So Many Things!

Hi all~

I hope you are surviving the most ceremonial month of the year! I don’t have any big graduations this year but I kicked off the month with my son’s Eagle Scout ceremony (very proud mama).  Also, 50th birthdays are all the rage this year. We celebrated my husband’s last week with a short stay at the beach where he sliced his foot open on an oyster shell while another family member got jabbed in his foot artery with the barb of a catfish. (Of course, I don’t really know if we have feet arteries but without getting into detail it seemed like perhaps we have a profusely plump one that catfish like to poke to avenge fisherpeople. You can’t really blame them.)  Apparently, nothing says birthday like a weekend at the beach and lots of blood. Of course, Mother’s Day was sandwiched somewhere in between it all — and since I don’t remember crying this year it must have been a good one (or good enough which is my new standard).

My son is off to do summer abroad in Italy! If you wonder why I’m not crying in this picture, it’s because I am so excited to visit him after I stalk Pope Francis in Rome. (I probably shouldn’t put that in writing). But seriously, I can’t wait to go and see all of the churches and holy sites, and, well, the Gucci store. (Just kidding, honey).

My book, Simple Mercies, turns a year old this month and I recently learned that it has been chosen by the Association of Catholic Publishers as a finalist in the Inspirational category. I find out in June if it wins but believe me when I say that just being a finalist is better than good enough for me. If you haven’t bought a copy yet you can here. If you read it and you liked it (you are my new best friend) as such please leave a happy review on Amazon because that helps in all kinds of meaningful ways that publishers and algorithms and obscure writers like.

I had two speaking events this month and both were for teenagers. The only people who I think need more mercy than they do is their mamas, so it was a gift to me to encourage them to practice and recognize God’s mercy in their own lives. I hope you are doing the same. It is such a game-changer when we do.

Here is the link to my latest post in The Florida-Times Union https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2022/05/08/guest-column-tilted-plant-reminder-its-ok-imperfect/9584677002/. If you want to be like me and get in touch with your inner imperfection (or at least accept it) then please read it and know that I’m the girl to make you feel better about nuisance flaws because boy do I have them!

Lastly, I found this sign at the beach and thought maybe it was good advice. ~Love, me

P.S. — if you are judging my outfit, just know that Jesus loves me anyway. And, maybe I will start a new fashion trend in Italy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Challenge

Hi all,

I hoped to get this out earlier today but I am having a challenging week.  If this were not a religious blog and if I were not trying to be extra good considering all of Jesus’s sufferings —  I might insert a different word for challenging. But since that’s not the case, I’m muddling through the best I can. Intermittent visits to my closet to eat the Easter candy I hid for the baskets is an upside to this week that is helping.

Normally, I would share this post when things were less hectic but I feel like it’s an important one to consider during Holy Week. The post is about forgiveness. While I know that’s a subject many of us would like to forget for reasons that feel painfully justified, all of the sufferings Jesus endured were done so that we may be forgiven. Hard or not, forgiveness is the hope of our salvation — both God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness we show our neighbor. (Yes, even that neighbor!)

Here is the link to my latest post in The Florida Times-Union https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2022/04/10/guest-column-resisting-mercy-forgiveness-only-makes-hurt-more/7224751001/

May you experience the freedom of forgiveness and the joy made possible through his resurrection. ~ Love, Lara

Shopping for Value

I’ve always liked to shop.  The artfully arranged displays, colors folded into precise geometric shapes, and the assortment of curated merchandise make me feel hopeful.  Hope that I could be more attractive.  Hope that I would be enough.  Hope that having something was the same as having it all together.  Unlike the price tag, the promise of such things wasn’t explicit.  It was in the garments hung in rainbow-colored order, the soft lighting, the scent of a lit candle, and melodic music that lulled me into thinking I wasn’t just purchasing a shirt but an assurance of a better life.

It’s as if my potential couldn’t be fulfilled until I owned the right things.  Shopping was like being sent to wardrobe for a starring role in life – exciting, full of promise, and redemptive.  It was an escape from whoever I was for a chance to discover who I could be.  And, clearly, who I could be was better.

Intellectually, I know this falls somewhere between silly and sad.  We come into the world with nakedness and nothing.  Yet, still, our inherent value compels someone to pick us up and hold us close.  As babies, we don’t care how we look or what we wear.  We don’t question our worth.  We know we matter.  “I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know,” (Psalms 139:14).  We have this instinct that tells us we deserve nourishment, warmth, and love.  We demand these things with cries, cooing smiles, and outstretched arms.  For most of us, our needs were met.  We were loved and we were enough.

I don’t know how we are born with such a knowing only for it to get all twisty and tangled.  I just know for most of us, it gets twisty and tangled.  What was once smooth becomes matted into muddled thinking of what constitutes value.  The prettiest clothes, the right weight, the tidy house, the well-behaved children, the doting spouse, the big paycheck, the esteemed title, all become measures offering the same distorted reflection of value as a fun-house mirror.

If we aren’t careful, we confuse who we are with our intellect, possessions, or worldly recognition.  We consider our constructs more than the constancy of our soul’s predetermined and unalterable value.  I suppose in life’s messiness, in all that remains unmet, we seek out instead of seeking him.  As challenging as it may be sometimes to find the perfect pair of jeans, that can still seem less ambitious than finding this elusive God of ours.  Yet, happiness has never been in the having; knowing has never been in the intellect; God will never be in the material and love will never be owned.

All of the assurance we ever need comes from the love of God.  Unlike the perfect outfit, it’s been there all along.  All we have to do is put it on.

May you wear it well.

Hi all,

I always feel like there are so many things I want to tell you in this little section that it is often the hardest thing I write. Like, I want to ask you if you notice that I am not posting as much or being as active on social media — but then I think, hmm, maybe they don’t!  Maybe I should just keep quiet about that.

Then, I think of telling you that I have been in a discerning mode for the last several months but that isn’t quite the best way to describe it. It’s more peaceful than discerning tends to be and I think I may actually be getting the hang of this letting God’s will be done thing. Life really is much simpler when we surrender to His will.

But then I think, oh dear, does that sound like I have everything figured out and I have left Christianity to simply be like Buddha and his big fat belly and just be? No, nothing is really that simple. (Except maybe growing big bellies!) Anyway, I just wanted to check in with you and be candid even if I’m momentarily incapable of being clear. In short, I am here less and with Him more. And, I am good. I remain as grateful as ever to share this faith journey with you.  Love ~ Lara

 

Peanut Butter and Spam

Hi all,

Attached is a link to my most recent post that ran in last week’s The Florida Times-Union. It’s about an encounter I had with a homeless man. I try to be as authentic as I can about these experiences because what I most want to convey is that service can be complicated, yet regardless of our reservations, it’s always worthwhile.

In this instance, although I  felt called l to serve this particular gentleman, I was slow to respond.  And, my excuses paled in comparison to his needs. Thinking too much and too big can sometimes thwart our best intentions.  More than anything, it’s about the simple act of sharing — despite our obstacles, despite our flaws and humanness, and despite the confusion that we may feel about those in need.

I hope it makes you smile.  ~ love, Lara

https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2022/03/06/guest-column-nothing-beats-simple-joys-sharing/6656473001/

I Ran into a Tree

Hi all,

The post that I am sharing with you this week is one that ran recently in the Florida Times-Union. I’m sure it was a proud moment for my mom to have an article in the newspaper where her daughter writes about running into a tree with her face. But, I like to keep her humble.

This post is really about the pain we carry and I hope it resonates with you (not because I hope you are in pain! It’s just that if you are, you will know you aren’t as alone as it may feel.)  Sometimes, I think we all need that reminder. ~ love, Lara

Read the post here. 

 

Ordinary Resolution

There is something about a new year with its ambitious resolutions, exuberant plans, and fresh start folly that leaves me feeling flat instead of fiery. It just feels exhausting to think about all the bettering that becomes gospel at the start of a new year. Self-improvement that encompasses everything from eating and exercise to ordering priorities and organizing closets.  Am I the only one who feels like a hero just for taking a shower?

And, sharing this feels like heresy. After all, wanting to improve any area of our lives is commendable. Mercy is nothing but a do-over and a fresh start, and I know that I am nothing without God’s great mercy. Therefore, who am I to diminish the pursuit of betterment that is so easy to cling to when so often life feels messy and ordinary? Besides reconciling that becoming a motivational writer is probably something I should leave out of my career aspirations; I realize how much more comfortable I am with ordinariness.

One of the things that strikes me about the life of Jesus is how plain it was, from his birth in a manger all the way to the crude suffering of his death alongside commoners and criminals.  Yet, is there anyone more remarkable who has walked this earth? Is there anyone who has left a greater legacy? He was a king but never had a worthy crown. He could perform the miracles of a great showman yet chose to act with quiet humility and never for his own glory.  He didn’t climb the ladder of success. He bent down and washed the feet of his disciples. He taught us that the ordinary may be plain but that doesn’t mean it isn’t purposeful.

Read more

Don’t Stop Believing: The Magic of Christmas

This is an excerpt from my book, Simple Mercies, that I wanted to share in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day this past Sunday.

During one Christmas season, I was reminded of the power of prayer when I became one of the prayer warriors trying to get a forty-nine-year-old man named Joe out of prison. I know that doesn’t conjure the same feelings of drinking hot cocoa in footed pajamas by the fire like your typical Christmas story does. Still, it’s a powerful reminder of what can happen when we believe – not only in God but in one another.

As one of six boys, Joe grew up next door to my friend, Cecy. Despite having three young kids at home, she worked for years trying to get her childhood friend out of prison. Joe had been arrested for buying cocaine for personal use and was charged and sentenced as a trafficker. His punishment was twenty years with no chance of parole. He had already served thirteen.

Joe had made appeals all the way to the Florida Supreme Court — each one denied. The only hope he had was clemency from the governor to commute his sentence. That’s when the ordinary became extraordinary. Joe was finally granted a clemency hearing. Sadly, his mom passed away less than a month before his hearing. Joe learned of her death from a prison guard and was unable to attend her funeral. The tragedy of it hardly made me think of the word, believe. Yet when his hearing was finally held, I was visiting New York City where over the Macy’s store on 34th Street, a huge sign in brilliant white lights said only one word: Believe. While I wasn’t sure whether I believed our prayers would be answered in the way that we wanted, I was inspired by the people who believed Joe deserved another chance and did something about it. I had faith that no matter what, God would use the situation for good. I had already seen how many people it had united in prayer and I felt the shared hope that a miracle was possible. I very much wanted to believe. Read more

Thankful Even if the Gravy is Runny

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

My post this week was featured in last Sunday’s Florida Times-Union. It is one of my favorite and hopefully it will help you remember that things don’t have to go perfectly this week. Love has a way of softening messes and shaping imperfections into the best memories. That’s my prayer for all of you this Thanksgiving.

Below is a giant picture of my book. I made it giant so you could see the pretty bow and tag and the bookmark with the works of mercy listed on it. And also, I have gone blind and now have to ask salespeople to read the product information to me when I leave my readers in the car. I think it freaks them out when I tell them I can’t see but it also seems to make them seem less judgemental about my sometimes poor grooming habits.

All that is to say, I hope you will consider gifting Simple Mercies to the people on your list. Signed and personalized copies make a great gift and include the ribbon, gift tag, and bookmark. Signed copies are $20 and that includes taxes and shipping (because sadly I have to pay for both). Or, if you are local and are willing to pick it up from me, your cost would be $16 with tax included. I accept Venmo, PayPal, and Visa. 

Also, if you buy four books the fifth one is free! How fun is that?! (It’s fun. I promise.)

If you are interested, please email me at lpatangan@gmail.com or you can call to place an order at (904) 704-7567. Either way, please know how much I appreciate your support. I continue to be thankful for this space that connects me to like-minded people. It gives me as much hope as it does gratitude.

Here is the link to this week’s post https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/11/21/guest-column-thanksgiving-more-those-we-love-not-food/6379519001/

 

Seeking Advice

This post originally appeared in The Florida-Times Union: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/10/31/guest-column-some-problems-cant-solved-writing-dear-abby/8475262002/

When I was in junior high, I had an advice column I shared with another girl.  Our last names both began with the letter C so while the national newspapers ran syndicated columns of Dear Abby or Dear Ann Landers, my catholic grade school featured Dear C & C.  Quite honestly, I think we were just as good as Abby and Ann too — even if we did make up most of the questions in order to fill the mimeographed page.

Sometimes I think things were more progressive in the eighties. I can’t imagine a 21st century school letting kids publish their own advice column.  They would worry too much about legalities and the social/emotional consequences of two twelve-year-olds doling out advice. I guess there were some advantages to my generation despite the massive amounts of Aqua Net hairspray we inadvertently inhaled, the high-fructose corn syrup and red dye we consumed along with our Little Debbie’s snack cakes, and Kool-Aid, and the Crisco oil we slathered on us to sunbathe.

I loved reading advice columns even if most of the topics had little to do with me.  I didn’t have a mother-in-law to take issue with and I didn’t have houseguests who left wet towels on the floor.  Still, I liked the reassurance of these columns — knowing that someone had answers, that every problem had a tidy well-written solution, and if we ever needed help, we just had to ask. Read more

Death Isn’t the End

I’ve often thought about death.  This puzzles my generally upbeat husband who sometimes wonders if he didn’t marry Morticia from The Addams Family, the television sitcom with the catchy theme song: “They’re creepy and they’re kooky; Mysterious and spooky; They’re altogether ooky; The Addams Family.”

He never understands how the topic of death pops into conversations about everything, from me questioning if, after I die, anyone will wipe the crumbs off of the kitchen counters to what about my life will have mattered (besides ensuring clean countertops for an indifferent-to-crumbs family). Recently, the longtime retired pastor of our parish passed away. It was sad. People were sad. I was sad. And I couldn’t help feeling like his passing was just another in a multitude of deaths that we have all experienced during the past two years. It’s been a long season of loss for many of us. People we love and who have left an indelible mark on our lives are gone leaving us to live on the morsels of treasured memories which never come close to being as satisfying as having our loved ones with us. Read more