Humbled By Generosity, A Free Book to Download

I’ve often heard the term, “I’m humbled by your generosity,” but I’ve never really thought too deeply about what that means.

Is a person humbled by another’s generosity because such charity is greater than what they have been able or willing to give?

Or, is a person humbled by another’s generosity because accepting the charity of another is an act of humility?

In the last twelve days, we have been the recipients of an array of kindness. I find myself humbled by the generosity of others, and I find that both of the above definitions apply.

Deep in the trenches of the most difficult moment of our lives, I must concede that the kindness of others puts any small acts of kindness I might have performed in the past to shame.

And, stripped bare of any pretense, accepting that kindness requires a humility which I had prayed for but never attained. As they say, “be careful what you pray for.”

I took this latter struggle with humility to Mass on Sunday, questioning whether I could and should accept such generosity when I had nothing to offer in return. As usual, the Holy Spirit provided an answer, something that I actually can offer in return.

So, here it is…

Years ago, I felt led to write a children’s book on the Rosary. I’ve shopped it out to a few publishers, but the consensus seemed to be that the market wasn’t great enough, and that there were plenty of children’s Rosary books already published. I accepted that, but still had the nagging feeling that I was meant to do something with the book. I thought about printing copies and giving them to all of the second graders at the school, but didn’t have the money. I considered just emailing it to the teachers, but something held me back.

On Sunday, I realized that the book was being saved for such a time as this – a time IMG_0124.JPGwhen I so desperately want to give back but seem to have nothing to give. Knowing that God will bring good from this experience (Romans 8:28), this appears to be an opportunity for one such good.

So, as an expression of my deep, deep gratitude for all of the kindnesses shown to us, I am posting that book for anyone and everyone to download. All I ask in return is your prayers – prayers for purity in the world, for the suffering of innocent children, for our priests and religious leaders, and, I hope, for Ray’s healing, peace, and comfort.

I confess that it’s rather unfinished. I’ve added pictures for the Joyful Mysteries, to get you through Advent. I’ll add the rest at a later date and re-upload the book, but I wanted to get this out there for anyone who wanted to use it with their children during Advent.

I realize that many of you aren’t Catholic. Please download the book anyways and just read the stories inserted between the Hail Mary’s. As we enter into Advent, the Joyous Mysteries will be very appropriate. Or, forward it to your Catholic friends for their enjoyment.

When you open the file, you’ll notice the colored dots before each Hail Mary. You can make a set of charity beads, following that color scheme. Your kids can move a bead over for each Hail Mary, and use the color coding to know which bead they’re on. I don’t know about you, but I find the interminable question, “Mommy, what bead are we on?” to be a bit of a distraction while we’re praying!

Simply click on the link below, and the book will open in your web browser. Take a look, and if you like it, print it out, bind it, and read it to help you pray with your kids. Or, use it as a tool for yourself to help you learn to pray the Rosary. I pray that it will encourage many to pray this prayer that has been so instrumental in my own life, and which very well may be working a miracle for Ray, even as we speak, thanks be to God!

A Childs Journey Through the Rosary, by Stephanie Engelman


At This Most Difficult Hour, 7 Things I’m Grateful For

Just over twenty-four hours ago, our lives were drastically changed when I found my husband, Ray, unresponsive on our family room floor. It’s probably stupid that I’m writing this when I really need to be sleeping, but the words started circling like evil, sleep-eating, blood-thirsty sharks, (don’t get me wrong, I love these sharks most of the time) and I decided to just get this post out quickly, share it, and – hopefully – go back to sleep.

I can’t fit all of the things I’m grateful for into this post, but this will be a start, at least.

Family on beach

1. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Or maybe it was Little Man’s, I’m not sure. But when Ray got out of bed at 3 am yesterday morning, it barely registered with me. Fortunately, it woke Little Man up. If I hadn’t gotten up to nurse him, the story would have been very different when I woke up to my alarm clock at 5:30.

2. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Did I already say that? Oh well. I learned late yesterday that the procedure the cardiologist performed to open Ray’s artery, which was 100% blocked, would not have been successful if performed by most cardiologists. He happened to come into the hospital at a time when one of the best cardiologists in the city was working, according to my friend who was a critical care cardiac nurse for 17 years and worked with this particular doctor. I can’t remember his name right now, but I’m incredibly grateful to him, too.

3. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Oh, geez. I think I’m getting repetitive now. Okay, all of this clearly goes beyond one guardian angel and points directly to the Big Man himself, but I’m saving Him for last. I figure that some hand was guiding those paramedics, who arrived at our house incredibly quickly, and who were awesome with me and the children (there were firemen and police officers too. All were amazing). From the time I woke up until the paramedics arrived was 15 minutes, I think. When you consider that I did not initially realize what was going on, and had “half” nursed Little Man before I realized that Ray hadn’t just fallen asleep on the floor (sounds crazy, but entirely possible in Ray’s sleep world,) that relatively short space of time is nothing short of miraculous.

A nice fire, good company, good chili. What more could a man ask for?

4. My Family

Just before 4 am, Ray left for the hospital. Who would I call to meet me there, but my parents, of course? And Dad, of course, answered the phone. And, of course, Mom and Dad arrived at the hospital just minutes after I got there with the kids. They proceeded to take care of me and the kids throughout the day, and I know they will be a tremendous help in the days to come.

My sisters… they took the kids yesterday afternoon and evening. They’ll likely have them more than I will in the days and weeks to come. They provide a comfortable, safe haven for children who need it so desperately right now.

My friend Erin texted a few minutes after I called my folks. I said out loud, “Oh my gosh. Erin Miller. What, is she clairvoyant?” Of course, she had no idea what was happening, but still, don’t you think that’s a little weird. If I had known she was awake, I would not have hesitated to text her instead of waking up my parents.  And so she’s listed under this heading. Erin took off work so that she could be there to help with my kids. I’ve said before that she’s generous to a fault. I still believe that to be true. Right now, I’m extremely grateful for that “fault.”

My friend Jennifer (the critical care cardiac nurse) took off work and came and spent hours with me and Ray’s family at the hospital, translating medical-ese into English, asking pertinent questions, and affirming that he was receiving the very best care. She’s been my bestie since our Freshman year in high school. And so she’s under this heading, too.

My friend Brenda arrive outside Ray’s door late last night, having worked in the hospital all day long. She took Ray’s mom and sister down to the cafeteria, got toiletries for them, made sure they were comfortable, and then went back to Ray’s room to stay with him while I went home to get Little Man to bed (it was midnight and he hadn’t gone to bed yet. My poor mom.), get Dude to bed (same story) and get me to bed (same story. Dude and I had both been up since three.) And so… she’s under this heading.

5. Ray’s Family

It sounds ridiculous, but I’m so glad I like Ray’s family right now. They could be under heading number four, but they have their own serious hurting and worrying going on – he’s their blood, their son or their baby brother who’s been through tragedy before, and they were there the first time around. They got him through that first time, thirty years ago, and they will be instrumental in getting him through this time. It’s good to be surrounded by other people who love him, and who I love.

ray and steph on stephs fortieth

6. Our Friends

Many of you would have bent over backwards to help us today. Some of you did, and some of you will help us in the days, weeks, and months to come. We’re going to need all of you. I’m so grateful for this incredible network of friends who span across two wonderful parishes, a preschool, two neighborhoods, and beyond. I’m grateful for your prayers, the meals that have already started arriving, the clean house I came home to, every offer of support and help that you have extended or will extend. I’m overwhelmed. I can never write enough thank you notes, I will never find the words. I hope that I can be as present to you in your hour of need as you are to me.

7. My God and My Faith

My calm this morning was surreal. But I know it was rooted in faith. It was firmly founded in the knowledge that “I have a big God”. He will bring us through this. No matter the outcome, we are never left without hope. We rest securely in the knowledge that God has a beautiful banquet prepared for those who love him. We cling to the understanding that, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” God can will take all things and use them for good. He remains my rock, my stronghold. I went to sleep with the words, “Night holds no terrors for me, sleeping under God’s wings.” Day holds no terror either. He will bring us through.

This doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a start, and maybe now I can sleep. Please continue to pray for Ray. His condition is critical. I can’t find the words to pray, and I’m sure yours will be better. Healing, comfort, and hope. God’s will be done, all Glory to Him, the One who made us all.

Oh, number 8… when it’s so hard to know the words to pray, I’m grateful for all of the prayers written by saints whose words are better than mine – or written by God himself. Here are a few favorites.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Blessed Mother, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us. St. Isidore (Ray’s patron) pray for us. All you holy men and women, pray for us.



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The Story Behind the Story

A Single Bead

Today’s the big day… I finally get to share the cover of my book, A Single Bead, with my friends and readers! I hope you love it! Most of all, I hope you’ll read it, and tell your friends about it!

At the bottom of this post, you’ll find the link to go to my Facebook author page, view the cover, and enter to win one of three books that my publisher, Pauline Books and Media, is generously giving away. First, though, here’s the story of how the story of A Single Bead came to fruition.

Just over two years ago, I thought I knew what God wanted me to do with my life. I recognized two special talents I had been blessed with – writing and speaking. I also had developed a deep love and appreciation for God’s Word, and for Christ’s Church. I saw a scarcity of Bible studies written for Catholic women, by Catholic women, and I wanted to fill that gap.

There’s one thing about Catholic Bible studies, though. The authors always have letters behind their names. So I thought I’d better figure out how to get a theology degree. I quickly realized that was going to cost a fair penny, and I knew that I would have to find a way to pay for it without tapping into our already tapped out finances.

I had written a children’s book on the Rosary, but never found a publisher. So, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could get that published and make a little money to at least help pay for a theology degree. I went to the website for one Catholic publisher – Pauline Books and Media – and saw that they were seeking Catholic young adult fiction. That struck a chord. But it was utterly ridiculous. I was going to write life-changing Bible studies, not frivolous fiction!

So, I laughed (literally, out loud) and said, “Well, God, if you want me to write young adult fiction, you’re going to have to give me the idea. Because I sure as heck don’t have one!”

And, though I didn’t hear him at the time, God laughed back.

A week or so later I got a tweet from @Catholici_T: “@afewbeadsshort, but have you ever pondered the power of just a single bead of the Rosary?”

I responded something along the lines of, “How true! I think I’ll write a blog post on that!”

But two hours later, the realization struck: It wasn’t a blog post. It was the title of a book, and the answer to a prayer.

One moment, I had nothing. The next, I knew that I was meant to write a story about a teenage girl who had lost her grandmother in a plane crash. At the memorial a year later, the girl finds a bead from her grandmother’s personalized rosary, but it’s not just any bead. It’s the bead bearing the girl’s initials. She would set out to find more beads, and there would be miracles and mystical events surrounding the beads that she found.

At the time, that was it. I knew there had to be a conflict, but I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. But, God had given me a start, and I was going to run with it.

Thanks to a writer friend (romance author, Kyra Jacobs), I knew that NaNoWriMo was coming up. NaNoWriMo is a friendly competition in celebration of November, National Novel Writer’s Month, in which authors challenge themselves – and each other – to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November. Anyone and everyone who reaches 50,000 words “wins”. I knew myself well enough to know that this sort of “all or none” approach was a good one for me. And so, the same day that I received that tweet, I resolved to write a novel in November. A novel about a teenage girl and a single bead. God would provide the rest.

And, indeed, He did. Somehow, I found the time, and, somehow, every time I sat down to write I actually had something to write. By the end of the first 30 days, I had just over 50,000 words. I finished the book on my birthday, which also happens to be the Feast of St. Stephen, AKA the day after Christmas. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever received.

I edited it, and then sent it to a couple of friends for thoughts and suggestions. My sister was afraid to read it because she didn’t want to have to tell me that it was awful. But, when she finally buckled down and read it over spring break, she texted me with the news. She loved it. In fact, it was one of the best books she’d read in a long time.

A little more editing, and I submitted it to two publishers, one of whom was that same publisher that originally inspired my wry prayer to God: Pauline Books and Media. A month later, they let me know they were considering it. And, on October 7th – the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – they contacted me to let me know they wanted to publish it.

When I meditate on the Transfiguration, I often think about how Peter volunteered to make tents to house Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. But, tent making wasn’t what Christ wanted him to do. Similarly, I was all set to write Bible studies, but that wasn’t what God wanted me to do. At that moment, at least, He wanted me to write fiction for teens.

Ready to see the Cover?

Exciting News About A Single Bead!

The day I have waited for is almost here.

On Wednesday, I finally get to share with you…

the cover design for my book, A Single Bead!

And, I get to give away three copies of the book!

A Single Bead

I will be revealing the cover on my Facebook author page first, so if you haven’t already, please go “like” my page, here.

I will also post on the blog, to share with my awesome readers the story of how A Single Bead came into existence.

You’ll have opportunities to enter the book giveaway by sharing the Facebook post, commenting on the blog post, and more.

“See” you Wednesday!

Let’s Stop Comparing Ourselves to Others

Girls, we are too hard on ourselves.

I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had recently with other moms, who feel that they are inadequate in one way or another. They don’t cook well enough. Their house is a mess. They didn’t knit their kids new scarves for the winter. They haven’t scrapbooked the children’s photos. The costume they made for their son’s saint presentation consisted of a robe and a paper hat.

Seriously, friends, we can’t do it all.

We live in this crazy Pinterest world where everyone is pinning this and posting that, and they all seem so darn perfect.

Guess what? They’re not.

Their scrapbooks may be beautiful, but their closets are probably a mess. Or, their closets are immaculate but they can’t cook for crap.

And you know what? If they’re excellent cooks, their husbands bellies may be fulfilled, but are their husbandsfulfilled” in other areas? (*smirk*)

Let’s just assume that they are downright awful in the “other areas.”

Bottom line is this: Stop judging yourself so harshly. No one is perfect.

Most of the moms I know aren’t just taking care of kids and homes – a full time job in and of itself. They’re also working full- or part-time, chauffeuring kids allover kingdom come, and volunteering for various and sundry things. With all of that, who on earth has time to cook, clean, and scrapbook?

Something’s gotta give, and it’s up to you to decide what that “something” is.

Maybe it’s the nightly homemade meals, maybe it’s the clean house, maybe it’s the scrapbook. Regardless, it’s high time to cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to be imperfect in an area – or three, four, sixteen… or countless.

Do you think St. Peter is standing at the pearly gates with pictures of your dirty house, saint peter by rubensweedy garden or fallen cake?

I highly doubt it.

No, when that day comes I’m quite certain it’s your heart – and not your home – that will be judged.

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He didn’t say, “Sew costumes for your children as I have sewn costumes for you.”

And, when Martha complained that her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping with the serving, he didn’t order Mary to get up and do her fair share. No, he told Martha, “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”

It’s a pit we all fall into sometimes, but let’s stop comparing ourselves to others. We will almost always come up short, given that most people present their most perfect selves to the world.

Instead, root yourself first in the firm knowledge that God loves you. Then, throw away the picture of who the world wants you to be, close your eyes, and paint a detailed mental picture of the person God wants you to be.

Look at that picture every morning, and keep it in mind throughout the day.

At the end of the day, take another look, think about how you did, and how you can do better tomorrow.

If, indeed, St. Peter is standing at the pearly gates with pictures in his hands, that image may well be one of them.

Now, that’s a picture worth scrapbooking.