From the Bottom of my Heart

At our Thanksgiving table, as so many families do, we go around before we eat to acknowledge what each of us is grateful for. I always got teary when I spoke because the memories would flood back one over the other, making it impossible to list all the gifts from those I hold dear. Even the hardest years have moments of light (and bold-faced names!) to remember.

This year I would like to thank the thousands of people who came to The God Box Project–whether through the book or the play or the app–particularly those who hosted events so that we could give back to their charities and the theaters who shared space generously for a good cause. This year was particularly special due to the leadership and generous spirit of so many. Thanks to Gina Groch, formerly principal of St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Will be performing for Gina again at her new school St. Ann’s in Naples on Jan.28!). February brought me to Atlanta, the day after the big ice storm for a special reading for Barbara Bonapfel’s women’s group of St. James UMC Retreat. And March came in like a lion, thanks to Lily Safani and the Gilda’s Club NYC show at the fabulous Cherry Lane Theater in NYC followed by four shows in a row. The first was pulled together by the beloved late Mike Prendergast, one of his last efforts to support scholarships for Cardinal Dougherty students who now attend Bishop McDevitt HS. That show was held at Arcadia University’s Theater, thanks to president Steve Finley and later that day, I performed the first of three shows in honor of late Sr. Alice Edward Strogen SSJ, longtime chaplain on the oncology floor of Childrens’ Hospital of Philadelphia (at Arcadia, at Saint Joseph’s University Bluett Theater and then at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio in Philadelphia.) Huge hugs to Rachel Biblow, Stroge’s boss and forever friend. Later that spring, I staged another show for the Cancer Support Community, this one hosted by CSCNJ, thanks to the marvelous Amy Sutton at the Bickford Theater in Morristown, NJ and then a special event run by Dina Murray for the St. Andrew’s Home and School Association in Lawrenceville, NJ and a huge event at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Doylestown, PA with the leadership of Janice Perry. During the summer, our performances at the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland brought needed dollars to MacMillan Cancer Support in the UK. The fall brought me to New Hope, PA to St. Martin of Tours Church for an amazing reading thanks to Pamela Gray and to Harrisburg to Bishop McDevitt HS to support the Sisters of St. Joseph Retirement Fund, (shoutout to Sr. Elizabeth Ferguson SSJ!) and then to Villanova U for Robin Cohen who heads the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Fund. Finally, I ended the fall tour at the hospice conference sponsored by Barnabas Health, run by the spectacular Mary Murray.

If you have read througChildrens God Boxesh these names–and believe me, there are many more!– you may not remember them but I can never forget. This year, thanks also to the stellar work of our director Martha Wollner, lighting designer Kia Rogers, video designer Chris Kateff and production coordinator Nidia Medina,  the God Box Project passed the $250,000 in total funds raised since we launched in spring 2012. If we were at a Thanksgiving table together, by now we would be on to dessert. My dessert? The joy of sharing my family’s story with so many and being able to pay my mother’s love forward…with so much more to come. Check out the events calendar for the winter/spring 2015 tour. Love is all around us! (and please write to me marylou@theGodBoxProject.com if your community and/or charity would like to book the show. Here for you!

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The little book that just wants to help

Page from bookOver the past two plus years, one of the most delightful things about “The God Box” book is its way of bringing comfort to people it has never even met. The entire God Box Project started that way, when I wrote an article for Real Simple Magazine in November 2010 and I started to hear from readers who were touched by it. Even now, after a performance, someone will approach me with a torn page from that issue because the piece ‘brought  back’ their own mother or because they had started a God Box after reading it. But the true heart of this project is my Mom Mary Finlayson. She’s the one who just wanted to help others and felt that tucking a message into her God Box would bring some measure of joy or hope or relief to family, friends and even strangers who never knew. Someone wrote to me recently, “I’ve read and re-read portions of the book that gave me particular comfort and I will continue to apply hot compresses of Mary Finlayson on my bruised soul, because now I have a model for what unconditional love looks like.  I hope you don’t mind if I adopt your mother as my spiritual guide.  She seems to have plenty of love to go around, and maybe she won’t mind throwing her beneficence over another stray.” So now “The God Box”  is like a mini-Mary, finding its way into other hands and hearts. And in a few days, it will find its way across the ocean. The book has been set free. Will you find it?

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Birthday Blessings

Today is my birthday. And I have so many reasons to celebrate and many of those reasons are my friends. Last night I shared my gratitude at a party with 22 of my closest girlfriends and they surprised me with this beautiful Friendship Box. The box, which is God Box blue, holds notes, from all of these wonderful women–family and longtime and brand new pals, each note as unique as they are. Even those who couldn’t make it sent notes. And the lid is engraved. ‘friendship is a blessing’. It is… And I am so blessed. Tears tonight when I read these. Count on it!

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Letters to The God Box: A hopeful way to honor Mom

What a touching letter I received from Jim…a beautiful way to love and remember your mother at the holidays.
“Mary Lou,
Wanted to let you know that I presented my wife and sisters with  copies of The God Box and their own personal God Boxes that I had made from the dress our Mothers wore to our wedding. Needless to save there were some tears of joy shed around the table. This was our First Annual “Let’s Celebrate Mary Party” as this is the first Christmas without her and her birthday is December 18; she would have been 91. Now you have God Boxes throughout the tristate area. I have attached some pictures so you can see the festivities-they were thrilled to hear you also were a “Cardinal Dougherty” girl!
Merry Christmas From The Curtin Family!”

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Letters to The God Box: Heaven Sent

I received these wonderful words from Britta Jicks whose memories of her Mom and whose approach to the God Box might just make your day. Made mine!

Dear Mary Lou,

My Mom was a kindred spirit much like yours and my best friend. I was so upset on Saturday. It was the first time her birthday came since her passing on March 3, 2012. I was there to do the hospice for her at her home along with my siblings. Anyway a wave of depression settled on me, and I needed an answer. I found it in the God Box on Sunday with your app suggestion.

I am carved of the same cloth as your Mom… I attract people and listen but I always prayed and then didn’t let go. That has been me since college, eventually leading me to a break down at age 21. I had been listening and worrying for all my sorority sisters, they felt better but I held the weight of all on my shoulders. My Mom knew, because I have had this my whole life…

When my Mom was diagnosed with AML, I quit telling her all the problems/prayers I started talking to Jesus/God. Before I had told Mom and after I’d share or she would share we would pray and she was my prayer release. We would, and when we came up with a plan/prayer, we’d say,”The rat is on the wheel” and then laugh. I have found cards, notes, stories etc from my Mom too. Thank you for sharing your Mom and helping me find a way to let go and let God. The notebooks and journals…I never felt that I had let go. I do in this way, I love it and it was so great to have this blessing from your Mom. Thanks Mary Lou.

Your sister in Christ,

Britta Jicks

God Bless

PS I told my Bible study group about the God Box.. They are very excited about it too. My husband is writing his prayers and putting them in there too. There is something about the act of putting your prayers into the box that frees you. My husband cracked me up, he said, “Oh I like that!” Then later, after I put his prayer in the box, he said “Well, what I really want to see is just how you plan on mailing that box to God?” I said, “Oh silly, it’s God! He already has it, it’s as good as mailed.”

 

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A Skype book party and a question to ponder

 

Last night I joined in a book discussion with the wonderful women of the Berwyn Presbyterian Church in Berwyn Heights, Maryland, just outside Washington DC…without even leaving NYC.  Denise Troeschel had written and asked if I could speak with them about “The God Box” so we set up a Sunday night Skype call.

Denise (who was born exactly three days before me and whose mother had the exact same handwriting as mine!) was a terrific host. She even made a God Box out of a cigar box, big enough to hold lots of prayers.

I loved hearing examples of other mothers and families and the way they loved and what they missed and remembered. Here’s one question they asked that stopped me in my tracks: “Since your Mom is gone, if you could ask her one more thing, what would it be? “

I am still thinking about that. Curious, how would you answer that question?

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Letters to the God Box: The gift of giving and letting go

This letter from Janice meant so much to me. I’m so grateful when Mom’s story touches others..

 

“Hello!

My mother died one week ago and my coping mechanism has always been reading.  Since  she was 85 years old with some young grandchildren whose parents were concerned about how much to allow them to be involved, I went to the bookstore. In addition to buying many children’s books, I found The God Box.  I read it overnight and finished it in church the next day.  What a treasure!   I have since purchased 6 copies as gifts to siblings and many friends.  Wish I had known of this book years ago.

There are only 2 entries in my God Box since this week, but I have to say, I do feel some relief.  There is incredible sadness over my mother’s very peaceful, quick death, but I just think that the lessons will help in all aspects of my life. Your book was a gift to me and I thank you for that.

Most sincerely,
Janice Malavarca”

 

If you have a story to share please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or please post comments here! 

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Letters to the God Box: How The God Box Helped Through Trials

I love receiving letters like these, it makes me so grateful when Mom’s story touches others..

 

“Dear Mary Lou,

I picked up the God Box book as a gift for my son’s phenomenal third grade teacher,  Joan, who has been teaching for over 30 years.  Her mom is 91 and she has been very ill this past year.  Her mom – Anne, says a rosary each day and has been doing so since the age of 20.  I have a special fondness for the Blessed Mother and was so touched to hear this.  I believe Anne is still alive.  I thought your book may help Joan through her mom’s transition to heaven, whenever that may be.  It may be a while as I recall a day toward the end of the school year when I asked Joan about her mom just after they shared a discussion about possibly moving her mom to a facility where she could receive constant care.  Anne’s response to her daughter was along the lines of although she seemed to be ready for heaven, God still had special plans for her.  I am hopeful that Joan has read your book over the summer and that it brings her some comfort.

I have since bought several more copies to share with friends who are going through difficult times now.

It has also brought incredible comfort to me.  After I finished your book, our family was struck with many challenging situations.  I truly believe that it was God’s plan that I read your book as a way to let me know that although there would be some dark days ahead, God had better plans for me than I could imagine.

My mom was recently hospitalized for three weeks due to OCD, anxiety and depression.  Although a woman of great faith she has struggled for years.  She has tremendous difficulty letting go and letting God truly guide her.  She was just released a week ago and has still had some challenges.  I am encouraged that she will slowly recover and be able to be more faith filled.  I think your book will be a blessing for her.  After reading your book, I sometimes wished that I had a mom as strong as your mom to guide me as many times I have felt like a mother to my mom.  But I now understand that God has different plans for us and we need to let go and follow them.  Thank you for helping me to better understand this.

Two weeks ago today, my husband was laid off.  He did not see this coming as he had just booked a trip to Disney World for our family around Christmas.  He was shattered.  I however had great peace.  I knew the stress of his job was killing him physically and emotionally.  I even asked during the weeks prior what I should do about his mom should he die.  I wasn’t sure I could handle the grief of losing him while raising our two sons without him and take care of his ailing mother.  I truly believe that your book somehow inspired me to look at things differently.  I did not fall apart when he told me he lost his job, I actually felt blessed.  So many miracles have happened since then, that I am certain that this is God’s plan.

I see that you will be at St. Joseph’s University in the coming weeks.  I hope to meet you then if possible to thank you personally for touching me in such a special way.

Thank you so much for reading my story and I hope to meet you in person.

Gratefully,

Bernadette”

If you have a story to share please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or please post comments here! 

 

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Feeling Free Inside the Box

Since writing “The God Box”, I have heard from so many people who share stories of their own families and God Box experiences and one of them is Jen Santoro– a mom, writer, volunteer, planner and all around terrific human being.  Jen, who has her own blog www.prosewithpoise.wordpress.com, met with me to talk about her upcoming plans for a charitable fundraiser on behalf of the Amanda Styles Cirelli Foundation. I am hoping to present “The God Box” play at their event this coming November. But Jen was so compelling, I wanted to give her this stage to tell her own story and I invited her to be our first video blogger “Outside the Box.” Meet a fabulous person and a new friend, Jen Santoro here:  Feeling Free Inside the Box

A little more background on Jenifer Santoro:
Jenifer Santoro is a writer, daughter, wife and stay at home mother of two.  A woman grounded in her christian faith, Jenifer uses her God Box as a means to surrender her thoughts, concerns and prayers to God.  Another major component of her God Box, though, is the appreciation she has for God’s favor.  As much as her Box is used for requests, it is equally filled with notes of gratitude for all of the blessings in her life.  Since reading Mary Lou’s story, Jenifer has been able to incorporate two of her life’s loves, faith and writing, together in a way that frees her from worry and uneasiness.  When it goes it the Box, it goes to God, and there is nothing He can’t handle.  When not working on her novel about faith and forgiveness, Jenifer writes about “Words with Gratitude, Grace and Gumption” and can be followed at www.prosewithpoise.wordpress.com.

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Stitched with LOVE

Helen Wolf, an amazing writer, quilter and teacher wrote to me about a three day show called the Quilt and Garden Festival at the Pearl S. Buck Center in Perkasie, PA. Helen, who loved The God Box book decided to take the concept into her own hands–literally! She made a quilt that was a fabric God Box and invited attendees to place their own notes inside. We contributed books to the event to support the center…the result? Dozens of prayers slipped inside and as many hearts, lifted!

Helen wrote, “We had a very nice response to the quilt and box today and many people wrote on the slips.  Many people either had heard about the book or had read it.”

Hoping to teach a writing class with Helen at Delaware Valley Community College in the Fall and also to skype into her group of writers who quilt!

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sample chapter
Enjoy a free selected chapter from The God Box.
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reading group guide
Invite your book club to join this engaging conversation about Mary Lou’s book.
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printable mini cards
Share these mini note cards or write notes for your God Box.
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mobile app
The God Box app makes it easy to write notes on the go.
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giving back
Ask how Mary Lou can support your local cause with the book and play.
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Come meet Mary Lou and experience The God Box: A Daughter's Story at a venue near you.
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press & praise
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  • "Mary Lou Quinlan shares her mother’s handmade and heartfelt gift of how to persist, believe and move forward with joy."
    – LEE WOODRUFF, AUTHOR OF "IN AN INSTANT"
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan has told the story of her mother in a way that entertains, moves and inspires. The thoughts about life and values will stick with you forever."
    – JIM LEHRER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF PBS NEWSHOUR
  • "In the slips of paper that carry this sweet story forward, we can see the love in our own families and the great possibilities of simple faith."
    – JEFFREY ZASLOW, COAUTHOR OF "THE LAST LECTURE"
  • "A wonderful legacy…Keeping a God Box is an incredibly moving and hopeful ritual that we should all consider adding into our daily lives."
    – REBA, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, ACTRESS
  • "What a beautiful and profoundly human book....I will keep The God Box in my heart for a long, long time."
    – LAURA SCHROFF, AUTHOR OF "THE INVISIBLE THREAD"
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
    – ELIZABETH GILBERT, AUTHOR OF "EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
  • "The courage and wisdom from the messages left in her mother’s God Box will inspire you to create a God Box of your own."
    – GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR OF "PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING"

The God Box App is shiny new and ready to welcome your cares

December 15, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

Since The God Box book was published in the spring of 2012, so many readers have told me that they started their own God Boxes. I love hearing stories of children creating God Boxes and married couples joining their prayer and cares in a family box. (And my mother would be thrilled!)  A 'real' God box is a constant reminder that we are not in control and that letting go is the first step to finding comfort, hope and relief for life's worries. But did you know that many thousands have gone virtual with their God boxes? To help the many busy ...

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