Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Five Ways to Survive (Actually to Thrive) This Lent!

I really had hoped to have this post up last week. Does anyone else feel like Lent is racing toward us like a freight train, giving one very little time to prayerfully prepare? Well, maybe that's a good thing that will keep me humble. If I don't have a carefully thought out plan for Lent, God can't laugh at me when the plans don't go my way, right?

I want to share five ways you can have the best Lent ever! While most of these are resources to purchase, I chose to highlight them, because they can take us all the way through Lent. I don't know about you, but somewhere around the third week, I often begin to neglect the spirit of Lent, even if I miraculously stick to my Lenten prayers and sacrifices. I need something to keep me on track all the way to Easter, and I hope one of these tips/resources will help you do just that!

1. Get an Accountability Partner! I had this idea last weekend, as I was debating my Lenten sacrifice. Find a friend who understands you and can be positive and encouraging. Share your Lenten commitments with each other and text or email daily to share successes and challenges. Help each other not to give up, especially when you fall on your face! A friend and I did this once when we both admitted having a tough time getting out of bed in the morning and starting our days with prayer. A quick "good morning" text made it so much easier to get out from under the covers! Having another woman to both keep me accountable and push me to persevere this Lent might just make these 40 days more meaningful than ever before.

2. Join the Waiting in His Word Scripture Study! This lectio divina study is an ebook ($11) designed especially for mothers of young children by a team of women, which includes a dear friend of mine. I used their Advent study and found it was a simple addition to my daily routine. Each week of Lent provides reflections written by fellow Catholic moms in the trenches and five related Bible verses with which to pray. Pope Francis said he wants us to grow closer to the Lord by "listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy" this Lent, so this is a great way to follow his wisdom!

3. Immerse yourself in Elizabeth Foss's Restore Workshop! (affiliate link) If you are a Christian mother feeling depleted, this study is for you. I have enjoyed participating in this online workshop for the past two years. The meaty essays and daily prayer prompts in the bargain bundle ($15) provide both a spiritual balm for a wary mama's soul and practical suggestions for finding joy in our daily lives and avoiding burnout. Plus, there are podcasts, printables, and more if you purchase the full bundle ($49). In fact, if you feel worn down by motherhood, doing this workshop is an act of mercy for yourself! Read more here, and please consider purchasing at my affiliate link above.

4. Grow with the Catholic Conference 4 Moms: Faces of Mercy! This is another online resource that I'm excited to join for the second year. Starting February 20 through Easter, you can view over 20 online presentations ($14.99-$4 with coupon code "mother") by such well-known speakers as Kimberly Hahn, Fr. Frank Pavone, Gary Zimak, and Simcha Fisher whenever you want. The flexibility of the online conference concept and the quality of the topics combine to make a perfect plan to meditate on mercy during this Jubilee year! In fact, our mom's group has signed up for the group conference, so we can use the presentations at our meetings over the next several months! Read more here, and please consider purchasing at my affiliate link above.

5. Just breathe. Remember that it's not about choosing the most challenging sacrifice or prayer plan. The Lord is waiting for you and simply wants you to turn to him. Even simple sacrifices offered with a heart for Christ can radically change you. All God asks is faith.

What are your ideas for a way to keep the spirit of Lent for all 40 days?

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Holy Christmas

On Saturday morning, I was blessed to spend some time with a few fellow moms in prayer. We wanted to take time away from the busy to be with the Lord and reflect on the end of this Advent season. The prayers and reflections I shared can be found at this link if you're interested. The file contains nine pages of loveliness I collected from around the Internet for our morning together. I also read an excerpt from this lovely book.

At the end of our time together, I wanted us to close by sharing a few ways we intend to make our family's Christmas a Holy Christmas. For me, I find that Advent is full of traditions and feast days to focus on the Reason for the Season, but our Christmas traditions sometimes have a more secular feel.

So, I asked the moms to share their ideas to center our celebrations on Christ. We decided that the best way is to sprinkle prayer and the presence of Jesus here and there throughout our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These were some suggestions:
  • Whether we go to Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, we do not open gifts until we have attended Holy Mass.
  • Christmas Eve we do a candle lit procession to put the baby Jesus(es) in our nativity set(s), singing a hymn. The little ones carry flashlights instead of lit candles, and Dad reads the Bible story.
  • We replace our Advent candles with white candles and put an image of the Christ child in the center of the wreath, lighting those candles throughout the Christmas season (at least until Epiphany or the Baptism of the Lord).
  • We take time to sit before the lit Christmas tree and sing carols that center on Christ.
  • We bake a birthday cake for Jesus and sing to him after our Christmas dinner.
  • We celebrate the wonderful feasts between Christmas and Epiphany: St. Stephen, St. John, Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Beckett, St. Sylvester, and Feast of the Holy Name.
I have found a few more nice ideas to consider, as well:
  • Fast from one meal on Christmas Eve and give the money to the poor.
  • Before opening presents pause to say a brief prayer to thank all of the people who got us gifts and to pray for those who do not have gifts to open on Christmas.
  • Be Christ to others by taking treats to a neighbor or someone in need.
  • Wrap the baby Jesus that goes in the family nativity set, so He is the first gift you open.
  • Invite someone who might be lonely to share your Christmas dinner.
  • Set a place at the Christmas dinner table for Jesus.
  • Watch The Nativity Story movie.
  • Have a birthday party for Jesus, complete with balloons and games.

I am sure there are many other suggestions you could share.
How do you plan to keep your Christmas Day a Holy Day?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Get Behind Me!

So, yesterday at Mass our beloved priest began his homily by mentioning that it's never too late to have a good Advent and encouraged anyone who feels they did not really commit to Advent yet to start today. His words are particularly relevant to our upcoming study of mercy in the Jubilee year, because God's mercy applies to each one of us.

But then, he continued, explaining that there are others who probably had a first week of Advent full of peace and joy and prayer. It is easy in the beginning of most endeavors to have high expectations and to plow through all of our plans eagerly. Unfortunately, he reminded us, this is when the devil jumps in and tries to thwart those plans...eagerly.

Busted! He opened my eyes in an instant that this was happening to me. On the way to Mass, I was pondering how I had the most wonderful prayer experiences and overall pleasant days up until Thursday, but when our daily routine changed for the weekend, my devotions and prayer time evaporated. I had committed to a lot and when things were easy, it was not only do-able but enjoyable and beneficial.

The devil came along, saw his opportunity, and pounced! She didn't get her devotion time in on a busy Friday? Good! I'll make sure she neglects it on Saturday, too! Sure enough, on Sunday morning I felt behind and stressed and sad that I hadn't kept up with my quiet time with Jesus.

Fortunately, our priest's words snapped me out of lamentation and urged me to change my ways and let Christ make all things new that day. I went home and devoted several hours (with plenty of interruptions) to catching up on my devotionals and truly savored the time with Christ, demanding that the devil get behind me and no longer deprive me of prayer.

Today I feel was a success. I didn't have the lengthy prayer time I had daily last week, but I did wake early to ensure I would have adequate time to receive God's grace for the day. And I plan to do that again tomorrow. My heart longs for time with the Lord, and I will fight the evil one who wants to keep me from God.

How did your first week of Advent go? Were you slow to start? Did you hit any opposition yet?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy in My Home

I have been working all week to prepare for next Tuesday, December 8, the beginning of Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy! While my devotion to Divine Mercy is relatively new, I definitely feel drawn to reflect on God's mercy for us, his pitiful children, and am excited to join my children in reflecting on this theme in the coming year.

Below are my rough notes on what we plan to do each month. This will be our catechesis for the spring semester in our homeschool (currently teaching grades 7, 5, & K). You will notice the second half of the year is not yet planned. That's called margin! I deliberately did not choose themes or activities yet, so I can see how the year goes and complete those plans as we go (just like I only plan one term of homeschool lessons at a time!). Prices are next to items I don't already personally own and need to purchase, although most of the resources are free!  Disclaimer: Amazon links are my affiliate links.

The information below is also available as a Google doc here if you want to print it and scribble all over it yourself. I hope you can find simple ways to make this year special for your family. God's mercy is deeper and more complex than we could ever imagine, and I pray that each one of us grows in understanding and holiness through the Year of Mercy!

Jesus, I Trust in You!


Official Website

Monthly Goals

Mom’s Goals

December – (ADVENT) Learn about Year of Mercy

January – God’s Mercy in Scripture

February – (LENT) – Spiritual Works of Mercy

March – (LENT) – Corporal Works of Mercy

April – Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, & Other Saints of Mercy

May – Mary, Mother of Mercy

June – Confession: the Sacrament of Mercy




Our Lady of Mercy (September 24)


Saint Faustina (October 5)


Other Ideas

Print this packet to use throughout the year

Keep checking this growing list of resources

Use this YouTube playlist for kids about mercy

Archdiocese of Philadelphia Year of Mercy Booklist to Complement Reflection Themes

M = Mary, Mystery, Mission
E = Eucharist, Evangelization, Encounter
R = Reconciliation, Rosary, Renewal
C = Consecration, Community, Conversion
Y = Your Family, Your Parish, Your YES!

Other Books to Consider Purchasing for Me/Big Kids/Moms' Group Study:



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lay It All as an Offering

A wise and holy priest once counseled me on a practical way to shed worries and burdens, which continues to renew me regularly nearly 20 years later. He invited me to enter into prayer and imagine myself in our church before the altar. Take a moment and picture your own church when it is empty and quiet. Then, I picture in my mind some tangible item that could represent each worry or burden and move each item from within me onto the altar, one by one until they are no longer my cares but offerings to God.

My children and husband are often up there, sometimes in duplicate but with slight variations representing specific concerns. I generally stack up some homeschool books, including my planning binder, and something related to finances. Friends or colleagues of mine stand next to laundry baskets and a mop. Those dirty dishes are near terrorists and some extended family members along with my NFP charts and that neglected treadmill. It's always quite an eclectic mix!

I still return to this practice, quite regularly, and I invite you to try this prayer exercise if you are the worrying type or feel particularly burdened these days. The most remarkable element of these times with God, for me, is when I finish my prayer and open my eyes, leaving those items up there on the altar. It is oddly therapeutic to spiritually walk away from them, knowing they are in God's hands, for now. In fact, throughout the following days and weeks, a mental picture of those items lined up next to each other often comes back to me whenever I am tempted to despair in worry and stress.

What items would you line up on the altar to unburden yourself today?