Ecce Ancilla Domini

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…” Mary’s words in Luke 1:38 echoed loudly in my heart when I found out that I was pregnant for the first time. To say that I was thrilled would be an understatement.

“A sword shall pierce your own soul.” These prophetic words also echoed loudly in my heart when I lost twins early in that pregnancy. And, with the loss, came the realization that being open to life didn’t always mean having a baby in my arms.

‘Openness to life’ is a phrase often used to describe the attitude of those using Natural Family Planning, whether they are avoiding or planning a pregnancy. However, when it comes to actively seeking a pregnancy, another form of ‘openness to life’ comes into play. I like to call it ‘openness to God’s will.’ For, in this openness, a couple truly becomes vulnerable — naked, in essence — before God, exposing them to whatever God allows.

This type of ‘openness’ can mean dealing with a whole range of possibilities: infertility, miscarriage, a baby with abnormalities, a pre-term delivery, a stillborn baby, or a healthy, full-term infant. But, in a sense, this is the same ‘openness’ that Mary embraced when she was informed that she would be the mother of our Savior: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…”

To illustrate this, here are some examples:

I know one particular couple who tried for many years, unsuccessfully, to have a baby. They went through denial, then acceptance, of their infertility. The wife questioned God. “Why did you give me a godly man if we can’t have children together?” Eventually, they adopted two beautiful girls from China.

In our own case, James and I have had to endure the loss of seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Some of those pregnancy losses entailed major surgery and, in two instances, I nearly hemorrhaged to death. During one miscarriage, my spiritual director offered these consoling words, “Perhaps God is asking you to sacrifice the joy of holding this child in your arms so that He may quickly hold your child in heaven.”

Several years ago, a woman from our homeschooling community was expecting her sixth child. At 19 weeks gestation, she began exhibiting signs of early labor. Her son was born and only lived for a short time. However, she shared with me that, as difficult as it was to hold her dying son in her arms, she truly felt blessed. The moment her son died, filled with God’s grace, she more clearly understood in a small way what Our Lady endured by holding the crucified and dead Christ in her arms.

Six years ago, our close friends welcomed a new child into their family. At birth, their son appeared normal, but as she held onto him in those first few moments, she realized that he had Down Syndrome. When she called me, her voice was so full of love for her child that it was as if she was sharing with me that her baby had brown hair instead of blond. Her ‘openness’ to the wonderful gift that God had given to her was a testament to her trust in God and acceptance of grace in her life.

Finally, the idea of total ‘openness’ was illustrated more fully to me a few years ago while I was at the hospital waiting for my youngest son to come out of minor surgery. I watched a mother come into the nurses’ station with her toddler in a stroller (who, in my eavesdropping, I had learned spent a long time in the special care nursery). Unable to catch a glimpse of her son, I watched from a distant position as many nurses gathered around the stroller to see the baby, and I could hear his sweet laughter as he reacted to the different nurses and to his mother.

My curiosity could not stand it any longer. I moved closer to see what this baby looked like. As the child came into view, I’m sure I let out a quiet gasp. His skull was misshapen, his forehead gigantic compared to the rest of his head. Immediately, I felt tremendous pity not only for the child, but for his parents. Then one of the nurses tickled him under the chin and he let out a squeal of laughter, a high-pitched, sweet sound. In that moment, I no longer saw someone who was deformed. I saw a little person who was radiantly beautiful; a representation of innocence and goodness. I felt an overwhelming urge to embrace him.

‘Openness to life’ means accepting God’s will for us. If our baby has disabilities, it is important for us to pray for the grace to handle the challenges. If we must endure the loss of a child through miscarriage or pre-term birth, it is essential not to give in to hopelessness, but to realize that God has a plan for each unique human being he creates.

It’s not easy for a couple to surrender their life-giving capabilities to God’s design and to accept whatever comes from that. True ‘openness to life’ means becoming like Mary, a “handmaid of the Lord.” It means being open to whatever God chooses for us, whether it’s infertility or a child with disabilities, whether it’s a healthy baby for us to raise, or one for Him to hold in heaven.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

#LTO: Don’t You Forget About Me Only .99!!

DYFAM advert For a limited time only, Erin McCole Cupp’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” (Kindle edition) is on sale for only .99 until Friday! (USA customers only – sorry!!)

Synopsis:
Mary Catherine Whelihan made it out of Walkerville alive once before. Can she pull it off this time? Bullies, sexual harassment, finding a corpse in the local creek… Cate’s childhood in 1980s Walkerville was murder! So what could possibly tempt her to return? A cryptic email from Eugene Marcasian, MD, her grade school crush might do the trick. Can Cate and Gene find the cause of the mysterious illness afflicting nearly all of the girls in their graduating class, including Cate herself? Or will corporate bullies continue to take down anyone who gets in their way? More importantly, can Cate stay alive long enough to get one more slice of tomato pie?

Check out the YouTube Book Trailer here:

Excerpt:
“Doesn’t signing in at the Technology Annex check-in desk blow the whole cloak-and-dagger bit?”
Gene furrowed his brow for a moment. “I’m not looking for cloak-and-dagger. I just want to buy enough time to get some answers and put a stop to whatever is making people sick. But Mary Catherine—I don’t know what kind of wasp nest we might be kicking at here.”
“Nice image.” My stomach knotted.
Gene gently but firmly grasped me by my upper arms. “I’m not kidding. If what our coffee shop friend said is true…”
I picked up where he trailed off, “Then Walkerville wasps carry some pretty wicked stingers.”
Gene nodded. “I’m willing to give it all to find the truth. I’m not sure I want you to.”
He was right. This wasn’t picking up rocks in Quaker Creek and looking for water pennies. This was digging up what two potentially deadly forces—Big Pharma and The Mob—wanted kept buried.
I forced myself to look directly into his eyes. “Search softly,” I said, “and poke with a big stick.”

Praise for Don’t You Forget About Me:
“This book has all the elements that make a book addictive: a compelling story told well with characters who are unforgettable. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stay up all night reading.”
Sarah Reinhard, author, SnoringScholar.com and A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy

“This captivating murder mystery made me laugh, cry, and crave Italian food; ‘80s pop tunes are still stuck in my head. If you like mysteries that offer a good mix of suspense and science, don’t miss this book.”
Barb Szyszkiewicz, franciscanmom.com

“Don’t You Forget About Me…is a rollicking fun and exciting cozy murder mystery. The author’s strong and clever command of the written language makes this book an entertaining page-turner. I recommend this highly-enjoyable, cozy, clean, lively mystery to all readers!”
Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author, Frozen Footprints

“A quirky, fun, mystery-romance that will tickle your funny bone while making your hair stand on end.”
AnnMarie Creedon, best-selling author, Angela’s Song

About Erin:
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mom, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, Parents, The Catholic Standard and Times, and The Philadelphia City Paper, and she is a regular contributor to CatholicMom.com. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. Her influences include Neal Stephenson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Jane Austen. Her weaknesses include iceberg lettuce, frozen drinks, and anything labeled “Visitor Center.” Erin is the author of Jane_E, Friendless Orphan: A Memoir (Broken Wheel Media, 2006), Don’t You Forget About Me (Full Quiver Publishing, 2013), and Working Mother (Full Quiver Publishing, 2014), all available on Amazon. You can find more about Erin at erinmccolecupp.com.

To buy Don’t You Forget About Me (Kindle Edition) for only .99, click here. (USA customers only)

SQT – Radio Interview and More Free Books

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

1. The Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras
I’ll be on A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras today at 10 a.m. To call in and ask questions and just join in the conversation, call 1-855-949-1380.Seeking Heart

2. Catholic Writers Guild
I’m also over at the Catholic Writers Guild talking about “Mediocrity.” Check out the post here.

3. Stealing Jenny #1 in Canada!
This past week, Stealing Jenny hit #1 in Christian Fiction and Religious Fiction on Amazon.ca! What is so cool is that it was ahead of the Chronicles of Narnia (#2) and the new novel by Karen Kingsbury (#3)Stealing Jenny #1 Narnia 2 and Kingsbury 3.

4. Stealing Jenny Giveaway
Allison Gingras is hosting a giveaway this week. Head on over to Facebook to enter the giveaway of three print copies and two Kindle copies of Stealing Jenny.

5. Pray for Middle Eastern Christians
This wonderful post lists “7 Powerful Ways to Pray for Christians Suffering in the Middle East.”

6. Reading/Review Shelf
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

7. Dust Bunnies Cartoon

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Eve’s Apple – Interview With Marie Therese Kceif

EvesApple
This is the last day of Marie Therese Kceif’s Virtual Book Tour. I’m interviewing Marie for today’s blog post.

What inspired you to write a book about your life?
Life without Jesus brought me to the most profound suffering I ever thought possible. I was a lost sheep not knowing I needed a Shepherd. God has allowed me to experience that suffering because of the choices I made so I could fully know and share with others that we need to turn to Him and to surrender and be open to His love and grace. I want others to benefit from my experience so that they may know the path of life and peace Jesus wants all of us to have. I want others to know there is someone out there who has been there, who is not perfect nor has a perfect past, but God loved her anyway and He loves and will accept them back too. After I had written about three chapters, my husband came home and said he had heard on the radio of a writers’ conference only an hour south of us. He was so convinced I was supposed to go to this conference that he sat me down right then and there on the website he had heard on the radio. The problem was the conference was the next morning. But when I called they had a slot left and allowed me to still come, the conference had been sold out. When I registered that night I had to sign up for the particular classes I needed. Looking at the pictures of the conference teachers, I became aware prayerfully that there was one in particular that God wanted me to meet. I somehow knew I had to speak with her, but not sure why. When I got to the conference, I made a strong attempt to meet her personally and tell her what I was being prompted by God to do. She told me to send me the idea of the book and what I had up to that point and that she would indeed help me along the journey of writing the book. With her help and God’s prompting and grace, Eve’s Apple became a reality. I firmly believe that God wants to use my story and so I exposed my sin and His amazing grace and forgiveness so that others may experience healing.

What prompted you to call the book, “Eve’s Apple?”
One night before I had written the book, I had a dream. In the dream I heard a voice that spoke to me these words, “Eve’s Apple” and that it was to be the title of the book I was supposed to write. Right after having that dream, I woke up out of my sleep and woke up my husband — it was in the middle of the night — and told him I knew the title of the book I was supposed to write was “Eve’s Apple.” And so I believed this was from God and titled it as I heard it in my dream.

Who would you say is the target audience for your book?
Eve’s Apple is a good book for those who have fallen away from their Roman Catholic faith, but also those who have made mistakes and need to know God forgives, loves and pursues his lost sheep out of love for them. This is for those who need to believe in hope of forgiveness and second chances from our Lord and Savior. I have had many first time readers from my bible studies and conferences come back and purchase more books for their loved ones who have fallen away, so perhaps it is also for those who desire to bring their fallen loved ones back to God’s holy Church.

What message do you hope the reader will bring away from your book?
God loves and pursues each child He has created. No matter how far or how long you have walked away from Him, He wants His child back in His refuge and love so that someday they will be back with Him in Heaven. His Divine Mercy reaches to the very lost, the broken and those who think there is no hope…Jesus came for the lost so they might have life. The Catholic Church is the fullness of that love; it is His best way back to His loving arms and to truly know Him for it embraces all of the graces made available through His passion and resurrection He endured for His children.

Thank you, Marie!

To check out Marie’s book, here is the link to the paperback edition.

This is the hardcover edition of her book at this link.

And the new Kindle edition has just been released!

SQT – #Free Book and New Channel for FQP

seven-quick-takes-friday-2-1024x727Please join me and other Catholic bloggers for Seven Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

1. Stealing Jenny #FREE on Kindle
My third novel, Stealing Jenny, is #Free on Kindle until Saturday. One line synopsis: Mentally unstable women kidnaps pregnant mom of five. Right now it’s #1 on Amazon’s FREE books in a variety of categories in the USA, Canada and Britain. Stealing Jenny

2. Full Quiver Publishing Has a New YouTube Channel
My company, Full Quiver Publishing, has a new YouTube Channel. Check it out here. Please consider “subscribing!” We’ve got more book trailers to add, as well as more interviews with our authors.

3. Virtual Book Club Appearance
Last night, I spoke via Skype to a book club near Barrie, Ontario. They had read my first novel, Emily’s Hope. They asked some great questions and I had a wonderful time speaking with them.

4. Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Here is a very powerful novena that I pray daily. Saint Padre Pio recited this novena every day for all those who requested his prayers.

5. Review by Ann Frailey of Do You Believe?
I really enjoyed Do You Believe (from the creators of God’s Not Dead). My friend, Ann Frailey, posted this review of the movie at her blog and also at Catholic 365.Do You Believe

6. Reading Shelf
The Well – Stephanie Landsem

7. Touche Cartoon

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Stealing Jenny #Free on Kindle until Saturday

Stealing JennyMy third novel, Stealing Jenny, will be FREE today (April 14) through Saturday (April 18) on Kindle.

Jenny Callahan is happily expecting her sixth child. But it’s not without complications. To make matters worse, a neighbor is secretly hatching a sinister plot that will find Jenny and her unborn baby fighting for their lives. Or…the one sentence synopsis: Mentally unstable woman kidnaps pregnant mom of five.

Reviews:
“Stealing Jenny is a gripping novel filled with engaging characters, a compelling mystery and a message which underscores the precious dignity of life. I literally couldn’t put it down and give Stealing Jenny my highest recommendation.” Lisa M. Hendey, author of “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms”

“Ellen Gable is a masterful storyteller.Stealing Jenny is a smoothly written, chilling tale of gripping suspense. There are terrifying moments and heart-wrenching moments. Catholic faith and hope are tested. Above all, the sacredness and privilege of precious new life is made indisputably evident I never wanted it to end!” Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints and Past Suspicion

“Stealing Jenny will keep you on the edge of your seat and probably destroy your sleep pattern as you stay up to find out what happens. But beyond being a great suspense, it’s also an excellent example of morals in action and family life redeemed. As a fan of Ellen Gable’s work already, I’m now officially getting a t-shirt!” Sarah Reinhard, blogger, author

To download your Kindle copy for FREE, click here.

#VBT – Eve’s Apple by Marie Therese Kceif

EvesAppleEve’s Apple by Marie Therese Kceif
Short synopsis: A Witness of God’s Faithfulness: Marie struggles to grow in grace and guidance from the Lord while slowly recognizing her own rebellion. She intimately shows us the highs of her aviation, military and automotive careers and the suffering lows of abuse, bankruptcy, and divorce. Her relationship with God grows through it all. Eve’s Apple is a witness of how God gently guides one of His Eves into a slow freeing surrender of a Mary’s trusting yes. This is a journey of hope, faith, and real relationship!

Available on Amazon in softcover and hardback:
http://www.amazon.com/Eves-Apple-Marie-Therese-Kceif/dp/1462410219

Also available at the Publisher’s Website:
http://bookstore.inspiringvoices.com/Products/SKU-000693538/Eves-Apple.aspx

Goodreads Giveaway: (drawing to occur April 26)
https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/132147-eve-s-apple

Author’s Biography:
From farm life in Wisconsin, Marie Therese Kceif went on to have a varied full life. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics. Marie became an active duty US Army Capt. and pilot, automotive manager, bible study leader, RCIA guide, lector, speaker, writer, mom and wife. She now lives with her husband in Fenton, Michigan.
You can contact Marie Therese at marietheresekceif@gmail.com

Reviews for Eve’s Apple:
Joseph A. Marsigla, COL, MS, Commander, US Army: “Some words that come to mind are warm, introspective, wonderment, I could go on and on. The talent God has given her has allowed me to look at my life, to look at things I have not thought of in some time. I see many parallels and similar struggles. This book is one of those rare jewels that can change lives.”

Father David Harvey, Senior Catholic Priest: “An able storyteller and an adept communicator. She speaks with conviction and grace.”

Jill Savage, Hearts at Home founder and CEO: “She has a story to tell, and she tells it well. She’s honest and open about the less-than-charming part of her story. Most important, however, she is candid and sincere about the work God has done in her life. Our moms were touched by her story, and I know you will be, too.”

Other stops on the Virtual Book Tour:
April 9 – Karee Santos (Can We Cana)
April 13 – Ellen @ Plot Line and Sinker
April 14 – Michael Seagriff (Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation)
April 15 – Alexandrina Brant
April 16 – Karee Santos (Can We Cana) Review
April 17 – Jean Heimann (Catholic Fire)
April 18 – A.K. Frailey
April 19 – Melanie Juneau (The Joy of Nine)
April 20 – Nancy Ward (Joy Alive.net)
April 21 – Dana Doyle (Catholic Working Mom)
April 21 – Catholic Mom
April 22 – Ellen @ Plot Line and Sinker (Interview)

Want to win a #FREE E-Book of Eve’s Apple? The first person who leaves a comments wins the free e-Book!!