In my words, with love for the holidays

Just in time for Christmas, we’re happy to present “The God Box” audio book from Brilliance Audio. I recorded this two disc set a couple of months ago as a way to spread the love to those who prefer to listen on the road, on the run or just on their own. Brilliance asked me to ‘audition’ to be me and I tried my best and had a lovely time recording it. You can order it in time for gift-giving by clicking right here on amazon and also listen to a sample to check it out.  Great stocking stuffer for that special someone who needs a little faith, love and letting go this holiday.

 

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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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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: Rediscovering the comfort of letting go

Here is another letter I received about how Mom’s story inspired someone to start her God Box again. Sometimes it’s hard to accept what life brings us and easier to abandon hope, but there is a comfort that comes from having help along the way to get us through. I find that the more I ask, the more often I feel that I can power through anything with courage.

 

“Dear Mary Lou Quinlan,

I’m not sure how I discovered your book but it seemed it was from another
email I had subscribed to and was curious as to what your book was about.

You see days earlier I had been so hurt by some life events that I refused
to believe there was such a thing as God and also got rid of my God Box
as a result and threw it in the trash. I didn’t see the purpose anymore and
also with dealing with ongoing health challenges.

When I clicked on your link and read the first chapter…it was as though
something was whispering me to believe again…I was very inspired by
your mother’s love for so many and her faith for simple requests to larger ones
and what a gift she left behind. I believe with you sharing her story you are
not only keeping her love alive but you are also helping to rebuild other’s lives,
faith, and love in their own lives.

I made one God Box, have another, am going work on one later in the week
and follow by your mom’s example. I hope to get the book soon.

I am also grateful that you have a blog where you are sharing how so many
people are being inspired by The God Box and the depth of richness it has
brought to them.

Thank you so much!

Sincerely,
Lisa”

 

I would love to hear your story too, please write to hello@thegodboxproject.com or comment here! 

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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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Mom on TV



This week I was so happy to join Audra Lowe on Better TV. Audra wrote to me that she loved the book and had started her own God Box. (She said it was already full!) She even downloaded the app.

What I love about sharing Mom’s story is that it seems to touch people no matter how sophisticated or breezy they seem to be. Everyone has something they want to ask, a need that cries to be filled.

On set, Audra kept calling me “Mary” and the first couple of times, I corrected her to say ” Mary Lou.” But later, I just let it go. No name means more to me.

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Falling into my mother’s footsteps

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see some glimpse of my mother in me. But breaking my foot on a New York sidewalk is too close for comfort. Last week I cracked my 5th metatarsal when I leapt to save my little dog Rocky from the jaws of a mastiff that Rocky had—somewhat impertinently!—sniffed.  Now I am dragging an UGG-ly boot around Manhattan that cannot be made to look cute no matter what I do with it. My mother would understand.

When Mom first visited me and Joe in New York City, she sprained her ankle on a cracked sidewalk. (She also had a bracelet stolen by the elderly lady she stooped to help on the street, but it was the 70s.) Dad, who never believed anything hurt, propped Mom up in the backseat of their car, stuck her leg out the window to chill in the sleet all the way home on the Jersey Turnpike.  (Ice and elevate, right?)

A couple years later, Mom sprained her ankle again, this time at home in Philadelphia. She was trying to stay off it but Dad wanted her to ‘get her mobility back’ as he said. “Hey, Mary, let’s take a walk  outside.” Begrudgingly, Mom hobbled to the door, took one step out and sprained the other one. Not a high point in our family’s medical history.

So, in honor of Mom, I will grin and bear it. And be glad that at least it’s not sleeting and I’ve got an elevator, a cab and if necessary, will hitch a ride on Rocky. It’s the least he can do!

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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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  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
    – ELIZABETH GILBERT, AUTHOR OF "EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
  • "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"
  • "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"
  • "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
  • "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"
  • "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
  • "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"

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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