Friday, February 27, 2015

faith & family fridays: 'Redeemed by Grace' sightings

Seems every time I turn around, another one is turning up.

Here's one of the first sightings of our "Redeemed by Grace" book. It's only been out a little more than a week now but the pre-orders helped get this story flying into the hands of those eager to hear how God moved the heart of one Ramona Trevino and transformed her life. This is Aurora.

I've had the great pleasure of meeting this wonderful woman in person several times now. Aurora heads up the Spanish ministry at Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, Inc. Speaking of which, Ignatius is putting out a Spanish edition of our book soon, too! We're super excited about that.

Lauren Muzyka and I ran into Aurora at the March for Life last month over by the Eternal World Television Network tent, where we were in line to be interviewed. We got bumped due to lack of time but it was a thrill to be in the midst of the media action all the same.

Oh, and speaking of Lauren, she just received her copies this week!   

She's been waiting patiently for them to arrive, especially given her special role in the project. Along with having introduced me to Ramona, Lauren writes the foreword to our book and, well, it's such a beautiful introduction that we're pretty sure if you're not certain why you're reading "Redeemed by Grace," after absorbing Lauren's lead-in, you'll definitely want to continue!

And then there's Breanna.

She's my Mary Kay lady, along with my occasional accompanist when I cantor at church. Oh yeah, and she's a wife and mother of four adorable kiddos, and just an all-around amazing woman.

I wouldn't want to forget Nancy.

She's a fellow mom of my oldest daughter's classmate and I really enjoy her. Nancy was one of the first people to see my book the day it arrived on my doorstep. I'd brought it into a local Catholic book store to share it with them, and she happened to be there buying some greeting cards. Nancy was so intrigued by the news of our book that she wanted to buy a copy immediately!

Oh, and I can't forget these two.

Shari, left, is a LONG time friend. I'm talking all the way back to kindergarten. Yep! We have known each other since forever ago, and I was so blessed to learn how quickly she ordered the book after finding out it was "out there." She bought it for her mama, Jeanne, and presented it to her, along with a drawing she'd done of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How cool is that?

I don't want to forget this lovely lady, Patti McGuire Armstrong....

She's a fellow Catholic mother of many and writer from my mama's hometown of Bismarck, ND, not to mention a true prayer warrior. We've spent time together on our knees in the cathedral of Bismarck, sending up tandem petitions for our families and sharing the joys and challenges of being Catholic mothers in today's world. She's truly a gift to me for so many reasons.

Those are the visual sightings that have come onto my radar so far. I know there are more and I look forward to sharing images of them as they become available.

By the way, Ignatius Press has developed an author website for Ramona, and you'll find me represented here as well. Make sure to check it out!

Q4U: Would you indulge me by adding a photo of yourself and our book to my collection? You can send it to Thank you kindly!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

writing wednesdays: best part of my week so far

I'm in love. That's all there is to it.

Well, wouldn't you be too if you found out you were an auntie to this little sweetheart??!!

Auntie, not by blood, but by spirit. I can't wait to share more about this honey bunch, but you'll have to go here to find out!

Monday, February 23, 2015

meaningful mondays: a little vase of something fun to come + a soup story

I'm just a little excited about something. Hint: It's green and yellow and warms my heart.

Only I can't say exactly where this will be, or what will come with it. BUT...I think those who have been faithful followers of Peace Garden Mama and Peace Garden Writer, or even just plain old friends with little old me, will be tickled with me over it.

I'll share more about that lovely image soon. But while we're waiting on those sunflowers to simmer...

I have a story about this weekend to share. It all started when I got a note from my friend Laetitia asking if I wanted to get together. It's been hard finding time to sit with friends lately, even though it is one of my all-time favorite activities. But it had been a very long time since I'd seen her. Too long. I cleared my schedule Saturday to make it work.

We'd gone back and forth a few times on plans, and even postponed it from last weekend, when Valentine's Day got in the way. But finally, the time had come. I'd just wrapped up a weekend writing project and was excited to get out and see this sweet friend.

I arrived at the coffee shop right on time, 3:30 p.m. She wasn't there yet, and I hadn't had lunch, so I decided to order a little something. The menu had been expanded to include more food items since my last visit, and I was thrilled to see the Reuben sandwich included. And soup, too. My father loved a hearty Reuben and was also a big fan of all different kinds of soup. I can't help but think of him when I order that combination. And it had been a while since a Reuben had come my way, so  was ready!

At 3:32 I thought I'd better text just to make sure we were on track: "Just got here and ordered lunch. I haven't eaten yet," I typed. Then I thought I'd better make sure we were thinking of the same location, since this coffee shop has two. "25th right?"

"Yes," she replied. Good. Certainly, she'll be here any minute, I thought. "See you soon!" I texted back.

I sat down and checked my email. My food was announced. I collected everything and sat down to enjoy it. I had my back to the door so I kept looking back so I'd catch her eye when she arrived.

Which would be any minute now. Right?

Or not.

I enjoyed each bite of the Reuben and every last drip of soup. I thought of how my Dad used to use ice cubes to cool off my hot soup when I was little and we were eating at one of the many greasy spoon cafes he loved. I was enjoying my time filling up and warming up. But I was alone still. No Laetitia.

I paused. Should I order a drink now? Where could she be? Finally, a text came in. "Are we at 2 different locations???"

Oh no. Oh NO! No wonder she hadn't arrived yet. Now, how did this get mixed up? Weren't we clear?

"25 Dunn," I texted. Then, for clarification, "Are you at Caribou?"

" :) I am at Caribou 25 and 13. Yes."

"Ahhh, that's where things went wrong," I texted back. "I'll head over. I thought you'd said Dunn."
And she had. I confirmed it. But, you know how it goes, right? Two different coffee shops with the same name in the same town in different locations. It's bound to happen every once in a while.

When we finally found each the wrong coffee shop...we laughed for about the first 20 minutes. Before we could do any real updates, Laetitia felt compelled to explain the scenario from her end. We laughed some more, realizing that each of us was waiting for the other at another location, and how mixed up the texts were as we were thinking of two completely different scenarios.

In the end, it didn't matter. We had a cozy conversation there in the wrong coffee place. It was truly lovely, and our little mishap made it even all the more lively and real.

Besides. I think I was meant to savor that soup alone, thinking about my Daddy, just him and me, so that my heart would be even more full and ready by the time Laetitia and I found one another.

Q4U: What's your favorite sandwich and soup combination?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

second-chance sundays: 'agape' brings depth to oft-used word

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Feb. 14, 2015.]

Living Conversations: 'Agape' brings depth to oft-used word, love

By Roxane B. Salonen

FARGO – “Love,” conveyed in millions of heart-shaped sentiments each year this day, can be a many-splendored thing – and one of the most watered-down words around.
“In our culture, love is kind of a fleeting thing at times. We say we love a hamburger, but it’s obviously not the same as a family member or a pet,” says the Rev. Sarah Seibold of Hope Lutheran Church.

While we only have one word for love, she says, the Greeks had multiple, offering a richer understanding of what love is.

So what, then, is love? “God’s word, agape love, gives us a far better understanding of what love is and should be,” she says.

Seibold and several other area pastors have witnessed agape love through both personal experience and in the lives of their flock.


The Rev. Matthew St. John, of Bethel Church, didn’t come to fully appreciate agape love until his mother-in-law, Lila, developed Alzheimer’s disease. As the illness progressed, she and her husband, Thurl, moved in with the St. Johns, and for years the family watched Thurl tenderly care for his bride, who, on the worst days, had become a stranger.

“I watched this unfold right across the hall from us. They were married for 56 years, and her dad told me one time, ‘I will do anything for her. I made a covenant to her, and I will serve her until the day she dies,’ ” St. John says. “It was the sweetest, most precious thing.”

But it was far from easy, which made it all the more special. “That was agape love to me, and it was Jesus portrayed right before my eyes.”

Agape, according to St. John, is about having a preference or regard for someone else by intention. “It’s an ‘other-centered’ dynamic.”

And it’s in contrast to another word sometimes confused with love: lust.

“When you look in our world today and see things like the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ that’s not love. There’s nothing dignifying in that,” he says. “Lust is about what I can get, and love is about what I can give.”

Agape-led awakening

The Rev. David Motta of Calvary United Methodist Church says though he was raised in the faith, in adolescence, he went astray for a time, selling booze to minors and tempting his fate with marijuana. Eventually, he got caught.

“My parents showed me agape love by loving me anyway,” he says. “Not by accepting what I was doing, but by saying, ‘Dave, you’re going to have to face the music with the law, but we’re going to love you even so.’ That meant something to me, and it made the gospel come alive to me.”

Motta says our world is hungry for that kind of love – the kind that isn’t conditional. “It’s not, I love you if you do this, or I love you because you’re pretty, or whatever,” he says. “No, it’s just I love you, period.”

But it must be accompanied by truth, otherwise it becomes hypocrisy, he says. “You can love people, even when they’re wrong.”

His daughter Elise recently went to Washington, D.C., to march at the Capitol in protest of abortion. “As they were marching, it was a wonderful way of responding to people who disagree without compromising,” he says. “ ‘Yes, we’re the pro-life generation, but we’re not going to be mean to people who disagree.’ ”

Recently, when in the presence of someone considering suicide, Motta discovered a new form of agape love, through the simple act of listening.

“Thank God he didn’t succeed, but what do you say?” Motta says. “Words don’t mean a whole lot in those situations, but just showing up, trying to listen a little bit, that’s a powerful expression of agape love.”

Stories abound

Seibold says she’s witnessed agape love through a woman in the community who makes quilts for people who are homebound – without sharing her identity.

“She gets their names, finds out what their need is, and makes a quilt for them,” Seibold says.
“She gives of her time, energy and creativity and expects absolutely nothing in return.”

The act of parenting also demonstrates agape, she says. “You give of your time, sleep, food and money, just to raise another human being, and that’s really a self-giving love, too.”

Sometimes, she says, we even see it on the national scene, such as in the story of former Ravens NFL football player Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who retired so he could give his younger brother his kidney.

“And I think of other stories that touch our hearts. We hear about the school shootings and the teachers who give their lives to protect the kids they teach,” she says. “That’s an extreme example of a self-giving love – the kind that Jesus demonstrates.”

Though each pastor mentions various Scripture passages demonstrating agape love, they all zero in on one in particular, John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”

“This is how we know what love is,” Motta says. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other. And it seems here that love is an action. God’s love is doing. It’s a decision to love even when we don’t really think people deserve it.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

faith & family fridays: surprise! a song for our book!

I still remember how I learned about the song. "I have something to share with you," Ramona wrote in a text. "Do you have a minute?" Soon, we were talking by phone and she told me about the song she and her daughter Lorena had written together; a song that was linked to the book we were in the middle of writing together about her life -- Redeemed by Grace. "Cool, send it to me!" I said.

I found it in my email inbox the next morning. I was lying in bed when I opened the file on my smartphone and began listening. And as I did, shivers began running through my body. The good kind of shivers. The kind of shivers you can't plan, but that tell you something extraordinary has just taken place.

I sprang out of bed to find someone with whom I could share it. It was Christmas break, and my oldest daughter was up making coffee. She would be the first guinea pig. Being close to Lorena's age, she responded with great interest to the song. If she wasn't awake before, she was now!

This is something different, I thought. This is unique. A song written in the middle of our fleshing out the chapters of a book about Ramona's life. A song about her life's journey. Written by her, and refined and performed by her sweet daughter. The same daughter that, when Ramona got pregnant at 16, might have drawn a few scrutinizing glances their way.

And yet here she is now, beautiful inside and out, and with this natural gift that did not come from years of lessons but the sheer will to tap into a gift that God had bestowed on her long ago, even while she was being knit in her mother's womb.

The song still gives me shivers. Honestly, I've cried while listening to it. And in difficult times I've found it healing. It's mesmerizing in many ways. So when Ignatius Press talked of possibly doing a book trailer about a month ago, I chimed in, "Hey, there's this song..." Would they consider using it with the trailer? It seemed a perfect fit. And truly, what a unique and beautiful thing. As both a music and word lover, I couldn't help but see the sparkling treasure we had in our laps; something that would only add even more to the gift coming from Ramona's soul, with the help of my hand.

So now, for the first time ever, we're sharing with the world, here on Peace Garden Mama, the song, "Only You," in its entirety -- not just the bit that was part of the book trailer, which I'll also post below.

But first, allow me to let Ramona share her own version of how it came to be. Trust me, you will want to read to the end, then listen for the couple minutes it takes.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever - by Ramona Trevino

I’ve always been a fan of poetry, music, and art.  As the first line in John Keats’ famous poem states, a thing of beauty IS truly a joy forever. That’s exactly how I feel about the song, “Only You," that I wrote with my daughter, Lorena. This song brings me a tremendous amount of joy for many reasons, and my hope is that it will bring others that same joy, because, well- it’s beautiful.

"Only You” is a song that was truly a prompting of the Holy Spirit. I was inspired to write this song after hearing a woman who sings and shares her personal testimony and conversion via song. I was so moved by her story and the lyrics to her songs that I was instantly compelled to do the same with my own story.

Beautiful music has a way of moving us. It has a way of speaking to our hearts, allowing us to interpret the lyrics however we see fit. It has a way of healing us, a way of inspiring us, and a way of speaking for us when we can’t find the right words. Music has a way of telling a story, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do with this song. I wanted to write a song from my heart that was inspired by my own personal story, “Redeemed by Grace."

On the evening of December 22, I told my daughter, Lorena, “Go grab your guitar! I’m feeling inspired.” She returned, we sat down, I wrote, she composed and in about 20 minutes we had a song. We had a piece of poetry that summarized my whole life in just a few lines. We had a song that has moved me and others to tears.

For me, this song has even greater meaning than just its beauty. My daughter, Lorena, has never trained or studied music in her life. She picked up the guitar one day at the age of 13 and just began to play, compose, and write her own songs. So when she sat with me on that cold winter night in December and produced this beauty of a song, it only further confirmed how God has gifted my daughter with such great talent in the hope that she would one day glorify him through them.  

When I discovered that “Only You” would be used in the book trailer for my book I was over the moon. Not only was I overjoyed to share the news with my daughter, but overjoyed that others would have the opportunity to listen to her beautiful voice and witness a truly special gift that God bestowed upon this special girl I have the privilege of calling my daughter.
And now, introducing, for the first time ever in full, "Only You," by Ramona and Lorena, performed by Lorena :  Only You

The book trailer that includes the song...

Q4U: When did God last touch your heart with song?

Monday, February 16, 2015

meaningful mondays: peek at chapter 1, and be a fly on the wall of our webcast tonight, Feb. 16!

Those who've been reading my blog the past weeks know that I've written a book about former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino, and that it's coming out soon. Well, soon is now! This is the week our book, "Redeemed by Grace," launches!

You can be among the first to read the first chapter of this beautiful story of a soul and the redemptive grace that saved her from darkness!

Here's a sneak peek...

But if you sign up to take part in the online web chat tonight -- hosted by 40 Days for Life co-founder David Bereit -- you'll get to read the rest, just by clicking this link to register:

Simply share your name and email so you'll be able to log on tonight (8 p.m. Central/9 p.m. Eastern), and the first chapter will be immediately available.

Then tonight, you'll get to hear the whole inside scoop from a panel of pro-life warriors, including these three -- all people who played some part in Ramona's life-changing conversion. I'll be among them to share my part as the writer.

We'll talk. You just have to listen. It's that easy. And it will be about an hour of your time, but we are pretty sure you'll come away from it enlightened and blessed.

Go ahead and pay bills, get your kids another glass of water, feed the dog, whatever you need to do during the web chat. Just have the volume turned up loud enough so you don't miss anything.

This is the last chance I'll have to pull you in so please join us while you can! After tomorrow, it's too late. I look forward to hearing later what you thought!

Just a few more things before I go. It was a sweet weekend. Troy and I attended a Couples' Night Out that our church hosted, complete with a meal and dancing, and were the lucky winners of one of two door prizes to attend next year's event. So, we've got Valentine's Day 2016 already planned!


Love is a good thing, and Ramona's story is about love, too. The love of God, and learning to love herself enough to make choices that would lead to a joyful soul.

We all deserve that, and I hope Ramona's story inspires you and others to want it even more.

P.S. If you've reached this post through Fr. Paul's bulletin this weekend (Sts. A/J family), just go down a post and you'll find the one you came looking for. Thanks for reading this one, too! You're more than welcomed to join the webcast tonight, too!

Q4U: Will you join us tonight? And even more, tell me what you thought of it afterward? Also, please pray for Ramona, who is ready to have a baby any day now. And for another member of our book team who recently experienced the loss of a dear relative. Thank you!