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

 

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

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/

 

Truth Be Told: Accepting Mercy

I had a yucky experience during a medical procedure. “Yucky” seems less traumatic than hearing the head of the department at a renowned hospital say, “I am not really sure what is happening to you. This has never happened before.” So, I am going with yucky because it sounds a little less terrifying.

But it’s not my physical reaction that was the most significant. I was my spiritual one — my resistance to accepting mercy when I know how other people’s compassion can bless both the giver and the receiver.

A friend offered to bring my family dinner. Typically, if anyone offers to feed me, I accommodate with the gluttonous joy of a counter-surfing Labrador. I don’t like to cook. I end up with splatter stains on my clothes, salmonella all over my counters, and an overcooked entrée that I worry is still lurking with salmonella. Yet when my sweet friend offered to bring us dinner, I immediately refused. Unlike me, my friend loves to cook and doesn’t neurotically overcook things to avoid food pathogens.

Still, I resisted. I resisted because accepting help sometimes makes me feel vulnerable. I resisted because I didn’t want to acknowledge how much my health issues over the last year have distorted my identity. I resisted because I didn’t want to admit how powerless I felt. I didn’t want to be on this end of mercy. It feels so much easier to give it. I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want any of this.

Yet, here I am. Read more

Light is on, but no one is home

**This post originally ran in The Florida Times-Union https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/09/26/guest-column-light-on-but-no-one-home-lara-patangan/5762689001/

When I was growing up there weren’t as many medically-diagnosed acronyms to explain one’s differences as there are today. You might have been labeled “not the sharpest tool in the shed,” “the porch light is on but no one is home,” or if you are from the south, “their cornbread ain’t quite done in the middle,” might be an apt description for someone who’s a little bit different.

I do remember being in the reading group for “special kids.” I have since published a book so I figure that was either a really effective group or I was misplaced. It’s hard to know. I have often wondered if I had been tested by some fancy psychologist if I would have a diagnosis that would explain whether my own porch light is on — because honestly, sometimes I think my bulb is the flickering kind that serves to only draw attention to the cluster of dead bugs pooled at the bottom of the light fixture.

I intended to ask my doctor about my memory loss and lack of focus but in all honesty, I forgot. I met a friend for lunch and she whipped out a picture of herself wearing two different shoes to work and told me about how her husband left painter’s tape in their refrigerator. So, it’s not just me. Or maybe we dim-lightbulb types are drawn to each other like the bugs that spiral the light before drowning in its illumination.

All of this of course makes me think about mercy (and medical diagnoses but mostly mercy) because quite honestly, I have had enough diagnoses during the last year that I am kind of grateful I forgot to ask for another one. Part of the beauty of our faith has nothing to do with aesthetics. Instead, it’s the ability to empathize and relate to another person’s suffering despite their brokenness and despite ours too. Because of this, we feel less alone. We stop looking at our deficiencies as damaged and instead find the humor and humanity in them. We stop hiding our hurts and let other people sit with us in them. We stop judging and let shame surrender to “so-what.”

This isn’t just about the silly things we do (or forget to do) it’s about the way we prioritize what genuinely matters in life. It’s not about all the things we forget but about remembering that the gift of our presence can help others navigate a difficult time. As strange as this may sound, that matters more than mismatched shoes.

I’m not sure whether I would have been diagnosed with ADD or OCD or just as a BHM (Big Hot Mess). While I am curious to know, it’s not ever going to be how bright my metaphorically-speaking light bulb is that defines me. For all of us, that’s always going to be love.

Maybe it’s all as simple as the Motel 6 slogan, the chain of budget hotels that weren’t known for being fancy but rather, just enough. They had that folksy tagline that made everyone feel welcome: “we’ll leave the light on for you.”

When it comes to how to love our neighbor, dim lightbulb or not, it’s pretty wise advice.

Hi all ~ I still get frustrated with myself for all of the not-so-bright things I do (or mostly don’t do) in a day. It’s funny how much we can let insignificant things define our value. That’s why I love the simplicity of Jesus’s message to just love God and our neighbor. I’m far from perfect at either but at least the act of trying (and the acts of mercy!) make me feel more like a wise owl than the girl who just flew over the cuckoo’s nest! Can you relate? 

P.S. ~ my birthday is tomorrow and I know you were probably not going to buy me a gift since you think I am so spiritual that I might find material items to be incredibly insignificant.  Sadly, for my husband, this is not true and I had to order some things on his behalf so that he can still be a good husband to his still spiritually shallow enough wife that she wants actual presents to open on her birthday! BUT for the rest of you dear folks, I would be thrilled if you would leave a review for my book Simple Mercies on Amazon. Currently, I have 44 reviews and I would like to have at least as many as my age, which this year happens to be 110. So, as you can see I have a ways to go to reach my goal (and also that I have aged remarkably all things considered.)  ~ Love and gratitude, the birthday girl

https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=simple+mercies&qid=1632767357&s=books&sr=1-1#customerReviews

 

 

Loving Obedience: Our Relationship with God

In the middle of praying, I noticed that my rosary broke. I wasn’t doing anything that would cause this to happen and I felt unsettled seeing the broken beads which are privy to so many of my sacred prayers. Even more disturbing was realizing that the fruit of the mystery for the decade I was praying was obedience.

Was God trying to tell me something? Am I so disobedient that my rosary spontaneously separated? Was a swarm of locusts – or worse, palmetto bugs, about to descend on me?!

When I told my husband what happened, his response was, “well, you don’t like to be told what to do.” I wanted to point out how brave he was for sharing his insight but then I decided he was giving me a compliment. (That’s what I sometimes do when I am annoyed by something someone says I decide it must somehow be a compliment and then I am happy again). Besides who likes to be told what to do?

For many years, I confused obedience with people-pleasing. I don’t know if I seem particularly inept but people often seem to have a need to tell me what to do or how I should do something. Because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, I tried to comply. Of course, this never ended well. I became resentful or pulled away from anyone who I considered overbearing. This wasn’t good for me or the well-meaning bossy britches in my life so I had to quit people-pleasing and just let those who want me to make different choices think what they want. Everyone does anyway.

However fraught our human relationships may be, it’s different with God.  Obedience to him isn’t something that should make us bristle. He trusts us enough to give us free will. He isn’t going to force anything on us because he knows love doesn’t force. It doesn’t control and it doesn’t dictate. When you think how much God loves you and wants only good for you, being obedient doesn’t feel restraining. It’s what really allows us to live in freedom. I know having rules doesn’t sound as much fun as not having any but God’s commandments protect us from the bondage of sin which is heavy and hard and full of hurt that often spreads to the people we love. There is nothing freeing about that.

Read more

Selfie: Seeking to Understand

I didn’t grow up with social media. I handwrote notes on notebook paper and folded them into small squares to pass to my friends. I took a picture with cameras that didn’t make phone calls and it was months before I bothered to get the film developed. I didn’t take 10 iterations of the same pose because film was expensive. I just smiled and said “cheese” and that was that.

Fast-forward like an obsolete VCR to thirty years later, and now we can take pictures of ourselves. The “selfie” has become an art form that I imagine an anthropologist in another millennium will discover and muse about our culture’s fascination with taking pictures of oneself with puckered lips and wagging tongues.

If I sound cynical, it’s only because I’m jealous that I’m not skilled at taking a good selfie. Last summer when I was on a quest to eat as many McDonald’s ice cream cones as possible, I took countless selfies with my ice cream in an effort to chronicle the frozen lactose journey that I was sure would eventually have profound meaning. I thought it would be cute and peppy because ice cream is universally appealing – apparently, that is until you put my face next to it. Then it becomes a deranged geometry lesson trying to formulate the precise intersection of the askew angle of my face with the triangular cone where I don’t look like an idiot. I didn’t have the patience to solve the equation because, for the love of God, I just wanted to eat my ice cream.

So, now I only do selfies when necessary and I usually put my hand over my face or try to superimpose the cat’s head over mine to make it more aesthetically pleasing. This still feels cumbersome but I’m much happier with the results. What I realized during my brief selfie sojourn is that looking effortless and spontaneous is not only a lot of work, it can cause us to miss the bigger picture. Read more

Mercy and Miracle-Gro

Hi all,

As I write this it is the end of a long holiday weekend where I didn’t boat or beach or do anything that would require an Instagram post (unless laying around with a needy cat on your chest qualifies). I did rest a lot, and I badly needed rest and quiet and time to reflect.

I also repotted some indoor plants which made me think about how uncomfortable life can be when we are still in circumstances we’ve outgrown. It also made me think about the last time I suggested buying potting soil to my husband he said we didn’t need any and how in the middle of trying to rescue a plant for the trappings of a life it has outgrown I ran out of potting soil. My husband doesn’t always understand the urgency of such things but he reassured me that it would be okay because he was going to “make me dirt.” So, now my rescued plant is in a roomy pot with a mixture of dry leeched soil found from stacks of old planters found in the garage and some sandy mess he dug straight out of our dehydrated backyard.

I added Miracle-Gro, and I figured it’s kind of like life. We make the best of what we have and know that when we add Jesus to it, it will somehow grow.

Also, I have been recording podcasts and interviews and wanted to share this interview about Simple Mercies with you. I am also attaching the link to this article which is a review of Simple Mercies but also shares some of the tips I have from the back of each chapter on how to do each of these works of mercy.

I hope you enjoyed this Memorial Day weekend and special love and prayers to everyone who has served our country. When I think of the beautiful freedom they ensure, I don’t think of simple mercies I think only of sacrifice. God Bless. ~ Love, Lara