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!
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Two Sundays ago, I made a promise to God.
“Lord,” I said. “I’m going to give up eating chocolate chips for you. I know I eat them when I’m stressed and I know that I need to turn to you instead. Maybe you’re trying to speak to me but I can’t hear you over the chocolate chip crunching sound in my ears. Lord, I’m going to give up eating chocolate chips for you.”
Now I don’t about you but when I make extra sacrifices for God, I sometimes envision that He will shower fabulous things on me every day. Maybe all the kids will nap at the same time. Maybe my husband will come home early from work. Maybe I’ll have a joyful feeling like sunshine inside my heart!
So it was with great anticipation that I woke up on Monday: day one of no chocolate chips, thinking today is going to be awesome! Approximately 45 minutes later, my five year old threw up on me. I won’t add details to this story or the ensuing flu related things that happened for the whole rest of the day… but it was bad.
I resisted the urge to eat chocolate chips at naptime though a voice in my head practically screamed, “You really deserve them today!”
Tuesday, in the late afternoon, after being cooped up in the house for almost two whole days with three small children, we decided to go for a walk around the block. The sun was shining and my two year old asked so nicely that even though I didn’t want to go outside (because I’m a really lazy mom) I thought, “Yeah, I’m gonna be an awesome mom and I’m going to take them all for a walk!”
It’s true we were only going around the block and even though it’s a big block, it wasn’t an epically long walk. Still, both my two year old AND my five year old managed to trip on their own feet and smash their faces in the concrete emerging bloody and screaming. Thankfully there were no broken teeth but pretty banged up hands and faces and lots of crying all the way home.
Thanks for nothing! Why do I even bother going outside? Why is it that when I try to be a “GOOD MOM” it always goes wrong and I wish I hadn’t even tried?
I experienced plenty of negative self-talk that afternoon but I did not, no I did not… turn to the glorious, melt-in-your mouth dark chocolate chips in my cupboard.
Come Wednesday, everyone was feeling better and then BOOM, I got my period. I’m on some weird postpartum, breastfeeding cycles so it comes around every 45 days. And I’m not sure medically what’s going on but when my period finally does come, it’s a WHOPPER. Ladies, I was down. I was in bed, tears, cramping… it was awful.
Then finally on Friday, my husband and I got some bad news about the business we’re trying to buy. We had lined up financing and everything was humming along well when one of the banks we were working with said that they misfiled our paperwork and it’d take an extra three weeks to close. This was a big blow because it means we can’t officially buy the business, or start working on it until three weeks later than we had expected.
And in the end, none of these things are really that big of a deal. None of them were life or death. These are just average things that pop up in any given week. Yes, it was a particularly yucky week but at the end of it, I realized I was mostly upset by my lack of control.
I couldn’t stop my girls from getting scraped up on the sidewalk. That’s just part of childhood. I couldn’t stop my period for coming. I’m blessed to still have my fertility. Yes, we had a pukey day but it was only one day. Some illnesses last for a lifetime. Our new chapter as business owners is going to start later than we thought, but we can move a few things around and deal with this change.
I think we have this illusion that we have any sort of control over our lives. It’s why we get so ruffled when unexpected things happen. We feel like we’re spinning out of control. But even that phrase suggests that we actually had control at some point. But the truth is, we never do.
God is in control. He gives and He takes away and both those things can happen at any time. The most unexpected joy and pain can come into our lives at any moment. And we may think we have a solution. We may have come up with ways to cope. But any way that is based on Christ or our great Catholic faith, will ultimately fail us.
Chocolate chips won’t bring me lasting peace. Numbing myself with television won’t change my To Do list in the morning. Buying new clothes, compulsively acquiring new books when I haven’t read the ones I have, even looking for new homeschooling curriculum can be a way of distracting myself and not coping with my life.
There is no way except Christ. He is the only path to finding true peace. If you must have control over something, have control over your relationship with Him. Pray more. Read your bible more. Go to Mass more. Confess your sins. Ask for forgiveness. Pray even more.
When I was going through this awful week, I kept thinking that the devil must have heard my promise to God and done everything in his power to make my break my promise. You see, he hates it when we turn our attention to God and give Him all our good works. So it made sense to me that the devil would up his game and try to distract me and trick me into thinking that I really did DESERVE those chocolate chips.
Then I thought about God and all the times in the bible that He tests people’s love for Him. Do you love me now?
He takes and takes and takes away things that we love and still asks, “Do you love me now?”
Eventually I got to the place where I realized that whether or not this awful and strange week was the devil trying to trick me or God testing me… my response would be the same. My promise would be upheld, my eyes would be fixed on Christ. That was the point of my whole “kick this chocolate chip habit” anyway. I wanted to feel the real pain of worldly anxiety and to give it up to Jesus.
If you’re struggling to let go of your worldly stress relievers, I recommend spending more time with God. Here are some ways to do that.
- Sign-up for Matthew Kelly’s Best Lent Ever
- Register for the Pray More Retreat
- Go through the 31 Days to Become a Bible Reading Catholic program
- Pick an hour each week that you will dedicate to Adoration. Go sign up officially for that hour at your church office.
I’m praying for you to have a great week that draws you closer to Christ. Sometimes that means a week full of sunshine and sometimes it means being challenged in ways you hadn’t thought of yet 😉
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls Podcast:
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I don’t know how many of you have mornings like this. I sure do. The ones when the noise of your children is what first wakes you up. You close your eyes and you think maybe the kids will be okay for a little bit. But soon the sounds of things crashing or children arguing pull you out of bed. It’s time to be a mom now.
As the day moves on, you’re pulled from one thing to the next. There’s breakfast and school and chores. The baby has to be fed. The kids need help with their clothes. You’re trying to remember what needs to be done today.
Drop that off at UPS.
Scheduled phone call later.
What are you going to make for dinner?
As you’re scrambling to get things done, you’re constantly interrupted. Someone falls on the sidewalk and skins their knee. Someone runs into wall. The two year old can’t get her sweatshirt off. Then lunch and naptime and more baby feeding. The day is filled with tears, happy screams, questions, hunger, fighting and laughter.
As a mom living in the trenches of Toddlerland, you have a choice about how you’re going to react to each of these moments.
You can choose to be at the mercy of your day, acting surprised by all of these interruptions and situations or you can accept that for the foreseeable future, ALL your days will be filled with these same interruptions and situations.
If you continue to wake up thinking the day will go off without a hitch, you most likely will be holding your breath for most of the day. You are in reaction mode. You will take shallow breaths until eventually your body forces you to take a big sigh just to get some oxygen. If this sounds like your typical day, you are likely living in your Fight or Flight response state.
Humans weren’t designed to perpetually live in a Fight or Flight state. This was reserved for… well…being chased by a lion. When we experience a Fight or Flight response, our body’s hormones get out of whack. We produce too much adrenaline, our blood pressure goes up, our breathing is rapid or non-existant. And this is great… if we’re being chased by a lion.
But for most of us, living in Toddlerland is the cause of our stress and we’re remaining in this state for far too long. It’s doing damage to our body, this constant rushing from one thing to another, barely breathing and wearing ourselves out.
In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct, she talks about how bad the flight or fight state is for us to be in all the time and how we can move out of that and into a Pause and Plan state. The answer is really very simple: breathing. When you feel yourself getting stressed, drowning in a sea of toddler tears and sibling fights and the constant pull of things that must be done on time, take a moment and breathe.
When you’re feeling stressed and your chest is tightening…. Take a moment and breathe in for the count of six, hold your breath for two seconds and then breathe out for seven seconds. I totally blew it the first and second and third time I tried this but eventually I figured out how to slow down my breath this much.
I’ve been doing this all throughout my day. Yes, even when my kids are actively crying and it’s really helped me. I also repeat in my mind, “Pause and Plan, Peter.” I tack on the Peter at the end because I realize that in these moments when I’m stressed, I’m like Peter on the water and as soon as I take my eyes off Jesus, I begin to sink. Breathing is important but it’s also important to remember, Jesus did not intend for you to walk around all day at the peak of your stress levels. He wants you to have a peaceful life and you absolutely can have a peaceful life even amidst the chaos and noisiness of Toddlerland.
I am trying to train my body to not give into the stress around me. I can choose how I respond. I don’t need to rise to every occasion.
So how’s it been going? I’ll tell you… it’s been great! I’ve been much calmer during the day, I’ve been less stressed by the time we make it to the evening and I’ve been feeling like a better mom, a mom who has more control.
At the end of the day, I want to be a good mom. I want to be a loving mom and I want to raise my kids up as strong Catholics. I want them to have their own strong willpower and one of the best ways to teach them that is to work on my own willpower. I don’t want them to be at the mercy of their feelings. Feelings will always pop up but we get to CHOOSE if we want to indulge in those feelings or just acknowledge them and move on.
It’s difficult to make good decisions when you’re stressed and when you’re existing in that fight or flight situation. That’s when I tend to yell as a mom or let the kids walk all over me.
Instead, I’m trying to take a breath, “Pause and Plan Peter” and then the last thing I do to control the situation is something I learned from my mom. In her car, she has a sticky note that says “Breathing in his grace, breathing out His praise.” I think it came from a song. But wherever that phrase came from, it’s a great way to help you refocus on what’s important. Jesus is ready to give you His grace right now. And all he wants from you is to praise Him.
Praise Him for your noisy fighting toddlers. Praise Him for your messy sink. Praise Him for aspect of your life because it really is truly amazing that we’re alive.
Breathe, don’t be like Peter, keep your eyes fixed on Christ and then make a plan to tackle your day…. Or at least the next five minutes so you’re not just reacting out of your fight or flight state.
I hope this helps you ladies. I hope you can practice this. It will take some time to get used to breathing the right way and not letting your feelings get the best of you. But I promise, if you can work on this, if you can master your willpower in this area, you’re going to get a whole lot closer to the kind of mom you want to be.
NOTE: Please be kind to me. I’m not suggesting you can talk to everyone this way. I’m simply writing down what I WISH someone would have said to me when I was young, in college and pro-choice. I’m not trying to speak for all people or to all people. I haven’t recorded this podcast yet. I will tonight and you’ll have it Friday morning!
I hope you enjoyed my last article about Why I Changed My Mind About Abortion. At the very least, I hope you learned something or maybe softened your heart toward pro-choice people in your life. Today I want to talk about how to talk to someone who is pro-choice.
Let me start out by saying, it is a rare occurrence to change the mind of a person in one conversation at the moment you’re speaking with them. I believe it is much better to view your conversations as the planting of seeds. You want to start knocking down their false ideas and planting seeds of truth. In time, those seeds will grow. You may not even know this person by the time they fully come around to changing their mind.
Don’t let pride get in the way of our true mission. We want to save unborn babies. We should not want to be right or to be the hero that brought another person to the pro-life side. There’s a huge difference in motivation here and that will show through your words.
People do not respond well to being forced. If you have a person in your life who is pro-choice, don’t bully them into having a conversation with you. Your relationship will suffer and you likely won’t make any progress on this issue. Don’t let the weight of abortion pressure someone into listening to you. It won’t work.
Now, it is a completely different situation if you know someone who is pregnant and who wants to get an abortion. Then I think you should rally the troops and do what you can to help this woman and her baby. And I mean really help her. Where is she going to live? How is she going to work? Can you help connect her with an adoption agency? Can you take her to appointments? Do whatever you can to get her an ultrasound so she can see her baby.
For most people, having to speak about a heated topic creates a fight or flight reaction in them. Once they sense danger, their fists go up or they are ready to run from the room. Your job is to always keep the conversation calm and filled with love so you never get to this point. Here are some good phrases to use:
“I know we disagree about this but if you want, I can explain how I came to be pro-life. We don’t need to argue about it, but I’d be happy to share my own story.”
“Let me throw out a few questions. You don’t need to answer them. I just want you to think about them at a different time.”
Some people enjoy having a heated discussion and debating topics. But whether you like a good debate or not, you should firmly know why you are pro-life. If you also have come about your opinion because it’s what everyone around you has always said was right like I did when I was younger, I would suggest you do your own research and determine why precisely you believe abortion is wrong and what you think we can do about it.
Though Provoking Questions to Ask Someone Who Is Pro-Choice
- Do you think third trimester abortions should be allowed? Follow this up with second trimester abortions. Then ask, “What about the day before?” Try to get them to see that any time chosen would be arbitrarily.To me, this is the most important conversation to have. You MUST establish that the baby is a life to be protected. If they keep insisting that it’s not alive or that the life doesn’t matter, all the remaining arguments won’t matter as much to them.
- If there was always free health care, free counseling and someone to adopt a woman’s baby, do you think we could get rid of abortion then? For many pro-choice believers, their main concern is safety. They think of back alley abortions putting women at risk. If we had public services to assist these women, those concerns would go away. With all the money used to campaign both for pro-life and pro-choice, we could create hundreds of centers to help women.
- Most arguments about why we should allow women to get abortions sound ridiculous if you replace abortion with slavery. “Well I wouldn’t have slaves but I think that person should be able to choose.” Be careful, if you say this in a flippant way, the person will think you’re calling them dumb because almost no one believes slavery is okay. But the point should be gently made. Just because people get to run their own life, there are some things they should not be allowed to choose. Again, if they don’t think the fetus is a baby, this argument breaks down.
- Risk is not a reason to allow people to make their own rules. Yes, some people will probably still get illegal abortions. That is a risk of making abortion illegal. Many people still do illegal drugs even though it’s not good for them and there are laws against it. We can’t avoid making laws because it puts the people who don’t follow them at risk.
I know these questions aren’t comprehensive. I know it may only work on a small percentage of pro-choicers who think like I used to think. But I wanted to give you hope. You can change someone’s mind. You can treat them with kindness and love. You can work hard to understand their objections and then slowly show them how you too want the best for women and that abortion is never best. Be patient. Be understanding.
Here is an article that tackles a lot more objections and responses. 39 Major Pro-Choice Arguments and Their Refutations. In my experience, most of these would never have come up between me and my pro-choice friends. But it’s good to read this comprehensive list in case you do encounter someone who genuinely believes any of these facts.
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:
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NOTE: I’m going to write most of this as if I’m the 20-something liberal college student who I was. I am now FIRMLY pro-life for many good and true reasons but I want to give you a glimpse into what some pro-choicers are thinking and how you can reach them. When I say things like, “It’s not a baby, it’s a clump of cells,” recognize that I DON’T think that, but I did and it’s important to understand why I changed my mind.
I grew up in liberal Portland, OR and went to college in liberal Seattle, WA where most young people think, “You do what’s right for you and I’ll do what’s right for me.” With this attitude there is a danger of thinking that in order to help everyone belong, we must accept everyone as they are and there is no wrong answer out there. But for most of us, we never sensed that danger, we thought we were loving PEOPLE.
Love who you want.
Watch porn, it’s not hurting anyone.
Women are the same as men.
It’s my body, I can do what I want.
No one ever questioned me about this. It was we “ALL” thought. Not only do many young, liberals think this way but they are PROUD of it! For most pro-life people, this is unfathomable. How can you condone the death of millions of babies? Well it’s easy, we don’t think it’s the death of a baby. We see the person right in front of us instead of the tiny “clump of cells” that’s inside of her.
The good news is, in my experience, pro-choicers are usually pro-choice because they love people. This is so great. This means we can reach them. So hold on to that hope and keep reading.
Yes, babies in the womb are human beings, but so what. – Abortion Activist Mary Elizabeth Williams
Many pro-life people find the most offensive quotes they can and splash them on billboards and the the internet to prove how really awful pro-choice people are. But this would just cause me to give a big eye roll and move on. No one is really moved by extremists who sound crazy. None of my kind and loving pro-choice friends ever said things like this. They never used harsh language or sounded indifferent to the gravity of the situation.
Instead, they were always concerned with the woman who was actually pregnant. And let’s be honest, if a woman is raped and you had to go into her hospital room and tell her she was pregnant and had to carry this baby to term… that’s some heavy stuff. That’s a tough conversation. Most people don’t want to leave their comfort zone to think about that scene. Instead we say, “Oh just let her choose,” as if it eases the situation.
And for most pro-choice people, THIS is the situation that bubbles up for them. It’s why so many say, “Well I would never have an abortion but I don’t think I have the right to tell someone else what to do.”
Again this is borne from love.
I have not met one single person who thinks it’s okay to just keep having abortion after abortion like it’s some oops kind of birth control. I know there are pro-choice advocates who scream and rant offensive and nonsensical things but again, I have never actually met one or had a conversation with one.
Our tactics must change if we are to reach the majority of the pro-choicers. Here are five things I think pro-life people need to stop doing if they want to change the mind of a pro-choice person like I was:
1. Stop talking about how the baby is a baby right after conception. They DON’T believe this yet so you’re wasting your breath. Be friends, build trust. When you start arguing here, you sound like a Vegan who is utterly shocked that you would even consider eating butter like it’s a great crime. Of course veganism and abortion are completely different, but to a pro-choice person, you probably sound the same.
2. Stop using extreme language. My husband once said to me, “So do you think it’d be fine to kill a two year old then?” I was so offended. He used some extreme example of a person who did think that you should be able to kill your children, even after they’re born and tried to make me feel bad for thinking a first term abortion was okay. But this comment shut down our conversation, it broke our trust and significantly lessened his chance of ever making progress with me on this topic. It was as if he was calling me dumb right to my face. Who wants to talk someone who thinks you’re in idiot?
3. Stop using graphic images. They are pro-choice, they believe someone should have the right to have an abortion. Most of them are not confused about what a fetus looks like. When you hold a sign up with a bloody baby, this does not make them think, “Oh you’re right, it’s not just a clump of cells, I change my mind.” They roll their eyes and think, “Yep, those people are crazy and that’s why I’m pro-choice.”
NOTE: I do actually believe using ultrasounds to show pregnant mothers their own baby is one of the most powerful ways to change their minds about abortion. I think we should put some significant funding behind getting ultrasounds in pregnancy centers for this reason.
4. Stop posting ridiculous death rates. Comparing the abortion death rate to the holocaust or the civil war or to cancer… is meaningless. If they don’t consider these babies to be alive, they don’t consider their death toll. You might as well say, “Let’s boycott this movie because it killed MILLIONS of ants in the production.” Well, yeah, but who cares? If they don’t think they are babies, these numbers don’t move them and really it just makes them think pro-lifers are just stooping to cheap tactics.
5. Stop treating the pro-choice person you’re talking to like he or she is dumb. Very few people think of themselves as dumb. Let’s be honest, most of us are not deeply educated these days. Our beliefs are made up of many soundbites and group held opinions. I know, this isn’t true of everyone, but I don’t think most people could give you a really educated answer about why they are a democrat or a republican. This is often the same with their stance on abortion. They think they know why they feel strongly but at the end of the day, they haven’t done any real research on it. Not being educated about a topic is not the same thing as being dumb. You will shut down the conversation if you treat them like a child.
So what finally worked for me? Well it shouldn’t be a surprise… love. I do love people. I do think babies are precious. So when my husband asked me if I thought third term abortions were okay, I had to admit that I really didn’t. If you found yourself suddenly and unexpectedly pregnant, wouldn’t you have an abortion right away?
To me, this captured those extreme situations of rape or being forced to get pregnant somehow when you really didn’t want to. And if that was the case, you wouldn’t let this baby grow inside of you for 6 months before deciding you didn’t want the baby. I really saw no reason to justify a third trimester abortion. Babies who are born in the third trimester can absolutely live so if you let it get that far, why wouldn’t you just have the baby and give it up for adoption?
So then he asked me, well what about a second trimester abortion? And I had to think about that a little more. Well… I hear that some people genuinely don’t know they’re pregnant for three months. In fact I have a friend who didn’t know she was pregnant until 11 weeks! She was breastfeeding her youngest and simply didn’t know or feel pregnant. Now, her and her husband were wanting another baby so the discovery was filled with joy but this situation does happen. Some people genuinely don’t know for a long time.
So then I thought, well maybe it’s okay up to 20 weeks. See how I arbitrarily picked that time? By now, you can see that my personal belief is starting unravel. My husband pushed further. Okay, so we now say that abortions are okay up to 20 weeks. What about the day before? What is different about the day before?
And that was it for me. “What is different about the day before?” If I don’t believe you should kill a two year old and I don’t believe you should kill a third trimester baby who could easily survive being born… what about the day before? That’s when I realized that no matter what law is passed, the point at which an abortion is legal will always arbitrary. Someone is going to make up a number and then draw that as a hard line. This is a human life after the line but not before. It doesn’t make sense.
This is how I changed my mind about abortion. On Thursday I’m going to post the second part of this article which is What TO Say to a Pro-Choicer including how to refute common objections. Stay tuned!
QUICK UPDATE: I’m going to be releasing the newest episode of Coffee & Pearls on Tuesdays instead of Mondays. As I’ve stopped working on Sunday and stopped using electronics after 7 p.m., I found I really want Monday to put the finishing touches on my work! So you can all expect awesome inspiration coming every Tuesday from the Coffee & Pearls Podcast!
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:
Scroll down to read it as a blog post!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lies we tell ourselves. Sometimes I suggest that it’s really the devil whispering lies into my ear, and yes, this happens too but I have to be honest, sometimes the lies bouncing around my head really do come from me and no one else.
I think one of the biggest lies I tell myself is that my lazy behavior or my mindless consumption of…. anything (food, television, shopping, books etc.)… that this doesn’t matter. But that is a lie.
Everything we do matters. Absolutely every choice we make and every action we take is either moving us toward becoming the best version of ourselves or away from it. Period.
As we strive for sainthood, there are no neutral actions. Nothing falls into the category of “this doesn’t matter.” Everything is helping you become a better person or not.
As I’ve been chewing on this idea, it’s really become a lot harder to ignore some of my bad habits. We all have bad habits, both big and small. We are all addicted to different aspects of the world. Stop beating yourself up over that, that’s normal. We’re human and our flesh makes us desire broken things.
The danger is pretending these habits aren’t a problem. The danger is in telling ourselves that, “Eating these cookies isn’t that big of a deal. Facebook isn’t that bad, there’s a lot of good that comes out of it. Sure I go shopping but I buy at thrift stores so it’s okay.”
Now… are cookies, Facebook and thrift store shopping bad things? That depends. When YOU do them are you becoming the best version of yourself or are you becoming a worse version of yourself? Personally, I can do all three of those things in a healthy way and I can do all three of those things in a self-destructive way.
When I inhale 10 cookies at 3:30 while the crying chaos of my toddlerland household is making me anxious… that’s bad.
When I choose to sit my girls up at the kitchen counter and teach them how to bake cookies with love and joy and we share some with our neighbors… that’s good.
When I refresh my Facebook account 50+ times per day and yes, I’m sure it’s at least that many times on a bad day… when my heart feels a little sad when there are no red notifications or new messages… that’s bad.
When I sit down to purposefully post positive and uplifting things and check in on my valued friendships or read some God affirming articles and then leave after an appropriate time to do something else on my schedules… that’s good.
I have been pregnant a lot. My body is like an accordion moving in and out of many different sizes. There are times when I have a genuine need for “new” clothing or pieces to get me through to the next size. Sometimes I wear holes in my shoes and I need one new pair. When I shop for genuine needs and I work hard to find pieces that are on sale, used or a good price for something I’ll use for a very long time… this is good.
When I need to leave the house and I’m bored or frustrated and looking for a way to escape… this is obvious because I’m scanning aisles searching for something to buy, hoping to be inspired and feel a “pick me up” by purchasing something with no care for whether I actually need it or not… this is bad.
You’re On Your Own
The very nature of these choices is personal. For most of us, many of these activities are not black and white. It is not obvious on the outside whether another person’s coffee in take is actually an addiction or a mom’s compulsive crafting/baking stops being about love and ends up being a bitter escape.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what anyone else things. You alone are accountable to God for your life.
If you want to become a saint in Heaven, and I truly believe this should be the number one goal of every person on earth… if you want to become the most Holy version of yourself… you need to stop pretending like your actions are neutral. They are not.
All your actions are moving you toward sainthood or away from it.
The bad news is, like me, you probably have dozens of little things you could cut out of your life and that might feel overwhelming.
The good news is, we have Jesus, Mary and all the saints to lean on and pray to for inspiration and strength.
The bar is high for being a good Catholic but we also have more rock solid tools than any other religion to help us realize this deep holiness we are all called to.
Draw a line down a piece of paper. On one side, put all the actions that help you become a better version of yourself. On the other side, put all the options that make you turn away from becoming the best version of yourself.
Pick one thing this week to work on, just one. You don’t have to overhaul your life right away. Take a deep breath and pick one habit that you want to minimize or eliminate. Pray to God for help and ask that He give you strength to let it go and that He help you find fulfilment in something more worthy.
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:
Scroll down to read it as a blog post!
I know… talking about sex is a touchy subject. But that’s one of the reasons it’s such a difficult part of our lives. If I’m struggling with any other part of my life, I can chat about it with my girlfriends.
“My three year old is being rude to me, how do you deal with that?”
“I crave ice cream at night, what do you do for a healthy late night fix?”
“My mind wanders when I pray my rosary, how do you work on this?”
We lean on each other and we need to. God created us to live in community and to support one another. Being a human is hard! We need Jesus and friends to make it through. Well… we really only need Jesus but friends make it so much more bearable! So I’m throwing this out there to the internet because I wish it was something someone had told me.
Bitterness can ruin your sex life.
For most of us Catholic moms, having lots of little children or struggling with infertility and practicing Natural Family Planning can really put a damper on one’s sex life. All of a sudden spontaneity is out the window and it’s more like, “Are we in Phase III, do you have a headache, did anyone poop on you today…” which is spouse talk for, “Do I have a chance to get lucky tonight?”
And it’s not just husbands who miss the way it used to be. Wives miss it too!
I wish I had lots of energy, I wish I felt sexy at the end of the day, I wish my cycle didn’t comeback at 6 weeks postpartum…
Recently my husband said, “Honey, I think your bitterness is ruining your chances for having a good time.” And anytime my husband says something like this to me, I feel the urge to stomp my feet, declare him absolutely wrong and pout about how much he “doesn’t get me.” Fortunately, five years of marriage begins to temper your reactions and teach you that maybe your spouse does know a thing or two about you. In fact, I’m pretty sure God designed marriage to be one gigantic mirror.
My husband sees me everyday so it’s not surprising that he does know me (and my bad habits) pretty well. I’ve learned to listen calmly and consider what he says thoughtfully. Now, I may need some time to process what he says by myself or to calm down and sort through the emotions that bubble up when he gentle challenges me about some aspect about myself but ultimately, I usually come around to thinking, “Yeah, he has a point. I think he’s right and I should work on that.”
So when he suggested that I seemed a little more bitter lately about our sex life and that it was perhaps ruining my chances for having a good one, I sought to examine that. I had to admit that I did feel bitter. I felt trapped. I know how important sex is to a marriage and especially to how my husband feels loved. And I really do love that guy so much! But then there are all these obstacles in the way… kids… wonky cycles… a bad case of vaginismus after this last baby. I can’t drink wine anymore (C’mon God… that one hurts a lot!)
I found myself feeling bitter that when the planets align, we might have an opportunity to have sex and at that point, it almost doesn’t matter how I feel because it comes up so infrequently that I feel like I ought to do it. Let me be clear, my husband NEVER forces me to have sex. He doesn’t even give me a big guilt trip about it, which is rather remarkable. I do this totally to myself. I feel bad, especially postpartum, when we only get small windows for intimacy amidst larger spans of uncertainty and abstinence.
So here’s kind of how my thought process was going….
“Okay… we’re in Phase III, we can have sex today… maybe I’ll take a bath tonight to relax… nah, the baby is always fussy at night and I can hear her crying from the bath so it’s not relaxing… maybe after she finally goes to sleep… yeah but then I’m so tired, I hate having sex when I’m exhausted… why is this so hard…. why can’t it just be fun and spontaneous like it used to be… where has that spark gone… who gets excited when you have to schedule your intimate life…why did God design marriage to be like this… I shouldn’t have to have sex when I don’t feel like it…. why can he get excited to have sex in 2.3 seconds no matter what else is happening… it’s not fair…”
And so my pity party goes. It gets worse if it’s been a hard day in any way (I had to clean toilets, one of the kids peed on me, there were more than 10 tantrums… etc.)
But wow, as I look at those thoughts… they sure do smack of bitterness. I realize that I’m stealing my own joy. I’m robbing myself of any chance of having a good time.
Instead, I could choose to have a positive outlook.
“YAY, we’re in Phase III! My poor husband has been a rock star these last thirteen days, I can’t wait to show him how much I love and appreciate him. I’ll take a bath and put music on so if the baby is fussy, I can’t hear her. Maybe I’ll use a bath bomb… that always makes me feel special…I’ll light some candles in our room to make it feel new and different… yeah, let’s do this!”
Okay, commence eye rolling. I know! I sound like a pathetic cheerleader having to psyche myself up to have a good time but you know what, that’s exactly what I have to do. And somewhere along this “fake it to you make it” train, I start to actually feel excited. By choosing the positive thoughts, I’m at the very least keeping out the bitter ones and at best actually starting to feel anticipation and warm tinglies.
And at the end of the day, for me, this is marriage. This is sacrifice. Instead of dwelling on the perfect night that we probably only get 2 times per year, instead of focusing only on what I want at the expense of having any sex at all, instead of acting like it’s unfair that a man has dedicated his life to loving me and actually wants to have sex with me… I can choose joy.
I can choose to be grateful. I can choose to squash feelings of bitterness and just say, “Hey bad feelings… get outta here… there’s no place for you inside my head.”
I imagine I’ll be working on my marriage for my whole life so I imagine we’ll always been working on our sex life too. I wish it was easier to figure it out but I understand why it’s not something we talk about. Our sex lives are so personal. Our situations are so different.
And it’s private. Intimacy between a husband a wife should be private. I asked my husband to read this before I posted it to make sure he was okay with my sharing this much about us. But letting go of my bitterness has been so helpful for me and I thought, you know, it just may be helpful for some other mama with little kids.
So there it is. I’m just tossing it out there. I hope it helps someone. I wish you all happy marriages and rockin’ sex lives.
P.S. If you want to read some books to help your marriage, here are some I recommend:
I really enjoy reading self-improvement books. Because I have the type of personality that gets excited about something and then easily moves on, I find that I need these types of books to help me refocus on what’s important.
One thing I often find lacking in these books, however, is anything about faith. They will talk about career success, health, finances and maybe even family relationships but there is little said of one’s relationship with God. When I first converted to Catholicism, it took me a little time to marry these two worlds of mine: my love of goal setting and my new found love of Christ. Now I’m very comfortable with my process and I thought this year I would share it with all of you.
My husband and I do our goal setting exercises separately and then we come together to share our goals and create goals for our family. But the first thing we always do is to pray. Here is a prayer you can say before you dive into goal setting this year.
“Lord, please open my mind and my heart so I may desire the plan you have for my life. Not my will be done Lord but yours. Please guide my thoughts to always put you first and to remember my life’s most important goal is to become a saint in Heaven. Help me lay the pathway for that prize by choosing these goals today.”
First, these two articles by Michael Hyatt are great introductions to goal setting. If you have never set goals, I’d pause and take 10 minutes to read these:
If you are comfortable with the idea of goal setting, move on and find out how I recommend doing it so it’s easy and simple!
Step One: Imagine The Future
Grab a piece of paper. Write out THE FUTURE at the top. Then start to dream about your life. How far out is up to you. I try to picture 10 years ahead when I feel I will probably be done having children and living in a new chapter of my life without babies. Then I also try to picture 20+ years ahead when my children are grown. I think of those two “chapters” in my life and a make a list of hopes I have for that time. Some examples include: becoming debt free, being healthy enough to go hiking/camping with my children and grandchildren, having written a book, joining a lay order, walking the Camino de Santiago, being able to support my parents as they get older, having a playful marriage with my husband.
This exercise is not precise. I do not apply the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals here. I just try to paint a picture of what I want things to look like in the future so I know what I’m fighting for. Since having kids, I know that there is no way to REALLY know what I’m going to be doing or even what I’ll want 10 or 20 years from now. But right now I can dream a little, focus on what’s important and then keep these things in mind as I make my more short-term goals.
NOTE: You may want to do this for five years out or two years out if you’ll be moving into a different chapter of your life (i.e. graduating from school, having a baby, moving out of state etc.)
Step Two: One Year From Today
Who do you want to be one year from today? Close your eyes and picture yourself. What do you look like? Are you filled with peace? Where do you live? Is there peace in your home? What have you accomplished in 2016?
Jot down some words or phrases to describe the following areas of your life:
- Other Vocation (work or volunteering)
- Your Home
- Relationships: Extended Family and Friends
- Rest (Hobbies, ways to unplug, vacations etc.)
After looking at the words or phrases I’ve chosen, I write down a S.M.A.R.T. goal for each section. The goal may be big or small. After I’m done, I look at the total list and I circle the top three which are GAME CHANGERS. If I just did three things, which would have the most impact on my life? These will be my Main Goals.
I make my Main Goals the focus for my year. The other goals I still keep written down and I still pay attention to them but I know that they are secondary, these are my Minor Goals. For example, I will not focus more on learning how to knit if it keeps me from paying down debt. I can still probably accomplish both, and a year is a long time, but we can’t have it all and now is the time to really prioritize.
I also don’t always choose a spiritual goal as one of my top three goals even though my overall life goal is to become a saint in Heaven. I find that because this desire is so strong in me, I’m pretty good about prayer routines, reading religious books and growing in my spirituality naturally. I find that it’s much harder for me to make progress in my health and my marriage so those are often in my top three big goals.
Step Three: Create a Manifesto
Type up your Major Goals and your Minor Goals on a piece of paper in the present tense as if you’ve become this new version of yourself or as if you’ve already accomplished a specific goal in 2016. You can add back in some of your words from above too. This doesn’t have to be specific like S.M.A.R.T. goals.
I weigh 135 pounds. I have paid off $5,000 of debt. I enjoy a weekly date night with my husband. I spend 30 minutes reading out loud to my children every night. I ran a 5k race in 2016. My home is peaceful. I go to Adoration weekly. I go to confession monthly.
Put a pretty frame around it. Use a font you love. Make this a beautiful piece of paper. Then hang it in your bathroom or put it on your fridge, somewhere you can see it every day. Then read it EVERY DAY.
Tips For Success
- Offer It Up
One of the amazing things about Catholics is our ability to pair suffering and sacrifice to Jesus’s suffering on the cross. We can say, “Lord, I’m going to give up $4 lattes so that I can be a good steward of my money and pay down my debt. I really want a latte but I’m going to sacrifice that and please use this sacrifice for the pro-life cause.”Yes, it really does work like that. That may seem shallow. But for some people, giving up a latte is really painful. For others it will be eating rice and beans every day to pay off student loans. Some people have chronic pain and they can offer that up to Jesus too!I think it’s important that we don’t act like pouty children when we go through things that are difficult or when we give up luxuries but to man these times meaningful by giving them to Christ. Here is a worksheet that you can fill out to keep you on track!
- Accountability Partner
My husband and I meet every Sunday night after the children have gone asleep to review our goals (both big and small) and to plan out our week. We check in about our progress and we challenge each other if we’re slacking. We give each other encouragement and advice. Then we talk about our schedule for the week and we make a meal plan together. This helps us go into the week feeling like we’re a team and knowing that we’re (mostly) on the same page ;o)
If you don’t have a husband (or perhaps a less than willing husband) find a friend to do this with. Accountability partners are HUGE if you want success in any area of your life. We need to be SEEN. We need to feel like what we do matters. And although we should all be perfect souls that do everything for Christ…. Most of us aren’t quite there yet.
- Revise Goals Every Quarter
Goals don’t always go the way we plan. That’s okay. In January of 2015, I had NO IDEA my family was going to up and move from Portland to Boise! It required several goal shifts. Life happens. Don’t let your goals slide and don’t get discouraged. Reevaluate, edit them and move on. I do this once a quarter.Make this date with yourself and put it on your calendar, then keep it!
That’s it. I try to make it very simple. I used to make goal setting a big more complicated but then my hard work would get filed away and forgotten. Now it takes me less than an hour. I review last year, make my goals, type them up and move on. I do review them every Sunday with my husband and I revise them as my life changes. My ultimate goal in life is to become a saint in Heaven and to do that by becoming the best version of myself. I do this by always trying to up my game in may different aspects of my life.
Hard work brings us joy. It gives us peace. It makes us feel fulfilled and gives use self-confidence. We need this strength to go out into the world and spread God’s love. I will be praying for you to have an amazing 2016 and that you can become the version of yourself that God most desires!
It’s hard for me to admit this but there are times when I really don’t enjoy eating dinner with my kids. Of course we all know that it’s important for families to eat together but I have a suspicion these studies are talking about kids who are older than five. My three kids are under five and there is no witty banter to be had at the table. There is no sharing of highs and lows. There is mostly food negotiations, crying, timeouts, more food negotiations and then it’s all over in a flash.
I’m fine with the strong rules that we have. Because we want to train our kids to have polite table manners, it takes work. We have to work with them over and over again and my husband and I are committed to this. We don’t make them eat things they don’t want to but we serve the same thing to everyone for dinner and that’s that. But between a 5 month old, a 2 year old and a 4.5 year old… things can get loud.
Some days I’m perfectly able to handle the circus and my husband and I even smile and laugh through it. But there are some days and some seasons when it’s not helpful for anyone for me to be there, to be a grumpy mom, to be a short tempered mom or to be at the end of my rope and emotionally dangling from it. So I’ve learned to protect my family and protect myself and to give myself a little mommy timeout sometimes.
My husband will come home, I’ll have made and served dinner for everyone. I give him a kiss and head upstairs to sit in the silence of my room. I know my husband can manage the kids and keep up our table manners expectations. I eat my dinner after the kids have gone to bed when it’s quiet. I used to feel REALLY BAD about this like I was scarring my family and not giving my kids the security and consistency that they need.
But then I realized, that good intentions don’t matter if you’re an angry mom. Good intentions don’t give your kids stability if you’re short-tempered or if after four straight days of listening to kids cry and cleaning up pee and poop, you start doubting your vocation. You have to protect yourself. Motherhood is a marathon.
I’m very confident as the kids get older, we’ll have wonderful family dinners together. I know I’m committed to that. I’d love to hear about their days and chat about what we’re reading and learning. I know this is an important habit and soon we will make it a priority.
But this last week I’ve been potty training my 2 year old, my baby has been suddenly fussy and my 4.5 year old is acting out since the middle one is getting so much attention. So by the time my husband walks through the door… I just need tap out, regroup, remember that I love being a mom even when it feels overwhelming and rejoin my family again when I’m calm and filled with joy. I think this is better than my children seeing me lose my mind and having them doubt whether or not I’m happy being a mom.
There are plenty of nights when we eat dinner as a family. But now I’m wise enough to know when dinner is going to bring us together or when I’ve given all I have to give and I need to go recharge in my room. And that’s okay. I’m still being a good mom.
So ladies pick your battles. You don’t need to do all the things the internet says is good for your family. This goes for Advent traditions too. There are some great ones out there! But if you’re screaming at your kids while hand painting Jesse ornaments… you’ve missed the point. Choose your kids over the idea of something else.
In the end, they will remember your warmth and your love. Make sure that’s what you’re showing them. Show them peace, love and joy and it won’t matter what traditions you managed to make happen.
Disclaimer: This post is not for people struggling with poverty. I think Bonnie Engstrom did a beautiful job describing what life is like when money is super tight in this series. I wouldn’t sit down with Bonnie and say, “You just don’t understand delayed gratification, otherwise you’d save more money.” That is NOT what this post is about. This post is about people like me who were never taught how to manage money and who have the urge to buy $4.50 lattes instead of putting money in a 401k.
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:
Scroll down to read it as a blog post!
Oh the marshmallow test… This was a test done 50+ years ago where psychologists took a bunch of preschoolers and put a marshmallow on their desk. They told the kids they could eat the marshmallow now or wait until the adult comes back and they’d get two marshmallows. The adults leave without telling the kids how long they’ll be gone.
Naturally some kids stuffed that white sugary goodness in their face right away, some made it a certain amount of time but still ate it before the adults came back and some waited until the adults returned and got two marshmallows. The choice of the kids ended up being strongly correlated with their SAT scores, their BMI index at 30 years old and their overall happiness in the future.
In his book The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success, Walter Mischel he explains all is not lost! If you too would stuff that “marshmallow” in your mouth for instant gratification of less, you can learn to change your behavior. Okay ladies, are you still with me? I think this can apply to a lot of areas of our life but today I wanted to apply it to money.
Money is something that we don’t often talk about Catholic moms. This isn’t about storing up as much money as possible. This isn’t about have fear about the future or your money. This is for those of you who didn’t learn how to manage your money and you’re blowing money on little things like coffee and not realizing that you need SOME plan for your money in the future. It’s important for us to manage our money well so we can care for the people that God puts in our way.
The bible tells us that the poor will always be among us. We need to manage our money so we can help out families who have no jackets this winter or who can’t afford food for Thanksgiving. We need to manage our money so we can take care of ourselves in the future. I know I will have to financially support my parents in the future so I know it’s important that I save money to be able to do that for them.
Mischel says that when we see something we really really want, right now, it’s like our brain has a HOT reaction to this. Maybe it’s that $4.50 latte, maybe it’s a beautiful sweater at Anne Taylor Loft, maybe it’s five more children’s book to add to your collection. None of these things are bad choices intrinsically but if you’re always choosing to spend now instead of saving, then collectively, these choices aren’t helping your future self. He says we can learn to COOL our desires for these things.
To understand how to cool your desire for instant gratification, you have to first understand how you see yourself. We use a different part of our brain when we think about our present selves than when we think about a stranger. But many of us, when thinking about our future self, light up the part of our brains as if we’re thinking about a stranger. We feel so disconnected from our future self that we don’t actually see that person as ourselves.
I know this is true for me. I’m a stress-eater, I don’t like saving money and I want everything RIGHT NOW. I can’t seem to grab on to the idea that my choices are ruining my future self. But I have three kids now and I know I need to work on this. I need to model good behavior for them and I actually need to change my behavior for myself so I’m not an unhealthy, broke mess in 30 years.
Also, God gave me these amazing gifts: my children, the money I do have, this body my soul lives in. He wants me to be a good steward of these things. So how can we really make a change in our spending habits?
First, sit down and really picture your future self. You need to get connected with that lady. What do you want to look like? Imagine yourself living a peaceful life. Imagine yourself having financial stability. Just sit with those thoughts for a moment. Don’t let this future you feel like a stranger.
Second, get out some paper and write down situations where the HOT part of your brain has you making impulsive decisions that are bad for you. I’m pretty good at not spending money on myself but it’s hard for me to reign in spending for my kids sometimes, especially for books! And when I’m stressed, a peppermint mocha goes a long way to calming me down… but my bathroom scales robs me of that peace when I weigh 20 pounds more than I should.
Write down those triggers and come up with a plan of what you’re going to do INSTEAD. Here’s what I wrote:
I see a great book list on someone’s blog. INSTEAD of buying the books, I will immediately login and put them on my reserved list at the library or I will add ONE of them to my amazon wishlist and wait for a child’s birthday to buy it.
I’m having stressful day and I want a mocha to soothe my feelings. INSTEAD of shelling out $4.50, I’m going to go home, make some delicious Good Earth tea and look at my budget where I am faithfully giving money to charity and putting money in savings.
Visualize what you’re going to do in these situations. Practice it in your mind. Rehearse it. Make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do better.
I think we, as Catholic moms, have a great power to change the world in just one generation. If we can make good choices for ourselves and model good behavior for our children, we can create a generation that has self-control. And having self-control allows us to be good stewards of what God has given us and allows us to take care of more people with the resources and energy that we have.
If you don’t know where to start, I would highly recommend checking out www.daveramsey.com.
I’m praying for your mamas! I’m praying that God give us all the desire to manage our money well so we can more perfectly do His will!
Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast. Scroll down to read it as a blog post!
Just to prove you can always learn new things, I just had a big eye opening lesson this week about peace. And I think what surprised me the most was that I use the word peace a lot.
“Jesus wants us to live a life of peace.”
“Peace be with you.”
“You just need to have peace about it.”
So if you had asked me if I knew how to have peace, I’d say sure!
But then I read Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family by Katie Warner and she has a whole chapter devoted to peace in her book. The chapter is titled “They Cultivate Peace” and it talks about the importance, especially for mothers, to cultivate peace in their homes. I stopped and thought about that. I work so hard to create peace for myself but I hadn’t really thought about cultivating peace for my entire home. I didn’t have a goal related to creating a peaceful atmosphere for my family.
And not surprisingly, when I don’t have a goal about something, if I’m not intentional about it, it’s probably not getting accomplished. The more I thought about my home, I also realized that…. I was usually the cause of a lack of peace. I’m usually the one saying
“Hurry up, we have to get to Mass!”
“Where are your shoes???”
“I have touched poop 5 times today!” (No one is bringing an atmosphere of peace by insisting on telling their husband every time poop is touched…)
I felt really bad. I felt like I was doing it all wrong. Here I was trying to be a good Catholic mom and despite our many routines and good Catholic activities, I’m pretty confident that the prevailing atmosphere in my house was not peace. I let myself wallow for a good ten minutes and then I took action!
I got out my goals and I wrote down, “Cultivate an atmosphere of peace and joy in my home.” And ladies, what you purpose to do, what you focus on, is what you get. I am surprised to say that just having this as a goal has really transformed the general atmosphere of my home. It really was that simple. Here are five ways I’m making it happen!
- Use a Peaceful Voice
When I use a frenzied voice that tells my children, they’re wrong, we’re late, I’m sad, I’m disappointed… they feel the emotions behind that voice. To help them experience more peace, I have been using a more peaceful voice. Even when we’re SUPER LATE, I’ve been smiling and trying to make a game of getting into the car or cheerfully asking them to hustle their little feet. I sound annoying to myself… but they smile and fall for it and we’re all… actually happier because of it.
- Take Deep Breaths
I just watched this episode of Philosopher’s Notes (a YouTube show I love!) and in it, Brian Johnson talks about the importance of deep breathing. He says that we should work hard to breath four times per minute (6 seconds in, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 7 seconds.) So I’ve been trying to do this when I wake up and before I get out of bed, when I’m praying, when I’m doing chores and when I’m in the car etc. It has taken a little bit of training to breathe this way but it has definitely helped me to stay more calm and feel more peaceful. And when mama feels peaceful… well…. it’s a start anyways
- Decluttering The House
I’ve been on a minimalist kick for several months now. It started back before we moved to Boise. We didn’t want to pack anything that we didn’t love or use on a regular basis. We got rid of SO MUCH stuff. And with less stuff, we’re working harder to put things away more regularly. We do two big rounds of clean-up every day; one right before naptime and one right before bedtime. And it’s amazing how if you do this twice a day, it really only takes 5-10 minutes to make your house look pretty clean and tidy! And it makes my mama heart happy to see clear counters and floors.
- Drinking More Water
This happens to me every year. When the weather turns cold, I forget to drink water. Sure I’ll have a cup of tea in the morning but if that’s all by the time I hit 1 p.m., I am a dehydrated, headachy, grumpy mom. It’s hard to have peace in that place. So last week I made two big pots of tea, one with caffeine for before noon and one without for afternoon and it’s always ready and I’ve been drinking more of it. I’ve also been forcing myself to drink a cup of water before lunch and dinner… because I’m also trying to lose some of this baby weight. But water is like a magical substance that makes lots of things better when you’re getting enough!
- Praying the Rosary
I know, I know… I’m always saying you should pray the rosary. But it really is that powerful! This last month in October I was writing everyday about how to Become a Bible Reading Catholic and it took so much extra time that I was dropping my rosary habit and boy did that rob me of my peace on those days. Make time for it. Our Blessed Mother will help breathe peace into your home. She’s really good at it!
I would highly recommend Katie Warner’s book Head & Heart. I would also suggest that you too would add “Cultivate peace at home” to your goals for the rest of this year. I hope these five tips have helped give you an idea of what you can do to make that happen.
I’d love to know of other ways you Catholic moms are bringing peace into your home… especially when your two year old is going to Tantrum Phase like my (previous) sweet Poppy is right now!
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! The format of the show is changing! I did some surveys to both listeners and non-listeners of the show and what I discovered is that most moms aren’t watching videos. So Coffee & Pearls is officially being turned into a podcast. You can now subscribe to my podcast on iTunes below! The show will be 15 minutes so you can easily fit it into your week and there will be an accompanying blog post that summarizes the episode for those of you who don’t listen to podcasts but still want some Catholic mama wisdom in your life!
Listen to this episodes podcast here:
Today I’m talking about one of my favorite bible verses. I use these two verses when I’m feeling down and stuck in a rut. And that’s how it usually works with me. One or two bad choices leads me to making more bad choices. Kind of a “well I already blew it, so who cares” kind of attitude. And as I spiral down, I feel worse and worse about myself. And when I’m struggling to get myself out of this run, out of feeling like I’m covered in slime, I grab onto these verses.
“But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,[s] and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Matthew 6:33-34
This verse has the power to save me from my bad mood, my downward spiral and to pull me up. I focus on three specific aspects.
Seek first the kingdom of God.
You know I mention this all the time. We have to start our day out with God. We have to give him those first few minutes before we let our feet hit the floor and we let the day smack into us. It took me a good year to make this a habit in my life and the habit still gets knocked around a bit when big life changes happen (i.e. new baby, death in the family, out-of-state move etc.) But when I’m feeling out of sorts, I know this is the first place I have to look.If I’m not aligning myself with Jesus in the morning, my whole day gets off kilter.
Sometimes I read the morning offering, sometimes I read my bible or say a rosary, sometimes I just lay there and pray my desperate heart out to the Lord.Do you start your day off with Jesus or do you leave him in the background until something goes wrong? If you’re feeling like your life doesn’t have much peace these days, maybe you need to put the Lord in your morning routine. Start off the day by giving the day to Him and then let Him guide you. It certainly doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong but you’ll feel like He’s right there by your side if they do.
Do not worry about tomorrow.
Oh ladies. Most of us really struggle with this. We live in tomorrow land. We worry over our commitments, our laundry schedule, our kid’s college funds… so many things. But God does not want us to live in the future. He wants us to be present and appreciate the day He has given to us. He wants us to be grateful for the moments we have, for the people He puts in our path.
I was listening to a lecture on being more present and the speaker said that one of the best ways we can work on being more present is by taking a deep breath and paying attention to our breathing. When we pause and notice our breathing, something happens in our brain that helps us focus. It gives us clarity. It quiets the noise. So when I’m feeling really amped up, I take a deep breath, I calm down and I say this scripture to myself.This is a battle we must fight every day.
I don’t know about you but there are days I have, super productive days, where I’ve slayed my To Do list and I’m feeling on top of the world! Then I get to the end of the day and I realize that I haven’t spent even 15 minutes of eye-to-eye time with my children. In my whole day, I haven’t slowed down enough to spend time with them where I give them my undivided attention. Not even for 15 minutes!
So now that is officially one of my daily goals. Spend at least 15 minutes of eye-to-eye, undistracted, truly present time with each of my kids. And on days where I don’t check off that check box at night, I know I’ve missed something special, a gift that God has given me that I have left unappreciated.
There is already enough evil.
This is the part of this scripture that is often left unmentioned. I don’t think people like the word evil. I don’t think many of us even really understand what it means. There is horrible evil in the world like child trafficking or Christian persecution. And there is the movie style of evil with demons and horns and such.
But so many of us don’t acknowledge the everyday spiritual warfare that’s being thrown our way.There is a war for our souls and the devil wants to do everything he can to distract you from loving God. This happens from the moment you wake up to the moment go to sleep. And it’s subtle warfare. It’s whispers of envy, pangs of greed, bouts of laziness… anything to get you to be less than what God designed you to be. And so often we feel guilty, like these short comings are our own fault. And though yes, we have our own free will and we do make the bad choices on our own, I don’t think we give enough credit to the devil who tempted us into making those bad choice.
I think if we were to acknowledge those temptations more, we wouldn’t beat ourselves up about our choices as much and we would fight them more strongly.
So that’s a lot to process in just two short versus. But that’s why it’s my favorite. That’s why I lean on these verses when I don’t know what else to do. These verses give me hope, strength and comfort. I feel forgiveness from the Lord in these verses. I feel the strength to try harder tomorrow in these verses.
So I just wanted to share those with you this week. I hope they bring you comfort.
I was unchurched for most of my life and then I came to Jesus through an Evangelical Protestant church in my 20’s. And several years later I converted to Catholicism right before I got married. You might think that as a convert, I’d struggle with the idea that Catholic honor Mary and that she is such a big part of the Catholic faith but that wasn’t ever a big struggle for me. I feel like I got my Catholic handbook that said, “We should love and honor Mary,” and I thought great, I’ll do that.
So I didn’t have any negative feelings toward Mary but I can’t say that I had an active relationship with her either. She was just kind of there in the background for me. Then at the 2014 Catholic Women Rejoice conference I happened to hear a lot of conversations about the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat. Women were talking about how this program changed their life and they were so grateful to have gone through it.
I had never heard of this before but after so many glowing reviews, I thought I’d check it out. I picked up the whole program and made the retreat with my husband and another couple. The four of us went through this program from October 19th to November 21st. You see you make the retreat 33 days before a Marian feast day. Here’s a schedule you can look at.
The book follow four people who have consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary. The quote I’ve pulled is in Mother Theresa’s section and one thing that isn’t as widely known about her is that she experienced a very long time of spiritual dryness. But even in this darkness she never gave up hope for she constantly prayed to live in Mary’s heart and that Mary live in hers.
“We all sin, and sin hardens hearts. Whatever the reason, our hearts can be cold and unfeeling, and this can be a problem. Thankfully, the one who has a sinless, perfect, immaculate heart will help us. She’ll give us her compassionate heart. She’ll even let us live in her heart! If only we’ll give her ours.”
Fr. Michael Gaily, 33 Days to Morning Glory
If you had asked me before doing this program if I thought I would ever lean on Mary for… well everything, I would have probably scoffed at the idea. Protestants are so trained to take everything to Jesus that the idea of taking things to Mary seemed unfathomable to me. But that’s the power of this program. This program teaches you that we should take all our suffering to Mary. And through her, she can make perfect petitions to her son on our behalf.
I now pray to and lean on Mary for almost everything. She is my rock, my mother, my lap to sit in, the hug I seek, the shoulder I cry on. She is so much more to me than I ever thought she could be. And she is capable of great miracles and that brings me to my second quote:
“Mary’s motherly attentiveness to the details of the couple being married at Cana begins Jesus’ public life with the miracle of the water becoming the wine. The lack of wine has been described as a symbol of the lack of joy in human life without God’s grace. What human needs might Mary be attentive to and then bring to Jesus for his miraculous intervention if she were invited to your home today?”
– 33 Days to Morning Glory Retreat Workbook
And I thought this was such a profound question because, I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel deserving of a miracle. I never think to ask God for miracles for me. I guess it feel selfish sometimes or maybe I just think my problems are too small, I’d rather see God perform miracles for other people who need them more. But in thinking about this question, you know, what would I ask of Mary if she came to my house and miraculously brought about a change.
After thinking about it, I decided I’d ask her to perform a miracle in my marriage. My husband and I both come from divorced families and so we have very little idea of how to have a happy and healthy marriage. We read a lot of marriage books but we still struggle. We struggle with communication, with our intimacy, with our parenting styles and if Mary could come and perform a miracle and help my husband to be more like Joseph and me to be more like Mary, that would be amazing.
And to be honest, I don’t think I was actively praying for this before. I thought the idea of it seemed so far away and not possible that I wasn’t even hoping for this kind of change. But in reading this, I realized that Mary can do great things if we put our trust in her. She will take our deepest prayers to Jesus and ask for his help.
I hope this gives you hope. I want you to place your hopes in dreams in Mary’s lap. Look up to her as if you’re a little child and she’s your mother who wants nothing more than your happiness. She wants you to turn to her. She wants to take care of your heart. Seek to live in her heart and ask her to live in yours.
If you would like to go through the 33 Days to Morning Glory retreat with me online, click here and sign-up. I’ll be emailing you every day with my own commentary on the program as I make the retreat for the second time this year!
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This week I wanted to share with you some wisdom from Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect. One thing I like about Darren Hardy is that his mentor was Jim Rohn who we talked about two weeks ago and you can really feel Jim’s spirit come through in Darren’s writing. Darren puts his own spin on the same work hard message and I think he does an excellent job of breaking things down so that they’re so simple, anyone can do it!
I read this book in maybe 2 or 3 days. It’s a short book but jam packed with good information. Darren paints such a clear picture of how making small choices over time, either good or bad, can have a huge impact on your life down the road. He talks about three men: one who decides he wants to make slightly better choices in his eating and exercise habits, one guys who doesn’t change his habits at all and a third who makes slightly worse eating an exercise habits. Related to these three guys, the first quote I wanted to share is this:
“At the end of ten months, we still can’t see noticeable changes in any of their lives. It’s not until we get to the end of the eighteenth month that the slightest differences are measurable in these three friends’ appearances.” Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
What really struck me about this example is just how LONG ten months is! And really, 18 months is a very long time to someone like me who wants everything done yesterday. To think that a life change would really take that long was surprising to me. And now that I think about it, of course big life changes take a long time but so often we’re sold this idea that “you can establish a new habit in 21 or 30 days!”
And while this may be true for small habits, it seems that we need to stay motivated for a much longer time if we want to change some big areas of our life. I think this probably relates to money, weight, exercise, marriage, parenting etc.
This gave me great hope though! Now, instead of thinking I’m a big failure since I can’t seem to make thing stick by trying them out for just one month, I’m starting to take a much longer range approach to my goals. I’m starting to tell myself about the life I want in 18 months. I’m looking out on the horizon and knowing that even if I get frustrated today or this week, I’m playing for the long game here.
In Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning (Before 8AM)
, he talks about the three phases of establishing a new habit. The first is unbearable, the second is uncomfortable and the last is unstoppable. I loved hearing this! It was so nice for someone to say, out loud, the first phase is UNBEARABLE. And now, knowing this, it’s helped me to push through this phase and to just call it for what it is, the first phase of my establishing a new habit.
This brings me to the second quote I wanted to talk about. Darren asks people to make a list of their daily habits and to identify which ones are NOT helping you to become your best self. I think it’s pretty obvious which ones those are. And here’s what he has to say about them:
“Look again at your list of bad habits. How can you alter them so they’re not as harmful? Can you replace them with healthier habits or drop-kick them altogether?” Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect
I have tried to erase a lot of bad habits in my life and I always find that I am much more successful when I replace a bad habit, then when I simply try to stop doing it. We often need to put something in that hole we’ve just created. Now some substitutes are easier than others. For example, drinking tea instead of coffee is an obvious substitution. Reading a book instead of watching TV is a harder substitution but still a clear one.
I also find that substituting spiritual practices for bad habits has been helpful to me. It certainly hasn’t been easy. Praying my rosary instead of watching TV during nap time is certainly not what my natural inclination is but I have come to love this new habit instead. That’s what’s amazing about using Catholic tools. They give you special grace that you’re not expecting so you can continue to use them!
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This week I’m reviewing Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer by Fr. Thomas Dubay
and this book is right up my ally. It’s like a businessy self-help book that’s about becoming a better Catholic. I wish it was organized a little bit better or easier to follow but if you’re willing to dig deep and read something a little dry, I think the heart of this book is incredibly valuable. Dubay urges us to always be seeking a deeper conversion and doing that through a deeper prayer life.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel up for reading it! That’s why I pull out important points and put them here – so you can get some great Catholic wisdom in just 15 minutes! The first quote I wanted to highlight this week is this:
“…seek and practice all the virtues, and in our example, the virtue of temperance in your use of food and drink. Select what you shall eat and drink in accordance with what is best for your health, not what may flatter your taste buds but damage your well-being and ability to serve others as well. He is saying also: be moderate and realistically motivated. In other words, be converted. Give up your self-centeredness and love truth, goodness and beauty. No matter how far you are advanced or how wayward you are in your spiritual life, if this fundamental change is taking place, you are on your way up, on your way to becoming beautiful. It may take time, but it can happen with the grace of God — which is always present.” – Fr. Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer
There’s so much here that speaks to my heart and to my brokenness. I absolutely struggle with feeding my emotions and soothing myself by overeating. If this isn’t your struggle, just insert whatever worldly practice in your own life needs temperance (i.e. daily Starbucks, Target shopping sprees, compulsive TV watching, online gambling, drinking too much wine etc.) But man when days get tough, I have such a hard time grabbing onto Jesus instead of reaching for some cheesecake.
And what Dubay is saying is absolutely true. I hurt my own well-being and my ability to care for others simply to satisfy my taste buds. And it’s not just that the food tastes good, which it does, but it also calms me down. I really wish it didn’t. I really wish it didn’t work. But even if the affect is temporary, it’s real and it’s there. I do feel soothed. I do feel comforted.
I’ve been trying for years to use Jesus for my soothing but man, I haven’t quite cracked that code at the end of a stressful day when my body is crying out for carbs or sugar. But I keep trying. Honestly, I do. And Dubay is one of the reasons I keep trying. I want to spend my WHOLE life trying to find a deeper conversion. I want to grow closer to Christ and I want Him to be the only thing I turn to when I’m anxious or stressed.
Be converted… on your way to becoming beautiful. I know I’ve kind of mushed these two phrases together but they seem like the should be together. The more we strive to be holy, the more we become beautiful in Christ. That’s the kind of beauty I want to chase. I keep finding new systems and new tricks to practice temperance in my eating. You’re catching me on a day and I have had six days of clean eating and awesome progress on my weight loss goals. Not all weeks are this shiny. But when I have a rough day, I hope to hear Dubay’s words to keep me on track!
I find so much hope in those last words, “…it can happen with the grace of God — which is always present.” I have hope that I’ll figure this out! He is always with me.
The second quote I wanted to focus on is this:
“…people who are profoundly intimate with their indwelling Lord are never bored. Boredom and genuine joy are incompatible. Selfishness diminishes a person’s liveliness and capacity to enjoy reality and to grow in the best of human relationships.” – Fr. Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer
I have to admit, I am a big pouty teenager who whines about being bored sometimes. Living in toddler land with little to no adult interaction and cycling through Candyland and Dr. Suess books everyday really wears on me sometimes. And these are the times I turn to worldly pursuits (i.e. food, lattes, Netflix etc.) when I should be turning to my faith instead. I love the phrase “intimate with their indwelling Lord.” It helps me to visualize that Christ lives inside of me and it makes me ashamed that I push Him to the background. I want to have a profoundly intimate relationship with Him.
I also want to live a life filled with genuine joy! I’ve been practicing this more and… it works! Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Recognizing when I start to feel anxious or bored. I find those two emotions are usually related.
- Identify what the main source of those feelings (i.e. my kids, my husband, my house, my finances, my blog etc.)
- Think of something related to that source that brings me genuine joy.
– If it’s my kids… I do something I really like doing with them like going outside on a crisp Fall day or baking cookies with them or making a silly craft I found on Pinterest.
– If it’s my husband… I try to find 10-15 minutes to just sit with him on our backyard swinging bench. It brings me such peace to sit there with him even if we’re not talking.
– If it’s my house, I pick one or two big surfaces to completely clear off. Uncluttered surfaces bring me genuine joy!
– If it’s my finances, I update my budget. I’m an excel geek so this does actually bring me joy and calms me down.
– If it’s my blog, I find a new plugin to try or a new aspect of design to change. Secret: I like building websites more than actually blogging so I have to limit how often I dink around with my site ;o)
- DO THAT THING!
Ladies I listen to you and you all have such beautiful hearts. You love your children and your husband’s. You’re trying to walk everyday with the Lord and I know how hard that can be in this modern world we live in. My hope for you is that one of these articles will speak to your heart and help you to grow closer to Him. That may look different for each one of us but it’s absolutely something we all need.
Please print and fill out this worksheet so you can work on the two pearls of wisdom I shared today. Let me know how I can pray for you and let me know if you have any questions at all!
You can give up these things. Remember, with the Holy Spirit, anything is possible!
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Today is going to be about tough love. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. A little kick in the bottom to say, “You, yes you. You can do this. You can pick yourself up and make things better. You have the power to change your life.” When I first picked up Jim Rohn’s audio cd set, I had no idea what it would be about. I didn’t know anything about him. He was a down-on-his-luck guy with no money, tons of debt and family to take care of at 25.
And at this time in my life, I desperately needed some tough love. I was unhappy with my situation, stuck as a stay-at-home mom, doing a terrible job of taking care of my home and finding every reason in the world to blame for it. And then along comes Jim Rohn and says that we can’t blame our circumstances for our lack of success. With consistent hard work, we can make things better and find satisfaction in a job well done.
There are three specific ways I want to share with you all about how to accomplish this.
“Work harder on yourself than your job.” Jim Rohn, The Art of Exceptional Living
This is a great idea that Jim talks about where he challenges people not to just show up at their jobs and do the minimum required of them but to always be learning and growing and thinking of the future. He explains that if you’re acquiring new skills, those will be useful even if you move on to another job.
And so I thought about this in terms of motherhood. First of all, being a mom is a 24 hour a day job so we never stop working in a sense. This doesn’t mean that we can’t work on ourselves but this is often the case. Many of us are guilty of being so burnt out serving others, that our own true self fades into the background slowly getting weaker and weaker. We yearn to be recharged, to feel full instead of running on fumes.
Work harder on yourself than on your job. Yes moms, you will be better moms if you take care of yourself. This means eating well, taking a shower, going for a walk outside, taking a bubble bath and improving your mind. I think this last one is especially important. We should always be trying to be a better version of ourselves. For me, that means reading books. For you, maybe it’s trying a new recipe or find a way to make homemade laundry detergent. We can always be improving our connection with God, our marriage, our parent skills, the way we run our households and the way we take care of our bodies.
If you’re too busy to learn something new, my guess is, that’s exactly what you need to be doing. Take a step back and create a meal plan for your family. Take a break and go for a ten minute walk. I guarantee you were wasting more time being frazzled than ten minutes. Going for a walk with refresh you and give you energy to tackle things anew. Say a rosary. You must work hard on yourself so you can serve those around you and that is exactly what God has called you to do, to serve.
But God doesn’t ask us to work ourselves to the bone. Once, Mother Teresa was asked why the nuns of her order prayed for so many hours in the morning instead of helping the sick. And she said that if they did not pray, they would not have the strength to help the sick.
If you are struggling in an area of your life, step back and see if you can learn something to make it easier. I really enjoy reading books but you could just as easily skim some internet articles or watch a YouTube video. We live in a world where you can learn almost anything online for free. Invest in yourself and your job and you will have more strength to tackle your vocation of motherhood.
“Everybody has to be good at either of two things: Planting in the spring or begging in the fall.” Jim Rohn, The Art of Exceptional Living
I had to pick this quote because it caused me pain to read it. I’m a notorious procrastinator. It drives my husband crazy because he is an engineer and a very organized person. He’s always saying, “If it’s worth doing, doing it right away.” And that drives ME crazy! But he’s right, I often put things aside and say, “I’ll do that later,” and then I don’t get around to doing it until it’s a crisis. I’ll let papers pile up on the table and then I freak out when I can’t find the registration form a class I wanted to sign my daughter up for and it starts tomorrow! I took off my favorite pair of black flats somewhere in the house and now I NEED them and I’m late for a meeting.
These stresses all come down to planning and discipline. We must have a plan and we must be disciplined in following it. This can apply to creating a budget for your money, organizing your kitchen so you can find things, keeping your car clean so it’s not a disaster, staying on top of your Christmas list instead of leaving it to the last minute.
I don’t suggest overhauling your whole life at once. We all know that doesn’t usually work. Instead, I suggest picking one to three habits that you know you need to work on. This shouldn’t be hard. I’m guessing you already know what you need to work on. I know my three:
- Open mail immediately and deal with it instead of leaving it in a pile and forgetting about it.
- Put my shoes away in my closet instead of leaving them (and tripping over them) all over the house.
- Create a better system for what we need from the grocery store so I can stop getting home and saying, “Oh man, I forgot eggs!!”
If you don’t have a financial budget for your household, I highly suggest starting with this one. I’m a big fan of www.daveramsey.com and he can help you get started with that. Don’t be a beggar in the Fall. Pick a few things that are holding you back, that you keep putting off and tackle them.
“Failure: A few errors in judgement, repeated every day.” “Success: A few simple disciplines, repeated every day.” Jim Rohn, The Art of Exceptional Living
One of the things I think that is so hard about being a mom these days is our overwhelming sense of failure. We just feel bad about ourselves and bad about how we’re doing as wives and mothers. But I think there’s hope. We don’t have to get better at everything to feel a little bit better, sometimes it’s enough to just get better at one thing.
When I feel like I’m drowning and I don’t know how I’m going to tackle everything I have going on, I’ll pick just one simple thing to focus on. Maybe it’s to take a shower every day or to work on getting enough water every day. I tell myself, “It’s okay if I don’t get everything right but I’m going to get this one thing right every day this week.”
And it’s amazing what happens. When I stop pressuring myself to do everything and I successfully accomplish my one little thing, I start to feel good about myself. I feel a little bit stronger, a little more confident. And then this fuels me to try and tackle another small thing. Then the power of inertia kicks in. Once I start moving in the right direction, I want to keep moving that way.
My success snowballs and this is how I happily hum along getting all the things done on my To Do list. This isn’t permanent of course. Life happens. Babies are born, grandparents pass away, families move out of state, epic colds get passed around everyone in the family. It’s okay that things pop up and kill your momentum. The important thing is that you remember to pick yourself up and tackle your one small thing to spark some momentum.
Please print and fill out this worksheet so you can work on the two pearls of wisdom I shared today. Let me know how I can pray for you and let me know if you have any questions at all!
Never stop trying, never give up on yourself. You can always start again.