Amen to that.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite quotes, from the legendary Erma Bombeck.

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A book about angels for your own little angels

 

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Angel of God,
My guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.

Amen.

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, which makes it a great time to talk about a darling new kids’ picture  book.  The book is God Gave Us Angels, written by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant.  It’s a gentle, very appealing introduction to angels for the preschool/ early elementary set.

In the book, a little polar bear cub asks Papa Bear about guardian angels, and they have a conversation about angels as they move throughout a snowy landscape.  Other creatures make an appearance – penguins, birds, rabbits – and as they discuss guardian angels, a polar bear angel occasionally hovers in the background, wings unfurled, giving visual proof of the daddy bear’s words.

The question/answer format is an effective way to cover the range of kids’ questions about angels.  What do angels do?  Will I ever be an angel myself?  Can we pray to angels?  (Papa says no, you only pray to God, which Catholic parents can turn into a teachable moment about how different  people believe different things about prayer).   Papa also emphasizes the role of angels as messengers and protectors; the very last page shows Little Cub asleep in bed, her guardian angel watching over her as she sleeps.

My favorite question/answer page is when Little Cub talks about how she hasn’t always been safe, sometimes she has gotten hurt.  “Why didn’t God give me an angel those times?”

“I’m not sure, Little Cub,” is Papa’s response.  “But no matter what happens, we can trust he is near and watching.  He loves  us, even more than the angels do.”

I like how a child’s book has the honesty to admit that sometimes we just don’t know why bad things happen.   If there’s one thing I am learning, it’s that kids are smarter than  we often think, and they can see through us if we try to give a phony answer, particularly to the question that has stymied believers for centuries.   And I really like how the book  immediately reinforces the fact that God loves us always, constantly, no matter what.

God Gave Us Angels  is a lovely book, one full of gentle warmth.  It makes me want to check out the other books in the series (they include God Gave Us You and God Gave Us Love).  My kindergartener is enjoying this one  thoroughly and I like reading it with him, especially at bedtime.   At the end of a busy  day, it’s nice to send kids off to bed with thoughts of angels in their heads.

God Gave Us Angels is  published by Waterbook Press, and I was delighted to receive a review copy.  It’s available at the publishers’ website, Barnes and Noble.com, and Amazon.com.

Who I want to be when I grow up

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My younger son recently announced that he wants to be Spiderman when he grows up.

“You can’t,” said his very literal brother.  “You can’t be someone who isn’t real.”

I kind of hope he’s wrong about that, because I too want to be a fictional character when I grow up.  My choice?  Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath.

If you know the story (about which I blogged just a few weeks ago – I must really like it), you know why I idolize her.  Ma keeps her family together throughout all the trials and challenges of their trip from Oklahoma to California.  She is able to handle drought, death, stillbirth, poverty, whiny children,  floods, hunger, car trouble,  rude people, and still hold it together.  Other people bring their crises to her because they know she can handle them, and she does.

I love how Ma has the quiet inner strength that she needs to buck her  family members up when they are feeling low.  As the narrator explains, “It was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials,” which is a great way of reflecting  what parents do for their kids when times are tough and we try to find any little positive thing we can to change the tone of the moment.

It’s what I try to do when my own little family hits rough patches, but I know I’m nowhere in Ma Joad’s league.   Changes in the normal running of things tend to throw me; I kvetch loudly about car trouble and broken dishwashers, and I am slightly obsessive about needing to know what is coming next.  But Ma Joad – she takes anything life throws at her, which in this book is quite a lot.   And though Pa is the titular head of the family, everyone in the story knows that Ma is the really strong one.

And it’s not just that she’s tough; she’s loving, too.  As Jim Casy says, “There’s a woman so great with love – she scares me.”  That love extends not just to her immediate family, but to the other needy people she encounters along the way.  It’s inspiring, no matter how many times I have read the book.

So I guess my son and I each have our own personal superhero.  His is a guy who can shoot webs and walk up walls; mine is a woman who can soothe her fearful children and keep the faith and set up camp anywhere life takes her.  And maybe one day, if I’m lucky, I will be just like her.

Finding God in the math homework

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Two weeks ago my kindergartener and I were sitting at the dining room table after dinner.  I was helping him with his math homework, which involved counting and coloring stars.  He sat there, blue crayon in hand, intent on his work, when all of a sudden he spoke.

“God made the stars to give us light,” he said.

“That’s right. He did.”

“And he gave us the moon and the sun, too,” he informed me solemnly.

I love it, these childhood flashes of spiritual connection, this flexible little mind that thinks of God right in the middle of a math worksheet.  Increasingly, I can do the same; I have become better over the years at letting awareness of God’s presence color the various events of my day.  But there are still many things I do where it’s harder to sense God, to connect the dots between my task and the divine.

I think of things like sitting in traffic, or grading stacks of papers, or waiting on hold with the DMV.  And I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of God while doing a math assignment, unless it involved a desperate silent prayer uttered moments before a pre-calculus test.  (I’m a word girl, not a number girl.)

But St. Ignatius believed you can find God in all things, and ultimately I believe it, too.  Some things and situations are easier than others,  but maybe that’s why we need other people; they find the connections we miss, just like my son did when his math homework became an occasion to think of the Creator.   Other people see the fingerprints of God in places where I just see smudges.  And when they share, they gently train us to have a sharper, clearer vision than we did before.

So that’s my challenge: to try to make my mind as flexible as my kindergartener’s, a mind that bends toward God even in the traffic and the math.

If Picasso had a Blue Period, I can have a Blue Day

Lately, I’ve been more conscious about noticing color. It’s all part of my  “praying is paying attention” thing;  I’ve found that an effective way to pray is to savor the many different colors that I see as I go throughout the day.

So last weekend, I dedicated a day to noticing blue, in all its wonderful variations.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Morning glories are pretty when they’re purple, but they’re beautiful when they’re blue.

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In the same garden where I saw the morning glories, I found hydrangeas in varying shades, light to vivid.  (A close-up of a hydrangea is a gorgeous thing, don’t you think?).

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When it comes to indoor things, I love the blue of this little decorative English plate that my mom gave me last Christmas (I believe that’s Balmoral Castle?).

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The flowers on the bedspread are a lovely soft shade … I don’t know what you call this kind of blue, but I like it.

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Wedgewood is pretty synonymous with blue, and I love the colors on this Madonna and Child medallion my aunt once gave me.  (I believe it’s meant to be a Christmas ornament, but I have it hanging on the wall all the time.)

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In my backyard, there are these tiny blue lobelia that pack one heckuva colorful punch.

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And how can I forget the lovely, warm September sky?

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I don’t know why “the blues” are associated with sadness.  All these shades make me very happy indeed.

Where are you noticing beautiful color today?

P.S. Congrats to Emily — you’re the winner of last week’s giveaway of The Feasts!