Monday, December 24, 2012

A Blessed Christmas To You And Yours!

“That seemingly trivial incident which was so commonplace that the innkeeper refused a room to His Blessed Mother was the revolution that upset the world and the solution which gave it peace. Driven even off the face of the earth He came to save, His Mother sought refuge in a shepherd’s cave, and there under the floor of the world was born Him who like Samson shook the pillars of the world to its very foundations, pulled down the already crumbling edifice, and built a new Living Temple in its place, where men might once more sing because they had found their God.”
—Archbishop Fulton Sheen (The Prodigal World)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Catholic Book Publisher Spotlight: Bezalel Books

Dear readers:
Did you know that some of the Catholic publishers, authors, and bloggers making the biggest difference and providing the most valuable reading material are the ones you don't hear about very often? It's true. They're the ones who forge ahead day by day, working for God in humility, behind the scenes, and away from the spotlight.  Imagine that! Nothing showy or attention- grabbing about these Catholics, to be sure.  So very refreshing! 

I am privileged to know many people like this in the Catholic publishing world, and I would like to spotlight these publishers here on my blog throughout the coming months so you can get to know these deeply religious people who are true to their faith and their calling to do the Lord's work...all content to be quietly working in the shadow of God.

Today we meet Cheryl Dickow, author and president at Bezalel Books, a Catholic publisher with a passion for filling Catholic bookshelves, including Catholic classrooms, with quality books. Known for the popular All Things Girl series, as well as The Green Coat (a favorite of mine, blogged about here) a classroom favorite by Rosemary McDunn, Bezalel Books is led by a humble woman who does her work for the glory of God.

Dickow feels blessed to work with fine authors at Bezalel Books, a Catholic publisher and bookstore, which also offers author services (click here for more information) and provides opportunities for authors to publish works for which they feel passionate about—works that provide illumination to others, whether fiction or non-fiction. Books that carry the Bezalel name reflect the teachings and values of Christ and are inspirational in nature.Dickow says that since her authors have not pursued their publications out of vanity, she believes that their success is measured on a different scale.  

"They humbly ask themselves if they were obedient, if they used the gifts God has given them in the way He has asked them," she says.

Among the many offerings of Bezalel Books is the popular The Rosary Workout  by fitness expert Peggy Bowes (I reviewed the book here), which  gained popularity when Bowes appeared on EWTN's The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. Bowes, who has a devotion to Blessed Mother, captivates readers with her honest and helpful approach to fitness for Catholic women by combining a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and the Rosary.

Dickow, herself an accomplished teacher and author, has written, among other books, Our Jewish Roots and  Mary: A Study of Papal Encyclicals on Mary. Her fiction book, Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, is a fascinating novel about a woman's midlife flight to the Holy Land as she questions her marriage and her life, learning about the matriarchs of our faith like Sarah and Rachel, as well as the true nature of agape love on her pilgrimage of a lifetime.

Dickow says the authors at Bezalel Books are men and women who have taken the 'new springtime of evangelization' to heart and have responded. They aren’t in positions of power where their names can open doors; rather, they are the simplest and most humble of people who have prayed and discerned to know God’s call upon their lives. 

"Each and every one of them is a truly gifted writer and has brought to me work that I am proud to publish; work that I have enjoyed reading and can recommend to others with full confidence. Without exception each is a work that entertains, edifies and enlightens and I am honored to give them a platform," she notes.

Dickow feels blessed that her authors are not those whose vanity propels them forward, wanting to see their name in print and their words bound together for profit or for gain. Rather, for them, it is always about serving God and uplifting brothers and sisters in Christ in compelling prose.

"They rightfully believe that this time in our Church isn’t about just a few being called but about all of us being called to step up and serve with our God-given gifts and talents. It is a time for each of us to open a door for another, through whatever means or situation in which God has put us," says Dickow.

Works this year have included incredible titles like He Shall Be Peace by Jennifer Franks and Finding Grace by Laura Pearl. Finding Grace most recently received the prestigious Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. 

Dickow invites everyone to peruse the Bezalel Books bookstore to see many of their other fine titles for adults and children.

When people ask Dickow where she came up with the name "Bezalel" (pronounced Bez-a-lel), she reflects that she wanted the name to have meaning for her company, something that would relay who she was and what she hoped to accomplish as a Catholic publisher. 

"Bezalel is Hebrew and means 'in the shadow of God.' It perfectly reflects my own faith walk and my goals for the company," she says. Dickow's humility is evident to those who know her:  a quiet and deeply spiritual person who is content to do her own work for God in the shadow of God. 

"I hope these authors encourage you to wonder and then respond to the question, 'What is God asking of me right now in this exciting time in our Church?'” she says.

For more information, visit  You and your family may just find your next inspiring Catholic read there!

God Is So In Love With You!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Advent Heart: With Love From Me To You, Jesus

I think we should all have Advent candle hearts from now on.

I have a confession to make.

How very Catholic of me! LOL

But what I am about to say may shock you.  Then again, for those who know me, maybe it won't.

I'm not crafty.

There, I've said it.

Oh, the desire is there. I've got the sequins, the special scissors, the scrapbooking supplies, the card stock. I've got a drawer full of sparkly ribbon, pinking shears, buttons, oodles of thread, miles and miles of yarn, rulers, fake fall foliage, silk roses, and little plastic thingies.

But I can't do it. I'm all thumbs.

"But you're so creative," a friend said. "I don't get it."

Ah yes, in the written word, perhaps. I'll craft a story for you any old time and have a good time doing it.  But put me at a craft table with a glue gun and I get itchy. Give me a keyboard any day of the week.

"It doesn't relax you?"

No. Outside of a fresh box of Crayolas and a coloring book, there is absolutely no relaxation for me in crafting. Why?

Because I stink at crafting.

It took me a long time to realize that it's okay not be crafty. I'm a mom. A conservative mom. A churchy mom. It seems so un-American to not like crafting.  I like crafting stores, however, and I really can't figure out why that is. Maybe it's a glimpse into what I could be...if I had the talent.

Which I clearly don't.

The above attempt at an Advent wreath clearly shows that I can't even stay within the confines of a circle when applying Christmas-themed picks with a hot glue gun.

"Mom, is it a circle?" asked my son. "Because it sort of looks like a heart, you know?"

I peeled the dried glue from my fingers and inspected my creation. An Advent heart. Yes, that is exactly what I had made.

"Well," I said, unplugging the glue gun, "a heart is a perfect shape for an advent candle wreath. What did Baby Jesus bring to the world?"

"Love," answered my son dutifully and with a little smile. He knew what I was up to.

"Well then, a heart symbolizes love, does it not? So we have an Advent heart. It's a new Belanger tradition."

It makes sense, though, doesn't it? I placed it on the kitchen table and we put the candles in.  "This is how it's gonna be," I said, exasperated. "Your mom is just not crafty."

I admitted this very thing to my child.  What kind of a mother am I? Through the years, I had made the homemade Play Dough on the stove, bought the little craft kits at Michael's, created amateurish First Holy Communion scrapbooks for the boys, made a disaster of the kitchen making royal icing for cookies last Christmas (I recently found a drop of dried icing on the wall from when the squeeze bottle exploded.  My boys and I exploded in laughter when that happened. Needless to say, it was pizza for dinner that night. Mom needed a break.)

So don't I get an A for effort here?

But I don't learn; I just keep trying. And that's my downfall. So I tried my hand at sewing.

I know. But hear me out.

I wasn't aiming to be a master seamstress or anything, I just wanted to learn something more than replacing buttons (which, by the way, I do rather well if I do say so myself!). What better way than to take a little easy-going class for beginners at the local sewing machine repair shop?  I signed up as eager as could be. I bought the notions the instructor suggested. I went to the fabric store and picked out a lovely wine-colored piece of fabric. Sewing was going to be my new thing! Our first project was going to be a vest.

A vest! Yes, I needed a nice vest. A tailor-made vest! Except I was no tailor. No matter;  I could pair it with jeans and a turtleneck. Add cute buttons. It would be darling!

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way. The instructor tried to be patient and helpful, but God did not make me a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination. The teacher, finally spent from trying to be so kind with me, took the unfinished vest from me and said quietly, "Here, let me just finish this for you, Nancy."

Whatever happened to teaching a man to fish?  Well, why waste the time, really. I was hopeless.

But I forgot all of that when I found a pair of my son's school pants that were way too long and needed hemming. My husband suggested I take them to a tailor. But I would have none of it. I was certainly capable of hemming pants. I had my son try them on, measured them, and cut the fabric according to the specifications.  I dragged out my little sewing box and the navy blue thread.  It was time for some hemming, baby! I sewed as I watched "The Journey Home" on EWTN.  It was a delightful time. I sipped tea, watched the banter between Marcus Grodi and his guest.  I was hemming. I was crafting. I was doing a great job.

I was quite proud of the pants. The stitches, well, they were a little crooked. But who would be able to tell, all the way down there? Nobody looks at your ankles.  What I forgot to do was have him try on the finished product, though. Well, it was late and I still had to pack lunches.

So this morning when my poor son came downstairs with floods on four inches too short, I wanted to cry. They will make a  good pair of shorts, though.

Lord, why did You make me this way? I wailed.  I can't do anything right! Why can't I do a simple thing like hem a pair of pants or glue flowers onto a circle? Why can't I make pretty sugar cookies at Christmastime, create a beautiful scrapbook of the kids,  or make a cake that isn't lopsided? Why did You make me this way?!

I made you the way I always wanted you to be. You are exactly as I planned you from all eternity and I love you. No, you will never be a Martha Stewart. I already have one of those. Now go finish the book I planted on your heart. Bring me young souls who will embrace the Faith into adulthood. Go and be you.

Thank You, Lord, for the many gifts you have given me, especially the gift of the written word. I promise to use it to honor You, to glorify You, to bring children to You, to the best of my ability. I thank You for making me who I am. This Advent heart is for You, because I love You, too.

Can I just say one more thing, though? I sew a mean button. Strong and sturdy, one that will stay put and work hard for you.

It's the little things.

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