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!

Solving Scatterbrain Syndrome

Solving Scatterbrain Syndrome

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

NOTE: There is a five minute recap of my experience doing the James and Avila study with a bunch of strangers in this podcast episode!

I have been a mess lately. A happy mess, but a mess none-the-less. Adjusting to five kids has been logistically more difficult than I imagined. With nap schedules and feeding the baby… I often lose track of time or what I should be doing next when I do get a pocket of time.

The other day I was going to get two kiddos to carpool for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and as I was driving down our street, I realized I don’t have enough car seats anymore! My husband had been taking them but this week he was working. I had to back up, kick one of the kids out, hope my parents weren’t going anywhere and continue on. She was safe and sound, I promise. But it was a rough moment.

I’ve had a lot of those… running around being reactive instead of proactive and that is definitely not how I like to live my life. So I finally decided to sit down and just think about this problem.  We don’t carve out enough time to just sit and think about things. We’re always go-go-go or an exhausted slump.

I woke up before the kids and gave myself 20 minutes to think about this problem. I knew that I had moved beyond being able to schedule out my week. Sure, there were some fixed appointments but it really was our hour-by-hour living that seemed so frantic.

Loops came to mind. The idea that ou have a list of things you want to get done and you simply move from one to the next without holding yourself to a time limit or a deadline and though loops had worked great for me before, they didn’t seem quite right for this stage.

Finally, I decided, what I really needed what someone to just tell me what to do all throughout the day so I wasn’t constantly asking myself, “Wait, what should I do next?”

I took out a blank sheet of paper and I decided that my energy and which kids were awake would determine what I should be doing.

Here are some examples:

When Violet and Forest, my 3-year-old and 18-month-old are sleeping, that’s when I get computer work done. My older girls can do art, play outside, or listen to an audiobook.

When everyone is awake, that is a great time to clean the downstairs. I seem to be able to sweep/vacuum/tidy/wipe down things when everyone is up and around.

When it’s later in the evening and I’m dog tired, I can read a book. I used to be too tired to read at night but now I enjoy the time without noise. I take notes about interesting things I read and I know that I’ll use my creative energy in the morning to think about how to share what I learned with all of you.

I will wake up an hour before the kids to read my Bible, get in some time on the recumbent bike and make a list of any appointments or To Dos that have to be done that day.

When all the kids have gone to sleep except Rose, our seven-year-old, then I can either do more computer work, spend time with my husband, or spend some quality time with Rose. I listed out examples of each of these activities.

So now, all I have to do throughout the day is to look at this piece of paper. I consider who is awake and whether I have high, medium or low energy and the chart shows me the types of activities I should do. Then I simply have to pick one.

It’s not perfect yet. I’m still refining it as I’m testing it out but I think this is a powerful way to take out all that questioning that moms experience throughout the day. It’s helped me to have more energy and to feel less frustrated because let’s face it, it’s frustrating as an adult to not even know what to do with your own day!

I will give it two more weeks and then I’ll email out a copy of my schedule so you can see where I landed. I imagine I will need to re-do this sheet every time someone’s nap schedule changes but that shouldn’t be that often.

I want you to go through this exercise. Think of what activities you have to do and what kind of energy you need to do them well. Then think of which kids get in the way of certain types of activities. For example, I know I can’t read a book when my 18-month-old is up. He wants to crawl in my lap, yank my book away, then I get frustrated and it’s really not his fault at all, it was just a poor choice of activity for that moment.

Don’t take too much time because you’re probably going to refine this as you go.

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

Now I have a question for you! I want to spend more casual time with all of you but I’m not sure which way you would prefer. I’m always reading and learning things that I want to tell you but I don’t have time to do a formal Coffee & Pearls with a write up a second time per week.

Here are the choices:

  • Second casual Coffee & Pearls without the write-up.
  • Instagram Stories
  • Facebook live video
  • Detailed email

I’m up for any of those things but I’d like to hear from you what you’d actually like.  Comment below or shoot me an email!

You can sign up for the Be Merry Workshop here!

Community is Important

Community is Important

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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Today I want to talk about the importance of community and how stinkin’ hard it is to get!

You’ve seen it all over the internet. Community is important. We need community. We see this all the time on Catholic blogs and in Catholic Facebook groups. And yet, as a deeply extraverted person, who is very unbusy and extra friendly… I can say… it’s really hard to find community. Real community, the deep kind that fills that longing you have deep in your soul.

Sure I’ve been to some church playgroups where the kids played games and ate snacks that I hated. The moms were super nice but we barely had time to build deep friendships above the noise and chaos of tons of little kids.

I tried starting a Little Flowers group, which also had some amazing families in it but the way it was setup, all the moms stood around while one mom led the group. The girls did some cute crafts but I bet my daughters couldn’t tell you the names of the other girls. Community is not just being in a room together.

So I understand when moms attend a few of these organized events, don’t find what they’re looking for and then decide that it’s not worth dressing the kids, trying desperately to brush their hair, coercing everyone into the car and probably blowing someone’s nap time to attend.

I also attended a fabulous Endow group, which again, had superb Catholic women. Let me say this in case you can’t tell, there is no problem with the actual people I’ve encountered in any of these groups. In fact, I’d say it’s because the people are so fabulous, I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to get to know them on a deep level.

So here’s what I think we need. We need less structure and more deep conversations. We need to talk about what we’re struggling with. We need to connect on a real level and then here’s the kicker… we need to pray for each other. I don’t’ want to see clubs dedicated to complaining. We can do that sure enough but that has more of a rambling, woe-is-me, let me spew out all my problems and let’s compete for worst husband, worst in-laws, worst kid problems, etc. feel to it.

I want real sharing but also real suggestions. I want to see spaces created where we can actually talk about what we’re grappling with and then pray for each other. Prayer is so powerful and I miss my Protestant days when I never left a room without someone praying, out loud, for what I was going through.

To that end, I’ve created a study. It’s completely free and it’s not fluffy at all. In fact, if you’re not ready to find deep friendships and be vulnerable about your stuff, this study isn’t for you. That’s okay. I don’t make things that appeal to everyone. I make things that appeal to me and I like doing deep work together with my friends, and preferably a mimosa.

Speaking of mimosas, I went to a play date the other day and since a friend had given me a bottle of champagne to celebrate the birth of Blaise (which was the coolest gift by the way and something I think I will now give moms who have just had babies), we ended up having mimosas as this play date. It was a super simple thing but it felt awesome. I felt like an adult. I felt like I was there to see my friends instead of just chasing the children. I had some real conversations with those ladies.

I’m not saying alcohol is necessary by any means, but the right atmosphere is. I think when we gather in a living room that has been expertly cleaned, hoping the kids won’t make any noise and we pull out programs that take 1-2 hours to read and discuss, things go awry and we feel like the stress wasn’t worth the often watered-down questions that appear.

This study doesn’t have watered down questions. It has tough love questions. Real life questions. It beckons you to share your struggles and own your screw ups. If you can’t admit to your friends that your Netflix problem is dragging you down, no wonder you feel lonely and as if you don’t have real community. If you can’t say that your Starbucks or Target habit is getting out of control because your marriage is really painful right now, then it’s likely you’re carrying that heavy cross on your own.

God didn’t intend for you to carry crosses on your own. Christianity is a community faith. We are to live out our faith together. And I’m a little tired of us thinking that it has to be prim and proper at a Martha Stewart like gathering.

We need a few more “grab some store-bought muffins and have a mimosa in my tidied but not clean house” type of gatherings. We need to feel comfortable seeing each other without makeup or showering. And we need to talk about real issues we’re struggling with. We need to share things that have worked for us in the past but to that means we have to admit needing help in the past.

So here’s my study. It’s called James and Avila because it uses awesome quotes from St. Teresa of Avila and verses from my favorite book of the Bible, the Book of James. This study is about detaching yourself from the world and trusting in God. It’s about getting hard on yourself about where you are sinning and finding peace in the power of prayer.

It has eight lessons so you can either do it as a four-week study two at a time or as an eight-week study. You can do it alone or, as my long ranting episode suggests, in a group. You can do it in person or you can start a private Facebook group and do it online.

At the end of each lesson, it challenges you to be brave. To reach deep inside and ask yourself some hard questions. It challenges you to speak the answers out loud and to ask for prayer.

And most of all, it’s free. Because we need more free resources to meet us where we’re at. Community shouldn’t have the high bar of perfectly cleaned houses, Pinterest snacks, quiet children, or big financial investments.

I hope you love this study and if you do, I’ll make some more, maybe with some different themes. I don’t know. I’ll see what y’all say!

5 Things to Know About Marian Consecration

5 Things to Know About Marian Consecration

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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I genuinely believe that everyone should go through Marian Consecration. To go through Marian Consecration, you make a 33-day retreat that ends on a Marian feast day. You give your whole self over to Mary and I’ll talk about what that means a little bit later. If every Catholic did this, we would start seeing the world change very quickly. I consider it part of my personal mission to get as many people to go through Marian Consecration. As such, here are the things I wish people knew about this amazing Catholic tool:

  1. Marian Consecration is NOT about worshipping Mary.

    It’s actually called Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Who knew Jesus better than Mary? No one. She is the best possible person to lead us to her son. She spent 33 years with Him and now is Queen of Heaven alongside Jesus. She has His ear, if you will, and she makes all our requests more important to Him. If you were a peasant and all you had to offer a king was fruits and vegetables from your garden, He would accept them graciously.  But, if you gave those same offerings to the queen and she put them on a solid gold platter, it would amplify your offer. That is what Mary does. She takes our meager offerings and requests and amps them up. This is a much more complex concept but that is a very simplified version of what Marian Consecration can do for your faith life. 
  2. There are two popular books out that help you go through Marian Consecration.

    You can go through a 33-day retreat using one of two books. The first is 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. This is an extremely popular, and recently published book, that is perfect for, I want to say “newbie Catholics.” This is the book I used the first time I went through this retreat and it was exactly what I needed at the time. It was simple to understand and modern enough to feel relevant to me. Fr. Gaitly leads you to Mary by using four saints (Mother Teresa, St. John Paul II, Maximillan Kolbe, and St. Louis de Montfort.

    The second book is actually by St. Louis de Montfort himself and is called True Devotion. Note: there are much nicer versions of this book but this one is only .99 on Kindle! I eventually tried this book out and loved it. It’s deep, rich, and more theologically meaty. It’s a tougher read but well worth it. I fell in love with it instantly and I will use this book from now on. I don’t think it’s “better” per say, I think they both are wonderful but they reach different audiences. This one has much more of a tough love feel to it, which is usually what I need because I’m… well, lazy and easily distracted! 
  3. You should not go through Marian Consecration until you’re absolutely ready.

    Marian Consecration is not for wussies. It will absolutely make your life harder. It also takes away your freedom to use choose how you offer up your suffering and your good works. You give that right over to Mary. We have this amazing gift that Jesus has given us. He allows us to offer up our suffering, add it to the cross, and to participate in redemptive suffering. Let’s say you have a migraine, you can offer it up for the salvation of your brother who is a fallen away Catholic. When you go through Marian Consecration, you acknowledge that Mary knows who needs that grace the most so you allow her to distribute all your good works and sufferings. This is actually a big deal and why I don’t think you should consecrate yourself until you’re ready. You’re basically saying you’re going to be a slave to whatever Mary wants and while I think that’s the best way to live, it’s also a huge adjustment. 
  4. I don’t think that children should go through Marian Consecration.

    I have seen some materials that are geared toward children going through Marian Consecration, but as I just said, it’s such a serious undertaking, I don’t think children can fully understand the vow that they are taking. We don’t let seven-year-olds become nuns and I won’t let my children make this retreat until they are old enough to understand what it means. To be honest, I’m not sure what age I think that is. I’m hoping as they get older and we talk more about this concept, that I will be able to see, or they will be able to discern when they are ready.

    I still think it’s great to talk to children about emulating Mary and her great yes to Christ and her endless humility in service to Him. Here are two books that I use to help my children understand these concepts but I don’t lead them to consecrate themselves. 

    Leading the Little Ones to Mary
    Marian Consecration for Children

  5. I believe it’s a good idea to make your 33 Day Retreat every year.

    Once you have gone through Marian Consecration, you say a consecration prayer every day. I think it’s also important to make the whole retreat every year. Each year I find some way I’m falling short of my promise, and some beautiful truth to give me hope. I make my retreat at the same time every year but you can do it whenever you want. Here are the start dates as you always want to finish on a Marian feast day. Maybe you’re in a struggling season and you need to feel close to Mary so you do your retreat at a different time each year. I think that’s a beautiful response to this calling.

Clearly, I think a great deal about Marian Consecration. As I said, it’s my mission to get as many people to do this as possible because I really do believe it’s one of the best ways we can battle the darkness in our world right now. I’ll be starting my retreat on October 19th and finishing on November 21st. You are welcome to join me and email me with any questions or comments that you have! Expect spiritual dryness and spiritual attacks. That I can promise you. But I can also promise you that there is a great lightness at the end, a warmth that wraps you up like only the love of a mother can.

Here are some other articles I’ve written on Marian Consecration!

Being a Mother is Hard! 

Striving For Sainthood: Class 12 

Every Catholic Needs a Devotion 

Universal Mortification 

Sugar, Sleep, and Sirach

Sugar, Sleep, and Sirach

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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Sugar

Okay, these are more like notes instead of a whole blog post… because… new baby… and hunting season!

Starting in October I do no candy. Then I do no desserts for November and December other than two days for Thanksgiving and two days for Christmas. Why? Because of bright lines.

Sometimes…. becomes all the time.

Be strong. Your health is not worth 30 seconds of happiness.

You know how they find cancer. They have you drink sugar water and watch where it spreads.

Sugar is cancer food.

Sugar is cancer food. Let that sink in.

This isn’t about weight loss. It’s about overall health.

I feel almost as strongly about refined white flour but it’s extremely hard to kick both things at the same time, so focus on sugar first! Get a buddy and talk about how stinkin’ hard it is!

You are a crazy person when you don’t sleep. Okay maybe no crazy, but your judgment is seriously impaired. You’re more likely to get angry, sad, and to make rash decisions that you will regret.

 

Sleep Management

Sleep deprivation is an actual form of torture for soldiers!

Digital sunset. Take melatonin. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate before bedtime.

I know, it’s rough but your sanity is important.

If you’re in a season of no sleep… first, ask yourself, is that really true? Can you still make improvements? For example, I have a newborn but I’m still an aggressive sleep trainer. Are you making it worse somehow?’

Often when we’ve had a stressful day, we do all the worst things that night thwarting our chance of a good night’s sleep. I’m talking about staying up late, drinking a glass of wine, eating chocolate ice cream and watching extra tv right before bed!

Can you turn your sleeplessness into something positive? If you’re up anyway, pray your rosary then. Talk to Jesus. Then you don’t need to do that during the day.

 

The Book of Sirach

Why do I like this book from the Bible so much? Because it’s a kick in the pants! This book talks about what true Wisdom really looks like.

The fear of the Lord rejoices the heart, giving gladness, joy, and long life. 

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.

Consider the generations long past and see: has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?

So many more good quotes. This is definitely a book that I lean on in times of stress or confusion.

Baby Steps Out of Survival Mode

Baby Steps Out of Survival Mode

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

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I survived! That’s all I keep thinking as I’m able to pick up Forest for the first time in months and able to scale the stairs without screaming. I feel like a million bucks. I’ve been thanking and praising God constantly for the last two weeks. We don’t do that enough, do we?

He answers our prayers and it’s so easy to say, “Great, thanks… now how about fixing this?” I’m trying to really rest in thanksgiving and smother Mary in kisses of prayers. I feel a deep joy inside of me when I can make my own food or drive somewhere!

I’m still struggling with walking more than a few hundred feet or putting my clothes on. My muscles are so weak that it will take time to build them back up again. But even in that, I welcome the hard work because it’s better than being in constant pain.

I did the St. Therese Novena but instead of asking for something, I just asked her to tell Jesus how deeply thankful I am for a whole list of things in my life, including not being in bed anymore! It was an interesting experience. And though I did not ask for any roses, I thought it was very interesting that we had one bloom in our front yard half-way through the novena. If you heard about goats taking over our neighborhood, these same goats ate all our rose bushes. So it was very special that one bud seemed to survive and fight to bloom this very week. I’m not sure what it means but I’m choosing to interpret it as St. Therese saying, “I see you kid, I told Jesus you’re grateful, keep up the good work!”

On that note, I’ve lined up what I want to tackle in the next few months. I’ve laid out my plans for the rest of the year so I wanted to let you know ahead of time! Barring any other crazy life surprises (and I’ve learned not to discount that possibility), this is what I’ll be working on and I’d love for you to join me!

October – 40 day Minimalism Challenge

October 19th – Start Marian Consecration. Lasts 33 days. Consecration on Nov. 21st.

November 15-17 – Free Advent and Liturgical Living Workshop online

December 27-January 2nd – Catholic Goals Course sign-up. Lasts for three months.

January 3-7 – Fit and Holy Challenge Sign-up. Lasts for three months.

I think it’s going to be an extremely fun and productive fourth quarter and I can’t wait to shape up and level up in 2019! I have some big plans that mostly include creating some stability in my everyday life.

As I gear up to tackle more things at home and to build up strength in my body again, I was hit with a feeling of analysis paralysis about where to start. I’ve been out of commission for so long that there were so many things I wanted to do but I knew I couldn’t do them all at once. So I wanted to share my tips for getting back into normal routines after living through a season of survival whether that was for weeks or years.

Step One: Write down all the things you’d like to accomplish. I mean it, lay it all out there. Fill up a whole sheet of paper or a notebook. Get all your ideas and dreams out of your mind and onto the page so you can see them.

Step Two: Start comparing two and asking, “Which one would I rather have?” For example, right now I’m struggling, as I always do, to breastfeed. I know that I can pour more energy into breastfeeding but that will leave less time for my ministry work and it will likely delay any weight loss progress for me. I’ve always struggled to lose weight while breastfeeding. So I have to ask myself, which is more important?

When you do this over and over again, you’ll start to see the really important things rise to the top. You know you can’t have it all. You also know a lot of the important things take a very long time to accomplish or, in the case of living daily habits, you will never finish working on that skill.

I try to narrow my list down to 3-6 things to focus on.

Step Three: Put a time and energy estimate by each item. Reading your Bible for five minutes each morning only takes… five minutes. Losing weight, however, usually involves a whole lot of willpower for every hour that you’re awake. They may each take up a line in your list of goals but the energy required for each of them is very different.

I’m working on a rating system to help quantify goals for this year’s course so you can actually put numbers to the things you want to work on but clearly see which ones take a lot of energy and which ones don’t.

Step Four: Put simple, daily habits on your calendar or on your phone. For the big goals that are left, decide when you’re going to work on them and put limits. Let’s say you want to improve your marriage. Well that’s never going to be completely accomplished and you can’t be working on your marriage all the time so try to compartmentalize it.

Maybe you have a notebook and in the morning you ask yourself, “How can I make my husband’s life better today?” You write down one thing and you do that one thing. Maybe you schedule weekly date night or weekly counseling. Maybe you read a book. Create some finite tasks and then be satisfied with those. Otherwise, it’s easy to wake up after a week and think, “I didn’t make any progress. We’re still not happy. This is never going to get better.” This is the same process I use for parenting and schooling too.

Step Five: Test out a week doing all the things you decided on then check in with yourself. How did it go? Was it too much? What obstacles popped up? How can you make next week better?

Always be refining because your life is always going to be changing!

In the fourth quarter of 2018, I’ll be working on:

  • Reading through Jeff Cavins’ Adventure Bible (review coming soon)
  • Drinking 64 oz of Mother’s Milk Tea and other various things to improve breastfeeding
  • Spending 10 minutes on our recumbent bike and 10 minutes doing strength building exercises
  • Teaching the girls how to clean bathrooms and vacuum
  • Doing marriage counseling once a week with my husband
  • Learning how to use my TempDrop

In two weeks, I’ll let you know how it’s going and how I’ve refined my plans so you can get a sense of how I continually update what my focus is on.

In the meantime, I leave you with this fabulous quote from St. Therese:

“You want to scale the mountain of sanctity… but God wants to meet you in the valley of humility.”

Snap. That is such a powerful quote. I think I’m going to frame it and put it next to my computer. I really want to just sit with that quote and ask myself how I can better live in the valley of humility?

A Planner Won’t Fix You

A Planner Won’t Fix You

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

It’s that time of year, we’re slowly taking our eyes off the beauty of summer and beginning to think about the impending chaos joy of fall, which for many of us means the start of the school year. Before I had school-aged kids, I always thought September marked the beginning of fall but now I see that the back-to-school craziness begins in August both for homeschoolers and traditional school parents.

And so the lies begin.

  • If I only had the right planner…
  • If I only had the right wall calendar…
  • If I only had the perfect backpack/shoe set-up by the front door…
  • Maybe the bento lunch box will help me pack healthier lunches…
  • Maybe a commonplace journal for each of the kids will encourage more reading…
  • Maybe this computer program will trick the kids into loving their math work…

Y’all know I love me some systems. I love being efficient and productive. I want my house to be like a fortune 500 company meets a peaceful monastery. But this year… I’m still me. I still have the same strengths and the same weaknesses. I’m not going to suddenly change my personality in August.

No amount of planners, highlighters, bullet-journaling, washi tape, or kitchen command center tools are going to change who I am.

But don’t worry, this is actually great news! Here’s why:

First, you’re already more awesome than you think. The fact you’re even reading this means you’re trying to grow. It means you want to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good Catholic woman. God loves you more than you’ll ever know and you have the grace of Mary inside of you. Nothing you can do can take that away from you.

Second, by simplifying your expectations, you’ll actually be a more calm and happy you. Instead of chasing ALL THE THINGS, if you can take a deep breath and focus on simply loving the Lord and caring for your family, you’ll find that a lot of the other noisiness in your life becomes less important.

Third, we crush our goals when we approach them from a place of peace instead of fear. When you accept that you don’t need to win the rat race of life/school/popularity/wealth, you can choose things that help you maintain your peace.

And yes, sometimes that means tools like planners, highlighters, and bullet journals.

See the difference? If you think a planner is going to magically transform your life and bring you peace, you’re going to be disappointed when it doesn’t. Worse, you’ll probably feel guilt or shame thinking that something is wrong with you because it didn’t work when you were so sure it would. You must be broken since the planner was great, right?

This year I want you to sit down and say to yourself, “I’m enough. I’m strong. I’m brave. I have so much love to give. I am a good mom. I am a good wife. God loves me just the way I am. There is nothing I can do to earn His mercy and it’s always there for me.”

Recently a Catholic blogger who was young and had X children died of cancer. Another women in one of my Facebook groups delivered her baby at 31 weeks and sadly the baby died a few days later.

We are not long for this world.

Many of the things we worry about are completely useless. This year I want you to continually ask yourself, “Do I need to be doing this? Does my family need to be doing this? Who am I really doing this for?”

If you can get a planner that helps you ask this question, do it. If you can create a kitchen command center that centers your focus on Jesus, do it. If holding a beautiful blue highlighter reminds you to live with humility like Mary, get one. Just remember that these are just tools. They do not make up who you are.

I have a confession to make. I have never successfully filled out a planner for twelve months… ever. I always start out with the best of intentions but I never seem to maintain the practice. I have finally embraced the glory of the Google calendar, especially as life has gotten busier and I keep a tiny spiral notebook with me to write down all my to-do lists and ideas… oh I have so many ideas!

To that end, I don’t spend a lot of time touting planners and truthfully, there have been very few that have even piqued my interest a little bit.

But when Nancy of Do Small Things with Love posted a picture of her new planner, I thought wow, a Catholic planner that looks…. simple. And who doesn’t love some gold foil? I moved on, reminding myself that I don’t really use planners.

Then a few days later, she posted pictures of the inside. Again, I was surprised at how simple and elegant it was. It wasn’t fussy and yet it included some features that I think are really important like monthly goals and weekly habit tracking. I thought to myself, “I bet Coffee & Pearls people and Catholics Crush Goals people would like that.” so I posted it on Facebook and tons of you liked it!

Then… as if reading my mind, Nancy said, “Hey do you want to check this out? I’ll mail you one.” This made sense to me since most people who listen to my podcast also listen to hers. I said yes and figured I’d snap some pictures, share how awesome it was, and then give it to a friend.

It showed up two days later so I’m convinced Nancy has some Catholic fairies working behind the scenes at her business… and when I opened it I fell in love. Like… I really really love it. It’s as if she sent those fairies to spy on me and created a planner that does nearly everything I want.

  1. No scripty fonts. Lord, deliver me from scripty fonts that I can’t read. Bless you Nancy for your san-serif fonts that are easy to read.
  2. Every month leads you to Jesus through Mary. This is a woman who knows the power of Marian Consecration and how to actually live it out in daily life.
  3. Major feast days are listed on the side. I just love this. I often miss them when they’re small and inside the calendar but a simple vertical list with dates is brilliant.
  4. She’s always calling you to live intentionally. With goals for each month, a weekly meal plan section, and a weekly habit tracker, she’s inviting you to really live IN your week.
  5. NO TIMES! I mean… I just never thought I’d find a planner with this feature. Thank you, thank you, thank you Nancy. I have never needed all times spelled out for me from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. I want to put in the appointments I have and I can easily list the times. I love the simplicity of this feature and it allows the week view to be uncluttered. Nancy is a true minimalist.
  6. The size is just perfect. I have often found that most planners were too big or too small but this ones seems just right for carrying around.

So now a plot twist I didn’t see coming… I’m going to keep it and use it! I may still crash and burn after three months because hey, I’m still me. But this simplicity of this planner already brings me joy and points me to Christ and in the end, those are my favorite tools and the ones that I continue to use.

If you’re already thinking about diving into the noisiness of school routines and ALL THE SUPPLIES, take a deep breath. Remember that you are not the success of your kids. You are not the shininess of organization system. You are not loved anymore for being more organized. Your job is to pursue peace because deep down, you know that Christ died for your sins and God loves you more than your brain could ever comprehend.

That is your beauty. That is your truth.

Cling to that and don’t let the impending ads, sales, and school paperwork steal that from you.

And if you still need a planner… go check out Nancy’s here!

Praying For You If You’re Having One of these Three Types of Summers

Praying For You If You’re Having One of these Three Types of Summers

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

Summer can be a magical time of weddings, vacations, learning to swim, delighting in ice cream, and enjoying the world God has created for us. But for some of us, Summer isn’t as sparkly and fun as we think it ought to be. Here are three types of summers I’ve had that were less than pleasant.

  1. Summer of Littles
    When you have kids who are younger than four, Summer can be a time filled with crying, skinned knees, ungrateful whining, and cranky attitudes due to overstimulation. When you thought you were doing all the right things to create a magical summer, it backfires leaving you feel like a failure while nothing seems good enough for the kids or works out the way you thought.
  2. Overbooked Summer
    Whether you overbooked your own summer with vacations, swimming lessons, vacation bible school, and planned picnics or if a busy summer was thrust upon you by weddings, family expectations, and things “you’ve always done” and overbooked summer can be awful. It can feel like you’re drowning. If you don’t have any time to yourself, the joy gets sucked from these activities as you slowly lose your sanity.
  3. A Simple Summer (Feeling bad about doing so little)
    This is the summer I’m currently having. There will be no park play dates, no popsicles, no vacations and no swimming lessons. I’m on bed rest and we’re simply making it through. It can be so tempting to look at social media and think that everyone is having more fun than me but I know that’s not true. I also know that my kids are happy with their simple summer. They feel loved and safe and we’re all doing okay!
My Conversion Story Part Two

My Conversion Story Part Two

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

I will take the time to type up this episode after this baby comes out! In the meantime, you can listen to this episode to learn how I went from a Protestant to a Catholic. It was a process that took more than two years.

And for those of you with Protestants in your life, here are five ways you can lead them to Catholicism. 

  1. Know their personality type
  2. Invite them to Catholic events instead of Mass
  3. Try to introduce them to a Catholic who has a similar lifestyle
  4. Do they like books, videos, podcasts, online articles etc. Give them what they like.
  5. Pray for them and give them space.
My Conversion Story Part One

My Conversion Story Part One

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

I will come back and type this up after I’m done being pregnant! This is the story of how I went from being a liberal, Seattle-based, agnostic to loving Jesus with my whole heart. 

Here are five ways you can help lead people to Christ!

  1. Invite them over for a meal.
  2. Live a life of contentment
  3. Ask thoughtful questions but don’t press for answers
  4. Pray and give people space
  5. Encourage them to grown in non-religious ways
What Being A Submissive Wife Looks Like In My Marriage

What Being A Submissive Wife Looks Like In My Marriage

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

***As always, being submissive to an abusive husband is never okay. Seek help. I’m not talking about putting up with bad behavior from an addict or a husband that makes you feel unsafe in any way.

As I have mentioned before, one of the things that brought me to Christianity was seeing a strong, healthy marriage. In this marriage, I saw what it looked like for a husband to be strong and a wife to be submissive to him and how that actually played out on a day-to-day basis. It certainly wasn’t at all what my liberal, college-brand of feminism had given me to believe. It was soft and sweet… and it seemed effective.

I won’t dive too much into their marriage but instead, I’ll use my own as an example of how being a submissive wife can play out in the 21st century.

We talk about stuff all. the. time. Seriously.

Coming from divorced families, we had no idea what we were doing so we had to try things out, talk about it, and adjust if necessary. Many times in our marriage, we have redrawn the lines for what we are each in charge of depending on the season of life we are in. I have always been in charge of budgeting and paying the bills. My husband has always been in charge of phone calls that might involve conflict (i.e. switching phone providers or challenging a bill that is wrong.)

We have switched off who is in charge of meals, laundry, landscaping, etc. My husband has usually been the one who puts the kids down to bed at night and I am usually the one who takes care of the dog and any mess she makes.

When we enter into a season when our lifestyle is different, we quickly go over the main responsibilities to see if we should shuffle them around. Lots of talking!

We discern big decisions together, then separately, then together again.

When it comes time to make a big decision like moving out of state, or buying a house, or quitting a job, we talk about it together first. Then we each take it to prayer and usually to Adoration. Then we come back and go through a pro/con list and then discuss any Holy Spirit moments we might have had in our discernment process.

If we’re confused, we seek out advice.

If one of us feels that the other person is wrong or isn’t listening or perhaps just not understanding what the other person is trying to say, we bring in outside counsel. This could be a friend, a priest, a spiritual advisor, a therapist or even a book. We try to find someone who is not emotionally attached to help us see things more clearly.

This can be a tricky step. You certainly can’t say, “You’re wrong, I know it, go talk to a priest!” That probably won’t go over well. I generally affirm my husband’s differing opinion, “I see where you’re coming from.” Then I say, “I’m not sure which is the best decision for us, maybe we should ask someone else.”

We trust each other. Marriage is like a mirror.

When you are married, your spouse will eventually see all of you. I mean that physically, emotionally, and to a large extent mentally. They will see your addictions, your excuses, your weaknesses, all most of the ugly stuff you hide from friends and family. This is actually a beautiful part of marriage. When we let down our guard and show them the real us, their job is to love us through that and stick around. That is one of the reasons the marriage relationship is so deep and personal.

You can abuse this by throwing all that stuff back in your spouse’s face, or you can use it to help build each other up. You say I love you even though you struggle with X. How can I help you overcome that?

My husband was great when I had postpartum depression after our second was born. He saw very clearly that I wasn’t myself. I had lot of excuses… who wouldn’t be stressed if they were sleep deprived and struggling with breastfeeding. But he pushed harder and said, “No, something is wrong. You need to go see someone.” I was so thankful that he did that, as uncomfortable as it made me feel, because I really did need some help.

Part of our trust though, is knowing when to challenge each other’s behavior. This year my husband is running our family business, basically single-parenting our kids, and trying to take care of his pregnant wife on bed rest. I’ve noticed that he’s been drinking more alcohol than he normally does. This has never been a problem and I wouldn’t even consider it a problem now, I’ve just noticed it’s increased. But when I step back and think about what he’s going through, it makes perfect sense to me that at the end of the day, he just wants to sit down and have  beer. Sure, I could get on him about that right now but it’s not excessive and I’m pretty confident, when life gets back to normal, that will go away again. You have to pick your moments and you both have to trust each other that when you do finally say something, it’s because you think it’s really important.

When we’ve been through all that… if we still don’t agree, I side with him.

This has only happened one time in our eight years of marriage. Only one time did we talk about it, pray about it, seek counsel, and then STILL not agree. And ladies, it was hard on me! It was really hard because I felt like I was right and he was just plain wrong. It was the first time I had to really challenge myself on this whole submissive wife thing in a really big way.

[I break down the specifics of this in the corresponding Coffee & Pearls episode]

Time will tell whether that was a big mistake or not but I have to trust my husband and trust God that the marriage unit works better this way. I can’t imagine that if I really didn’t listen to my husband and undermined him in this situation, how that would hurt our trust going forward. I’m Catholic because I believe it’s the truth. I’m submissive to my husband because I believe that’s what we are called to in Catholic marriage.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have had to be submissive to your husband in a situation you didn’t understand at first, but got clarity on year later! I think that would be helpful for young wives to hear!

Chronic Pain and Why I Look Okay When You See Me

Chronic Pain and Why I Look Okay When You See Me

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

The last two years have been rough. I had a horribly painful pregnancy in 2017 followed by another surprise pregnancy four months postpartum. All my symptoms came back earlier and were worse the second time around.My pelvis keeps shifting out of place making it incredibly painful for me to walk up stairs, sit down/stand up, pick up anything, hold my baby, get in and out of bed and sit on any hard surface. I also have a hard time walking long distances like… a trip through the grocery store.

I find myself in the homestretch with a little over 90 days to go until this new baby joins us. I’m basically in bed most of the time to avoid the pain of doing… anything else. Now don’t worry too much about me! I have an incredible support system.My husband works from home and my mom lives with me so I have a lot of help with the kids.  I see why God gave me this cross because He knew I could handle it. But it doesn’t change the mental anguish I feel every single day.

I wanted to explain why I look okay when you see me, hoping to give some insight into people who suffer a great deal of chronic physical pain. I realize my pain is temporary and will go away when this baby comes out but many people suffer from pain that they will deal with for the rest of their lives.

Here are five things I wish people understood:

Experiencing pain, even low-level pain, all day long is mentally draining.

Have you ever had a sunburn or a bad bruise from a fall? Maybe you’ve done a really difficult workout and your body is sore the next day. These pains are not severe but they fire all throughout the day. They’re always there in the background. Feeling pain, even small pain, all day long can make a person irritable. You may not even realize it but it zaps your energy and steals some of your ability to be cheery. It’s like a nagging fly that keeps swirling around your head. It’s not a big deal and it’s not going to kill you but it often keeps you in a bad mood. That’s what my pain is like. It’s like holding out a glass of water. Sure, the glass of water isn’t heavy but if you have to hold it for 18 hours, it really starts to wear you down.

I don’t want to complain about my life all the time, so I often brush it off as if it’s not as bad as it is.

I’m lonely! I’m basically in my room all day waiting desperately for my kids or my husband to come visit me and tell me about… anything! So if by chance I get to see someone from the outside world, the last thing I want to do is heap loads of self-pity and a bad attitude on them so they don’t want to see me again! Everyone asks me how I’m doing and when I say, “I’m fine” or “I’m doing okay” it’s not that I’m lying. I am fine. I’m surviving. I’m living through this and I will live through this. It doesn’t help me to open up my box of dark thoughts and spew them on my visitor. And you all know, I’m all about transparency but sometimes, transparency robs you of the thing you really want which is someone to come visit you! I’ll be dealing with this for months so I don’t need to delve into how hard it is every time I get to see someone!

I am really tough! But even my toughness doesn’t seem to last 18 hours per day.

I’m pretty good at being productive and psyching myself up to get something done. But even on my best days, this lasts for about four hours. It’s extremely hard to read, write, and pray for 18 hours per day. I find myself staring down what feels like an endless amount of time trying to figure out what to do with myself. And the truth is, everything I can think of to do, I did five times the day before. It feels like my own form of purgatory on Earth. I offer it up to the Lord constantly hoping it really does matter to Him. Last year, as I was in bed, I kept telling myself, “Sterling you’re tough. It’s just three months and then you can be a mom to your kids again!” This time, when I say the same words, they feel a bit weak and empty. I just went through this and it’s disheartening to go through it again so quickly. And part of me wonders how many more times I’ll have to go through this in the future.

There are many days I wake up and don’t want to live through the day.

In no way am I suicidal. I’ve never thought about taking my own life. But man, I do wake up sometimes thinking, “I really don’t want to live through this day.” It feels overwhelmingly painful to have to crawl through the minutes knowing exactly what the day is going to be like. If I could transport myself to three months from now, I would, even knowing I’d miss some lovely family moments. It’s a dark place to be in when you don’t want to enjoy the day that God has planned for you but I think these feelings are really normal for people who live with chronic pain.

You can swallow your pain for the length of a social visit.

I imagine a lot of people who see me either at church or who visit my home think I don’t look that bad. Well the truth is, I hide how bad it is when you’re there. When I get up and a sharp pain shoots in my back, I swallow my yelp. If you notice, I didn’t get up to offer you water because it really would have been so painful for me to get up to get it for you. If you look closely, you’ll notice my floors haven’t been swept in a while because the motion of moving a broom is really difficult for me.

I will gladly sit with you in an uncomfortable chair for two hours knowing that my body will be stiff and sore for the rest of the day because I’m craving some sort of human interaction. You’ve done the same thing. Anytime you’ve had a bad headache but had to go to a social function. You just smile through it and keep chatting with your friends. It’s not that you’re lying. It’s that you know no one can change your headache and it doesn’t help to sit and sulk about it. And maybe, just maybe, the headache doesn’t hurt as much when you’re laughing with one of your friends.

If I’m feeling especially bad, either physically or emotionally, I will say no to a visit because I literally won’t have the strength to keep from yelping in pain or bursting into tears. So I understand why people may see me and think I don’t look that bad and maybe I’m fine. It doesn’t bother me that people think that. My husband knows what I’m going through and God certainly knows how hard I’m fighting.

***********************

If you know someone in pain, either from pregnancy, an accident, cancer, or a lifelong chronic disease that they are dealing with, here are some things I think they’d like:

  1. Go visit with them. Pop in for thirty minutes and just say hi. They’d probably love to see you! And don’t feel bad if they say no. Maybe they can’t put on anything other than a nightgown today and they’re not up for it. Try again another day.
  2. Send an email. If you can’t commit for a visit or you live far away. Type up a quick email sharing some details of your life. People who are isolated would LOVE to hear what you’re up to!
  3. Bring them a coffee. Most everyone loves a latte or a mocha. Just drop a coffee off and I bet it would brighten their day!
  4. Bring them a rose or some flowers. My husband brought me a single rose the other day and put it next to my bed. It was such a small and simple thing but it brought some of the beauty of the world to me and it lasted a whole week! You don’t need a $40 bouquet for it to be meaningful.
  5. If you ask how they are doing and they say, “I’m fine,” let it be. Of course they’re not fine but they may not want to talk about it right then. It has nothing to do with you. They probably spend hours feeling bad about their situation and feeling depressed. When they finally get to see someone else, they probably don’t want to open up all those feelings and instead want to focus on the good things!

Thank you everyone for all your prayers. I certainly don’t need presents but if you feel like writing me a letter or sending me a prayer card, those are always nice and since I’m always reading at least five books, I use them for bookmarks! My address is at the bottom of all the emails I send out!

Energy Management

Energy Management

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

Energy management comes before time management. Pay attention to what you eat, moving your body, and getting enough sleep!

Focus on energy waves.  Try to be REALLY ON for about 50-90 minutes. Recover. 10-20 minutes.  4.5 hours work day. Live between apathy and burnout.  Be on, then recover. Pray, walk, hang out with loved ones, deep recovery.

7-8:30 Breakfast, chores, reading aloud

8:30-9 Break – Shower, Read

9-10:30 Homeschool, Workout, House project

10:30-11 Break – Pray, Sit in Silence

11-12:30 Lunch, Project, Art, Outside

What Writing a Book for Single Women Taught Me About Marriage

What Writing a Book for Single Women Taught Me About Marriage

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

When I first had the idea to write a book for single Catholic women, hoping to inspire them with stories of how ordinary women met their husbands, I was a little worried that it would make me sad. I wondered if reading all these sweet moments about dating would make me miss those electric feelings in my own marriage. I was surprised though, that I didn’t feel that way at all.

I saw God’s thumbprint in every story and the beautiful way he orchestrated two people to find each other in this messy and loud world that we live in. It also helped that almost every single person ended their story with some version of “marriage takes a lot of work.” No one was pretending that the darling stories of dating precisely mirrors what happens in the decades after.

What I did discover though, was that there are many struggles we share with our single sisters. Here are the five that stood out to me:

  1. We are trying to discern God’s will for our lives.
  2. We must learn how to continue living even if we are suffering.
  3. We must learn how to have hope even when we cannot see any goodness in the future.
  4. Television, movies, advertisements, and social media are seriously skewing our idea of reality.
  5. It is extremely difficult to be called to a vocation but not be able to carry it out… yet.

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness.”

– St. Charles Borromeo

Interview with Sarah Mackenzie

Interview with Sarah Mackenzie

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Mackenzie about her new book Read Aloud Family. We laughed and she gave me some great tips for how to get more reading in with my kiddos!

Here are the resources I said I’d link:

Sarah’s article about loops!

Sarah’s advice about handling preschool ages the second time around!

Sarah’s first book Teaching From Rest.

Audible deals on www.readaloudrevival.com

I hope you enjoy this interview! Let me know what your favorite take-away was from her book.

When the Rules Need to Change

When the Rules Need to Change

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

The weather has shifted and all of a sudden all these questions are coming up.

  • Who can play in the backyard alone?
  • Where do we put the chalk?
  • Can we drink water in the backyard?
  • Can I ride bikes with the neighbors?
  • When do we clean up the helmets?

And of course, these questions never come at a good time. They always come when I’m trying to do something else, when I’m exhausted, when I’m trying to make dinner, etc. I find myself frustrated by the interruption then even more frustrated when I don’t know the answer. I’m the mom, shouldn’t I know the rules! And of course, sometimes I need to talk to my husband to find out if he’s made any rules about the situation that has come up so we look like a united team.

I found myself feeling especially grumpy this week with questions, especially if I have to go up and down the stairs extra times to take care of these issues. Then I realized, the rules weren’t clear. They weren’t clear to me and they weren’t clear to the kids.

I took a deep breath and sat down and made a list of the recent situations. Then I wrote down what I thought the rules should be. I ran them by my husband who had some good input and we changed them slightly.

Now the important part. I sat down the kids and I told them the rules and made them repeat it back to me. I asked questions to make sure it was clear. “Where can you ride your bike? Where is too far? When do you need to come ask me permission?” If they were confused, we clarified.

Don’t be frustrated by this process. Get better at recognizing when it needs to happen. We have to create/change rules when the seasons change, when mom is pregnant, when a baby starts crawling, etc. It’s not unfair for the rules to change as long as you communicate that change clearly to everyone in the family.

I was watching a Matthew Kelly video of one of his business talks at a conference and he said something so interesting. He said we think people don’t like change but people actually love change. He said people hate transition and they don’t always realize that’s what’s happening. I realized that I was in transition of seasons and that it was uncomfortable. Once we laid the new rules and made the change to Spring/Summer rules, I’d be very happy with our new changes!

Ask yourself why you are feeling frustrated this week? Are you in a transition of some sort? Can you speed up the transition? If not, keep repeating to yourself that you are in a state of transition and that is naturally uncomfortable. Once the transition is over, you will enjoy the change. Sometimes all we need to do is shift the way we perceive our current situation and that makes us feel so much more calm and at peace.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19

Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions – which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.

–Saint Teresa

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