From Page to Stage

I guess it’s kind of unusual for a writer to decide to turn her book into a play…at the same time she writes it. But I did. There was just so much more MOM to share!  If you’re curious why I felt I needed to tell  Mom’s story onstage, watch this little film that tells the tale…with love. My dream is now a reality. On February 16 and 17th, I will be performing “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” off-off Broadway in NYC and would love to see you there. Write to GodBoxtickets@gmail.com to reserve tickets in NYC!

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Letting Go of an Angel

I don’t know what the hardest job in the world might be but it’s fair to say that serving as chaplain in the oncology ward of a children’s hospital is right up there.  I can only imagine the strength it takes to comfort parents facing their child’s fight with cancer. Yet an angel did that job every day for 20 years—with joy. Her name was Sister Alice Edward Strogen (r), SSJ, Oncology Chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, known locally as CHOP. “Jolly” was how her office mate Helen Stermel described her. I’d suggest “Saint.”

If you don’t know much about nuns, here’s a thumbnail. They work tirelessly in schools, in hospitals, in some of the most desperate circumstances—not for money or praise, but for others. Many work well into their 80s and 90s, devoted to God. I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. I know these women. They are invincible.

I never met Sister Alice but she ‘met’ me when she attended my performance of “The God Box” on November 16, held to raise dollars for the retired sisters in the St. Joseph Villa in Flourtown, PA.  That night as I looked out from the stage, the audience was so darkly lit, I couldn’t see a single face. But that weekend, I received an enthusiastic letter from Sister Alice.

“Your dear mother, Mary, continues to have an impact on so many people!” she wrote. “I think that your mother’s legacy…her faith…her hope and her love… have so much to offer each one of us. Her most profound gift to us is the art of learning how to let go. I have said for years that I believe that this is what life is all about…learning how to let go!”

Sister and I wrote back and forth for a week, both of us so excited about bringing the show to Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t wait to meet her. But last Wednesday, Cindy Schmus, a nurse practitioner at CHOP, wrote to tell me that her dear friend Sister Alice, only 65 years old, had suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Cindy wrote that Sister spent her last hour, talking about sharing The God Box with patients and parents to help them cope.

I keep re-reading Sister Alice’s letters to me:

“I, too, believe that God brings people together and makes things happen…that’s why we have to learn to let go and open ourselves to God’s ideas for our lives…just like your mother did!”

Her funeral service is being held today at the Villa at 12:30PM. I know that the chapel will be packed with heartbroken souls trying to hold on to her. I won’t let go of my commitment to Sister Alice. I will figure out how to bring “The God Box” to the families and staff of CHOP. Rest in eternal peace, sweet angel. It’s only fair after doing the hardest job on earth.

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What’s in your God Box?

 

Last night in Lake Forest, I was so grateful to perform The God Box on behalf of the BCureful Foundation. Photos coming of the beautiful, packed house who came to the show filled with love for the host and mom in charge Julie Scroggins of Waukegan, Illinois. With her trusty genius artistic friend Teddi, look at the God Box centerpieces she created with antique boxes, each holding one of my Mom’s little messages. Pure joy! What do you place in your God Box?

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A Bouquet for Mom

When I turned 21, I gave my mother a bouquet of 21 daisies, each marking a happy and grateful year since she gave birth to me…I figured October 22 was kind of her birth-day, too. Daisies reminded me of the simple childlike love that I felt for her from day one. When Mom wrote her own memoir called “Mary’s Beautiful Memories,” she put daisies on the cover, perhaps as a wink back at me?

This week in Chicago, I will perform “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story”  as a way of taking her gift forward. This photo was shot during last Sunday’s show at Saint Joseph’s University. I hope you will join me at future performances or maybe, if you still have your Mom, you’ll give her a thank you bouquet just because.

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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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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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Letters to The God Box

Mom liked to keep her God Boxes handy—even if that meant crossing state lines! She kept boxes in Florida where she and Dad lived in the wintertime, but also in her bedroom in our Pennsylvania house where they stayed each summer.

Wendy Parsons of Jenkintown, PA sent in her story that takes ‘God Box geography’ to a new level. Here’s what she wrote.

“The gift of my God box is peace of mind.  I actually have two God boxes — one at home in my kitchen and the other at work in my office.  They cover the two main arenas of my life — family and  career. 

I keep my family God box in my kitchen because we spend so much time together there–cooking, eating, checking email, helping with homework and just catching up with each other.

I often put in prayers of thanks for the many little and big blessings of my life.  We also put in special requests — if one of my daughters is having a struggle with a particular challenge at school, or if we need guidance on making a decision, we write a prayer asking for wisdom.    I also include prayers for my friends who need help, assurances, or just the experience of extra love in their lives.  

I have another God box at the office in which I place prayers for the success of my work, my colleagues’ work, and for the good outcome of any problems that arise.  My God boxes are a way for me to have conversations with God and keep me connected with my divine guidance and bigger truths of my life. This has opened up the whole heart experience of feeling more gratitude and consolation. 

Thanks for sharing, Wendy!

Do you have a story to share about lessons learned from your Mom or loved one…or experiences with your God Box? Send them to me at marylou@theGodBoxproject.com–along with photos or videos –and we can post with your permission.

 

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One month. 6,000 books already sold. And almost as many undone to do’s.

First, the good news! “The God Box” launched exactly one month ago today and it is flying off the shelves, both in stores and online and off– an amazing start. Mom’s little box seems to be touching so many and we hope that those who received it as a gift for Mother’s Day yesterday might want to buy copies for friends, family and just anyone who needs the love tucked inside. I traveled to Philadelphia (multiple times), Charlotte, Portland, OR, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and of course, held a bunch of NY events, spoke to at least 25 different audiences, visited bookstores to sign, tweeted, FB’d, blogged, appeared on a dozen radio shows and a couple TV programs, logged thousands of miles and breathed a couple of times. We are so excited and raring to go!

Now, the bad news of what it means to go on a book ‘tour’ of my own design. (Aren’t we our own worst boss?) Here is the list of what I haven’t done for a solid month.

  1. Exercise
  2. Make the bed
  3. Eat salad and drink water
  4. Read the paper with Rocky my dog on my lap (a favorite morning ritual)
  5. Go to yoga class
  6. Fill the car with gas (see yesterday’s post)
  7. Sleep much
  8. Take my winter clothes out of my drawers and closets despite 80 degree temps
  9. Skip dessert
  10. Do you see a pattern here?

So, starting today, for the next phase of what I hope is a lifelong journey with “The God Box”, I went to the gym, made the bed, sat with Rocky, ate oatmeal with skim milk(ok, it’s a start), and had a great night’s sleep. Still stuff on the list but don’t we all have that? What’s on your to do list?

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My Secret Agent Man

Ok, this shot says it all. This is Joe and this is Old St. Joseph’s Church where we were married nearly 34 years ago. Last night, I was headed into a radio interview with Ralph Collier and his office is right next door to this lovely historic church on Willings Alley in Philadelphia, founded there by the Jesuits in 1834 who eventually founded my alma mater, Saint Joseph’s University.
No, Joe is not trying to break into the church to demand a refund or a return policy to give me back, though I wouldn’t blame him since I have been quite the handful with my constant tweeting, facebooking, radio interviewing and generally hyperventilating over the God Box launch. Hey, wait a minute, wasn’t the book supposed to be about me learning to let go?
Anyway, Joe scouted the church, found it locked, so I guess we are still hitched.

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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"
  • "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"
  • "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 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"
  • "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
  • "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

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

December 14, 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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