if you’re the praying type (and if you’re reading this blog, I have a feeling you are.)

May 1st is the official publication date, but it’s already on Amazon  and on Goodreads (if you want to add it to your Want-to-Read list, that would be more than okay by me).  And it has a hot-off-the-presses cover, which I just love.  (I joked with the Loyola folks that they should have a cover which incorporates the five senses — a musical chip, a scratch-n-sniff patch, a fuzzy spot à la Pat the Bunny – but the cover above isn’t bad as an alternative.)

So that’s my big news!  I can’t wait to share the book with you all.  Only seven more months to wait….

When do you find time to pray?

Prayer is sort of like exercise.  I don’t really have time to do it, but I’m not a healthy person  if I skip it.

So I make time.  Not enough, admittedly, but enough to keep me at a baseline level of spiritual fitness.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to share when I manage to squeeze this prayer into the mix of my busy day, because my busy day probably looks a lot like your busy day, and the more we moms can share tips about how we keep healthy and happy, the better off we all are.  So here it is, my answer to the question When do you pray? 

And I do hope  you’ll share your own answer in the comments below, because I want to learn from your wisdom and experience!

Mornings, Before Work (otherwise known as Prayer By Stealth)

A while back, I realized that if I sneak a cup of  morning coffee back to my bedroom and close the door, I can actually manage to work in five minutes of uninterrupted prayer.  My  kids see the closed door and assume I am spending the whole time getting dressed, so they leave me in peace.    It is sneaky but effective.

During that brief time, I usually look at the Mass readings in Give Us This Day, and/or pray with a daily devotional (two I’m into at the moment are The Ignatian Book of Days and WholeHearted Living).  I might also read the daily devotion on Blessed Is She.   It’s a nice little ritual that helps me start my day on a good note.

Drive to Work: Praying with Music

On my commute — which is a half-hour — I sometimes listen to music that gets me in a prayerful space.  Sometimes this is the local classical radio station, and sometimes it’s a CD of more “churchy” songs that actually mention God.

And sometimes I just listen to stuff that doesn’t feel prayerful at all but simply wakes me up. ABBA fits in that category (though with a name like that, can’t I make a case that they are a churchy group too?)


Nighttime: Prayer Desk and candles

Okay, I don’t do this prayer every night; sometimes the siren song of the couch and TV is just too strong.  But often I retreat to the prayer desk in our bedroom, light a candle, and take a few moments to sit in quiet and peace.  I might pray the Examen, or run through a litany of requests and concerns, or pick up the rosary and finger the beads in a sort of wordless prayer.  I might just stare at the candle flame and feel the presence of God.  There is something precious about my prayer corner at night; it feels so holy and unhurried, somehow, with the shadow of the candle flame flickering on the closed blinds.

It is always better than watching TV.  Funny how easy it is to forget that.

Random Times During the Day

Someone famous once said to pray without ceasing.  St. Ignatius of Loyola said you can find God in all things.  Both ideas point to the reality that prayer can be instinctive, and informal; almost a way of being as opposed to a specific action or practice.

Much of my prayer ends up feeling like that: a wordless recognition of the goodness of God all around me.  This feeling might come on me when I see my kids playing together in the front yard, or when I see a man helping his elderly wife across the street.  It might come upon me when I walk past a fragrant honeysuckle bush on my Sunday morning walk, or when my family does a group hug.  It might come upon me in the sight of the sky the other night, admiring the moon on the rise as it peeks through the strands of pink and blue.


So how about you?  When do you find time to pray?

Many parts, one body


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“After you receive the body of Christ, you should return to your pew, kneel down, and pray,” said my second-grade teacher as she prepared our class for our First Holy Communion.  Those moments after receiving the Eucharist are a holy and special time, we were taught, a beautiful time to pray.

As a child, I followed her directions carefully.  Back in my pew after receiving Communion,  I would kneel, hands clasped, eyes usually closed as I mentally ran through a list of things I wanted God to do for me or for people I loved.  (I’d throw in some thank-yous, too, just for balance.)

But now, as an adult, I often find that my post-Communion prayer is something quite different.  Instead of closing my eyes and offering a laundry list of requests, I often keep my eyes open and watch the people filing down the aisle.

Yes, in part, this is a writer’s curiosity at work;  I love to watch people, whether in the airport or at the mall or at church.  But it’s more than that.  I think of my watching as a kind of prayer in and of itself, a way to recognize the many many people who make up the body of Christ.

In the Communion line, I see people I know.  I see people I don’t know.  I see elderly men leaning on canes and newborns carried in parents’ arms.  I see women in tailored clothes and men with tattoos for sleeves.  I see people who are short, tall, thin, broad, male, female, smiling, serious, slow, fast, peaceful, restless, distracted, focused.  I see people whose struggles are written on their faces and people who seem to have no struggles at all, though I know that’s not true, and that everyone in that line has some need they are bringing to God.

And, most of all, I see color,  every skin tone that God made.  I see six continents represented in the communion line, a small world filing down the center aisle and around the sides.  And that feels right to me.  I don’t think I could trust a church where everyone in the pews looks exactly like me.  Such a church would feel incomplete; even wrong, somehow.  But my church – my church with its wonderful wide variety of diverse humanity, speaking different languages and wearing different clothes and eating different foods and yet facing the same human struggles, and finding the same source of solace and love at the end of the communion line – this is the church I believe in.  This is the church I love.

And remembering that?  Often, that’s the best prayer I know.

Prayer of the mom who works outside the home


Dear God,

It’s me, and yes, it’s been a while.  Sorry to be so incommunicado lately. But it’s been One of Those Weeks, the kind of week that every mom who works outside the home knows all too well.

It’s been a week of dreading the alarm clock.

It’s been a week of cursing the traffic on the morning commute.

It’s been a week of rushing from work meetings to my kids’ school to soccer practice, always running late.

It’s been a week of feeling guilty that I’m not available to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.

It’s been a week of rifling through my closet, praying that I have some clean work clothes that match.

It’s been a week of rifling through the teetering laundry basket in the hall, praying that the kids have some clean school clothes that match.

It’s been a week that passed with no chance to exercise.

It’s been a week of coming home exhausted and having to shift dirty breakfast dishes out of the sink before I can even start making dinner.

It’s been a week of feeling like I have two full-time jobs, and like I’m not doing either one of them particularly well.

It’s been a week of feeling like I am giving my first fruits to my job, and not to my own kids.  That, God, is the hardest thing of all.

I’m not sure what I’m hoping to get from this prayer, God, except that somehow I feel like this all needs to be said.  Sometimes I feel like a fragile little raft in the waters of this busy life, and any wave could capsize me.

But no wave has, as yet.

I guess that’s something.  For all my exhaustion and mom-guilt, my family is staying afloat.  So, too, is my job.  And I’ve had some good moments, in all of this.

For one thing, it’s been a week of beautiful scenery as I drive to work.

It’s been a week of dark delicious coffee, which I’d drink even if I didn’t have to get up so dashed early.

It’s been a week of two boys giving me lavish hugs as I leave the house in the morning, and running to me with smiles when I pick them up at after-school care.

It’s been  a week of work colleagues who make me laugh when I need it most.

It’s been a week of other working parents sharing their own struggles, showing me that I’m not alone.

It has been a week of being home with my boys in the evening, reading them stories, tucking them into bed, praying for them, watching them as they sleep the sleep of the young and unweary.

It’s been one more week in which I’ve managed to stay afloat, and if I’m honest, it hasn’t been all bad.  It has had its moments, Lord, more than a few.

Maybe the answer is to talk to you more.  When I do, I come away different than when I started.

Because taking time for you is, through some magical process, the same thing as taking time for me.  Not just for me: prayer has a ripple effect of peace through my little family of four, through my job, through my colleagues.   It calms the waters underneath this little boat.  It makes me steadier and happier, less worried about capsizing.

Because it helps me remember that, for all the daily grind and stress and mom-guilt, I am blessed.

Really and truly.



Mad with joy


I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog lately.  It’s not by choice; I’m back in the busy-ness of teaching, which has swallowed up my attention and energy, and  I’ve also been finishing up a big-and-fun writing project (you’ll hear more on that soon).  I hope normal blogging will resume shortly.

But for now, I offer you some pretty pictures of flowers.  Enjoy these last few weeks of summer, and don’t forget to pause and smell the roses.


People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.
– Iris Murdoch