September 1, 2017
On Memorial Day this year, I ended up in the ER with a dangerously slow heartbeat--somewhere between the 20's and 40's. They pumped me full of nausea-inducing dopamine to get my heart rate up, and then they told me I would be getting an itty bitty pacemaker as my parting gift.
After my pity party, I realized with joy that the surgery would take place on the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary went with haste to visit Elizabeth in her time of need. The timing felt like a kiss from Mama Mary as friends and family rallied with prayers, treats, visits to the ICU, and even a smuggled bottle of wine. To top it all off, an order of 50 nuns (providentially called the Servants of the Pierced Hearts) fasted for me on the day of my surgery. The Body of Christ lifted me up in love and carried me along on a cloud of grace. I had never been so at peace. In fact, right before they wheeled me into the OR, I was inspired to sing this hymn of praise to God with Mary:
I also knew that this powerful, undeserved gift of intercessory prayer had to be for some special purpose. As my heart was being pierced in surgery, I knew that Jesus wanted to pierce my soul, too--making a way for a greater capacity for love, a greater receptivity and docility to the movement of the Holy Spirit within. What I didn't know then was that he would do this through suffering.
The surgery went spectacularly well, and the doctor planned to discharge me the next day. He mentioned with a wry grin that I was quite "chatty" during the surgery, not only grilling him about what he was doing to me, but also singing "Holy Is His Name" for the surgical staff through my oxygen mask.
As I prepared to resume life as usual back at home (as much as possible with an immobilized left arm and a swollen chest wound), the "bigeminy arrhythmia" began. It felt like my heart was skipping every other beat, pulsing hard and slow in my throat like I was getting incessant jolts of adrenaline. It lasted for hours a day and throughout the night. As the weeks wore on it left me exhausted, immobile, short of breath, and depressed. My weight crept up, and much of my hair fell out. The doc said there was really no cure, just trying different meds to manage it. I did my best to smile for my family, but I couldn't see how I could go on living like that. I didn't want to die, but I was bereft of any comfort or consolation.
Then, just as quickly as the bigeminy came on, it suddenly disappeared. My only response could be--and still is--profound gratitude. If you prayed for me, thank you! I'm back to my sassy old self. But the trial left me humbled and with a greater compassion for those who suffer, both physically and morally.
Are you hurting right now? Do you feel--like I did--that God has abandoned you? Know that God loves you more than you can fathom, and He has plans to work all of this for your good--and the good of others, too (Rom. 8:28). As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, one of the greatest tragedies is wasted suffering. Let's not waste these opportunities to unite our burdens to the cross of Christ as a powerful prayer for others.
Hold on, my friends. God desires your ultimate good, and he will not allow you to suffer without providing the grace for the day--all you need do is humbly ask and receive ("Give us this day our daily bread..."). The Lord is very close.
In the meantime:
1). Be encouraged. Miracles happen every day. Pray with an expectant faith.
2). Be sure to ask others to pray for you, as well. The body of Christ will lift you up when you don't have the strength.
3). Praise God in the midst of--and even because of--the trial, making an act of faith that He will work it for the good. This not only gives great glory to God, it guards our hearts and minds against despair. This, too, shall pass in the fullness of time, and you will come out purified and stronger on the other end.
And from Scripture:
"God is close to the broken-hearted; those who are crushed in spirit, he saves." Ps. 34:18
"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Rom. 8:28
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:4-7
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." Col. 1:24
"Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Cor. 12:9)
Hold on, dear one. The best is yet to come.
In His Love,
August 31, 2017
Friends, as we mark the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; watch with horror at the unfolding of the devastation wrought by Harvey; and anxiously anticipate the development of Irma, it is easy to lose our bearing and become swept up in the chaos swirling around us.
But God tells us to "be anxious for nothing."
So, how do we do that? If you are having a hard time resting in the peaceful presence of God, please take a moment to listen to "Eye of the Storm," a song inspired while I sought refuge in an adoration chapel in Beaumont, TX, during our displacement. Our God is a God of accompaniment, and he cares for you.
If you are one of my friends in Texas or western Louisiana, know that we are praying with earnest for your well-being and are sending supplies. We've been through a lot already, and we know that, together, we can get through anything.
In His Love,
April 26, 2017
April 26, 2017; Several years ago, I sought spiritual direction from a priest in New Orleans who happens to have many mystical gifts. When I walked into the room, he said, "I see Our Lady of Good Counsel with you." This is a centuries-old title for the Blessed Virgin Mary with a miraculous image associated with it.
I was unfamiliar with the image, but when I returned home I realized that the icon hanging in my bedroom, which had been brought to me by my sister Caroline as a souvenir from Italy, was indeed Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Shortly thereafter, I gave a concert in Pensacola, FL. A delightful woman named Sara Edwards gifted me with a beautiful blue pearl and crystal necklace that she had made for me. Sara said that she usually adds a medal of St. Thérèse, but something told her that I needed Our Lady of Good Counsel! I think she was trying to get my attention. As my friend Katsey put it, Our Lady was just letting me know that she's always here for me.
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Do you need some wise, loving advice from your heavenly mother? Turn to her.
For more information about the miraculous image: www.clavermissionarysisters.org/?page_id=289
February 16, 2017
February 11, 2017
Well, friends, we did it! I drove up to Memphis last weekend for the America's Got Talent auditions with my sister Caroline, her daughter Julia, and my daughter Cecilia (the giggle twins). After just a few hours of sleep, I registered for my audition Saturday morning along with thousands of other hopefuls. I was only there for about three hours from start to finish--much less than I was expecting. There was lots of waiting around, but it was fun to see all of the different acts milling about. There were some real characters--and real talent--on display!
Here's my brief post-audition video that I posted on Facebook, which will bring you up to date on what's next (I'm sorry it cut out at the end, but I was just saying how my sister Caroline was my hero for driving me home!):
January 6, 2017
Well, friends...I submitted my video! If the AGT producers give me a front-of-the-line pass, then I'll pray about going to audition live in Memphis on February 4th. Yikes! Please pray for me. Here's the video--let me know what you think!
January 1, 2017
So a couple of days ago a woman pulls her car behind my car and blocks me in, just as I'm getting ready to leave St. Peter's in Covington. She gives me a long, excruciatingly detailed story that I don't believe in the slightest bit, asking if I can give her gas money to get to the hospital to visit her dying mother.
I'm pretty sure I met this same woman a couple of years back in the Target parking lot with a similar sob story. I had told her to meet me at the gas station so I could fill up her tank, but she never showed up.
Everything in me is now recoiling from this woman, and I do not want to be shafted (again). But I have just come from the adoration chapel where I had been daydreaming about this very scenario--a grifter asking me for money!
I had seen myself reach into the glove compartment of my car, pull out an old Magnificat prayer book with $5 in it, and then hand it to the person saying, "There are all kinds of treasure in here."
Ten minutes later, and I'm now facing this exact scenario. Assuming the daydream was a nudge from God, I tell her to wait.
I reach into the glove compartment and find an old Magnificat. I flip it open to stick in a fiver, and it lands on the meditation for May 13, 2014, "Graces of Our Lady of Fatima." I take notice but don't have time to read it. Handing her the book I repeat what I had just mentally rehearsed in the chapel: "There are all kinds of treasure in here."
It is just now hitting me that this was no mere coincidence, especially considering the CD I just released is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition in 1917. So for what it's worth, here is the meditation I flipped to from May 14, 2014:
December 22, 2016
This morning I felt the most insistent urge to go to Mass, though it was starting in 15 mins. and I was still in my PJs. I quickly threw on some clothes and jumped in the car, only to sit in the maddening construction traffic on Hwy. 21. Now running quite late, I decided to pop in my new CD to help me pray, and "Holy Is His Name" came on, ending just as I pulled up to the church. I had missed all of the scripture readings, and Fr. Otis was already giving his homily--a mediation on all the tender ways God loves us.
When he sat down I opened to the gospel reading I had just missed, and it was Mary's Magnificat--word for word what I had just listened to in the car in "Holy Is His Name!" My heart was full as I stood up to sing that song at communion a capella (they indulge me at St. Peter).
Not only did God give me that sweet kiss on the cheek, Fr. Otis stayed late to hear more confessions, where I got to unburden my soul to the Lord and hear the words, "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! Hallelujah! Oh, how he loves us, my friends, so personally and tenderly, so sweetly.
If you're feeling a restlessness, a distance from God, speak to him now from the heart. He thirsts for you. I'm headed to the Adoration Chapel right now and will pray for all of you who are reading this. 💝🙏🏻
P.S. Click here for the song: https://youtube.com/watch?v=ApxDhN4hRGU
December 22, 2016
So I walked into the bar at the Southern Hotel last night (my daughter's choir was singing at the hotel), and a woman asked me if I was Kitty Cleveland. Her name was Mary, she said. She had just moved here from CA, and her late mother had given her one of my CDs at least 10 years ago. She recognized me from the CD cover (yay!).
Mary continued that after her mother passed away, she stopped in at a small church on the Sonoma Coast. It was Mother's Day, and she was really missing her mom. To her astonishment, at the end of the Mass they played my CD--the same one her mom had chosen for her! And here we were meeting for the first time 10 years later, in a bar across the country. Isn't that cool? I love it when things like that happen. God's mercies are endless. 💝
December 16, 2016
December 14, 2016
I had the strangest dream last night. I had been invited to sing at a Catholic church, where the whole parish was enthusiastic and welcoming. But when it was time to go to Communion, rather than being given the consecrated, living host, I was given a small, beautiful icon of Mary holding the child Jesus--and it was made out of white chocolate! Another one was given to my daughter. It was beautiful to look at and tasted delicious--but it was not the living sacrifice of the Mass. And on the flip side of the paper it came with a price: $11. The pastor had decided that they would charge people for the "Eucharist" as a way to support the parish, and everyone seemed happy to go along.
John 6 immediately came to mind: "Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.'”
1) I'm hungry for God, not for chocolate;
2) We are called to come to the table "without cost;"
3) The Holy Eucharist is not a treat, a symbolic wafer, or a gimmick. It is the living body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, in whom I find eternal life. Hallelujah!
December 8, 2016
December 8, 2016. Thanks for your feedback on my new CD cover, friends. I took it all into consideration, made some tweaks, and am thrilled to announce that Hail, Holy Queen is now available for purchase! Just go to the Music section of this website. For a special animated 3-D glimpse of the new CD, click here. And after you have look and a listen, please enter your comments below (if it will make me feel good).
P.S. I'll extend my concert special to you online since I'm not having a Christmas concert this year: Any 10 CDs for $100, and FREE shipping! But...you need to send the money through Pay Pal (friends and family) to firstname.lastname@example.org for that deal. Just put your address and the number of CDs in the memo. Thanks!
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