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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

This is why I love literature. Examining lives. Reading allows me to live beyond my own skin and time, stepping into a different world, exploring what it’s like to be someone else, with different expectations, different family, different abilities.

When I meet people who don’t read, I feel nervous. Not only do they not appreciate the hobby I hold dear to my heart, they also are lacking all the experiences gained from reading stories, biographies & autobiographies. They know nothing of making friends, or the art of communication, and becoming an influential person because they’ve read nothing on how to be great. The political world, the history of the world, the scientific studies…all are lost on those poor souls who don’t read.

But they watch TV and are informed, they say.

Yeah, right. That’s like saying, “I watched a documentary about Adolf Hitler and now know everything I need to know about leadership.”

Books, be it on paper or an electronic device, offer a different type of education. It requires the reader to do just one thing – read. In our society of multi-tasking – one of the worst things to happen, in my opinion – reading requires stillness, peace, and dedication. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or studying for a greater depth in understanding about a particular subject, reading is a focused skill that is the heart and soul of the human race.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

It’s likely that Plato wasn’t talking about reading when he wrote this. I imagine that he is expressing a need for the individual to spend time each day reflecting on our actions, words, conflicts, triumphs and plans for the next day.

The advantage to adding reading to this examination of life is looking into other hearts, minds, and goals of other people. Whether they are fictional or historical, the nature of the human heart is to find happiness. Without a proper examination of life, how can we discover what will make us happy?

A few years ago, my two oldest daughters read Pride and Prejudice. It’s fiction, not a scientific study. It’s not an adventure or a fantasy. It’s a novel about manners. It’s an examination of different types of women and their role in family, society, and grace. From that reading, my daughters decided to practice self-control when talking to boys, lest they sound like Lydia and end up with her lot in life…which wasn’t much. My daughters were captivated by the language, the intelligence of their communication, the patience they exercised. They saw the happiness the characters gained at the end of the story and knew that that’s what they wanted for themselves.

In my hopes of raising daughters, I have often spoken (and try to model) self-control, patience and the virtue of purity. But my words are just words; and while actions do speak louder, there is something about it being spoken by a parent that renders the lesson moot. It takes an outsider to cause the lessons to stick; someone who has earned their trust, someone who doesn’t tell them to pick up their dirty socks or to make their beds. Outsiders can, for better or worse, teach children far better than parents. If the outsiders are the characters from books, readers can extend their experiences, their knowledge, and their friends (personally, my greatest lessons in friendship came from books – the most difficult lessons from my own life.)

In the moments spent between the lines of a story, readers can practice behaviors without actually hurting anyone. The behaviors of characters, of historical figures, even of creatures in books (think Gollum), shadows our own. But what do we do with those characters in our reality?

In the Catholic faith, we are encouraged to do a nightly examination of conscience: How did I do today? Did I live for God? Whom did I serve? What did I sacrifice? What did I give? Did I spend time in prayer and with scripture? Where did I fall short? What can I do differently tomorrow?

Regardless of faith, these same questions crack open a whole new way of looking the way people live. As we examine our days, we discover our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses leads us to overcome them in strengths. Exercising our strengths allows us to understand that we need proper information to become better people. Better information leads us to Wisdom. Wisdom will save the world.

An exercise that fell short:
 Years ago, in high school I believe, I was asked where I thought I would be and what I would be doing in 10 years. I don’t remember my answer specifically, but I’m sure it was something to the tune of: good job, happily married, a baby, nice car, nice home, annual vacations.

If I ask myself that question now – Where do I see myself in 10 years? – I’m looking at a 50-something year-old woman. While the question is a starting point, it doesn’t examine the deeper questions: What do I want for that 50-something year old woman? Am I robbing that older woman of her gifts and talents by the things I’m doing today? What I can save for her that will help her in the future? What can I do that will make that older lady happy, secure, and strong?

In examining my future, I can focus my plans for today. If I picture myself in 10 years as a woman living completely off the choices I make each and every day from now until then, how different do you think I will choose to live?

What I do today will determine my success in the future. My goals for today, this week, next month, and the coming year will all add up into something great…or, if they exist in an “unexamined life”, will lead to a failed existence.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

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I’m working on marketing (thinking of ways I can promote my writing and my public speaking) and flipping through the pages of Writers Market 2014 looking for places to submit Ceiling Tiles (also known to my family as Gravity…a book in need of a better title :) )These are tasks that require as much creative writing as writing a novel. There are four things that are keeping me from completing my to-do list: my kids.

Around me is noise. Loads of resounding noise. There is a 3-year-old son in the bath tub singing with the 12-year-old daughter who volunteered to give him a bath (and is therefore in the running for daughter-of-the-year award). The other two daughters are practicing their instruments; a viola and a flute. This is the noise of my life. Whether it’s music or laughter or screaming (joyful or frustration…take your pick), there is a constant noise in my life.

Despite promises to myself to remain calm, by 2:00 PM I’m ready for ear plugs. I prayerfully try to begin each day with a request to God to not allow my name to weigh me down.

The incessant, “Mom, I can’t reach…

Mom, where is my…

Mom, he won’t stop…

Mom, I’m so hungry…

Mom, I don’t like green beans…

Mom, I need…

Mom, why…

Mom, your hair is turning gray…

Mom, where are you going?

I fondly remember an evening in December of 1999 when I was supremely pregnant with my oldest daughter. I was bloated and emotional and suffering from gestational diabetes. I wondered aloud what the house would sound like with a baby, then a toddler, then a baby and a toddler. It was anticipation of those ‘little feet’.

Fast forward almost fourteen years…I can tell you what a house sounds like with a teenage daughter, two tweens, and a three-year-old boy…loud. Just plain loud. As I’m typing this, the 3-year-old is now out of the tub, in clean pajamas (because I never dressed him today), and making excellent motor sounds with his truck on the table. That award winning 12-year old is now sawing away on her cello. All the girls play their instruments well, I just wish they were playing the same song.

20140106_190809

I’d love to tell you that I love all the noise. I’d be lying. There are moments (sometimes full days) when I would give my left lung to have 12 hours of peace and quiet, to listen to nothing but the sound of my own breathing, to run to the grocery store in the car and not the 8-seater truck.

My son, in response to my request for a little ‘peace and quiet’ brought me a plate of legos mixed with green pattern blocks…”It’s a big serving of Peas and Quiet.” God bless him!

Alas, there is no lesson to this post. I have no silver lining to offer because the sound pollution in my house prevents me from embracing it. What I can offer is understanding to all the frustrated moms out there. You are not alone and I’m praying for you all right now!

I will also remind myself to breathe in those quiet moments as if they were my last breaths. The stillness of night has become my sanctuary and I pray that your night is filled with sleeping children, content husbands, peaceful breezes, and bladders the size of a 2-liter.

Until the kids are asleep, I’m setting aside Writers Market to go to the family room and build with Legos and drive trucks across the floor. Happy Parenting to All! And to all a good night!

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It’s been months since my last post. In fact, you probably forgot you had subscribed to this blog :) But October, November and December were far from useless months. While my blogging went to the bottom of the to-do list, I did spend a great deal of time in prayer, reevaluating my life as a Catholic Christian, wife, mother, friend, author, and public speaker.

In the months leading up to September and the release of a new book, I felt a pull in my heart. I was missing something important. Society told me otherwise. I was published – three times now. I was speaking frequently and book sales were good – considering I’m essentially a nobody. Pressure to establish a platform, to share my expertise, to promote fellow authors and my own work is all very good, but it’s pressure and I caved. My family and my faith were not a part of that ‘success’ equation, but in reality, faith and family are my top two priorities. That was the pull – me pulling away from all the blessings I had to reach for a means of success that really isn’t success.

Two books at Schuler's Book Store in Michigan...dreams do come true!

Two books at Schuler’s Book Store in Michigan…dreams do come true!

Over the last few months, I’ve stayed away from the Internet as much as possible. Instead of checking emails, blog posts, and facebook posts, I’ve been diving into teaching Latin and Logic with my children. I’ve read more, and have written more. I seemed to be on the right track when the screen on my laptop stopped working, forcing me to hand-write my next novel. Oh, I didn’t hand write the whole thing, but I did manage to write 5 chapters and edit all that I have so far.

My speaking calendar is more open and book sales have dropped a bit, but my family is happier. It seems a very fair trade, but with the new year in full swing, it’s time for the resolutions. In the spirit of doing things my way (go ahead and sing it – “I’ll do it my way!”) I’m not going to make any resolutions. I’m going to revolutionize my priorities.

Faith First.

Family next.

I cooked that meal...and helped put together that solar system model hanging from the light. Scoring points for the Super Mom Award :)

I cooked that meal…and helped put together that solar system model hanging from the light. Scoring points for the Super Mom Award :)

Food is important. I’ll make meal planning and cooking priority number 3. I suppose a 3.1 would be to continue to teach my children to cook, to follow recipes, to take chances in the kitchen (not with knives or fire, obviously, but with spices).

Homeschooling is a commitment my husband and I made almost 10 years ago. I’m renewing that commitment and -you guessed it – revolutionizing our format. Maybe I’ll write something about our journey…it’s been quite a trip.

And then I will write. I’ll write to my children in the notebooks I have for each of them; letters of love and encouragement, notes of wonderful things I witness in their lives, and comments on things I see them struggle.

I’ll write poetry. It’s not a natural pace for me, but I love to form the words within the molds of structure, to paint with letters.

Novels. I know I’m a ‘big picture’ kind of gal and writing a novel is my favorite challenge. I finished another novel this year – time to polish and submit. There are three more in the works – time to focus.

If I can focus, motivate, speak truth, model faith, and look for beauty, I can revolutionize my life. Instead of seeing a daunting task of marketing and writing chapter after chapter, I will see smaller tasks that can, when added together, have a greater impact on my overall success as a faithful woman, wife, mother, daughter and friend.

What about you? What can you do this year that will revolutionize your world? Do you seek greater wisdom? A stronger and healthier body? Can you repair lost trust? Broken hearts?

Of course you can. It all starts with you, a plan, and a prayer. Everything else will fall into place.

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It has finally happened! After twelve years of studying writing, reading every book I could and writing, revising, and re-writing…I have finally been published.

Unforgettable Roads is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon, and on several different e-readers. It will be available in Nook soon. A huge shout of thanks to Martin Sisters Publishing for their excellent support and professionalism during the editing and cover design process. I’m so thrilled to be added to their list of authors!

Unforgettable Roads Front Cover

To celebrate, I’ve been dancing around the house, my family cheered this event with plastic cups of sparkling water, and my husband made us beautiful steak dinner last night.

I invite you to read Unforgettable Roads, to join the characters as they journey out west and back in time through a grandfather’s journals.

back cover pic

I also invite you to participate in the Unforgettable Roads Blog Hop 2013. The deadline for entries is May 1st. Click on the image below for details.
blog hop badge 2013

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I laughed out loud when I received this award…I just lost my temper when things in my house didn’t go as planned. That is the total opposite of versatile :) And maybe that’s why I LOVE writing – everything can be edited for content and polished to perfection before anyone reads it. Like airbrushing ideas.

And now for my second confession: I received this award a few weeks ago but haven’t done anything with it because of the number of blog I need to award this to – 15!

But before I get to the rules and awards, I want to thank Gwen Bristol @ http://www.GwenBristol.com for the nomination! We met on LinkedIn and she has become a source of encouragement, support, and really good stories. (The Night Ones Legacy is excellent!)

versatileblogger111

Versatile Blogger Rules (If you choose to obey them)
•Display the Award Certificate on your website
•Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award
•Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers (I’m changing it to 7 blogs. Why? Because I have to share 7 things about myself and 7 is the number of completion and perfection.)
•Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post
•Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

Here are the seven bloggers that I choose to present this award to:

http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/ This girl has spirit!
http://frenchwellness.wordpress.com/ Very unique. I never know what to expect :)
http://5kidswdisabilities.com/ Inspiring!
http://shirleysquirrely.wordpress.com/ Just plain fun writing
http://lorieb.wordpress.com/ I’m always looking for wheat-free ideas
http://michelleproulx.wordpress.com/ She’s funny and spirited and adorable
http://quirkybooks.wordpress.com/ Talk about versatile! Sandra covers it all!

Now for seven things about myself:

1. I homeschool my children and I love it! I didn’t start this journey out of any religious crusade; I simply wasn’t ready to put my oldest daughter in all-day kindergarten and I knew I could teach her at home. We tried it for a year and decided to do it again. That was 8 years ago.

2. I have Type 1 Diabetes. It sucks. I give myself insulin injections every day. The silver-lining? I eat really healthy and I’m in good shape.

3. I turned 40 last year. Hey, it’s a milestone so we celebrated!

4. I have four children: three biological daughters and one adopted son. They are all beautiful and much loved. God knew what he was doing when he gave me these children: they stretch and fill my heart in many ways. (Did I mention my youngest was 2? He’s stretching me!)

5. I didn’t catch the reading bug until 7th grade when I was given The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende for Christmas. I read it in 3 days. I devoured every book I could after that, but nothing captured me like that again until I read The Counte of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

6. My favorite snack is apple slices and almond butter.

7. I have a second blog that I started a few weeks ago for diabetics: http://www.NaturallyDiabetic.com It’s helping me stay focused on eating and exercising well, keeping my meals planned, and encouraging my children to take pictures of everything we eat so I can post it :)

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I’m extending this for another three days! The celebration of this anniversary is too fun to stop now… Leave a comment by Sunday, January 20 @ Midnight (ET) to be entered in a drawing. Thank you and happy reading!

A year ago today, I took a leap of faith and self-published my first book, Gateways. It was a leap of faith in myself. Do I have what it takes to make it as a writer? Can I tell a good story? Do I use all the literary elements that make stories good?

My conclusion: Yes! Gateways has been recieved well by readers, earning seven 5-star reviews on Amazon and encouraging comments on this blog.

book cover

If you haven’t read Gateways, I encourage you do to do so. And I’ll sweeten the deal :) Each person who comments on this post will be entered in a drawing to recieve a free print copy of Gateways, mailed directly to your door! I will select two winners on Tuesday, January 15th, the actual one-year anniversary.

In your comment, let me know what you think about the direction of literature for young adults and a recommendation of a book that you enjoyed. (I’m making my reading list for this year and I’m looking for something new.) Include your email address so I can contact you privately for your address (which I will not sell to anyone!)

Gateways is the result of a decade of writing and learning the craft; to which I must add that I’m still learning how to write, still learning to master this craft. But Gateways was born as a response to the influx of literature for teens that is steeped in negativity. Books about vampires and zombies rule the bookshelves. I’m certain they are entertaining, but I do not understand the appeal. And if someone can explain the appeal of zombies to me, I’d be grateful :) Why are dead things so popular? Why are writers trying to pull readers away from faith, away from family, away from life?

I write stories that pull readers back to faith, toward God, to a reunion of family. I’m not interested in coating death with glitter and lust. Just the opposite: Death is a new gateway to a new life. Yes, I believe in an afterlife, an elevator leading us up or down, that choice lasting forever. No matter how much I want to live a long, long life, I know that my eyes will close on this world one day. And so my writing goes toward that end – entertaining stories that parallel the Biblical truth. Even in my fantasy novels, there will always be an image, a symbol, a reference to the greater Truth…and I make no apologies for that.

In one of the reviews on Gateways, the reviewer warned readers that there were elements of Christian faith in the book. I laughed, thinking, “Oh, yes! Be careful! You might learn something about goodness, making smart choices, and living with the consequences of bad choices.” If Christian values become a warning, where are we heading as a Nation?

Related Blog Posts:
Scissors, Red Pens and an Empty Glass

Creating a Daily Silent Retreat

Reaching Blindly

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A year ago today I took the plunge and started JessicaSchaubBooks Blog. My reasons for joing the millions of bloggers varied from working to build a writing platform, to joining this community of writers. What I learned was different from my goals.

I learned that bloggers are generous souls who read each other’s blog, comment, like and share well-written & heart provoking writing. I learned that I have more to say than I thought. The blogs that I really loved writing were not necessarily the blog that received the most traffic. I learned that people are looking for easy ways to find time, space, and ideas for stories and that parents don’t realize the importance of modeling the skill of writing.

In the spirit of reflecting over the past year, here are a few of my favorite blogs:

Writing, Editing and Revising with Students

Celebrating Each Step An update: the contract I was offered was cancelled (heart-breaking). I resubmitted the manuscript and received a new contract from Martin Sisters Publishing! Unforgettable Roads will be release this year!

Strech Marks on My Heart This is the blog that I learned that spammers can link to your page via key words, like ‘strech marks’. This blog post is about adopting my son, but I had a dozen hits on my site for reducing unsightly strech marks :)

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Just like every other human being, I am stunned by the violence of last Friday’s school shooting. As a writer, I’m supposed to have an endless supply of words, but… I’ve got nothing!

But I will not yet embrace the political issues that surround the debates of mental health, gun control, and school safety – they have been tossed around freely on Facebook, Twitter, and the news, and so I need not add another log to that fire.

I just want to cry for those parents.

If I were them, I would unplug from everything, grab my photo albums and cry.

Remember when he was born? All those nights she crawled into our bed and slept so soundly? His first word was ‘puppy’. That was her favorite outfit…what do I do with it now? I should have saved his baby teeth.

There are greater issues behind this violence, but let’s just wait on that for a time. First, let’s support the parents and families of all who died. Let’s embrace our children a little longer before they leave the house. Let’s send our teachers a message of thanks for all they do for children at such a low salary. Let’s find ways to support families with children who suffer from uncontrollable rage.

Let’s united under this tragedy. Light a candle for those little ones. Say a prayer. Spend 26 minutes in silence.

In our home, we cut out 27 snowflakes for all the victims and said a prayer over each one.
snowflakes

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In my kitchen, I keep a large bowl of fruit on the counter to make the never-ending task of keeping my children satisfied easier. Not too long ago, before all of my daughters could see over the countertop in the kitchen, it was common that they would stretch out on their tip-toes, extend their arm over the rim on the big fruit bowl and reach for whatever was within reach. My oldest daughter prefers apples, middle girl is an orange fiend, and for the youngest daughter it’s bananas or nothing. Very often, the fruit bowl raids ended with the bowl tipped over and the fruit rolling across the floor; which is why we now have a plastic fruit bowl.

The girls knew that their reach into the bowl would yield some type of fruit, but they continued to dig until the right fruit was found. The same was true for me years ago when I was reaching for something to fill that empty feeling in my soul. I was fortunate enough in college to meet a group of very dedicated Christians who displayed a raw sense of happiness that was foreign to me. They delighted in companionship, read scripture, and never, ever missed a Sunday service (a new concept for me, who would try to sleep until noon to not have to go to Mass). Seeing their gratification in God and how rich these people were in my life, I knew I wanted what they had. In other words, I had been brought to God’s kitchen and shown the fruit bowl, but was too small to see what was inside.

I started reaching blindly into the church experience, into the scriptures. I grabbed hold of some profound ideas and amazing situations, but they were short lived. I was rocky soil and the seed of God’s Word didn’t take hold. I realized I needed a step-stool to see into that bowl; the bowl being the multitude of Christian churches. Having been raised Catholic, I wanted to sample other denominations. I attended a Baptist church for a time, then a Lutheran. I enjoyed the sermons of a Methodist pastor in Lowell, MI, but felt completely lost in the mega-church – the one with the live band and the balcony.

My young adulthood was spent exploring the worlds of believers of Christ and witnessing for myself the variety of ways in which one can worship the same God, Son and Holy Spirit. All had their good points, but I realized that none, save one, was complete. I desired a church that had its roots in Jesus Himself and celebrated the accomplishment of the faith walk with sacraments and fed the congregation with more than the Word of God, but with the flesh and blood of God. I came home to the Catholic Church. I had seen over the rim of the bowl of Christian churches, and chose the Catholic Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Lansing, MI

I met amazing people in my faith walk and I accredit them all with helping me make my decision. Sure, I may not have chosen their church, but their church did help bring me closer to God. And that’s the point: we all, as Christians, do love the same God. But for me and mine, we are Catholic. Universal. A part of a global worship community whose leader is a descendant in spirit of Peter, the Vicar of Christ. So if you’ve never given the Catholic Church a second look, I encourage you to do so. I’m not trying to convert anyone, but just to set aside some misconceptions of the Catholic Faith, for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and it’s time to stop the sibling rivalry. Our Father in heaven loves us all.

For other blogs about my faith journey, see:

Feminine Genius @ http://wp.me/p26D2W-3c

Dealing with the Dark Side (Keeping the Faith while writing) http://wp.me/p26D2W-98

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Jesus told Peter to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5).

Hmmm…deep water? Sounds like missionary work. Not just missionaries who travel to remote islands with a New Testament in hand, but missionaries within ten miles of where we live. Those folks who man the Soup Kitchens, distribute food and compassion, the Meals-on-Wheels deliveries, those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and act accordingly.

Deep Waters.

Taken while fishing with my dad – a tradition I hope lasts forever!

With Jesus as our guide, we can walk on those waters and not be sucked under by gravity or the undertow. Our faith can protect us from slipping under the consuming waves while we cast a life line out to those just under the surface.

On our dining room wall, we have a topographical mural map of the world. It’s wonderful for homeschooling, not to mention a great conversation center piece with guests. As my children and I sit around the table, gazing longingly at the world, we wonder where we will visit in the future.

Best Christmas present!

My daughters want to become missionaries and travel and share God’s love and message. We’ve read stories about people who have made the journey to South America and lived among the tribes in the Amazon forest; a woman who traveled through a war to arrive in China where she shared God’s Word; another woman who went to the Philippines and lived among a tribe and became their daughter and sister. The stories are wonderful on paper when years of weather, illness, struggles and deprivation are condensed into neat paragraphs.

The Deep Water we are called to navigate in order to share God’s Word looks pleasantly coordinated on our wall map. The rivers are neat blue lines, the oceans more interesting because we can see the ridges which lie hidden under miles of water. Missing is the understanding of what a jungle holds, how deep hunger can eat, and just how far of a walk it is to the other side of the mountain.

And I realize that my Deep Waters are nothing but a wading pool for infants. I may complain when splashed and perhaps I have even fallen in and soak my clothes, but I have never truly slipped under the water and watched the sky recede from view. Hunger only lasts as long as it takes for me to walk to the cupboard. I can go to a church which I choose and not fear persecution. My family is alive and well and living close enough that I can drive to them in a few hours. My children are healthy, we have a house, we drive two cars – we are living a good, easy life.

Am I following Christ? Do I have to leave everything behind and follow him? Is that what Deep Water Faith is?

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