My Lenten Focus

I read something on a blog recently that struck a chord. A woman with young children was talking with a friend about her list of things to do for Lent and her friend interrupted her and said “You live Lent.” Ha! This made me realize that I can be overzealous when it comes to all the ways I want to grow spiritually and that maybe JUST MAYBE I should be a little more realistic and gracious with myself. So for Lent, I’ve decided what I need most is to live my vocation joyfully, peacefully, and diligently.

Fasting from Irritation and Anxiety, Feasting on Patience and Diligence

I really struggle with remaining patient with my kids. I also get angry when they interrupt my work. But, hello! They are more important. But with that said, this focus on my vocation as lead me to see the ways I need to take disciplining them up a notch. Having all young kids is always going to be hard, but I can do my part do make it easier and one thing is to be on top of disciplining them. Honestly I can be lazy in this realm. It is really a struggle for me. I often put up with bad behavior because it isn’t THAT BAD. Does anyone else feel me here? There’s certain behaviors I never put up with, but the little things get me because I’m busy, I don’t want to stop what I’m doing, I don’t want to get up again. But wait a second…if I love my kids, then I have to do this anyway regardless of how I feel. I just want to keep it real here so if any of you struggle in this way, you will know you are not alone and that there is hope.

What I’ve Been Doing About It

I have been practicing disciplining the first time with things my kids should already know better. If I have taught them not to leave the table without asking, then if they engage in this behavior, it’s uh-oh, corner time. Beforehand, I would have warned them if they did it again, they would get time-out. But all I was doing was teaching them that it is okay to do it once. And I have to tell you, after only a few days, it’s already bearing good fruit.

Fasting from Anxiety, Feasting on Peace

As far as anxiety goes, I am trying to be mindful of when I am having racing thoughts, and choosing thoughts that help me move forward. I tend to over-analyze which paralyzes me from taking action. For example, I do the same routine every morning, but each morning my mind wants to come up with a better way of doing it. Sounds good, right? Wrong! Because it only distracts me from what I need to do and makes me feel anxious that I will do something wrong. I am also practicing giving up my anxieties to God, to hand over the worries I have that I can’t do anything about.This is helping me have more peace.

A Great Resource

In case you were wondering, many of my discipline ideas come from this book. I highly recommend it.

On a Different Note

I am also trying to ask God each day “what would you have me do?” and I am listening to iCatholic radio in the morning to enrich my faith. I especially enjoy Dr. Ray Guarendi’s show. How about you? What are you doing for Lent?

Advent: Why We Took Our Christmas Decorations Down

My family and I are starting some new advent traditions this year. As you may know, we are a Catholic family, and traditionally Catholics actually don’t start the Christmas season until Christmas, unlike the rest of the United States who start celebrating right after Thanksgiving. I grew up celebrating like the rest of our culture in the U.S., but recently a friend brought up this book to me:

Why change?

I have already been thinking of doing the season of Advent differently, partly because of being inspired by Kendra Tierney and other Catholic bloggers. So, even though my husband and I already spent a few hours decorating for Christmas the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to take it all down and focus on Advent.

Wait, what?

Yes, yes we did. And yes, maybe we are a little bit crazy. But that’s okay. Crazy and I go way back.

Fortunately, we don’t have a TON of Christmas decorations, so when we bring them back out on Christmas Eve it won’t be too difficult. But I’m telling you, I can’t wait to see the look of joy on my children’s faces.

For the home

I also plan to buy a kid-friendly nativity scene, like this one:

A friend gave me the idea of having Mary and Joseph travel around the house, on their way to Bethlehem, and then on Christmas Eve they will have made it to the manger and baby Jesus will be born. We made an Advent wreath using a Dollar Tree wreath frame and Dollar Tree greenery. One of my dearest friends bought me some Advent candles. We will be saying an Advent prayer at least once a week as we light the candles.

For the heart

My husband and I plan to go to confession during this time. We also are using this time to reflect on our vocations as spouses and parents and getting very honest with ourselves.

Unexpected Blessing

I’ve been wanting to live more liturgically in our home, and this one change we made with waiting to celebrate Christmas has had a trans-formative effect. This past week when I meal planned I check the calendar and I noticed two feast days – Saint Francis Xavier and Feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I decided to celebrate! I planned for us to have takeout for Saint Francis Xavier’s feast day and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we are going to have Fettuccine Alfredo since it is white, which represents purity.

Christmastide

On Christmas Eve we will go through our local Christmas tree lane and then put out all of the presents and Christmas decorations while our children are asleep. We will talk about the birth of Jesus and read some Christmas stories. We will attend mass either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. We will keep our decorations up for the next 12 days (or more). We will turn up the Christmas music and sing Christmas carols. We will have a feast with family and friends. The twelve days of Christmas we will have special treats, and watch our favorite movies (Prancer, It’s A Wonderful Life). Maybe we will even have a little Twelth Night Party.

So basically, we are going to do the things we always do, cook, bake, and read stories but tailor it to whatever part of Advent we are celebrating. We won’t be declining invitations to Christmas parties during Advent or anything like that. We will just control what we do in our home.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks

Radical Hospitality

8 Ways to Be an Everyday Saint

What are some special traditions you have during Advent? Please let me know in the comments below!

Self-Care: Mind, Body, and Soul – in the Midst of Serving Others

self-care

I learned some new lessons in self-care last week and I was reminded of how much I need it. Last week was a whirlwind of my birthday, Halloween, everyone catching colds and a mouse in the house. The latter resulted in about 5 additional loads of laundry and sanitizing every imaginable surface. Needless to say, I am emotionally drained. (Reality check: I have limits and I need breaks.) So, Saturday night I told my husband that I was going out for the morning. My Sunday plans were:

  • Go to mass
  • Spend time in adoration
  • Send some thank you messages and call my Grandma
  • Work on my blog
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee while it’s still hot
  • Check out Starbucks’ Holiday setup (really? That’s it guys? )

All of these things are 10,000 times harder to do when I have kids and a dog in tow. Because:

You should practice self-care because it is essential to serve long term and maintain healthy relationships. As a wife and mom of two young children and a puppy, I am one busy lady. If I am not intentional with my time, I will go days and weeks without a single moment to myself. And it’s not healthy. I become very ornery and overwhelmed when I don’t take time for a breather. And this message isn’t just for moms. It’s for caregivers of any sort. I think all Christians need to get really good at self-care because if you are a truly committed Christian, you’re never really going to be done serving. (Even if your children have grown up and moved out.)

My Definition of Self-Care

Things you do, uninterrupted, that nurture your mind, body, and soul. Sometimes they are spiritual like spending time in prayer or adoration, sometimes they take discipline like exercise, sometimes they are social like visiting a close friend, and other times they are pure pleasure like taking a nice hot bath, getting a pedicure, smelling flowers or savoring dark chocolate. It’s doing things that remind you, you are are a diverse human being who is more than just a mom, caregiver, grandparent, etc. You may also be a sister, daughter, artist, seamstress, avid reader, etc. All parts of you need nurturing and attention.

Times When Self-Care May Not Be Possible

You just had a newborn. Someone is sick. You are going through a very difficult season where someone needs care around the clock. This is okay and normal. But please, constantly evaluate whether or not it is time to thrive again and if there is help available. Assess and reassess your life to try to find pockets of time for rest.

Signs You Need to Practice Self-Care

The simplest way to know if you need self-care is ask yourself, do you feel happy? If not, it’s time. Here are some other signs:

  • Exhaustion has taken over.
  • You feel lonely.
  • You’re angry.
  • You are snapping at those in your care constantly.
  • You just can’t deal, even with small things like putting your kids shoes on.
  • Little things your husband (or other people living with you) does like breathe and exist are irritating you
  • Another mess or bang makes you want to scream

Why You Can Do It And Still Be a Good Christian

I think as Christians we think if we are strong we will serve at all times no matter what and never take a break – because we are called to a life of service and sacrifice, right? But we must not forget we are human. And we have human needs. Here are some examples to give you permission to practice self-care as a Christian:

  • Jesus drank wine, took a nap in a storm, and went off by himself to pray.
  • Saint Teresa of Calcutta spent 4+ hours in prayer and solitude.
  • Monks and nuns around the world spend time in recreation daily and have time to socialize and relax daily.

Importance of a Self-Care Sabbath

I got the idea of a “self-care sabbath” from the book, a Mother’s Rule of Life. The idea is to take time away from care-giving and refresh your soul through prayer, and solitude and even some activities you enjoy. It can be for the whole day or just 4 hours. It’s completely up to you and your unique life circumstances.

Everyday Self-Care

It’s important to know, though, you don’t need to wait until the weekend to practice self-care! You can find ways to make it work in your daily routine.

  • Take a nap.
  • Wake up early and spend time in the quiet or do something creative
  • Slip away after dinner and take a bath
  • Pack everyone up and take a walk so you can get some exercise.

A Special Message to Wives

I can already hear the wives reading this saying, “but my husband won’t let me do that”. Ladies, you don’t ask, you tell. Your husband is not your boss or your father. He is your partner. If he has a serious need, you need to trust he will let you know. All you have to do is communicate what you are going to do, and do it.

But he doesn’t know how to take care of our kids

The kids will be fine. They might eat cookies for breakfast but they won’t go hungry. They might have mismatched clothes, but oh well. Let him father them in his own way. They will probably all be so glad you are taking time away so you aren’t snapping at them left and right. You want what’s best for them, that’s what keeps you from leaving, but sometimes what’s best for them is to be away from you believe it or not! Because they need time with their Dad. And your name doesn’t start with a “G”. Yep, that’s right. You aren’t God and you can’t control everything. So do everyone a favor and take a break.

My husband still won’t step up

What if you try to follow my advice and it still doesn’t work? It sounds like your husband may have some more serious issues and that’s not good and I hope you will seek counseling. But I have a feeling most of the ladies out there haven’t tried this because they fear they are not being a good wife. I think all of us Christians can agree our number one job is to help our husbands and children get to heaven, Amen? Well let me ask you something: what is most likely to help them get to heaven? Doing everything for them and running yourself ragged or teaching them that everyone has needs, including you, and thereby teach them to step up to the plate, to support you and sacrifice and grow spiritually? I’d say it’s the latter, folks.

Additional Resources

Some great videos:

There’s a part in the video below perfectly exemplifies how I can get with my kids when I need self-care. (When she talks about telling her kids to go play with their toys.) Besides that, it’s just hilarious!

The video below is Jennifer Fulwiler speaking about balancing service to family and personal passions.

Some great articles on self-care:

Some excellent books:

And here’s a cute mug I designed!

We women are highly capable creatures. Just because we can do everything, doesn’t mean we should. Our happiness matters too!

So, now you have been given permission to take a break

Even though it feels impossible to practice self-care when you have so many responsibilities, it is so necessary to make time for it so you can keep going. No one can do that for you. It is a choice you have to make.

Make Your Schedule as a Mom and Grace for when Life Happens

two nuns looking up praying

What you’ll find

In this post, I am going to tell you all about how to make your schedule as a mom. It will be completely tailored to your life- something for moms who work outside and inside the home. (Mine is from the perspective of a work-from-home mom) . You’ll also learn how to approach your schedule when life happens – you know the drill – your kids get sick, the dog throws up on every blanket you  own, you have unexpected company, etc. You will take stock of all of your responsibilities but also take into account time for prayer and time to do things you enjoy.

Take a look at your life

What does your daily life look like right now? Do you dread waking up in the morning because the demands of the day just seem insurmountable? Find yourself yelling at your kids most of the time and snapping at your husband? Feel like you are working SO hard but you never get anywhere? Well, my friends, it doesn’t have to stay that way!

The solution

What you need is to make your schedule as a mom. This will help you keep track of all of your responsibilities and get the important things done and at the same time keep your sanity.

A fabulous book

My life changed dramatically when I read this book , “A Mother’s Rule of Life“. It’s about a stay-at-home , homeschooling mom, who is tired of feeling overwhelmed and stressed out all of the time. She went searching for peace. She was inspired by the simple schedule of religious orders, like the Missionaries of Charity, and how they led productive lives but spent great amounts of time in prayer. When the bell rang for the next block on the schedule, they didn’t hurry trying to finish everything up , they practiced obedience – “okay God, I guess that’s all you wanted me to do today.” (Man, could I use some of that kind of acceptance in my life!) Their goal wasn’t efficiency, it was to serve and to do it peacefully. Because, the old saying, you can’t give what you don’t have, right?

Let’s get started, make your schedule as a mom

  1. Buy a Mother’s Rule of Life. Seriously. You won’t regret it.
  2. Decide on a wake up time and bed time.
  3. Count how many hours you have in a day.
  4. Decide how much time to spend in prayer.
  5. Write down how much time you need for grooming and bathing.
  6. Include time needed for activities you enjoy like reading, drawing, writing.
  7. Include a few break times, 15 minutes each.
  8. Don’t forget time with your husband or social time with those you care about.
  9. Include time with your kids.
  10. Include time for chores
  11. Input meal times (cooking and cleanup) and bed time routines. Overestimate how much time you think you need. This allows margin.
  12. Include time for working. This may be before your kids wake up or you may go to work inside the home.

Now is the time you see if you have any time left over. You probably don’t! This is good though! This is validation that you have so much to take care of and you aren’t just lazy! If you have any leftover time, decide where it should go and if you don’t, decide where you have to cut. If we want to lead a peaceful life, we have to be very discerning about how we use our time.

My mother’s rule

5:30 – 7 :00 AM – Pray, get dressed, drink coffee, work on blog, put makeup on

7:00 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast , say grace, & cleanup & morning chores

8:30-9:00 AM – Kids dressed

9:00 – 9:10 AM- 10 minute break for me

9:10 – 9:40 AM – Put laundry in the dryer and walk the dog

9:40 -9:50 AM – Ab workout

9:50 – 11:50 AM – Outing/errand

11:50 – 12:00 PM – 10 minute break for me

12:00- 1:30 PM – Lunch, say grace, cleanup, laundry put away, story time

1:30 – 2:30 PM – Quiet time me and my son while my daughter naps. I read, blog, draw, or watch You Tube.

2:30 – 3:30 PM – I call this Admin time. It’s for meal planning, week planning, budget planning, etc. If I don’t need to do these things its more quiet time.

3:30-4:30 PM – Kids outside play while I do my afternoon tidy and cleanup routine.

4:30 – 6:00 PM – Make dinner, say grace, cleanup, night cleaning routine

6:00 – 8:00 PM – I shower,  then my kids take a bath, and we have family time, story time and then the kids go to bed.

8:00-9:00 PM – Time to chill with my husband and watch a show or talk or have some other quality time.

9:00 – 9:30 PM – I wind down for bed.

How I Occupy My Kids

My goal is to occupy my kids without screens. To have them play quietly when I need dedicated time.

But life happens. And sometimes life happens A LOT (pregnancy, illness, emergencies, sleep deprivation, newborns, mothering multiple young children, or some other hard or serious circumstance) .

What I’m trying to say is, the TV is a tool in a mom’s toolkit guys. As long as it’s not being used to excess, the content is appropriate, and isn’t there as a substitute of other important activities, I think it’s okay. With that said, my kids watch quite a bit of TV, probably more than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says they should – but AAP doesn’t know me. They don’t know about what my needs are and our family’s unique circumstances. They don’t know that my kids also help me around the house, play with toys, play with me, bake with me, play with the dog, make messes, play in the dirt, go to the park, go on play dates, read books, roughhouse with my husband, visit family, etc. Sometimes I need to have things a little quieter for my sanity.

Only you know the needs of your family, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when your kids watch more TV than you like if you have a serious reason to do so.

When you are off track

You are going to get off track. And trust me, it’s going to be most of the time.  (It is for me.) So, when it happens, just get back on track as soon as the next block starts. Sometimes this may mean there are dishes left in the sink. Remember, the goal is peace not efficiency. But if this keeps happening over and over again, for months on end, it’s time to adjust and re-evaluate your rule.

Maintenance

Plan to evaluate your schedule once every three months or as needed. Three months seems like a good plan to me, though, because by then with my two little ones, my life tends to look quite a bit different.

Conclusion

If your life is spiraling out of control, take heart! No matter what season you are in, you can take control and get the important things done. So go make your schedule as a mom! If you already have one, please let me know in the comments below!

 

How to Save a Soul

As people of faith, we can feel compelled to help people change – to save them, to convert them. The way we usual go about this is, we argue, try to convince, preach, coerce, nag, worry, etc.

But let me ask you something.

How’s that working out for you?

I think it my be time to try something new, you know, like LOVING them. Loving them because God loves them. Not because of their good behavior or something they did for you. Loving them unconditionally.

Just be a good friend.

What are the characteristics of a good friend? They can be found here:

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

You see that it doesn’t say “love is patient when so and so takes my advice” or “love keeps no record of wrongs except when it doesn’t feel up to it” etc.

The Catholic Church has some excellent, concrete things we can do to be Jesus to others:

I want to zero in on “admonish sinners”, because that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Well that is because part of being a good friend is willing the best for another and may sometimes involve uncomfortable confrontation.

8 Ways to Be an Everyday Saint

See the source image

Recently, our local priest gave a great homily at mass. Here’s a summary of what I learned:

Why do some people appear to receive more of God’s grace? Here are some reasons:

  1. They aren’t worried about what the need or deserve – they know God will provide.
  2. They put God first, instead of money or reputation.
  3. They do small things with great love, they may not have any high honors in life.
  4. They forgive over and over.
  5. They welcome back the estranged, hurt, and lonely.
  6. They give credit to the Lord, not their own efforts.
  7. They let God in.
  8. They not only avoid sin, and confess their sins, but they seek virtue. They seek to do good.

People who receive more of God’s grace are people who are trying to be saints.

 

And as Patrick Coffin always says,

Also, I want this shirt. lol

Be a Saint t-shirt

“Be a saint” t-shirt

 

Why You Should Create (Even if Your Work isn’t Perfect)

The world needs you to create.

And I’ll tell you why. But first, I love this verse:

Proverbs 13:12:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Here is my understanding:

It reminds me that following my dreams and using the talents that God gave me will not only develop my talents more but it will bless my family and those around me.

To me, “hope deferred” is referring to when we allow self-doubt, fear, and anxiety to prevent us from doing what we know we need to do. We let our negative thoughts take control and our heart becomes sick. The reality is, we are all sinners and none of us are perfect and that’s okay. But we can still do something, no matter how small. We can’t let our brokenness discourage us, slow us down, or stop us. Remember, Saint Teresa of Calcutta said “Do small things with great love.”

My artwork and remember you don’t have to be perfect.

I drew the tree picture above. To be honest I’m not exactly happy with the way it turned out. But I realized, that’s exactly what this verse is talking about. I just need to keep doing the work. After all, God doesn’t command us to be successful, only faithful. If I listened to my thoughts of “what do you think you’re doing, it’s not going to turn out good enough” and “you don’t have time to draw a decent picture” , it would have never happened. And that wouldn’t have been pleasing to God.

And there may be other voices we hear that try to stop us…

“But you have small children, so you don’t have time”

“You work full time, so you don’t have time”

“You’re too old”

“You don’t have enough money”

“It’s selfish to take time for personal endeavors”

“You should be spending ALL of your free time with your family”

“You don’t know everything about it yet”

“You don’t come close to others doing the same thing”

“You’re not good enough”

“You already have enough to do”

Guys, if you ever have these kind of thoughts, don’t listen. And don’t wait until your work is perfect to share it. The world needs you and what you have to say. You tell those thoughts “yes, I’m not perfect, but I am good because I was made in God’s image and I’m using my talents which is what God wants me to do”. And you can thank God for getting you to where you are now and for the progress He has made in your life and all He has seen you through. You may not be where you need to be, but you are closer now and you are on your way!

Here’s a great memoir for pursuing personal passions as well as some great quotes:

See the source image

 

 

See the source image

See the source image

Remember, it’s not so much about the work itself. It’s about how God is working in us when we listen to Him and do the work. Pursue your creative passions. You might help someone else. You might transform yourself.