Coffee & Pearls is a weekly podcast where I share wisdom to help Catholic Moms get a better handle on their lives. If you don’t want to listen to the podcast… no problem! The entire episode has a corresponding blog post that you can read instead!

5 Ways To Get More Done, Mama

 

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I just recently took a class on productivity. It was great! I kind of thought I “knew everything” about being efficient but this class pointed out a few things I wasn’t doing so I wanted to share them with.

Now remember, I don’t seek out ways to be efficient so I can get more things done. I try to work efficiently so I have more time to waste with my family.

In America, we’ve stopped valuing quality time. It feels like we should be working or cleaning. I know that’s difficult for me still. I struggle with giving myself over to nothingness… to just sitting around and chatting or taking a drive for no reason. But I also know how important it is to just spend uninterrupted face time with your husband and with your kids.

  1. Download the News Feed Eradicator for Chrome.
    This is a plug-in that you can add to your Chrome internet browser that disables the news feed of your Facebook account. This is especially important if you’re a blogger or do any kind of work through your Facebook account. It still shows you all your notifications and you can access all your pages but you can’t see the regular ‘ole news feed of all your friends. I didn’t realize how much time I spent scrolling through the feed until it was gone. I still find myself wanting to scroll but now it’s gone and I can’t!

    Here is a link to the News Feed Eradicator: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/news-feed-eradicator-for/fjcldmjmjhkklehbacihaiopjklihlgg?hl=en
  2. Create a Time-In Jar
    This is actually something I thought of recently to help give a physical reminder to GET OFF MY PHONE! I got a mason jar and put some construction paper around it that had “Time In” written on it. The idea is that when I get home or come downstairs, I drop my phone in this jar and I spend time with my family. I don’t need to hold it, touch it, or look at it. I know where it is and I can check on it every 1-2 hours.

    This has helped me greatly to avoid the mindless refresh that’s so easy to do when your phone is sitting next to you! I’ll post a picture of this on my Instagram account so you can see it! I’m @sterlingjaquith.
  3. Put Your Phone in Do Not Disturb Mode
    I did not know about this mode a few weeks ago! Apparently, at least on an iPhone but I’m guessing on the other phones as well, you can put your phone in the Do Not Disturb Mode. This silences all notifications except a text or phone call from a person on your favorites list!

    Brilliant! Now I won’t miss a call from my husband but I don’t need to hear the reminders for doctors appointments or the library reminding me we STILL haven’t brought our books back! I think this is a great way to help us put those phones down and stop looking at them. We know we won’t miss anything important so it gives us the freedom to leave it alone!
  4. Get Dressed & Put Your Shoes On!
    This class I took was about people who work from home. The teacher said even though her office is across the hall from her bedroom, that she still puts her shoes on to know that’s now in work mode. I’ve heard this often about  motherhood too. Wake up and get dressed for the day. I go in and out of phases of doing that and since having Forest, I’ve definitely been out of that phase.

    So I’ve been starting to do that more and it feels great. I get dressed right away and I even brush my hair… gasp!!!

    Some of you don’t like wearing shoes in the house so you can skip that part. I happen to like wearing shoes in the house and it makes me walk around more so I do this part too!
  5. Consider Laundry Self-Care
    Most of you know I’ve been trying to lose weight and mamas…. It’s hard! I really hate moving my body. I loathe exercise. And so it’s not surprising that ANY barrier that pops up is welcome and I immediately latch onto it as an excuse why I can’t exercise.

    One of the easiest barriers to grab onto is the idea that I don’t want to wear several outfits in one day because it will create more laundry. Let’s say you woke up, put your day clothes on and now, at 10 a.m. you have a break to workout. You’d have to put your workout clothes on. Then you ought to take a shower (another big barrier for me) and after showering, you ought to put on clean clothes! That’s three outfits in one day!

    Now there are no rules that say you HAVE to do this but it’s easy for me to think I SHOULD and therefore, if I didn’t workout, it would create a lot less work for me!

    But in the end, I’m only hurting myself. Would I do laundry every day for six months if I could lose 30 pounds? Absolutely!

    So I’ve started viewing the extra clothes as self-care. We’re always saying we need to be better about self-care and so I’ve decided that doing more laundry is like taking a bubble bath. It’s taking some retraining of my brain but so far it’s working! I’m seeing the extra outfits as a gift to myself because in the end, there isn’t much I want more than to have a stronger, healthier and much smaller body!

Alright so there are five things I hope can help you feel like a more rockin’ mom! If you’ve changed something up in your routine lately, share with the group either as a comment on this blog post or over on my page www.facebook.com/sterlingjaquith

P.S. I was on Danielle Bean’s podcast girlfriends. Check it out here: http://daniellebean.com/sterling-advent/

God Sends Messengers

 

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My husband sent this quote to me the other day. “God sends messengers, not books.”

At first I thought it was funny because I write books but then I sat with the quote a little bit longer. It’s true that for most of us, we’re going to encounter Christianity or the message of Christ through a person. Few of us will discover the world of Catholicism through a book. Most of us will meet a Catholic person, a messenger, and this will inspire us to pick up a book to learn more.

As we head into the holidays, you will no doubt see many people you haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe you’ll run into friends from high school, maybe you’ll see your extended family, or maybe you’ll volunteer at a soup kitchen and meet someone new.

You have an opportunity this year to be a messenger, a messenger for Christ.

As many of you know, I came to Jesus because I witnessed a beautiful and strong marriage. This marriage was so attractive to me that I figured I must need to be a Christian to have a marriage like that. It was a pretty selfish way to meet Jesus but I don’t think Jesus cares how we meet Him, just that we do.

You cannot meet Jesus and remain unchanged. You can deny the experience you had but I guarantee you will have an experience. If you don’t, I will suggest that you didn’t really meet real Jesus.

I imagine if you’re listening to Coffee & Pearls that you’ve met Jesus at some point so I won’t talk to much more about that. Instead, I want to focus on what happens after this encounter, specifically, after we have become Catholic.

You see, I went from a warm and loving Protestant church to a cold and distant Catholic church and it was so confusing. I certainly wasn’t expecting perfect humans. We are all broken and we live in a broken world. I think there is beauty and hope in this brokenness as we all rest in Christ trying to figure everything out.

But what I encountered instead of a community who rested together, seeking to repair the brokenness and try to be more like Jesus, was a community who was mostly defensive. It was as if they were in an ivory tower and I wasn’t allowed in. They were closed. They acted like they had it all figured out.

“We don’t need Bible studies, we have the Mass.”

They kept the Catholic treasure to themselves. I had to work really hard to find it on my own. I’m not sure why Catholics are so private.

When I read about the lives of the saints, they didn’t seem very private at all. St. Catherine of Sienna was a loud-mouthed rebel. St. John Vianney was a truth-teller who told it like it was without holding back.

I’m not asking you to be my best friend. I don’t need to know your whole life story. What I need is to be able to go to the hospital for sinners and not feel out of place. This is what we all need.

We need to be healed and we need to feel comfortable asking for it. We need each other. We need to lean on each other despite our sinfulness.

You’re not fine and that’s okay. You don’t have all the answers and that’s okay. Your job as a messenger is to say, “I’m not fine but I have Jesus so it’s okay.”

We don’t need to shine up Catholicism and pretend it makes us happy. It most certainly doesn’t. It’s hard. The bar is high but there is comfort in this. There is a great peace comes the more we embrace our faith by sacrificing what the world tells us we should love instead.

I’ve said this before but I think it’s such a great visual. Imagine that you’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “Watch how a Catholic handles this situation.” It’s so powerful to think about. In a way, we are always wearing that message whether we’re making good choices or not. And I want to suggest people are more aware of it when we’re acting without charity or kindness.

Your job this year, with both Catholics and non-Catholics, is to be a messenger. Tell people that despite your struggles, and mama I know you’re struggling, that your peace comes from Jesus. It doesn’t come from money, it doesn’t come from beauty, it doesn’t come from fame, and it doesn’t come from worldly success.

You know that things are going to be okay tomorrow because God loves you. He created you and He will give you everything you need until He calls you home. That means even if you die tomorrow… it’s still going to be alright because you will be with God.

Take a deep breath. Nothing that you’re dealing with is bigger than God. He loves you and He has a plan for you. Rest in that love. Rest in that peace.

Then let others sense your peace. This is how you bring the message of Christ to those around you.

Praying With Your Husband

 

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Alright, let’s talk about something that we don’t talk about often… praying, out loud, with our husbands.

It’s awkward, y’all.

I’m sure there’s a perfect combination of Catholic upbringing mixed with maturity and open conversation… that leads to an instantly comfortable prayer life after the wedding but as that was not my personal experience, I won’t speculate what kind of couple starts out knowing how to pray right away.

For the rest of us, praying out loud with our husband did not come easy.

I imagine, like myself, many of you put it off for quite a while even knowing how important it is. Many of you listening still don’t pray out loud with your husband and I want to say, that’s okay, you’re not a terrible person. Hopefully after this episode, you feel inspired to try for the first time or try again.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Praying is very private. It’s hard to go from stream of consciousness prayers inside our heads to forming complete, non-ridiculous sentences in front of other people. It’s not weird that you think it’s weird to pray out loud with your husband.

I always find that it’s much easier to ask for help when I think it’s normal to ask for help.

So here’s how I went from awkward praying sessions to routinely praying out loud with my husband.

  1. Start with something easy. I’m talking one Our Father before you get into bed. It’s okay if makes you laugh. It’s okay if you roll your eyes. It’s important just to start. 
  2. Add in more easy things. When you’re ready to step it up, add a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. Then you’ll have the big three! 
  3. Hold hands. Okay, now you’re ready to take it to the next level. Pray while holding hands. Man this is hard. My husband and I do this every night and let me tell you, there are some nights when I’m so seethingly mad at him that I want to punch him in the face! Grabbing his hand and praying feels like one of the hardest things ever on those nights but I do it out of love and obedience to God who asked me to pray with my husband. 
  4. Free From Prayer. This is where you each take a turn praising God, giving thanks, or asking for help. This can be a big jump if neither of you are used to do this. I think the trick to trying this out for the first time is to just let each other know it can be messy, silly, poorly said, or incomplete sentences. This is from the heart and it doesn’t have to be anything. Give each other the space to try it out. 
  5. Choose a patron saint for your marriage. The next thing to do is to choose a patron saint for your marriage. Our is Our Lady Undoer of Knots. We pray every night asking her to help us undo the knots we’ve tied in our marriage. We try to celebrate her feast day on December 8th along with the Immaculate Conception as sort of a marriage anniversary too!

If your husband is uncomfortable,  you need to respect that. You can’t strong arm him into praying with you if he doesn’t want to. It’s likely to have the opposite effect that you desire. Instead, simply pray for him. Ask the Holy Spirit to come down and change his mind. Ask Mary to help soften your husband’s heart to the idea of praying and then just wait.

I’ve also tasked my husband with putting out a podcast about how important it is for husbands to pray out loud with their wives. He’ll do it this week and then I’ll post it!

Pray with your husband! Start at step one and keeping working on these steps until you’re doing all five. Yes, even if it takes years! In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you!

Saint Trainer

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Recently I was asked, “Why are you qualified to teach other people how to be saints?” It was a fair question. There certainly isn’t a degree in saint training that I’m aware of. I’ve just sort of self-proclaimed that I am indeed a Saint Trainer.

I had never been asked this question before and it gave me pause. I thought for a moment. I almost let feelings of insecurity bubble up inside of me but then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Because you’re a sinner.”

Yes! That’s it!

I am qualified to be a Saint Trainer because I am a sinner and that means you’re qualified to be a Saint Trainer too!

Okay, well it’s not just that we’re sinners. To be qualified you have to acknowledge you’re a sinner and desire to NOT be a sinner. By the very fact that you’re reading this blog post right now, you’re showing me that you don’t want to be a sinner. You want to be a good Catholic. You want to live out God’s will.

And my guess is that you aren’t quite sure yet how to do that or perhaps you’ve been told once (or a thousand times) but you need some inspiration for getting it done today.

To me, this is what sainthood is all about. It’s the baby steps. It’s the waking up each morning, each hour, each time I arrive home and saying, “I can do better. I want to do better.” Any moment we turn away from the glitzy trappings of the world and we choose Jesus, we are turning into saints.

I genuinely believe there are four things we need to do to become saints in Heaven.

  1. Reptent
  2. Believe in the Gospel
  3. Discern God’s will for our lives
  4. Obey God in that plan

Now typing out that list was awfully easy to do. Living out that list is rather difficult. Let’s break down each one and see if we can’t get better at being saints on a day-to-day basis.

Repent

After listening to a Fr. Riccardo podcast where he said, “We must become green berets of repentance,” I never think about repentance without that phrase coming to mind. It’s so powerful because we have this idea in our heads about what green berets do. They are the elite. They are strong. They don’t quit until they’ve completed their mission. They live with intensity.

We need to repent like that. All. The. Time.

This doesn’t just mean getting to confession monthly or weekly if that’s possible, it also means pausing all throughout the day and tossing up a genuine, “I’m sorry” to the Lord when we screw up. I do this all the time.

I’m sorry I was snippy.

I’m sorry I was just jealous of her.

I’m sorry I felt entitled to buying that thing I wanted.

I’m sorry I felt like you didn’t love me.

I’m sorry I wasn’t grateful for all my blessings.

We know… truly we know… when we have made bad choices, or less than ideal choices — when we have not done our best. If we seek to be green berets of repentance then our mission is to always be on the lookout for these small sinful moments and to repent about them immediately.

Believe in the Gospel

On some level I’m sure we all believe in the Gospel. After all we’re Christians! But when John asked us to believe in the Gospel, I think he was also asking that we know the Gospel.

I don’t know about you but I surely haven’t memorized all of any one of the four Gospels! I could do a much better job of reading these sections of the Bible over and over again until they become so infused in my subconscious that I can quote them easily to others or simply use them to calm myself down when I get anxious throughout the day.

Here is where I think we could all use some work. Most of us know our Bibles far less than the original Americans. Few of us sit around at night reading the Bible out loud to our family. To be honest, that sounds awfully boring to me! Maybe I’d like that if I dressed up like a Colonial and lit a candle and pretended we had no modern entertainments!

And yet, I have to ask myself, do you really want to be a saint? How can you be a saint if you don’t make it a priority to know, and maybe even memorize, all the words that Jesus said while He walked on Earth?

Guys I’m still working on this but I believe it’s an important ingredient for modern sainthood!

Here is an awesome book to help you memorize the faith (or anything) Memorize The Faith

Discern God’s Will For Our Lives

This is a toughy. There’s no magical formula for this. If there were, I’d write a book about it and sell millions of copies! How do we discern God’s will?

Don’t you just feel like if Jesus came down and asked you to do… anything…. that you’d smile and say, “Of course Jesus, anything for you!” But most of us have not had that experience and so we feel like we’re left to guess and puzzle it out on our own.

Honestly, I think the key to discerning God’s will is to spend more time in silence and especially in Adoration. I say that with a deep sigh because those two things are particularly difficult to me. They always sound wonderful until the moment I have to make time for them and then despite how healing and lovely they are, I never feel like doing it. So I can’t promise you that you will suddenly crave silent prayer time or hours in Adoration but I do believe these are key to hearing the will of God for our lives.

You can read Discerning the Will of God by God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making by Timothy Gallager 

Or A Practical Guide to Discern God’s Will which is only $.99!

Obey God In That Plan

Once you have spent time in prayer and tried to discern the will of God for your life, your job is now to live that out. Take what you’ve heard in the whisperings of your time with Jesus and throw yourself into those plans.

I’m surprised how difficult this is sometimes. I will come away from Adoration with a crystal clear idea of what I think God is asking me to do and then somehow between the hustle and bustle of the next day and the noise that the world fills my ears with… I suddenly forget. I take a few steps off the path and I stop pursuing the crystal clear plan.

I believe this is why journaling and doing an examination of conscience at the end of the day is so important. We need to write down what we think we hear God telling us and then we need to revisit those notes often. We need to ask ourselves at the end of the day, “How did I do? Did I try hard to live out God’s plan for my life today?” And if we didn’t… well we can go straight back to being green berets of repentance.

I think most of the time we know when we’re winging it or going our own way versus trying to live a Christ-centered Catholic life. I believe if we just spent a little more time asking ourselves which path we’re walking on… our own or God’s…. we would find a lot more peace.

I hope this makes you feel hopeful. I hope you will walk away from this with a renewed sense or purpose and at least a better understanding of what questions you should be asking yourself each day!

I want you to know that you too are qualified to teach other people how to become saints! And if that sounds like fun to you, do it! We need more saint trainers out there!

You’re Amazing

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Last week my new book, Not Of This World, splashed into the world and created a lot of noise. I am grateful for all the love and support I received not only about the book itself but about my mission to spread minimalism throughout our Catholic communities.

There were many people, both online and in person, who looked at me with genuine smiles and said, “You’re amazing!” And while I’m flattered by the compliment and grateful for these relationships… I’ll be honest… I don’t feel any more amazing than I did last month.

I’m still the same me. I’m still a stay-at-home mom who’s trying to love her kids and point them to Jesus in a distracting world. I’m a Catholic convert. I think that’s amazing.

I also, wanted to grab each one of my friends and say, “Actually, I think YOU’RE amazing!” Because truly, each one of them is really special in their own way. I don’t mean that as a cheesy, one-liner, I see beauty and talent in every single person I meet. And yet even as this occurred to me, I found that I lacked the vulnerability to be able to say that.

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful by turning the compliment around to my friend. I didn’t want the compliment to seem forced or coerced because it wasn’t. I didn’t want my friend to feel embarrassed.

I was surprised by these feelings! Why do we not feel comfortable telling our friends, our very good friends that we love them and think they’re amazing?

Picture it right now. Close your eyes and picture telling one of your friends, “I love you. I think you’re amazing and I’m glad you’re my friend.” I don’t know about you, but I feel uncomfortable with that scene. I feel nervous… like a girl asking a guy out on a date and waiting to be rejected. I feel laid out and exposed.

But why?

Why is it that after someone does something sensational, like writing a book, we finally feel free to throw out genuine compliments? Why can’t we do that on a regular Tuesday morning over coffee?

To be honest, this isn’t a post about having the answers because I don’t really have the answers yet. I want to be a better friend.

I want my friends to know that I think they’re amazing just for being Catholic in a world that really doesn’t like Catholics right now. I think they’re amazing for being open to life and having lots of little kids around. I think they’re amazing for balancing work with being a wife and a mom in a world that doesn’t value the latter!

So here’s what I think we should do and I’m going to do this too even though it’s outside of my comfort zone. I think we should start sending text messages, Facebook messages, or emails to our friends. Bonus points if you do this over the phone or in person!

I think we should say something like this to all the special women in our lives:

I love you. I’m grateful for our friendship. I think you’re amazing because <insert totally normal and every day thing here>. I prayed a Hail Mary today thanking God for our friendship.

I’m pretty sure if someone sent that to me, I’d cry. It’s sad that we live in a world with such little validation.. the real kind… not a virtual like. We crave community so much and yet we don’t know how to bring it about. Let’s start today but simply thanking those we do have in our lives.

I have a copy of The Friendship Project: The Catholic Woman’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends and it’s in my queue but I haven’t read it yet. I’m guessing it’s just what we need to help us with this problem. I’ll post a review of it as soon as I’m finished with it and let you know exactly how practical I think it is!

I’ll continue to pray for the Catholic community as a whole and specifically for lonely moms who need good friends for this rough journey of life.

From Hard to Full

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If you’ve been following Coffee & Pearls for the last two years, you know I’ve had a crazy life. Between buying a fence company, having a new baby, writing three books, and homeschooling… my life has been busy!

The other day, my husband came home and asked me how my day was. I took a big sigh and said, “It was so hard!” He paused for a moment and gently said, “You know, you say that almost every single day.”

I considered that for a moment. Do I really say that every day is hard? And I had to admit that yes, yes I do say that. It’s really easy for me to toss that word around.

Church was hard.

Dinner was hard.

Taking the kids to the park was hard.

My day was hard.

And yet when I stepped back and thought about the week as a whole, I thought, “We had a fine week!” I thought of the positive things that I remembered. So why was it hard for me to see this on a day-to-day basis?

It’s easy for us to be slaves to our feelings. I feel tired, irritated, thwarted, touched out, not enough, overwhelmed, etc. We allow ourselves to dwell in these feelings without stepping back to question them.

So when my husband comes home from work and asks how my day was, I feel flooded by these difficult feelings and I tell him the day was long and hard.

Ever since he pointed that out to me, I’ve been challenging myself to strike that word from my vocabulary. I’m trying to use different words to describe what motherhood is like all day long. No word could adequately describe what I actually experience. I find that I experience the full range of my feelings every single day from joy to madness and everything in between.

Yet when I look back on my week, I am pleased with what I’ve done, I’m so happy to be the mother of my children, and I feel pretty good about my life in general.

The word that has resonated the most with me has been “full.” My day was full. My heart is full. My cup of coffee needs to be full!

Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
Luke 9:32

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Half an hour’s meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.
St. Francis de Sales

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.
St. Francis of Assissi

 

My hope for you is that you too can turn hard days into full days. Love Jesus fully with your heart. Be present fully with your family. Allow yourself to be full of the Holy Spirit!

Thank you everyone who downloaded, purchased, reviewed, and read my new book Not Of This World. You all are amazing! All the audio files from my minimalism videos are available on the Catholic Minimalism podcast on iTunes! You can easily download it through the apple podcast app or you can go here to catch it: http://catholicminimalism.libsyn.com/rss

Universal Mortification

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This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.

Previous Blog Article: Constant Mental Prayer The Green Catholic Burrow 

Next Blog Article: Ardent Charity – A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of A Life

This post features a giveaway from Trenzilly. Please keep reading to find out more!

When I first heard of the Marian Virtues series,  I knew I wanted to participate. I also knew I wanted to write about Universal Mortification because it was the virtue that made me the most uncomfortable. How better to grow with Mary than to work on my weakest Marian virtue? I did some digging to learn a little bit more about these two words. I had an idea of what they meant separately, but I wanted to know what they meant together.

I really liked this description of mortification from All to my All: “mortification is the ability to consistently bear the pain of right choice. Real mortification is not just the pain of our dying to this life of corruption in order to live again in the incorruptible truth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our All.”

The virtue is more simply described by at Lifeteen as the following: Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment.

Women of the Word shares this quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia Mortification is the deliberate restraint that one places on natural impulses in order to make them increasingly subject to sanctification through obedience to reason illumined by faith.”

When I took in these various definitions, they all pointed to sacrifice. Mary was willing at any time, in any place, to sacrifice anything for the Lord. That included her own desires, giving up the best of something and settling for the good, trusting Him blindly with no idea where He was leading her.

It’s not hard for me to see where I struggle with this. I want to be in control. I want things my way. I want to be comfortable and to avoid pain. I don’t want to wait on God’s timing and I often say that I trust the Lord with my words, but doubt Him in my heart when I cannot see the future clearly.

Perhaps because Mary was human, and because she is my mother, it is easier and more natural for me to come to her with these weaknesses rather than straight to Jesus. I fall to her feet begging for her guidance and her intercession.

“Teach me to be like you sweet mother.”

“Ask your son to forgive my weakness and my self-centeredness.”

“Help me to put Jesus and others above myself.” “Help me to choose eternity in Heaven over fleeting pleasures here on Earth.”

And most of all, “Help me to teach my children the virtue of universal mortification.”

Going back to the definition, “Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment,” I see how far I have to go to capture every moment for Christ as Mary did. But I also see great hope that I have room to improve. It is not discouraging to me that I will likely work on this for my entire life.

I think of climbing a tall ladder up to our Blessed Mother who waits for me in Heaven. Would we not gladly climb thousands of steps to reach her?

When I find myself struggling with pride and wanting to… well avoid mortification… I think of St. Faustina. She endured so much suffering as many of the nuns she lived with, not only didn’t believe she was experiencing visions, but would put her down right to her face telling her that she was lying for attention. How awful!

St. Faustina also mentions that there were times other nuns would think the worst of her, and instead of correcting them by giving a very reasonable explanation for what she was doing, she kept quiet and let them continue to think less of her. This sacrifice she made for the Lord and as always for sinners.

This is a relevant way that moms can offer up suffering to the Lord. How quickly we want to jump in and defend our choices and shine up our reputations. To instead allow ourselves to be thought of poorly and to not let it bother us, is an incredible sacrifice. Yet, I think this is worth trying because we will not only find freedom in letting these battles go but we can offer up our suffering for the salvation of sinners. When you think of it like that, who cares if some people have the wrong idea about you? Jesus knows the truth and who else really matters?

It is not surprising to me that most of my favorite saints had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother. Life is so challenging, I cannot imagine enduring such ups and downs without her to sweeten my trials. One of the best ways to grow in our faith is to meditate on the Marian Virtues while praying the rosary.

I wear a blue scapular for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and I try to pray meditate on the Marian Virtues while praying the rosary every day.  If you have never tried this devotion, I highly recommend doing it one year for Lent or Advent! Give yourself to the Blessed Mother and she will pour herself into you. The more you embody these ten virtues, the more peace you will find in your life as you draw closer to her son, Jesus Christ!

Before we get to the AWESOME giveaway, I wanted to share that the Kindle version of my new book, Not Of This World: A Catholic Guide To Minimalism, is FREE until September 17th! Download a copy and please tell your friends, especially your parish mom’s group or any other Facebook groups you’re part of! Thanks so much!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One lucky reader will win an Our Lady of Lourdes Soft Saint Doll from Trendzilly. Ann-Marie is a stay-at-home, homeschool mother of 4 boys. She started Trendzilly in late 2013 to generate additional income and inspire little ones in the faith by creating and selling handmade soft saint dolls along with many religious, holiday and party printables. Her dolls made of soft fleece are cut out by hand and have a sweet machine embroidered face. She puts great care into the quality of each doll and she gladly accepts custom orders.

Please support this amazing Catholic author and continue to join us in this Marian Virtue Series.  

Tough Love Saints

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

NOTE: This is one of the rare blog posts where there is a lot more said in the podcast than you’ll read below!

I’ve been wanting to talk more about the idea that we must “be a scientist” when it comes to our own life. No one will be better at understanding you than… you.

Being a scientist means that we can objectively step back from our own situation to assess what’s going on. What’s working? What’s not working? What things can I control and what things can I not control? And perhaps most important, what is my desired outcome?

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re happy, that’s awesome. If you are content in your situation, rock on. I’m talking to those of us who feel a sense of unrest. We want something to be different but we can’t seem to make it happen.

It is so easy for us to act like victims to all the things around us. I’m guilty of this all the time. I often act as if “I couldn’t possibly have done x, y, and z” because of the awful day I had. But the truth is, if it were the zombie apocalypse, I would do incredibly hard things for 12+ hours a day.

Humans are capable of amazing feats. Most of us are simply clinging to comfort and consumerism which gets in the way of achieving our potential.

There are many different aspects of our lives that we want to change. I want to first focus on growing in our faith life because really, this should always be the first thing we focus on but I also believe that by diving deeper into our faith life, we can gain clarity on prioritizing the rest of our lives and the strength to really make lasting changes.

I’m going to use some quotes from saints to help deliver some tough love about how important it is to be honest with ourselves, to work hard, and to have a deep faith life.

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. -St. Augustine

To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. -Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Let us begin in earnest to work out our salvation, for no one will do it for us, since even He Himself, Who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves. -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud. -St. Vincent de Paul

You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all. -St. Therese of Lisieux

I hope you’re feeling fired up! Now I want you to make some time this week to sit down and ask yourself, what is holding you back from living a more faithful life? How can you be a better Catholic?

After you go through this exercise, you might want to tackle another area of your life. Why are you not losing weight? Why are you stressed all the time? Why is your marriage uncomfortable? Why do you feel like a bad mom?

It’s so easy for us to see patterns and weaknesses in our friends. Your job is to step back from your own life and assess what’s really going on. No excuses. What are you capable of?

In the end, you may decide you aren’t willing to take on the pain and discomfort to change. That’s okay! But hopefully identifying that and saying it out loud will give you more peace about your current situation.

If you’re feeling brave, pop on over to Facebook and share your experience! If you just want some love and support, feel free to email me. It’s my full name at gmail.com!

Winging It Homemaking

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

Let’s talk house cleaning! Looking back through my posts, I see that I don’t write about homemaking that often. In the Catholic Mom Challenge, we talk about the importance of being a homemaker. It’s a lost art really. Most of us have no idea how to be homemakers. I know I certainly didn’t when I got married.

It’s important to create a peaceful environment at home. You want your house to be a sanctuary for your family so they can leave the broken and chaotic world and feel safe at home. That doesn’t you have a house that looks like a Pottery Barn catalog or a home where everything is always put away. After all, we live here and I have four kids now!

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I found myself swinging from trying to implement an ultra complex cleaning system to staring at my clutter while sitting in the living room. Neither of these worked and I was driving myself crazy. As I look back, I’m not sure my kids or my husband really noticed or cared.

You have to be honest with yourself, what is truly important to you and what kind of environment does your family need?

Lately, I don’t find that much stress about keeping my home tidy and I was trying to figure out why since it used to cause me great anxiety. Here’s what I think the difference is:

  1. Paralysis Analysis – I used to want the perfect system. I wanted something comprehensive so I could see the whole picture and then tackle tasks systematically. But I would spend so much time thinking about a system, reading about systems, or writing a system down that I would burn myself out before cleaning anything!

    Now I have no system. The only tenants I try to follow are laundry M/W/F and I do it completely from wash to put away, and clean bathrooms on Thursday or Friday. Pretty weak system but hey, I do it!
  2. Just Do It – The big difference between have one or two children and having four is that you don’t have a lot of time to sit around thinking about what needs to get done, you just do it. I have two rounds of cleaning per day, one before naps and one before or after dinner depending on our evening activities.

    The kids know this and my husband knows this. Whoever is home, pauses what they’re doing and we all clean for maybe 15-30 minutes. It really isn’t long at all and you can get a lot done in that time. We usually do laundry, dishes, tidying up rooms, sweeping or bathrooms.

    I simply ask myself, “What needs to be done right now?” I do that thing and then I ask myself again.

    On Saturdays we spend 1-2 hours doing bigger cleaning projects like mopping all the floors, backyard stuff, or special projects.
  3. It’s Mostly About You – This may be different in different homes but I have found that I care the most about how the house looks. My husband wants a clean area to make breakfast in the morning clean clothes… that’s it! All the rest of it, the standards for what means the house is clean, is all in my own head. This picture also changes whether I’m having friends over or hosting an event.

    No matter what’s going on though, I’ve realized there is no “right” way to live. Once I accepted that, I started to notice what made me happier at home. I found that I didn’t care much about sweeping or vacuuming but I do really value clear surfaces. I don’t like clutter.

    Now I focus on tidying more than deep cleaning. It takes less time and I’m happier at home. I’m pleased when I look around and things are put in their place. I don’t mind whatever is on the floor!

    Have a conversation with your family about what’s important to them, I mean really important. Try to tackle these things daily or every few days. Leave the rest on a weekly or bi-weekly rotation.
  4. Less Is More – My new book about minimalism is coming out soon and it’s all about how much more peace we have when we own less stuff. The more I purge from my home, the easier it is for me and the kids to take care of our spaces. We’re all a lot more calm too. Just looking at less stuff makes you happier.

    Simply owning less is a large key to successful homemaking. Chances are, you don’t need or use at least 20% or your stuff. And while I love a good “whole house purge,” I rarely have time for that. Instead, I purge a little bit every week. I look around and constantly ask myself, how can I simplify this space and what can I get rid of?

    This way it’s never very overwhelming or emotional. These baby steps feel way more manageable.

I know there are lots of books, websites, and programs out there that outline home cleaning systems. That may be exactly what you need. But I want to challenge you. Perhaps what you need is to just schedule quick blocks of cleaning and time and just get to it. I bet you know what needs to be done and you can knock out a great deal in 30 minutes twice per day.

Pop over to my Facebook page and share your home cleaning successes and challenges!

The Big, Bed Rest, Book Review and Giveaway – Part Two

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

The last post focused on the books: The Marian Option, The Rosary, and Lift Up Your Heart. This post features three books that are all focused on prayer.

Why do I read so many books on prayer? Don’t they seem repetitive? Well, it’s because I have a short attention span. I am easily distracted by shiny things and not only do I forget to focus on prayer but even when I do, I often find myself at a loss for what to pray.

This is why I am constantly reading books to prop me back up and to give me specific ways to pray. These three books had some truly wonderful ideas that I hope I can hold onto for many years!

First up, St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners by Susan Tassone. This is a small book that you could easily keep with you in your purse. It starts by explaining what conversion is in the first place. Then Tassone shares St. Faustina’s take on conversion and why we need to be praying for sinners and the Holy souls in Purgatory.

The rest of the book has lots and lots of prayers you can say! I like books with this feature because I can pick them up, find a prayer that speaks to my current situation so I don’t have to struggle to find my own words. There are many saints featured who had great conversions themselves and specific prayers we can say to ask for their intercession.

I’m going to put a few quotes together to give you a sense of my biggest takeaway from the book.

“Conversion requires prayer… and prayer requires conversion. It’s a daily process. There is no magical formula but there is a mystical one: we can seek the grace of conversion through prayer — and, through prayer, we can better and better live that grace. A deeper conversion often means more time. More effort. It calls for an increasing surrender to God and an abandonment of selfishness.”

The author talks about how we are all called to sainthood, which is a topic especially close to my heart. I thought this book would motivate me to pray for the conversion of all the non-believers in my life but it more strongly encouraged me to work on my own deeper conversion.

I often give books I’ve read away to share them with others but this is one I will keep for my own library so I can reference it often. It’s a great size to bring with me to Adoration and after reading St. Faustina’s diary, I know I will always have a strong devotion to her.

You can order this book on Amazon here.

You can read my full review of the book at CatholicMom.com.

To win a copy of this book, head over to my Facebook page. Make sure to like my page and comment on the giveaway post!


Next up, Praying The Angelus by Jared Dees. I have heard of the Angelus before but never prayed it and it certainly has not been a daily devotion of mine. When I stumbled upon a copy of the Praying The Angelus painting in a thrift store for $4, I bought it and felt called to learn more about this devotion. It was timely then that Jared Dees’ book came out to tell me all about this prayer.

This is also a smaller book and I kind of like this trend of smaller books that are easier to cart around. This author is extremely sincere both about the history of the Angelus devotion and also his own practice of it. He talks about his struggles and how often he prays the Angelus with no “seen” benefits from it.

I think this is important because we tend to view prayer as quid-pro-quo situation expecting to have miraculous things occur after we’ve been faithful for two whole weeks. While God certainly does perform miracles, it’s not what we should expect. We should not set down devotions if we don’t feel or see the proof that they’re “working.”

This, I believe, should be the biggest takeaway from this book. Here are some quotes that sum up this idea.

“The consistent practice of any Catholic devotion takes a lot of effort. Many (perhaps most) people who take up these practices soon find disappointment and boredom in them. Feeling of peace, mercy, love, and certainty can often be present in daily prayer, but they are never automatic and often inconsistent. It took me months of daily practice to begin realizing how GOd was at work in my mind and heart.”

Whether we’re talking about the Angelus or any other devotion, we must remember that we take up these practices out of devotion. I talked about this concept in Season 2 Episode 17 of Coffee and Pearls.

You have the time to take up a Catholic devotion and to obediently carry it out. Choose one. It doesn’t matter which one. Choose it and build up your self-discipline muscle in your faith life because you love God above all else.

You can order this book on Amazon here.

To win a copy of this book, head over to my Facebook page. Make sure to like my page and comment on the giveaway post!


Last book! Praying The Rosary Like Never Before by Edward Sri. Ladies, the guy is a fantastic writer. He makes things clear, interesting, and compelling. I actually had to tell myself to slow down while reading it so I could soak it all up. I definitely think this is a book I will reread.

My favorite part of this book was when the author spent several pages on each mystery making references to the bible and providing ideas and prayers that one could meditate on for each decade. Each section provided so much more depth than I had ever given to the mysteries, which seems silly as I type that out because they are… mysteries.

The book also features many reasons that stand in the way of our saying the rosary. I think it’s important that we acknowledge these and say them out loud. The only way to conquer these distractions and excuses is to bring them into the light. I felt encouraged and hopeful that I could slay some of my own anti-rosary dragons!

The most important take-away point of the book, in my opinion, is that Jesus is at the center of the rosary. This was such a simple and profound concept and yet I had never heard it before.

“After [the] opening lines, we come to the climax of the Hail Mary: ‘And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’ John Paul II says that Jesus’ holy name not only serves as the hinge joining the two parts of the Hail Mary but also is this prayer’s very ‘center of gravity’ (RVM, 33). Indeed, the Hail Mary is meant to lead us to the person of Jesus, and at the center of this prayer, we speak his sacred name.”

Ever since I read that, I now pause, just a little, when I say the name of Jesus. I think of him as the center, pulling together all the beautiful words of the rosary with his love. It has made me feel so much more peaceful praying the rosary knowing that Jesus is there. I don’t mind that the rosary is largely about Mary and it makes me feel closer to her when I pray it but now instead of thinking that the rosary is Mary’s way of pointing to Jesus, I picture them both present in the prayer calling me to deepen my faith.

Edward Sri is a pleasure to read and I’m looking forward to reading some more of his books. It has a nice modern cover and would make a good present for a rosary lover in your life!

You can order this book on Amazon here.

To win a copy of this book, head over to my Facebook page. Make sure to like my page and comment on the giveaway post!

The Big Bed Rest Book Review and Giveaway – Part One!

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

It’s no secret this was the worst pregnancy for me. I threw up a ton in the first trimester, got wicked bronchitis in the second and then was on bed rest for the third. During all that time, I had the opportunity to read a lot of books so I wanted to give you my favorite lessons from each one.

Most of these books are filled with underlined sections of wisdom or quotes that really spoke to me. I certainly don’t have time to cover them all so I thought I would just pick out the one that might be most helpful to all of you!

First up, The Marian Option. This book is beautiful and I really enjoyed it. I appreciate that book acknowledged that we live in some rough and scary times right now. Sometimes I think I’m worrying about things that aren’t there but this book says yes, those scary things are happening but we don’t need to worry about them.

My favorite quote is actually from the very first chapter.

“A mass movement isn’t needed – only a very few who know the true source of strength, grace, and genius to transform the world.” This fills me with such hope!

The other quote that really struck me was from Archbishop Charles Chaput who says:

“If we want to reclaim who we are as a Church, if we want to renew the Catholic imagination, we need to  begin, in ourselves and in our local parishes, by unplugging our hearts from the assumptions of a culture that still seems familiar but is no longer really ours. The problem is that many U.S. Catholics have abandoned this “spiritual struggle’ and have assimilated too much into the popular culture ‘that bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance and dulls our longings for the supernatural with a river of practical atheism in the form of consumer goods.”

We are it ladies. We are the ones who will turn things around. And we will do that by getting to know Mary. This is a great book to really understand who she is, especially as the spouse of the Holy Spirit but there are many books. And for those of you who think you don’t have time to read, pray your rosary. We always meet Mary there.

You can order the book on Amazon here.

You can also read my full review of the book at CatholicMom.com

To win a copy of this book, head over to my Facebook page. Make sure to like my page and comment on the giveaway post!


Next up, Lift Up Your Heart: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Francis De Sales by Fr. John Burns. If I could have a crush on a book, this would be it!

This is basically a modern version of St. Francis de Sales classic Introduction to the Devout Life. I haven’t read that book but after reading this one, I’m certainly interested to try it!

This book is great for busy moms because you can make a deeply impactful retreat from home in just 10 days! I think that’s really tailor made for us. Each of the ten days focuses on a theme: God’s benefactions, sin, death, judgement, hell, paradise, election and choice of Heaven and finally election and choice the soul makes of a devout life.

There were so many beautiful and poignant ideas in this book so it was really a struggle to pick my favorite but I picked this one because I think if we can really internalize this one idea, it will drive all our other decisions.

We are looking for hope. We have a deep longing for eternity in the Lord and yet our worldly selves really can’t comprehend that. As Fr. John says, “We cannot get our minds around the concept of unending joy because, in putting together the perfect day with the greatest joy [something Fr. John asks us to imagine], our human experience tells us something very real: it will end. We cannot imagine what it would be like to exist in surpassing joy and to do so without end.”

He goes on to say, “Heaven cannot be a distant choice or a far-off idea. It must be an ultimate goal that is on our minds constantly.”

If we can meditate more on the reality of Heaven, no matter how hard it is to understand, I believe it will greatly affect our decisions in the present. This is something I’m terrible at but I know that if I were to conquer this in myself, it would bring me so much peace.

You can order this book on Amazon here.

You can read my full review of this book at CatholicMom.com


Last up for this episode, The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare by Johnnette Benkovic. This book goes well with The Marian Option. Though they tell some of the same stories about Mary, I personally feel as if we can never read enough about the miracles that Mary has performed all over the world. This book gives us a real practical way to pray our rosary more deeply. I’ve struggled with knowing how to do that and I was impressed with some of the ideas this book laid out.

I think the cover of this book was designed to appeal to men and the theme calling out weapons and warfare might make women pass up this book at the store. But that would be a mistake. Spiritual warfare is not just for Catholic men! There is a fantastic section of the book called Your Special Forces Team: Valiant Women of the Kingdom. What a chapter title!

One of my favorite aspects of Catholicism is how often women are used to do great deeds for the faith. The stories of women who with devout devotions to the rosary accomplish some amazing things. This is definitely a section I think young women should read!

I don’t have a particular quote that sums up my biggest takeaway from this book. When I read the last page, this book challenge me to become a prayer warrior. If I, who consider myself a deeply devout Catholic, am not battle the darkness of the world through prayer, who else is going to do it? If I am reading books and recording podcasts but I am not taking up the sword of prayer, it is not enough.

I want to join the ranks of Valiant Women of the Kingdom and I cannot do that by worrying over shallow first world problems that are largely rooted in consumerism and the desire for comfort. I hope this book inspires others to feel the same and to take up this calling!

To win a copy of this book, head over to my Facebook page. Make sure to like my page and comment on the giveaway post!

Every Catholic Needs A Devotion

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

One aspect of Catholicism that I’m particularly drawn to is the many beautiful devotions that you can take up. You can pray your rosary every day. You can say the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3 p.m. You can pray the Angelus at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. You can participate in First Saturdays. You can pray the Pieta prayers for 365 days.

As I’ve come to test drive some of these devotions, I have realized something. It doesn’t matter which devotion you choose, but you ought to choose one. By choosing a devotion and sticking to it for a predetermined amount of time, you are training yourself to be obedient to the Lord. You are flexing your discipline muscles.

When it comes time for you to pray, you can either let your worldly distractions get in the way, or you can drop what you’re doing and be obedient. Now this may sound difficult to do and it is, especially if you have little kids or are working in an office setting. It can be easy to put things off and then suddenly realize as you’re dozing off, that you forgot your devotion entirely. This is precisely why we must choose to be devoted to something.

It is good for our soul to pause, at least one time per day, and give ourselves to the Lord. We commit something to him and then we are faithful in carrying out our commitment. Not only does this please God but it will also add to your own self-esteem. The more you able to master yourself in the humble practice of whichever devotion you choose, the more you will feel the good kind of pride in knowing you put the Lord first.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church has provided so many different devotions to choose from that you can find one to fit your current lifestyle. In my opinion, the easiest is probably the Divine Mercy chaplet which takes about 7 minutes. Ideally, you would say this during the 3 p.m. hour but even if you just manage to say it daily at a time that works for you, this devotion is pretty easy to squeeze into your routine.

I have been really wanting to try out the Angelus prayer but as I’m currently waking up at unpredictable hours with a newborn, I know now isn’t the right time to tackle that particular one. This brings me to my second point, you don’t need to stick with the same devotion for a lifetime!

Sometimes I try one out for a month. Sometimes I try one out for the seasons of Advent or Lent. We don’t need to claim a devotion forever although you may find one that really speaks to your soul and continue it for a long time.

After you have mastered one, you may choose to add another. For example, I love saying my rosary so I often choose another devotion on top of that one to try. Fair warning, I do not suggest you try more than one new one at a time and if doing two gets overwhelming to the point where you’re doing neither, it’s time to simply pick one.

God wants our faith. He wants our attention. He wants to know He’s the most important thing in our life. Choosing and carrying out a Catholic devotion is a wonderful way to show Him how you feel.

Here are some great devotions to try out:

  1. Daily rosary
  2. Daily Divine Mercy Chaplet
  3. Five First Saturdays Devotion
  4. Marian Consecration (this one is for life so I would take a long time before committing to this)
  5. Wearing a scapular and praying the related prayers daily
  6. Liturgy of the Hours
  7. Pieta Prayers (these should be said daily for one year)

Here is a long list of Catholic devotions at My Catholic Source 

I promise you that being faithful to a devotion will change your life. It may not change it in the way you expect but it will definitely help you grow closer to God.

What devotion do you practice or have you practiced in the past? Is there one you’ve been thinking of trying out?

Why I Despise NFP But Do It Anyway

DISCLAIMER: If you struggle with infertility and don’t want to read about someone who gets pregnant all the time, this isn’t the article for you. If you believe that women are called to have as many children as they can regardless of their physical and mental health, I disagree and this article is not for you. If you are engaged or newlywed and you don’t want to hear the dark side of NFP (which I totally understand) this article may not be for you right now. If you have a medical reason not to practice NFP, this article is not for you.

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

It’s national Natural Family Planning awareness week so you will see many great articles bouncing around the internet about the benefits of NFP. I’m glad for these articles and the stories of all the couples who have been helped by this type of planning. This will not be a cheery article but I hope the ending will give you a stronger conviction in your faith.

Personally, I am mostly filled with bitterness and anger about NFP. And no, not the righteous kind that’s noble but the sinful kind that I have to confess. All the books I’ve read about NFP have made me feel small, stupid, and selfish because I simply have not experienced all the grace and loveliness they have touted.

Please, tell me one more time couples who practice NFP hardly ever get divorced! Of course not! Because it’s mostly uber devout Catholics who practice NFP and even they are a minority in our faith community. Those type of people would not get divorced anyway, it’s not BECAUSE of NFP. It’s because they are faithful.

I was pregnant 7 times before we reached our 7th wedding anniversary. Not only has that been emotionally heartbreaking (the miscarriages) but also super unhealthy for my body. If you never get a chance to recover from pregnancy, you end up tacking on more problems for the next one.

Another benefit of NFP that I haven’t received is greater intimacy in my marriage. When you are super fertile, no matter which form of NFP you decide to practice, you are required to abstain… a lot. Now it’s fair to say if I had a stronger marriage, this might not be as hard. I can’t really say. But having grown up in the hook-up culture, with divorced parents and only becoming Catholic at 25, my husband and I were properly educated about how to live out our call to holiness through constant abstaining.

Our sex life has always been sort of mediocre… again I blame porn and all the television/magazine lies I was fed from the age of 13 causing great confusion about what healthy and loving sex should look like. And don’t get me wrong, we know how to orgasm within the rules of the Catholic Church. I just don’t know how to feel loved through sex. If you don’t feel loved through sex, expecting a deeper intimacy by not having sex is really difficult to attain.

We’ve basically been pregnant since our honeymoon. It took us three pregnancies to figure out that the sympto-thermal method doesn’t work well for people who have insomnia. It’s hard to get your basal temperature so it messes up your chart.

We finally embraced Creighton, which has been really wonderful and effective for us. We successfully planned one pregnancy and then the other two, though they were in very low in probability and we were still hoping to avoid pregnancy, were not a surprise. We knew we were rolling the dice and we accepted ahead of time that we might get pregnant. And that’s the thing, I always do if there’s a chance.

I have horrible pregnancies and traumatic labors. Though I would gladly raise a huge family with love and faith, I really don’t want to be pregnant ever again. Those are often scandalous words to speak out loud if you’re Catholic. But it’s okay to have our opinions and to express our wishes. In the end, all that matters is that we are open to God’s will.

There is only one reason I practice NFP despite all the struggles and heartache that has come with it for my family… because I am Catholic. When I converted from Protestantism to Catholicism it was largely because I was drawn to the idea that the Catholic Church never changes, it never contradicts itself and it is always true. I have a great conviction about this and it gives me confidence about my faith, especially when I’m sharing it with other people.

I could hardly sit down in front of someone and tell them that the Catholic Church is unwaveringly true… except for this one tenant that I think they got wrong that I really don’t feel like practicing. It’s an all or nothing deal.

God calls us to suffering and that’s what NFP has been for me. I imagine it’s His way of saying, “Really Sterling, do you trust me? Will you still love me now?” And though my selfish heart wants to say, “No Lord, how could you do this to me again? Why won’t you give me a way out?” I confess my lack of trust and I keep being obedient.

God asks obedience of us. We don’t like that word and we don’t like being told what to do. But we cannot be cafeteria Catholics and still be confident Catholics. We don’t get to pick what we want and no other aspect of the Catholic Church is so ignored. Even people who don’t like going to confession will still acknowledge its importance. And yet when it comes to NFP, the vast majority sweep it under the rug and say, “Nope, that’s not for me.”

This is one of the reasons it’s so hard to practice. We’re in the minority. And not only am in the minority of Catholics who practice NFP, I have found that a great number of people who practice it actually struggle with infertility or genuinely want to have 12+ children. So I feel like my brand of super fertility mixed with not wanting my body to keep going through this, is a very small percentage of our faith community.

There is also almost no support for couples, especially men. Where does my husband go when he’s feeling frustrated and doesn’t know how to connect with his wife during long stints of abstinence? Where can he go to be consoled by other men who are going through the same thing? Even priests often don’t have much to say when we admit we’re drowning and we don’t know what to do.

I hope we change this soon. I see many movements trying to including this great week about NFP awareness. I am happy that everyone is sharing their stories both good and bad.

In the end, I am Catholic and that is why I practice NFP. I will continue to do this because God and the Catholic Church have asked me to. I don’t like it, I struggle with it, it’s painful, and I really don’t get it but it doesn’t matter. I don’t truly understand how glorious the Mass really is either and yet I have faith that it is and I obediently go every week.

I love God with all my heart and I can’t wait for Him to tell me what this whole NFP thing was supposed to look like when I get to Heaven. I’m sure it will be beautiful and then I will understand. In the meantime, I will obey and be faithful.

P.S. If you haven’t read Simcha’s book The Sinners Guide To Natural Family Planning, it’s great and did give me some consolation.

Yelling At God

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

I’m sorry to say that this week’s podcast does not come with a complete blog post! I’m super pregnant, still on bed rest and I just don’t have the heart to type it all out…nor the ability to write in coherent sentences! So here are some bullet points about this latest podcast:

  • This is the longest I’ve been pregnant and boy is that emotionally rough!
  • I love the idea of redemptive suffering but it’s a lot easier to offer up physical pain than it is emotional pain.
  • It’s harder to pin down emotional pain so we don’t often think to offer it up.
  • We also feel as if we should control our emotions so we don’t feel that emotional suffering is “worth” offering up… this simply isn’t true. God wants all of our suffering.
  • We all get angry at God. He knows this. We know this. And yet so often, we never tell Him that we’re angry.
  • God wants a true and genuine relationship with Him and that includes telling him all the ugly stuff we think about Him. “Why God? How could you do this to me? I hate you right now! I’m so angry that you think I can handle this! Why haven’t you sent help!!”
  • Spill your guts to Him and then… finally… and probably after you ugly cry… when you say, “Thy will be done Lord. I trust you” you will really mean it.
  • Clean out your heart by sharing all your ugliness with the Lord and invite Him in after. He wants to give you healing but you have to let Him and the best way to do that is to be completely honest with him!

Lastly, a big shout out to all the Coffee & Pearls listeners! In the last three months, my downloads have gone from 3,000+ to 5,000+ and finally to 7,000+ in June! That means you’re telling your friends and leaving reviews and I really appreciate it. I love what we’ve all built here and I hope to keep bringing you all my struggles and lessons learned in 15 minutes a week!

Wasting The Wait

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

Sometimes God asks us to be brave. Sometimes God asks us to stand up for what we believe in. Sometimes God asks us to show mercy to those who don’t deserve it. There are many difficult things God asks us to do but sometimes, all he asks us to do is wait.

Waiting can feel more challenging than being brave or forgiving something awful. There is often inaction when we’re waiting and somehow this “doing nothing”… it feels painful. It can be lonely. It can be confusing. We feel like we’re getting it wrong even though we’re not exactly sure what it would look like to “get it right.”

There are two times recently in my life where I have wasted the wait. God asked me to wait patiently for an answer and instead I spent the time pouting, fretting, stomping my feet, and trying to force a resolution to my problem faster than God had planned.

It never works when we do this. Our way is never smoother or filled with more peace.

The first time this popped up was when my husband and I were trying to decide if he should leave his job in Portland and whether or not we should relocate to another city. I talk about this whole story in my book Catholic Mom Challenge but the short version is that we wanted God to point us in the right direction. Not only did we want clarity but we also wanted expedience.

Lord, tell us what to do and please, could you do that by tomorrow morning so we could efficiently arrange all of our plans? K, thanks!

Looking back, God did guide us to leave that job and move and retrospectively…. I guess…. He gave us enough time to pull it off but it certainly didn’t feel like that when we were waiting.

We didn’t use the transition time, at least three weeks of which my husband had off of work, to go to Mass, say extra prayers, or spend more quality time as a family. We spent it making pro/con lists, attacking our problem from every angle we could think of, constantly worrying that we were going to make the wrong decision and trying to come up with back-up plans for our back-up plans.

We wasted the gift God had given us.

Looking back, there was nothing we could do to speed the process up of finding a new job, finding a new home, and getting to our new life. Instead, we could have soaked up the extra time to be peaceful and present in the moment of the unknown trusting that God would take care of us. He always has a plan.

The second time this happened was merely a year later and almost under the same circumstances. You’d think we would have learned the first time around. My husband left his new job to help me run a company we had purchased. We didn’t know if he’d stay working for our new company or if he’d get another traditional job. We fretted over this decision for four months! For three whole months, he was home with our family and instead of using that time to draw closer to each other and closer to the Lord, we again pouted, fretted, strategized, planned  and made so many lists!

We basically wasted a three month vacation with our lack of trust in God.

Now, I want to take this moment to acknowledge that it is genuinely stressful to not have a job and to not know if you can pay your bills. It’s not intuitive how to spend three months of family time when you have no money to spare. It’s not as if a few well timed rosaries will suddenly make these big and real problems disappear.

As I approached the end of my pregnancy, knowing I’d spend most of it on bed rest, I knew I didn’t want to waste this time. I made a list of five ways I wanted to use this time wisely.

  1. Pray the rosary every day. You know, it’s a silly thing to have to write down. Praying the rosary only takes 20 minutes so you’d think it’d be a slam dunk to get it done every day. And yet, there’s something about having an endless amount of time that makes it impossible to get anything done. I wanted to get this done no matter what. No surprise, it’s easiest to do it first thing in the morning and yet most days… I do it right before bed. I’m still working on being an adult about this and not putting it off to the last minute but no matter how tired I am, I do it before the day ends.
  2. Read for 20 minutes. Again, I’m a big reader but I tend to want to read when there are other, more pressing things to do. When I don’t have anything to do, suddenly reading sounds boring, even if it’s a book I’m really excited about! But tried and true, reading is one of the best ways to get me out of a funk or keep me from being depressed. Reading a good Catholic book is uplifting and challenging to my default mode of laziness and apathy. Once I get 20 minutes in, it’s easy to keep going but I knew if I made my goal an hour, I’d probably never start.
  3. Keep a gratitude journal. When you’re in a waiting period, it’s so easy to be gloomy about everything. You feel stagnant, grumpy, and down on yourself. Instead of looking at the challenges, make a list of all the blessings. Don’t just list the blessings that you have all the time, but specifically list the blessings you’ve received because of this waiting time.
  4. Give yourself permission to have fun. Often when I’m in a time of waiting, I feel like I should be using that time to be productive… to get extra projects done or to catch up. Instead of staying in work work work mode, give yourself permission to have some fun and be silly. Put a time limit and a spending limit on your fun. You don’t want to take advantage of this time by only playing games but it’s dangerous to only get caught up in worrying and never letting your hair down.
  5. Put a time limit on planning! This last one is so important for me! I want to plan, plan, plan and make lists and spreadsheets. I want to out think the unknown to create a false sense of comfort. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that could keep me from doing this BUT I do put a time limit on it. I will say that I only have 20 minutes a day to budget/worry/brainstorm/plan and then I have to close my notebook and leave it alone. Whew, it’s tough! But it also helps keep me humble that God is in charge and the amount of time I spend chewing on my problems, doesn’t really solve them.

Be not discouraged by these trials that involve waiting. There is nothing we can do to hurry a resolution when God is asking us to be patient. Instead, don’t waste this time like I have so often. Embrace it, offer it up to God and use the time to grow in holiness. In the end, that is all that matters.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13