How Covid Affected My Faith


This is part one of a long testimonial that sprang from a single question. If anything, the virus has forced me to think hard about what I believe and why. I do not know when I’ll post the rest. If you’re interested, perhaps I’ll share.

Why is it so hard to talk about faith? I’ve had these thoughts sitting in a Google doc for over a week now, and though the world is hushed and starved for instances of true faith, I feel as if I am breaking some form of politically correct code in simply stating what most of my acquaintances know about me.

Why do we hesitate to talk about and commit to our belief systems? Two things might happen. We could find people who disagree, which is natural, and in a good situation it would end in discussion and understanding. We could also stumble on our own trains of thought and find that thinking about our faith discourages us rather than strengthen it.

I’ve always thought faith was a spiritual gift of mine, though. Based on the Rock as it is, it might have taken a swing or two in bad times, but I’ve never lost it. Simpler faiths have not tempted me. I highly doubt a simpler faith would get me through things such as a worldwide pandemic.

Following months of Covid and plague, a dramatic election, a controversial vaccine, and lots of angry conversations with people suffering in ways I can’t see physically–after all of that, I’ve been seeing posts asking a very important question.

How has Covid affected my Catholic faith?

It would be a lie to say Covid has not affected it. It would be a waste not to use my voice if I can steadily phrase my situation. It would be cowardice to keep it to myself because people are allergic to faith lately. I’m sure more people are looking for a visible, sturdy faith lately than they’d readily admit.

The answer is simple on the surface. People who were already struggling with Catholicism probably lost what little faith they had when thousands of people began to die. People like me who had better-rooted faith are still struggling. I promise there is a struggle. It looks different, though.

When 2021 began, I wanted to do a “positivity hashtag” using JPII’s context of Be Not Afraid. Reality hit me, and it sank in that I could not spread a worldwide message of hope alone when I myself am still human and caught in the uncertainty. I did not give up on the message, but allowed it to affect me. Instead of shoving a hashtag at people, I drank the message in small gulps until I was able to remember God’s faithfulness on the darkest of days.

Sometimes when I pray, I feel like I’m not speaking to a room full of angels and divine intervention. That’s okay–I’m not meant to feel that every day. On occasions when I feel that my words are just words, I keep saying them. I might be tired, and it might be difficult to ‘hold the phone’ for me sometimes. However, for God it never is–and I rely on His strength, not mine, to hold the phone.

I therefore feel the need to rearrange my message to the world right now. Be afraid–but don’t let it stop you. Yes, we have reasons to be afraid right now. God is still holding the phone; He is still turning the proverbial wheel. We can be afraid, but when we are, we should always turn to him.

How, then, has Covid affected my Catholic faith? I debated which blog to post this on. My missionary blog has been quiet because I am indeed human and the creative cycle can only do so much when I can’t see peoples’ faces. I’ve managed to write a tiny amount of fiction, and 1k lately is a great writing session.

How has Covid affected my Catholic faith? I no longer feel the need to separate myself the author from the religious believer. I question my choice last year of creating a separate blog to talk about my brothers and sisters, the Saints. I’m not a nice person anymore, because I have opinions that might upset people.

I once saw someone comment somewhere, “I’m a Catholic, but I don’t let it define me.” I suppose I can answer the opposite quite frankly: I am a Catholic, and I do let it define me.

Last week I saw someone say “Being Catholic and being Christian are not the same thing.” I agree; being Catholic means I’m still on the rock that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 16. 

I’m not intending to step on toes, but when other people are thoughtless on dropping a comment on the flip side, I don’t understand why I have to be nice and keep the response to myself–because it is not the right thing to do, and you don’t put a lamp under a basket.

I’m not a nice person because people keep ignorantly stepping on my toes, believing in a Jesus built on personal interpretation on a book that was modified to reformers’ liking. However, I digress. My personal faith and another’s will look different. If you agree it’s not Christlike to step on someone’s toes unprovoked, we can move on.

Except maybe we can’t–because I’m getting into history now. History lines up with my testimony. I pay attention to history because we are told to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Since this digresses majorly from the Covid topic, I’m going to meditate before I share the rest. Now at least I know I answered the first question.

To Be Continued (Maybe)…

Review – Crave the Rose: Anne Brontë at 200


During my adventures reading books I have become aware of the fact that, when a story is timeless, it’s in part because of the person who wrote it.

I have decided to learn more about the authors behind those stories which have survived over the centuries, which our grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed. Anne Brontë’s biography was the first I read.

Called Crave the Rose, I believe the biography to be an elegant tribute to the youngest Brontë sister. Though I knew that many people in Anne’s family had written books, I did not know how very literary the Brontës were; indeed, until I read Crave the Rose, I didn’t even know they had a brother, Branwell.

I also did not know that there had been two older sisters who had died. Named Maria and Elizabeth, death took them before Anne was old enough to remember them.

Anne Brontë was said by many to be the prettiest of her sisters.

The Brontës were stalked by death. Beginning with their mother, Maria, who expired when Anne was a baby, death took their family one by one; finally, only their father, Patrick remained. How deep his grief must have been after seeing all of his family depart this world.

It is a good length. I say this because I did not once skim the chapter or think “there’s too much filler.” On the contrary, I lamented that Anne didn’t live long enough to have a thicker biography. I suppose we readers add to her literary legacy by reading and loving her work.

I was first struck by Anne’s talent at poetry in the verses that the author shared at the beginning of every chapter. Her words could start a heart racing with joy, or make it share in her great despair. She felt each emotion so deeply that it bounced off the page.

There are moments in literature when you find connections between two authors you admire and must stop to think of the magnitude. I learned in Crave the Rose that Elizabeth Gaskell, whose work I also enjoy, wrote a controversial biography of the Brontë family painting a glum picture of them, depicting the father as abusive.

As I read about this part of their story, I couldn’t be angry with Mrs Gaskell. I was instead excited that greatness connects with greatness. North and South by Mrs Gaskell is one of my favorite books.

Learning that the Brontës were in this way connected to Elizabeth Gaskell made me feel like a historian uncovering a gem in the words of a page. It seems that the Brontës were a favorite subject of criticism; there is a biography of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier, whose work I have yet to read, which also supposedly gives him a bad light.

But he that dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.

Anne Brontë

I did not realize until reading Crave the Rose how dedicated to the written word this family was. Their story is tragic and empowering.

I pictured Anne and Charlotte on their one trip to London, two small and meek women, determined to prove to their publisher that there were indeed three authors in the famous Bell literary trio, with nothing to support their claim but correspondence with the publisher. It must have been frightening, but they were determined to defend their work–as they should have been.

The Brontë sisters

Then I pictured Anne falling ill shortly after this trip. She succumbed to the consumption soon after it took her sister, Emily. I admire the recorded courage with which she lived her final days, courage I cannot fathom. I have a fear of death, myself; accounts like these challenge my perspective.

If you want to find hope in this world again, begin searching history for people like Anne Brontë. Their small acts of bravery will be lost in time if we do not keep their memories alive. I can only hope that I will one day be as determined a writer as Anne Brontë, and that I will not be afraid when facing death.

Anne, despite being the youngest daydreamer of the family, seems to me to have been the bravest of them all.

I would not send a poor girl into the world, ignorant of the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her, till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will to watch and guard herself.

Anne Brontë

The Catholic Series: My Next Challenge


The Communion of Saints

Wondering what the Communion of Saints is? Read this article!

As a writer, what I love most about telling stories is that it allows you to create people. With enough practice, you can make them so lifelike that readers will feel them to be like friends.

This month, I’m wrapping up my trilogy on merpeople. It might have a spin-off trilogy later, but I’m satisfied to tell Rose’s story in three books, or possibly piece them together so that they are one. It depends on what might happen when I edit them.

Because I have written about magic for so long, I’ve decided to try something different when this trilogy is finished. I’m in a phase of discovering my faith again, seeing the beauty of being a Catholic striving for sainthood. I’ve been mulling over a new project—and this week decided to go for it.

I want to write tales of everyday Catholics who believe in the Sacraments—and especially in the Real Presence. I want to prove that faith can be captured in fiction writing. The stories will vary, but the main characters will have Catholicism in common.

It won’t all be perfect faith; I will write about the soul whose faith falters with as much care as he who believes. The point of this project is to write about realistic characters; every believer has doubts.

These stories will not be long. I predict they’ll be the length of a short story or a novella. If one does make it to “novel length,” I’ll be thankful, but shorter stories often have the most impact.

Don’t neglect your spiritual reading. – Reading has made many saints.

St. Josemaría Escrivá

As for POV, tense, or outlining, I don’t know what the stories will look like. I’m in collecting mode, gathering stories from people whose grandparents were devout, or those who believed that God would keep His promises and waited on Him until He did.

I have a few ideas; in my mind, I see these “small” acts of faith as the signs of future Saints. We can all be Saints.

They might be written in the form of a diary, or letters being exchanged; through this project, I am exploring new ways of storytelling.

We all know the tales of St. Thérèse and St. Joan of Arc; there are thousands of known Saints. I hope that the stories I write will remind us that we can also become Saints by living simple lives.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1, NIV, italics mine

If you know someone with a good story about faith, love, vocations, anything that would make for an inspirational short story, please share. I can make stuff up, yes, but real people add life to the narrative.

I am eager to set aside the magic and see life through the eyes of faith. I’m going to learn a lot, writing these stories.

Nothing is stranger and more beautiful than real life, nothing more marvelous than His Sacrifice.

What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.

St. Francis of Assisi on the Eucharist and Real Presence of Christ

To Whom It May Concern


Let it be said of me
That my words waded
Where the waves
Devour,

Intent on saving you
For a new Day,
For it was not
Your Hour.

I don’t believe
I will meet you;
I shall not Know
Who you are,

Yet my words,
Relentless, found you,
Be it near or far.

For those who found my work long aft I’ve faded like a flower,

I hope you found a verse or two, to last another hour.

xx

5 Plants That Repel Pests


Many of my ideas hide out in the garden. I’ve been most inspired to write a poem when watching a butterfly perch on a daisy; the birdsong up in the trees above me rhymes more than anything I’ve been told to study for literature class.

For those of you who, like me, are gardeners as well as writers, here are five plants that naturally repel pests from this most holy of spots. After all, if you keep clean the place where your ideas take root, more will come to you.

(Also, gardening is a fun way to put aside the laptop and get some exercise. Trust me, it works.)

Wait—What Pests?

When you start a garden, you’re curating a little ecosystem. You often don’t realize how many mosquitoes are hiding near that pond where you made wishes years ago, or that the hole in the ground most certainly did not dig itself.

Many people will use chemical insecticides, but we’re writers; we know that nothing in nature is completely evil. Thankfully there are herbs and flowers that will keep these little nuisances from entering the Enchanted Garden at all.

1- Marigold

Who doesn’t love the vibrant marigold?

-They come in many sizes and can reach different heights.
-They are very easy to grow and, as sun loving plants, no shade no problem!
-They’re guaranteed to catch the eye of a casual pedestrian, stealing attention from the neighbor’s garden across the street.

Was that not enough? Here’s another reason to plant marigold: It repels aphids and mosquitoes.

Humans can enjoy these beauties; unwanted pests can’t. Plant them everywhere!

2- Peppermint

Christmas in July, anybody? Peppermint brings to mind the Christmas season, with its delicious sweets and those scented candles that usually wind up half-off on December 26.

Peppermint is more than the stuff of red and white candy. It’s an effective weapon against:

-Spiders
-Mosquitoes
-Ants
-Fleas
-Lice
-Mice

If I keep going, I’ll end up writing a poem. The point is, keep some peppermint in your garden; it’ll be safe.

Note: Unless you want the peppermint to spread all over the garden, keep them in ornate pots you can move around. Those fellows are such powerful weapons that they can take over!

3- Lavender

Lavender brings to mind beautiful plants in shades of purple with more candles (which don’t end up in the half-price basket quite as soon.)

Like marigold, lavender is more than just a pretty face. It’s a barrier against invaders, such as flies and—again—mosquitoes.

It’s a relief that some of these natural repellents are pretty, too; passersby will never know why you planted them.

4- Chrysanthemum

Speaking of pretty plants that repel bad guys, take a look at the beautiful chrysanthemum. Her colors are so vibrant, her presence so bold…

And lots of pests hate her.

Roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, lice, fleas, spider-mites, and more—all of them can’t bear to be near her.

It’s like her beauty is too much for their evil natures (I know, I contradict myself.)

5- Basil

You might have tasted basil in your food, but pests can’t stand to be near it, let alone taste it.

It repels asparagus beetle and the tomato hornworm. It’s also useful to season your dinner with. Why wouldn’t you plant some in your garden?

Conclusion

These are only five of the useful plants that repel pests. Get on Google and look it up; you’ll find longer lists with more varieties to choose from, depending on the sort of garden you want to keep.

When the pests are gone, then you can take your laptop and write outside. There won’t be as many mosquitoes to bite you while you’re distracted, and maybe you’ll finally finish that final draft.

Prologue


Let it be said of me,
“She was open, like a book.”
& like a book,
Some people can’t get much
Further than page 1.
I am a poem-volume
Amidst documents of war;
The thrill explorers felt as
Their schooners left the shore.

One day I’ll be a Favorite Book
Read ‘neath the setting sun.
For now, I’ll stay true to myself
And whisper my page 1.

Shared with dVerse Open Link Night. Check them out for great poetry!

A PROVISION FOR LOVE by Heather Chapman


It has been a long while since I read a book that warmed my heart as much as this one did. A Provision for Love by Heather Chapman was too short, in my opinion. This might be a good thing; in many cases, the short books are more potent, finding their places in your heart more easily.

Ivy’s grandmother has written for her a list of qualities to seek in a potential husband; this list includes traits that mean a man isn’t worth Ivy’s time. The list is written in a poetic form, and in some places borders on absurdity, but it was fun watching as Ivy sized up her possible suitors according to the advice that her grandmother had given—and watching Grandmother have fun as she watched the process unfold.

I was satisfied with the ending; I don’t think Ivy’s choice could have been more perfect. The list worked; it led her to a worthy gentleman—or rather, opened her eyes to the gentleman who had been standing in front of her the entire time. I know I will be reading this delightful little book again.

Creativity in Quarantine


I would love to say that I am #StayingAtHome, but I found this situation more complicated—and emotionally loaded.

When we first arrived in Peru, we were staying in a hotel. This was where we were when, halfway into our trip, a quarantine and curfew were set; all of the stores closed. Any place that we might have gone to have fun has been shut down for weeks.

After that, we left the hotel to spend the remainder of our trip at our grandmother’s house; there is still nowhere to go except for the grocery store.

Boredom can be painful.

I expected that quarantine of such a nature would give me inspiration to finish a book. Instead, I’m writing a few chapters, but they are good ones.

It’s hard to focus on creative writing when the media makes you so hyper aware of the bad things happening in the world. We are all feel a little out of place. We are all celebrating small victories, like finishing a chapter or reading a long book.

As we wait out the last three days, hoping the U.S. Government will get us home, I’m allowing myself to feel the negative feelings. They can lead to clarity. They can serve as inspiration. Ultimately, they can guide us.

I hope you’ve found something to keep you sane during this time. We are all seeing the world in a different way; how have these events changed your viewpoint?

New Book – The Mermaid of Rose Hill – Out Soon!


Here is a photo of me with a case of lazy bed head, holding a proof copy of my new novel, which I plan to release this month.

The Mermaid has been my project for the last two years or more. It began as an urban fantasy, but I decided to challenge myself and write it as a historical fiction. It was a much more complicated but rewarding experience; it will be the first book of what I foresee as a long series with lots of novella spin-offs.

I’ve been sharing teasers on Instagram and Twitter. I am very eager to be an active indie author again.

If you want to know what it’s about, here’s a blurb I wrote a while back; it isn’t perfect, but close enough!

While I haven’t decided on a release date yet, it’ll be before the 20.

Here are a couple of the teasers. I do hope you enjoy this book; it’s my baby!

I might be sending out some ebook copies for review; if you’re interested, let me know!

-Mariella x

Art is Magic


Art is something that comes alive and seeks to change us forever.

Wonder at how, so many years later, the Mona Lisa still has lines after lines of people impatient to see her smile. Think of how certain quotes from certain novels echo down through generations, while most of our own whispers vanish into oblivion.

Renoir, Young Girls at the Piano, close-up

Art is the only true form of magic and only art is immortal. It can thaw the frozen heart when nothing else could. It brings us centuries-old pain, and also relief from that pain.

Don’t cast a spell; a poem will do.

I’ve always held this view. I used to think my preference for classic works was a result of my personal desire to be the next Dickens—but art does not work that way. We all hold it differently.

There is no way I can be the next Jane Austen.

Now I think my fascination is a result of nostalgia, one we all feel for times past. We all have heroes long-gone that we would love one hour with. There always comes a moment when the present, fast-paced world is not enough.

So we take up art, this shapeless and fiery thing, to recreate what no longer is but still is close to our hearts. We write back into history. We conjure our heroes, create unicorns, slay dragons.

Art is magic, and art is alive.

Now I look at myself. My heart is in a place long-gone when grand balls were popular, women wore dresses of flowing silk, and carriages rattled. This is what I will recreate with the magic handed to me; it is a lifelong goal.

It requires much, though. To uncover gems of story, I have to do research. To make my characters feel real, I need to know where they would go, what they would eat, how they would dance. As I grow older researching, my heart will be more caught in that time than this one.

Come to my blog and learn with me. Our Elizabeth Bennetts might seem far away, but using the magic of art, we come closer with every step forward that we take.