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!

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

Good Enough is Good Enough Book Review

Good Enough is Good Enough Book Review

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

I agreed to review this book, which I’ll mention below, a while ago without knowing that I would be thrown into an emotional darkness that has lasted through Lent and continues on into the Easter season. Things have been quiet on the Coffee & Pearls front. Honestly, I struggle with how much to share my negative attitude and petulant pouting, not because I don’t want to be transparent, but I certainly don’t want to be an online complainer.

This pregnancy sucks. It took all the ideas I had about who I was, what I’m capable of, my ideals of motherhood and marriage, and it ripped them out of my hands.

I didn’t feel like reading a book titled Good Enough is Good Enough. I’m tired of my own excuses and my lack of showing up. I certainly didn’t want a pat on the back for mediocrity or letting things slide.

But God knows what I need. He put a book in my lap and a deadline to jolt me out of my haze of wallowing.

I loaded up the book on my Kindle and thought, “Thank goodness. I can read this in a little over an hour.”

I will now take a moment to thank modern publishers for making self-help books shorter. They used to be three times a long. These shorter books don’t have less wisdom, the authors are simply freed of having to say the same thing in ten different ways to make the book look meatier.

In the hour and a half it took me to read Good Enough is Good Enough by Colleen Duggan, I felt both lectured to and loved, surprisingly not by Colleen herself but by the Holy Spirit through her words. This was just what I needed. Colleen’s wisdom and life stories were a joy to read. I particularly liked the saint quotes she peppered throughout the book.

This is a book that says what I’ve felt strongly is the problem with American parenting lately, we care too much about things that don’t matter and we don’t care enough about the things that do.

She runs through the major aspects of motherhood, parenting itself, marriage, watching your kids suffer, and comparing yourself to other parents. I appreciate that she doesn’t have “cute” problems I read so often that feel like pandering. She shares real, deep, raw, and very relatable problems. I appreciate her honesty which feels genuine without sounding like a list of complaints about how difficult modern day parenting is.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

While I never would have described myself as selfish before I had kids, I couldn’t deny that fact after.

I filled most of my days with silent commentary on my parenting performance and rarely, if ever, did I make the grade.

I needed to abandon the frantic, worried, compulsive sermons I was inclined to issue in prayer in favor of more gentle requests to God about what it was he wanted from and for me.

The holier we are, the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don’t solve anything, judging.

We wanted to allow our kids the freedom to tell us if they hated going to Church so we could actually engage them in conversation rather than have them sit docile and obedient in our pew for eighteen years and then discard their faith in college.

My kids are not a sacrament, but my marriage is.

We have a choice: we can waste time complaining about it, comparing our difficulties with those of others, and forcing solutions that don’t work, or we can pull up our sleeves and devote ourselves to the work required of sanctity.

Learning to submit is a slow, humbling process though. It takes time and practice and effort – a lifetime of tweaking.

As I began writing this review, my 4.5 and 2.5 year old daughters are downstairs singing the Litany of the Saints. This was clearly a gift of God saying, “Buck up kid, you’re doing okay.” It reminds me that even when I’m stuck in bed for hours and days on end, when we don’t have enough money for piano lessons or matching Easter dresses, when my bathrooms are messy and I haven’t read books to them in three days, I’m still doing okay. I continue to expose them to the truth, beauty, and goodness of God and they’re soaking it up.

Colleen’s will both make you feel like you’re doing good enough but also inspire you to work harder on the things that matter.

This book is long enough to feel meaningful but short enough you could give it to a friend without making her feel like there’s no chance she’ll actually read it. The questions at the end of each chapter are interesting and thought-provoking. I can see a group of moms easily using this as a study.

I feel confused that God has given me, not only a surprise Irish twins pregnancy but also one that has already crippled my body forcing me to take a back seat as my husband pretty much single parents our kids. While his stress level increases as he juggles everything, our sex life is deteriorating even more than usual and so he is left without any outlet for that frustration either. My hands are tied and I can’t make food for the kids like I want to or take them to the park on these first nice Spring days. God seems to be asking my husband and me to surrender our ideas of how great we are and to simply accept that we’re not. We are nothing without Him.

The feeling of hope still feels a big out of my grasp at the moment but Colleen’s book helps me to feel peace in the midst of this pain. I’m going to be okay. The kids are going to be okay. My marriage is going to be okay. And even if okay involves a whole lot of suffering, I take comfort in knowing that suffering is what saints are made of and after all, that is my deepest desire for my life.

You can get this book for 20% off through the Ave Maria press website using the code COLLEEN. You can also get it on Amazon HERE.

The Holy Souls in Purgatory

The Holy Souls in Purgatory

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

I’ve been a in a big purgatory place since Advent. As a former Protestant, I didn’t know a lot about purgatory. Then once I knew about it, I kind of left it in the background. Then when I was going through a Faustina phase, I stumbled upon Susan Tassone’s book St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners. This was a perfect little book for me because most of my family is not religious and it gave me a tangible and focused way to pray for them!

Then once I discovered Susan as an author, I looked at her other books. She had tons of books on the topic of purgatory. The first one I started with was Praying With The Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I loved this book. It really helped me understand more about purgatory but also the great joy that can come from praying for the holy souls there.

You see, they cannot do anything to get themselves to Heaven. They are trapped in a sense depending on the mercy of the Lord and depending on our prayers. When we pray for them, it can actually lessen their time in purgatory or even release them to Heaven. What joy we could give!

There’s something really satisfying about praying and imagining the great work it is accomplishing. And that is not a new concept to me. I have always offered my prayers and sufferings to Mary to do with as she pleased and that is still true for everything I do since I”m consecrated to Jesus through Mary but I have a simple mind and it helps me to imagine something straightforward like saying a special purgatory prayer and bringing joy to one person.

The most souls are released on Christmas Day and the second most souls are released on Easter Day. So please please please pray for these holy souls during Lent and pray especially for them on Easter Day. I also imagine there are a great deal of souls released on Divine Mercy Sunday when Jesus opens his heart in a special way to hear our appeals for his mercy!

One of the most powerful things we can do for the holy souls in purgatory is to have a Mass said for them. You can call your church office and find out what the suggested donation is to have a Mass said for someone. If you belong to a large church and the Mass intentions book fills up quickly, find a rural church and make a donation to them. It’s a wonderful win all the way around. The church prays for these holy souls and you can help a smaller church get some much needed funding.

If you visit www.spiritualtreasury.com you can have a Mass said by one of the Servants of Charity.

I was going to type up some purgatory prayers but The Catholic Company already did a wonderful job so you can read about those options here: https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/20-ways-to-pray-for-the-holy-souls-in-purgatory/

I encourage you to go and learn more about purgatory. I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned with my children. After all, if Our Lady of Fatima felt comfortable showing a vision of hell to young Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, I believe our children can handle hearing about purgatory, which really is another extension of God’s mercy. We have now been praying for them every day and we say a prayer for them when we pass a cemetery.

A good place to start is to Google, “saints and purgatory.” I found that the stories of the saints who had mystical experiences with souls in purgatory were the most interesting and compelling to me. These stories helped me understand, not only the great need the holy souls have for our prayers, but also the great effectiveness of our prayers, which has been giving me comfort.

Here is a link to Susan’s books http://amzn.to/2HFustH. She’s known in the Catholic world as The Purgatory Lady! I’m very impressed with her ministry and the clarity of her mission. She doesn’t use social media so we have to spread the word for her! You can read more about her at www.susantassone.com.

I’m praying for you mamas. It’s hard to be a mom these days and hard to be a Catholic. Let us offer up these battles we’re fighting and the suffering we experience every day for the holy souls in purgatory. Let us feel that our small, unseen efforts are helping those who cannot help themselves!

God bless!

What Kind of Lent Are You Having?

What Kind of Lent Are You Having?

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

I’ve been Catholic for almost 8 years now and so I’ve been through a few Lenten seasons. I’ve noticed that there are a few different flavors of Lent that I have experience. No doubt there are even more but I wanted to share a few with you in case you were experiencing one of these.

Exactly What I Planned Lent

Well this can be a lovely experience. I like controlling things so I enjoy when something has the precise outcome that I imagined. It can be deeply satisfying. This type of Lent is where you outline the things you’re going to give up, you schedule your prayers, your Stations of the Cross visits, and your almsgiving and it all goes according to plan. I’ve had this Lent before. Though I no doubt made the mistake of attributing it to my own wonderful planning and self-discipline, sometimes God does allow us to have this kind of Lent. Perhaps he knows that this is what you need to feel close to him or to feel strong in your faith at the moment. Don’t questions a lovely Lent. Just enjoy it and feel close to Jesus!

I Failed on Day One and Never Recovered

There is a much more humbling kind of Lent, the one where you blow it. Every year I see blogging stories of women who feel brave enough to share how much they have failed at Lent. I appreciate these stories because we’ve all likely had a Lent like this. We have high hopes but through stress, laziness, immaturity, lack of paying attention, or general life craziness, we don’t do the very thing we promised we would do. As frustrating as it is to have a Lent like this, and oh how I have had a Lent like this, I do appreciate the times that God knocks me down a few pegs. Hey kiddo, you’re still fallen, you’re still made of the flesh and left to your own devices, you’re going to screw it up. Noted Lord! This Lent also leads you straight into the arms of Jesus because you come to realize you’re nothing without Him.

God Chose a Completely Different Suffering For Me

This is usually an extremely painful Lent. You set out to have a contemplative, look how strong I can be at giving up X kind of Lent, and instead God hits you with a 2x4 and says NOPE, we’re doing it this way. I’m talking flooding in your house, kids who break bones, neverending flu with things coming out both ends of your family, a lost job, a family member who passed away, and anything that crops up unexpectedly and steals your sweet serene Lent replacing it with a chaotic, emotional, painful Lent instead. This type of Lent is hard mama, I’ve been there. You should immediately have mercy on yourself and adjust your expectations. It’s likely that you should give up the cross you intended to carry and to pick up the one the Lord has given you instead. Give him thanks because he has given you a special view into his own suffering. Contemplate the pain he went through and feel wrapped in love that he will give you the grace to get through your own pain as well.

The Sick/Pregnant/Disabled Body Kind of Lent

This Lent is a little bit like the last one but instead of a major event that comes crashing down on you, this is more like a slow burn that stays with you through the whole desert. You want to do more but you’re sick, pregnant, or can’t control your body in some way. You feel trapped. You think you ought to be out there DOING SOMETHING and so you feel like you’re wasting time. You may feel guilt, shame, or frustration. You think you’re taking the easy way out by just existing instead of attempting heroic, or even small attempts at volunteering. Set down your fish fry expectations mama. This is right where God wants you. He’s put you in the waiting to teach you the pain of that space. Imagine how God waits anxiously for each soul to turn to Him? I’m not sure we can describe God as having anxiety but there is a deep longing that he has and it causes him pain to be away from us. Don’t allow this time to keep you away from him. Bury your head in his chest and tell him that this is all you can give and ask for his mercy that it’s enough for him. I’ll tell you a secret… it is enough.

No matter what kind of Lent you’re having, you’re human and you’re broken so it can be easy to use this time to focus on ourselves instead of the Lord. Don’t fall for this temptation. Throw your arms open and hug the Lord with your whole heart. It doesn’t matter how “good” you’re doing, He wants your love. He wants to feel close to you. Don’t lose sight of that as a goal.

What other kinds of Lent have you experienced? Share your story in solidarity with other Catholic moms!

Overcoming Addiction, Accidentally

Overcoming Addiction, Accidentally

 

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

 

I think one of the biggest challenges for Americans these days is that we’re actively addicted to things that we don’t realize we’re addicted to. Our lives are largely without war or hard manual labor. We don’t even have to cook anymore if we don’t want to. Gone are the everyday struggles of the early 1,900’s and they’ve been replaced with a silent and invisible war: the one inside our mind.

We are so bored out of our mind, yes, even those of us who feel busy all the time, that we are coping with Netflix, shopping, Starbucks, and social media. We’re deeply unsatisfied and we’re avoiding this pain by engaging in a lot of numbing activities.

Last week I posted an article about the jokes we often make about drinking to survive parenting. My friend Ashley made a thoughtful comment that it was, in fact, just a joke and we should be able to joke about the struggles of parenting without feeling condemned to live out the brokenness that the joke suggests. She’s absolutely right. I make jokes about things all the time and jokes don’t force you to give in to bad behavior.

But it still bothers me, all the memes that suggest we can’t be nice moms without coffee or we just “can’t help ourselves” when we go to Target and we end up spending a few hundred dollars we didn’t mean to. Somewhere in the jokes, we’ve laid a foundation that we’re not responsible for being… responsible.

The truth is that my friend Ashley is an incredibly grounded person. She reads more than anyone I know. She has a high sense of self-awareness. If she buys something she doesn’t need, and I’m not sure she even does that, she’d cop to immediately for what it was. She wouldn’t laugh and say, “Oh, I just couldn’t help it.” The jokes aren’t dangerous for her.

My concern is that the more we scroll through our phones and see these jokes about wine, coffee, and shopping, the more we normalize this behavior. I suspect there are moms out there who have grabbed onto these isms and use it to feel good about their bad spending or drinking habits. We do the same thing about binge watching Netflix. We’ve made a joke about it and it’s starting to feel more and more okay.

Last year a friend of mine, after having four boys, had a girl. She saw this adorable tulle skirt in the store and posted a picture of it saying how tempted she was to buy it now that she finally had a sweet girl at home. Her family had gone through a series of life-threatening medical issues and her husband was not able to work. I was shocked by the number of people who commented on this picture and said, “Get it anyway.”  “You deserve it.”  “She’s only little once!”

Now my friend is a responsible adult with a budget so she didn’t buy this overpriced skirt that her daughter would no doubt only wear for six months. But I could not believe how many people were cheering her on to buy it anyway despite knowing their precarious financial position. This was not a meme and they weren’t joking.

We are about to head into Lent and if you’ve done a good job of praying and asking yourself what you should really give up to grow closer to Jesus, you might have accidentally decided to give up an actual addiction that you have. The problem with giving up an addiction that we don’t call an addiction is that we’re not prepared for the withdrawals.

After a week, we start to experience a lot of bad side effects from giving up this thing that we have become so accustomed to having. And though your symptoms won’t be as bad as giving up heroin or prescription drugs, you will likely pass through the same difficult stages.

If you’re not prepared for this, it’s likely that you will give in and participate in your addictive behavior. I am firmly in the camp that we ought to give up things for the entire season of Lent and not just Monday-Saturday. If you’re only giving something up for six days out of the week, I will strongly suggest that it is not painful enough for you to walk with Christ in the desert and grow closer to Him. Sundays should not be a FREE day for you to eat the chocolate or watch television or check your Facebook account.

Here’s what’s important about giving up an addiction. The first steps should always be awareness of how hard it’s going to be to give it up and a solid vision of the positive things you get instead. If you’re watching less Netflix, you can spend more time reading or with your family.

So if you’re sure you’re going to give up something you’re addicted to for Lent or if you get a week in and realize you’re much more attached to this thing than you realized, here are some resources I want you to check out that will help you make a solid plan. I absolutely think this work is well worth your time!

https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-an-Addiction

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/overcoming-drug-addiction.htm

https://www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/washington-treatment-information/5-stages-addiction-recovery/

I am not addicted to drinking wine, coffee, or shopping. For some reason, those things are not weaknesses for me so it’s easy for me to talk about them. I am, however, definitely addicted to refined sugar, regency romance novels, and I go in an out of phases of being addicted to Netflix. I tend to kick it for a long time, then I get pregnant and sick and I find myself hooked once again.

I think it’s important for us to use the same words we use for drug addiction for these household addictions that we have. They are incredibly powerful. They have real power over us. They keep us from loving Jesus as we ought to. It’s important that we name them and fight them.

I love you. I mean it. If I were standing in front of you in your kitchen, I would smile softly and say, “I totally understand.” This life is hard. We are all in a great deal of pain and the idea of taking on more pain by giving some of things up makes me sick to my stomach. Sometimes I’m strong enough to do it and sometimes I’m not. But what I’m never confused about, is how bad it is. It’s bad when we can’t control what we do. When we feel such a strong compulsion to drink, eat, spend, and watch even when we don’t want to do it because we know how bad it is for us.

Giving in to these behaviors does not make you bad. Nothing could ever make you bad. God created you like He created the Earth and the sky. He stood back and said, “It was good.” And he didn’t mean the opposite of bad. He meant, perfect, just the way He wanted you to be. Nothing can change that because it is your soul inside of you. God loves you beyond measure and understanding and no addiction can ever change that.

Take comfort in this truth. Find strength in it. Then use that strength to loosen your grip on an addiction you have. Lent is a wonderful time to do this. Cling to Jesus with all your might and ask Him to help you walk in the desert. You will emerge stronger and more holy and it will be worth it.

Lent Is Supposed to be Painful

Lent Is Supposed to be Painful

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

I must admit, I’ve been struggling with how much Lent noise there has been on the internet for the last two weeks. I feel like I normally prepare my heart for Lent on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday but in the last few years, much like the Christmas season, the season of Lent comes clattering in weeks before it beings. Read this, pray with with, buy this for your kids!

It has suddenly stopped feeling private. And maybe that’s just the nature of how we access information and how we live our lives now. For even I have felt the need to trumpet out what I’m doing for Lent personally and with my children.

How do we walk this line of wanting to share our faith and get resources into the hands of people who need them versus living a life of Mary’s quiet humility? I’m trying to figure it out for myself.

Lent is meant to be a time of prayer and fasting. It’s also meant to be a personal and introspective time. We are not to be the pharisees who go and say, “Look, look! See what I did?” This is especially difficult for bloggers because we know that people read what we write and we want to help them. I do not create special content for Lent because I know there is plenty of it out there.

If you want to find something to work on, you can do so easily. My challenge to you is that you choose something that is right for your soul, not for your social media account. I know, I know, most of us would scoff and defend the fact that we have a firm line in place and we don’t let the pressure of perfect pictures own us… but I think some of us are lying just a little bit.

If you created a product for Lent to help others, that’s great. Share it with joy and pride. But for everyone else, choose your Lenten journey and travel it offline. That doesn’t mean you can’t share it privately with friends. I think walking in faith together is important but let’s stop trumpeting our spiritual journey in search of applause or virtual hugs.

Lent should be a somber time, a quiet time. Remember, we are walking in the desert. In my home, we stop watching all non-religious television. If we watch something, it’s about the trials of Jesus or one of the saints. We have penitential meals on Friday and that doesn’t just mean meat-free. Sure you can have cheese pizza but that doesn’t really teach you about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

If I sound a little judgy, it’s because I am. America has done what we so often do which is to take something good and to twist it into being commercial and fun. Lent is not supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be a slap in the face, a bucket of cold water. If it’s not painful, you’re not doing it right.

That is not to say that we have to get it perfect.  Many of you will set out with lofty goals and then life will get in the way and you will fall short. Jesus sees you and he knows your heart. He knows when you have to set down your spiritual practices to take care of your kids. But he also sees when you set down your spiritual practices to watch television. These moments are private. They have nothing to do with me or your friends. And in the end, your salvation comes down to your own choices.

Guard yourself against the glitter of the internet. Hold your Lenten pain close to your heart and allow it to lead yourself to Jesus.

It is important that we each walk through the desert for forty days each year. What a small price to pay to understand what the Son of God came to Earth to do for our salvation so that we might even have a shot at Heaven. Do not try to avoid the heat of the sun or the burn under your sandals. Learn to sit with the pain of this walk and ask God to show you what else needs to be burned away so you can be more like Jesus.

If you need a journal, a devotional, a DVD series, a series of adult coloring pages, etc. to help keep you focused on this journey, that’s fine. But embrace these tools as ways to sharpen your focus not to ease the pain of this trial. The pain is the purpose of it. Do not be scared of pain.

Here are five phenomenal quotes on pain and suffering from two great saints!

Trials and tribulations offer us a chance to make reparation for our past faults and sins. On such occasions the Lord comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins. Tribulation is the divine medicine. 7

St. Augustine of Hippo

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. 12

St. John of the Cross

When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly. 4

St. Sebastian Valfre

Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things. 24

St. Augustine

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. 21

St. Francis of Assisi