Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Infinite Hole in Our Hearts

When I wrote, “Borderline and Beyond” seventeen years ago, I just wanted to survive, to want to live and to stay out of a psych hospital. Three years later, my goals expanded to include “learning to love myself” and “making lots of money.” I found the perfect fit for those goals in a type of new age philosophy. The techniques and practices I used worked. I had greatly improved self-esteem, career success, money and status. I was happier than I had been in my life.

However, I'm not still following that philosophy. Some people (who do not think I've completely lost my mind these days) ask me why. The reason is that none of these areas of “success” in my life were places where my heart was designed to find rest. St. Thomas Aquinas gives us a list of four goals that will create an empty life if pursued for their own sake: wealth, status, power and comfort. I can attest that this is true.

Our hearts are designed by God to find rest in Him. The philosophy I was following included other goals such as “becoming God,” and learning to love yourself as God. One teacher I had asked me to spend hours in front of the mirror trying to “love myself perfectly,” as this was the key to my enlightenment.

During that time, (around 2001-06) I revised Borderline and Beyond to include similar practices that I recommended for people to try, such as the “mirror work.” And yes, it does work, up to a point. It's also a band-aid to cover a deep hole in your heart. Take the band-aid off and the hole will be just as deep and wide. I've heard it said that in each person there is an infinitely deep hole, a God sized hole, and that's why only God can fill it.

The “hole” in our heart cannot be filled with ourselves. We don't live in isolation and we are created in the image of God, who is infinitely bigger than we are. The good news is that God can and does fill that hole when we ask Him to. When I realize how I need God for every breath I take and every move I make, and when I am aware of my absolute dependence on God, God has a chance to fill that hole with his strength, love and wisdom. This is the only way to peace and purpose in life.

Am I going to revise Borderline and Beyond again to include a religious or Christian theme? No, actually not. I'll be restoring my book to its original condition, just as I wrote it while in my mid-twenties. My book was written to reach people in a similar place and it will and has reached down and lifted up those who are struggling with day to day emotional survival. I'm simply taking out the added stuff.

The new book will be called, Borderline and Beyond: The Original. The accompanying workbook never came with the original book. It was added later. That book will be changed but again, no religious ideas added. The only difference will be that I'm taking out anything that in my opinion is unnecessary and possibly confusing the reader more than helping her.

Borderline and Beyond has always been a book about recovery, strength and hope. My hope is that the book will be a better resource in the future, once I complete the restoration of the book.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Are Women Afraid of Men as Leaders?

As a Carmelite aspirant, I look up with great respect to St. Teresa of Avila, the foundress of the Discalced Carmelite order. St. Teresa was profoundly wise and an impressive administrator. She not only founded and ran convents and monasteries all over Spain, but she surpassed her original intention to be a reformer. She founded a completely new monastic order, the "Discalced Carmelites," Carmelite in origins but infused with distinctly different charism. St. Teresa (along with St. Catherine of Sienna) was also the first female "doctor" of the Church.

Think about the millions of priests who have served the Church throughout the past 2000 years. How many of them were granted the coveted title of "Doctor of the Church?" Men are priests, not because they are better than women or superior to women, but because they are uniquely suited to that role.

Fathers have a great role to play in the spiritual future of their children. In Father Bryce's homily last Sunday, he spoke about a study done by Christian pollster George Barna, about the faithfulness of adults who were brought up in Christian homes. Here are the results, in a nutshell:

*Both parents participate in child's faith development= 73% of children are faithful as adults
*Mom only participates in child's faith development= 22%
*Dad only participates in faith development= 73% (same level as with both parents.)

Father Bryce says, "The role of father in the faith development of children is one of the great secrets to our children having faith when they become adults." Does this mean that the mother's role in nurturing her children's faith is useless? Of course not! But, there is just something powerful about what happens when a man takes on responsibility for leading the household's faith direction. Why? I think women are more naturally spiritual and more drawn to religion, because of our more receptive psychology and intuitive nature. Women also go to church more often than men, so people aren't surprised by their involvement. But, when a man takes a stand on faith, people perk up and listen.

 I thought this study result was alarming, so I looked around the internet for results of similar studies. Yes, these studies are replicated with similar results. One study said, "Even when the father is an irregular attender there are some extraordinary effects. An irregular father and a non-practicing mother will yield 25 percent of their children as regular attenders in their future life and a further 23 percent as irregulars. This is twelve times the yield where the roles are reversed."

Many people are disturbed by the idea of a father being considered a spiritual head of the home, because this could take away from a woman's power and ability to input her wisdom, insights and direction. I do not feel this is true. I believe a woman can offer her insights and direction more strongly and effectively when in tandem with a man who takes responsibility as spiritual leader. Fathers have more impact on their children's faith development because they do not have the more natural inclinations toward faith and service. A father as spiritual head of a household is doing something for which he has little innate talent or ability, which makes it all the more humbling and powerful as he grapples with the responsibility, so I think women should encourage it. His efforts will have a far more powerful impact because of this very thing.

We have been talking a lot and hearing a lot about women's empowerment over the years. Women need to be empowered to become soldiers or surgeons if they want to, as those are roles traditionally associated with men. Well, men need to be empowered to become leaders again, especially in areas in which they are considered weak. I once heard a priest preach about St. Joseph and how profoundly humbling it must have been for St. Joseph to be head of a home that included God and His impeccable mother. Anyone would be unqualified for such a job, and that is why I believe God wanted him to have it. That is how we learn and grow.

All of this is another reason why men have become priests by tradition, rather than women, and why this shouldn't be changed. I've heard all my life about how a strong man wants a strong woman by his side, because he's not intimidated by her. Well, the same is true for women. Just because we are growing stronger doesn't mean we shouldn't also encourage the men in our lives to be strong. Are we intimidated?

If we are to encourage men in their role as spiritual leaders, it is important that society see men in that role. If they do, men may be more likely to emulate what they see at church when they go home. As we've seen from research, the overall impact will be good for children, families and society. These studies bear out that a man's leadership, even erratic, carries great power.

A woman can still be immensely powerful, such as St. Teresa of Avila, but she had male confessors. Men always offered her the sacraments. I learned on my recent Carmelite retreat that St. Teresa never disobeyed her superiors, who were priests. Priests directed her development in a powerful way, lifted her up and the Church herself lifted her up as a Doctor of the Church. Just because men are assigned a certain job doesn't mean they are superior to women.

Sometimes, God in his wisdom creates systems of balance, and our sexuality is one of them. The word, "gender" is used to describe our sexuality in our world today, but "gender" implies that our masculine and feminine traits have nothing to do with the way our bodies, brains and hormones are designed. A person who believes God is our creator will see that He made men and women in his image, to balance each other.

The United States government has a system of "checks and balances" between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. No one runs about the street, marching and screaming that the legislative branch has a right to be the executive branch, or proclaiming, "Legislatism" as a new, radical social idea, since the President of the USA should not be superior. No, the leadership (executive branch) is in balance with the other two branches, just as a man and woman need to be in balance with each other, keeping checks and assuring harmony. None of the three branches of government are better or more important than the other two, although the executive branch contains the "leader." Families can be run the same way.

God created women and men to live in balance and trust with one another, creating healthy families for the growth of society. God did not create men and women with different bodies so we could mindlessly "hook up" with the opposite sex when we want to and "hook up" with others of our own sex when we want to, even though our bodies aren't specifically designed to do that. No, God actually had a wisdom in his design. This is not to say that people don't have free will and rights to do with their body as they will. God would never want to take that away, but, "male and female, created He them," it wasn't for some arbitrary reason. Otherwise, God would have created only females and given us all the power of virgin birth. No. God created men and women to work for and balance each other for the common good of the family and society.

Today, men have been losing their bearings, with no real idea of what it means to be men in the world today. Many single mothers are happy to be free of men to raise their children alone. Perhaps they associate men with "tyranny," as many feminists do. Historically, men have been tyrannical. Historically, men have also been fair. As more women have also been in positions of power, we have seen that they can be both tyrannical and fair. Why make this a "gender thing" about men being tyrants women must be free from?

Does this war between the sexes have to be the case? Does God's original plan call for tyranny, competition, or something else? Can we learn to trust each other again? Would that help our relationships and marriages maintain cohesion and longevity? Let's let men re-proclaim their roles as leaders, knowing male leadership is no threat to our lives as women, but a way to empower women, so men and women may work together for the good of society.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Carmel Heart Media in the New Year

Welcome to the New Year! Carmel Heart Media, LLC was founded in November, 2012, with grant funding from Lane VR and a carefully designed business plan with my adviser Leah, of Lane Small Business Center. Since November, I obtained a business license and office equipment, professional software and beautiful business cards. Over the summer, while I waited for my grant to come through, I took on two clients to help them with their self-publishing needs, which have ranged from editing to layout and cover design. In the process, more have lined up with an interest in becoming published, now that I own my own imprint.

My original plan was for me to publish e-books and apps of my own work, yet now demand has been strong for print projects. Carmel Heart Media will offer two print publication services: full publishing under the CHM imprint for premium quality manuscripts that fit the genre and theme of Carmel Heart Media, and also basic book production for those who want to self-publish. This will involve a la carte services, such as cover design and editing, or putting the entire book into print-ready form. These services will cost less than any service available on-line including Amazon's CreateSpace, AND clients will receive personalized care and attention not available from the mass self-publishing industry.

None of these projects were my original business goal and they weren't even included in my business plan. However, these are skills I have and enjoy using, and they are skills people want. Hopefully, by the spring, I will have my new web page designed, which will have many more details and samples of my work, especially showcasing my graphic design work, such as the cover I created above. I won't be able to do it all and wear all hats. I have a volunteer employee who will be working with me, until I am able to pay him. This should free me up to follow the monthly targets that are on my original business plan, which has an eight item product list for 2013. Because of this, I am only working with one Carmel Heart Publishing author at a time and time-frames for a la carte services may be longer than the industry standard. Luckily, my plan is flexible enough to accommodate these changes in what I'm able to offer, because I'm excited about helping new authors succeed in realizing their dreams.

Carmel Heart Media books will have an inspirational theme and incorporate aspects of the Carmelite tradition, such as mindfulness and contemplation, or they will be works with complementary themes. We welcome inquiries at Our first book will be Ordinary Heroes: Creating a Culture of Life, by Terry Ianora, OCDS, and we are planning a release for the anniversary of Roe v Wade this month. Terry has been a client since June of this year, and her book has been created with great care and love.

I'm looking forward to an insanely busy year, but not a stressful one, because I'm doing what I love. My most cherished project will be the development of a Borderline and Beyond app for sale on Itunes. Thanks for everyone for their support and encouragement as I and Carmel Heart Media go forward in the new year!