An Open Book – December #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.”  Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month (and will be reading this month).

Molly

Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience

By Jean Egolf

Amazon Synopsis: The kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School is having a Christmas pageant, complete with stable, angels, barn animals, and baby Jesus. Molly McBride thinks she’s a shoo-in for the role of Mary, while her bestie, priest-wanna-be Dominic, has his heart set on the role of Joseph. But Mrs. Rose, kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, might not have quite the same “vision” for this year’s Nativity that the kids have, leading to an upset that snowballs into a lesson on obedience.

Will Molly’s feisty temperament ruin the whole play? Or will she find the strength, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, to say, “Thy will be done?”

Christmas Pageant: A Story About the Virtue of Obedience is the fourth book in the Molly McBride series about a little girl who wants to be a nun when she grows up. Catholic kids young and old have fallen in love with the feisty, red-haired five-year-old heroine and her faithful wolf-pet-named-Francis. The tales, along with their charming illustrations, help school teachers, parents, and grandparents pass on our beautiful Faith to children around the world. The Molly McBride series not only delights readers with the funny and familiar antics of childhood, but also makes learning about virtues, Sacraments, and the Bible stories enjoyable. Because the stories feature religious sisters and priests as role models, both girls and boys become acquainted with religious vocations.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful Christmas story about a little girl who wants to be Mary in the Christmas pageant. What follows is a wonderful lesson in selflessness, empathy and obedience. Although it may be geared to younger children, older ones will also enjoy the story and illustrations. Kudos as well to the author for her outstanding illustrations. Highly recommend!

Donkey Bells

Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty

Synopsis: Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian traditions. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most ‘expectant’ of holiday seasons, you’ll receive wonderful gifts:

Meaningful and heartwarming stories, the telling of which will surely become a family Christmas tradition. Including: The Little Christmas Angel O’Ryan, How Pride Became Humble, The Christmas Gift, Christmas in Harlem, The Bruised Reed, and others.

Customs which you can adopt into your own Christmas celebration, such as: The Advent Wreath, The ‘O’ Antiphons, Baking Christmas Foods and Decorating, and The Blessing of The Christmas Tree. Traditions surrounding important Advent and Christmas feast days are presented, including: St. Nicholas, The Immaculate Conception, Feast of the Holy Family, New Year’s Eve, Epiphany, and more.

Earthy and inspiring meditations to prepare the entire family for Christ’s coming, including:A Candle in Our Hearts, Little Things, The Gurgle of a Baby, Where Love Is God Is, Looking into the Child’s Eyes, Advent: A Modern Bethlehem, A Short Season—A Long Journey, and many more.

My review: This is my favorite Advent and Christmas book. This is another book I’ve read numerous times. I enjoy reading this on a comfy chair by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.  So many beautiful stories and traditions. Highly recommend!

Kathleen Morgan

The Christkindl’s Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Amazon Synopsis: When Anna Hannack’s father-in-law brings home a wounded stranger only days before Christmas, Anna’s not happy. Christian charity moves the Hannack family to help the injured man, but the young widow Anna keeps her distance. The tragedies of life have shattered her trust, and she’s determined not to let another stranger threaten her family. Could it be, though, that this rugged Scotsman is actually the gift Anna’s young children have asked of the Christ Child this Christmas?

My review: I enjoy reading this book each Christmas.  It’s a well-written and clean historical romance.  4/5 stars (there was one anachronism in the book.)

 

Insep

Inseparable: Five Perspectives on Sex, Life and Love in Defense of

Humanae Vitae by various authors

Amazon Synopsis:  With the fiftieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae in 2018, Catholic Answers Press is publishing an important new multi-contributor exposition of that prophetic encyclical – Inseparable: Five Perspectives on Sex, Life, and Love in Defense of Humanae Vitae.

Given the richness of Catholic teaching on the transmission of human life and the different ways—due to their temperaments, habits of mind, and life circumstances—that people respond to it, we asked our contributors to reflect on and defend that teaching from five perspectives: each of them compelling, all of them together forming a mosaic of truth.

Biblical foundations of conjugal love
Nature Law and human telos
Personalism and the “language of the body”
Historical lessons from contraceptive culture
The witness of lived experience

Contributors include some of the most knowledgeable and incisive writers on these subjects today:

Joseph Atkinson: associate professor of Sacred Scripture, John Paul II Institute, Washington, D.C.
Paul Gondreau: professor of theology, Providence College
Mark Latkovic: professor of moral and systematic theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Allan Carlson: distinguished visiting professor of history and politics, Hillsdale College; author, Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control
Shaun and Jessica McAfee: Shaun is the founder of Epic Pew and author of Reform Yourself! Together they contributed to Surprised by Life.

All share a joyful conviction in the truth of Humanae Vitae and a desire to promote and defend it.
Foreword by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke.

My review: On my to-read list.

 

 

Coping With Loss

Road to Nowhere Josh Hrkach (1)

“Road to Nowhere” copyright by Josh Hrkach, used with permission

My new article at Catholic Mom speaks of ways to use loss to increase in virtue.

Loss might entail the death of a loved one, the loss of an unborn child, an accident that causes us to lose an ability, the discovery of a child’s handicap. It can be a difficult divorce or an adult child who’s lost his faith. It can be the loss of a beloved pet. It can be a parent with Alzheimer’s who has lost her memory; it can be the loss of a job or even the loss of innocence.

St. Faustina assures us that God “uses EVERYTHING to effect our transformation… that He wastes not one little trial to bring about good.”

I’ve experienced my share of losses over the past five decades.  These are a few guidelines I try to follow when dealing with loss.

  1. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

This point became evident to me with the unexpected death of my father when I was 18.  He was only 49 years old and died suddenly.  My family walked around in shock for weeks.  Because he had died suddenly, I had a lot of regret: If I had only told him one more time that I loved him, if I had only been more attentive the last time he was talking to me.  Life is full of enough trials and losses without focusing on regret.

  1. Trust

When my husband and I were first married, I had hoped that God would bless us with ten children.  So when we became pregnant, we were ecstatic.  Soon, joy turned to sorrow when I miscarried.  Several days later, I was rushed into emergency surgery because there had been another baby in my fallopian tube, and I was bleeding internally. We had conceived twins, but I left the hospital with neither baby in my arms.

St. Padre Pio said that when you pray, pray with an attitude that God will answer your prayer if it’s His will.  My husband and I prayed a thanksgiving to God that He would allow us to conceive another baby and have a successful pregnancy.  We were blessed to have three sons in five years.  When our third son was ten months old, we were pregnant again, this time with another ectopic pregnancy, but this time, I found myself with dangerous complications, in the back of an ambulance, hemorrhaging internally and drifting in and out of consciousness.  Instead of trusting, I panicked. I was in a great deal of pain and I was worried that my three little boys would have to grow up without a mom.

As I panicked, I prayed a Hail Mary with those last words taking on powerful meaning, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. I felt peace, serenity and God’s grace. My anxiety and worry was replaced with peace and joy.

  1. Embrace the Cross

God uses trials to make us better people. CS Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain.” God has shouted to me many times.  In this case, after the peace, joy and trust I felt in the ambulance, I woke up in the recovery room, happy to be alive only to be greeted with a different excruciating pain and violent vomiting. Nausea medications did not work. My husband was away, and I felt so alone. “Please God, I can’t do this anymore.”  Within minutes, a good Samaritan nurse came along and sat and held my hand for a short while. Her presence was the consolation I needed.  I was then able to embrace that cross.

  1. See Beyond the Moment

When you’re caught up in the middle of a loss, it’s hard to see beyond that particular moment. Some losses seem too much to bear.  It’s important that we acknowledge the pain but also to try to see beyond that moment. You will never ‘get over’ any loss, but the pain will eventually be easier to manage.  We were eventually blessed with two more sons in our family.

  1. Forgive

Sometimes a loss will be the direct result of someone else’s actions: an accident, a murder, abuse. When Christ taught us to pray, he taught us to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  He didn’t qualify it.  It doesn’t matter what the person has done to us or the heartache they caused; it doesn’t matter whether they want to be forgiven. We must forgive them.  It’s not an easy thing to do. However, forgiving someone is for our benefit.  Holding onto anger and holding onto a grudge hurts you. Pray and fast for the grace to forgive.

  1. You Are Not Alone

As Catholics, we believe in the spiritual presence of The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and our guardian angel, the saints and angels. Our Lady is also a precious maternal presence in our lives.   In terms of human presence, our parish priest, close and supportive friends, relatives, counselors and those in support groups can be helpful in listening.  Thankfully my husband is a very patient empathetic listener because grieving and dealing with loss is much easier when you don’t feel alone.

  1. Prayer life/Sacramentals

Prayer life and the sacraments are vital to our day-to-day journey as Catholics whether we are experiencing loss or not.  But a strong prayer life is even more essential when grieving or going through difficult moments in life.  Attending Daily Mass, reciting the daily rosary, consecrating ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, wearing a scapular and/or miraculous medal, using holy water and candles are all instruments of grace.

  1. One Day at a Time/Take Time to Grieve

Taking one day at a time is crucial.  One can become overwhelmed with the sheer immensity of any particular loss.  This isn’t an article on grief specifically, but allow time to grieve.

  1. Take care of your needs

St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”   Grieving can be hard work emotionally; some days you have to just remember to breath, let alone make meals, do housework, homeschooling, etc.  If a friend or relative offers to make you a meal or take your younger kids for an afternoon, accept the offer!

Finally, it’s important to reiterate that God is and always will be trustworthy. In the beginning of this article, I shared that I had hoped to have ten children when my husband and I were married.  God in His generosity gave us more than we asked for, he gave us 12: seven babies in heaven and five sons we’ve had the privilege to raise.  When you ask for something, be assured that, if it’s in your best interests, God will provide it. The biggest consolation with the loss of our seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy is that I will get to finally hold those babies one day in eternity. My friend’s mother passed away years ago. She had had four miscarriages. When this woman was close to death, she said, “They’re singing to me.”

My friend asked, “Who’s singing, Mom?”

“My babies.”

Having my babies sing me into eternity  is a beautiful, consoling thought.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

 

Ella’s Promise VBT

We’ve come to the end of my new book’s Virtual Book Tour and I’d like to say thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who took part!

front cover

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

November 3  Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 4  Steven McEvoy Book Reviews and More

November 5  Theresa Linden Catholic Books Blog

November 6  Therese Heckenkamp

November 7 Patrice MacArthur

November 8  Amanda Lauer

November 9  Sarah Reinhard

November 10  Jean Egolf

November 12 Leslea Wahl

November 13  Trisha Potter

November 14   The Yeoman Farmer, Christopher Blunt

November 15  Plot Line and Sinker

The book is available on Kindle and in Paperback.

EP Book Tour 150

All in Good Time Social Blitz

 

AllinGoodTime_SocialBlitzJR 02.jpg

All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk

Synopsis:

With three rambunctious, young children, Melanie Lombardi can’t see beyond the day-to-day struggle to maintain her home and her sanity since her husband’s sudden death. A second chance at romance isn’t on her radar.

Brian Perella is done with dating, resigned to being the fun uncle and never the dad. Until he meets Melanie and her brood of lively kids on the sidelines of a Little League game.

But when Brian uncovers a co-worker’s secret, it re-ignites a temptation that Melanie can’t know about. It’s his secret to keep until an unexpected diagnosis brings everything to the surface, jeopardizing his future with Melanie and her children, who, when threatened by an unknown stalker, may need him now more than ever.

Catholic Christian contemporary romance.

My review:  I thoroughly enjoyed this new novel which includes a little bit of everything: romance, suspense, and a subject many books wouldn’t tackle with a ten-foot pole: pornography. The author’s writing style, well-developed characters and believable situations kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning. Highly recommend!

Ella’s Promise Virtual Book Tour

EP Book Tour 150

I’ll be touring virtually with my new book beginning this week on November 3 and ending November 15th!

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

November 3  Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 4  Steven McEvoy Book Reviews and More

November 5  Theresa Linden Catholic Books Blog

November 6  Therese Heckenkamp

November 7 Patrice MacArthur

November 8  Amanda Lauer

November 9  Sarah Reinhard

November 10  Jean Egolf

November 12 Leslea Wahl

November 13  Trisha Potter

November 14   The Yeoman Farmer, Christopher Blunt

November 15  Plot Line and Sinker

Ella’s Promise Now Available on #Kindle

front cover

My newest book, Ella’s Promise, is now available on #Kindle.

The print edition will be available next week.

Synopsis: When she joins the war effort during the Great War, American nurse Ella Neumann doesn’t see allies or enemies. The daughter of German immigrants, all soldiers — Allies or Axis — are human beings in need of care. A promise to herself and a promise made to her by an enemy officer become the catalyst for the life she plans to lead after the war. But a handsome Canadian soldier may complicate her plans. In this third installment of the Great War – Great Love series, join Ella in a tale of promises, betrayal and unconditional love.

Advanced Reviews:

“An enjoyable read that fans of historical fiction are sure to love.”  Theresa Linden, author of contemporary romance Anyone But Him

 “Ella‘s Promise is a story of love tested through war-time confusion and pain, enduring into a new hope for a better future.”  A.K. Frailey, author of historical and science fiction novels

“Readers will love this third installment of the Great War Great Love series with espionage, romance, faith and determination all set amidst the backdrop of wartime France.” Carolyn Astfalk, author of Ornamental Graces

“Another great read in an excellent series,” Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2019

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 20-32) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

 

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)