If You Could Change One Thing in Your Life Today…

What would it be? It can be anything: personal, relational, work/job. What would that ONE THING be?

If You Could Change One Thing

What is ONE THING you can do today – right this minute even – to make that change happen. Or to at least start the process?

**BONUS POINTS and some Accountability if you dare to share that one thing either publicly in the comments or privately through email/message!

You see, Big changes and outcomes in our lives can happen if we take small consistent action, one step at a time. Wishing, hoping, and grumbling only leaves us stuck in the same place but little action steps keep us in the right direction.

Therefore, for the next 30 days, ask yourself what action step can you take today to move forward. Then, after the 30 days are up, savor the progress you have made and look to see what you have accomplished!

So, again: What is the one thing you want to change in your life today? What little step – what concrete action – are you going to take to begin the process of changing that one thing?

 

He is Risen!

Happy Easter! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend! We went to the Easter Vigil for Mass and it was beautiful and spent Easter Sunday with my husband’s side of the family.

How was your Easter? I hope it was a wonderful day. BUT, don’t forget, Easter isn’t over. It is just beginning! In the Catholic Church, the Easter season is 50 days. Lent, the penitential season, is 40 days but Easter, the rejoicing season, is 10 days more. 🙂

Therefore, during this glorious time, let the joy of Christ’s resurrection penetrate your heart and soul. 🙂

Resurrection

Image by Didgeman (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

For God So Loved The World…

As we head into the Sacred Tridium tomorrow, I want to encourage you to take some time (even just a few minutes) to reflect on God’s love for you.

For God So Loved the World

It is a powerful thing to realize the deep love that God has for us – for you – and not just in your head but with your heart. GOD LOVES YOU with an infinite love. A love that surpasses all understanding. Jesus suffered horribly and died on the cross for YOU. He wanted so much for you to be with Him, in the Blessed Trinity, for all eternity, that He was willing to do anything to make that happen.

And guess what? It doesn’t stop at the Crucifixion. Jesus rose and has forever conquered death and hell! He did all this for YOU. He wants YOU to have an abundant life! He doesn’t promise that it will always be easy but He will always be with YOU.

May you and your family have a truly grace-filled and blessed Sacred Tridium and Easter!

Do You Need Some Encouragement & Accountability?

If so, I would love for you to join me in my new Catholic Women’s Encouragement and Accountability Facebook group.

Encouragment & Accountabiity FB Group

The purpose of the group is to offer a community of like-minded Catholic women to meet and support each other as we live out our daily lives as faith-filled women. It is intended to be a safe place for you to ask questions, post (confidential) prayer requests, and get accountability in various areas of our lives.

The group is new, and admittedly, there isn’t much there yet. However, I plan to do regular Facebook Lives, theme days, and offer resources and encouragement on a daily/regular basis.

Of course, I also encourage you to contribute! Ask questions, start topics, and engage with other members. My prayer is that this group become a thriving community of women helping women!

See ya there!

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My Miracle Baby is 12!

Please indulge me a bit as I get a little emotional: Tomorrow is Andrew’s 12th birthday! My heart is full as I think about life with him all these years. I keep telling him to stop growing up but he just won’t listen. :/

Andrew Certificate

This is Andrew when he was 5 years old.

Did I ever tell you the story about his birth? I was looking through some old posts but didn’t see anything, which is strange because I could have sworn I’ve written about it here.

You see, the doctors said Andrew wasn’t going to make it so “technically” Andrew shouldn’t be alive. Sometime (probably within 24 hours) before his birth, Andrew swallowed meconium (“baby waste”). Then, after laboring for 24 hours, I gave in and decided to get an epidural (I wanted to go natural). When I got it, Andrew’s heart plummeted and I had to have an emergency c-section.

As soon as he was out, he was whisked away to be worked on. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see him; all I saw as a big blob. He was on 100% oxygen and the doctors said it didn’t look good. BUT, God had a plan. Michael got everyone he could think to pray. His best friend from college, who was also the best man at our wedding, had the prayer request added to the prayers of the faithful during Mass at Franciscan University.

So, obviously, he made it! In fact, he was able to come home from the hospital with me! Also, there were no residual effects from his trauma at all. He is smart, sometimes a smart alec!, funny, caring, and growing into a lovely young pre-teen. 🙂 I look at him now and I am amazed at God’s goodness.

Andrew when he started 6th grade this year.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in God’s plan that we have another child and that sometimes makes me sad. I wish Andrew had a brother or sister to play with and grow up with; however, I am so grateful for Andrew. I can not image him not in my life – even on those days when I want to pull my hair out because he is having one of his tantrums! He is such a blessing and I can’t wait continue on his journey with him as he grows up to be a man. 🙂

My Life with Cerebral Palsy

Did you know that March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month? Me neither, and I’ve had cerebral palsy my whole life!

My Life with Cerebral Palsy

Having cerebral palsy isn’t something that I usually write/talk about and I’m not sure if I’ve even mentioned it on this blog (and I’ve been blogging here about 5+ years). However, because 2017 is my year of courage, I am kicking fear in the butt and sharing a little about it.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

The Oxford Dictionaries define cerebral palsy (CP) “as a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination (spastic paralysis) and/or other disabilities, typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth.”

I remember being told years ago that my CP was caused to a lack of oxygen to the brain either before, during, or after birth. However, it is now believed that only a tiny fraction of people get CP from a lack of oxygen. Most people get CP from some type of abnormal brain development or brain damage while the brain is still developing, again, usually before, during or shortly after birth.

One thing about CP is that it is not degenerative. In other words, the condition does not get worse over time. Particular symptoms related to CP may get worse over time but the brain damage itself doesn’t get worse.

How Cerebral Palsy Affects People (Me)

Cerebral Palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.” (Cerebralpalsy.org)

The effects of Cerebral Palsy can range from the very mild to the very severe. A lot of people with CP have other conditions and/or complications related to having cerebral palsy. Some people with CP need total care and help in functioning and some do not need any help at all. In fact, cerebral palsy is as individual as the individual who has it.

Cerebralpalsy.org explains cerebral palsy perfectly. It is NOT contagious, curable, progressive, hereditary, or life-threatening. It IS chronic and permanent but it is also manageable.

As for me, I have a mild case of CP. At first glance, no one would ever know that I have cerebral palsy, until I start walking. I have a deeper arch in my spine than most people and my right leg is turned in at the hip all the way down to my foot. It is not as bad in my left leg. I walk “funny” and have balance issues. Sometimes my leg gives out and I fall. :/ Besides this, my muscles are weak, I don’t have the best coordination, and my muscles contract and spasm a lot, especially at night or if I sit or stand for any length of time. I also have other issues related to the cerebral palsy but I won’t bore you with the details!

The one thing I want to make clear is that people with cerebral palsy are not “retarded.” I hate that word on so many levels. It is true that cerebral palsy is a neurological condition caused by damage to the brain. BUT, that doesn’t mean a person with cerebral palsy can’t think for herself, or is “stupid.” Even people who have more severe cases of CP can be very smart.

The other thing I want to make clear is that people with cerebral palsy aren’t to be feared, avoided or ignored. Or mocked and made fun of. I can’t tell you all the names I was called growing up. We are people just like everyone else. We have feelings. We have our own feelings, gifts and challenges just like everyone else. And we deserve a chance – just like everyone else.

Living with Cerebral Palsy

I am not going to pretend that life with cerebral palsy was (or is) easy. From being sent from one doctor to another, the exercises and therapy, and everything that comes with it, life was a struggle. I was (and to some extent still am) almost always in pain, especially in my legs. I was almost constantly bullied school which made me terribly self-conscious and lonely. By the time I was in high school, my self-esteem was virtually non-existent. I have struggled with anxiety and depression.  Truly, the only place I really felt safe was at home (or Church, but that’s another story!).

Having said that, I am not going to pretend that life with cerebral palsy was (or is) that hard, either. I was blessed with a crazy, loud, and close family with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins! My parents gave their all to us, and to me. They are the ones who dragged me to all the doctors appointments. My mom had to deal with my screams and resistance to the eye patch and exercises I had to do. Best of all, they didn’t treat me any differently than my sister and brother. I got in trouble and they put up with my *very* stubborn streak (I prefer the term persistent)! They made a good life for my siblings and me. I AM normal and I WAS normal to them. It didn’t matter to them that I walked funny or had no balance or couldn’t see well or any other issue I had. I was me and that was enough. And, although I didn’t have a lot of friends, the ones I did have were GOOD friends, and I am still friends with them to this day.

And guess what? I am stronger and better for having cerebral palsy. I have the faith in God that I have now because of it. Cerebral Palsy has made me who I am today, and that’s a good thing!

Why I am Sharing All This

First of all, like I said at the beginning, March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. I want to bring awareness to CP, not just because I have it, but because it is important. Everyone wants to be “known” or “seen” for who they are and not what the stereotypes or what misguided perceptions say they should be. People with CP are no different. Well, I can’t speak for everyone who has cerebral palsy but I know what I believe to be true.

Secondly, I wrote this for YOU. I want to encourage you. If you are going through struggles, no matter what they are, you can and will get through it. If I can, you can. I have come out of my struggles a better and stronger person and you will too. There is no doubt about it. Trust in God and trust in yourself!

Never forget: YOU matter. YOU are necessary. YOU are a gift. Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.

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The Impulsive Life of St. John of God

Today is the optional memorial of Saint John of God. I first heard of him through the Little Sisters of the Poor because the congregation has a big devotion to him. He had a great love of the poor and would do anything for them.

Image by Comunicacion.curia (2011) via Wikipedia, CC ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

What I didn’t know until recently was that he had a rebellious and wild streak to him. In fact, he was so impulsive that he was deemed insane and committed to mental institution for a while!

His Early Life

St. John was born in Spain and his propensity for living on the wild side manifested itself when St. John was eight. According to Catholic.org, St. John heard a priest give a talk when he was 8 years old so he ran away from home so he could live an adventurous life traveling with the priest.

After a few years, St. John became sick and was adopted by the family who cared for him. However, as John got older, the wild streak kicked in again and he ran off to fight with the Spanish army against the French. While a soilder, he lived a life of drinking, gambling and of sin.

Sometime after quitting the army, St. John turned his life to God. However, different accounts assert different stories as to when and how he converted. Some say it was while working as a shepherd, and others say he converted when he heard the preaching of St. John of Avila.

Living for God and the Poor

St. John’s impulsiveness did not disappear after his conversion. I think it actually grew worse! Apparently, after hearing a sermon from St. John of Avila, St. John went running through the streets crying, pulling his hair out, and ripping his clothes. Because of his strange behavior, he was forced into a mental institution for a time.

He also had such a love for God and for the poor that he would do anything for them. He would beg for food, clothes and other items to give to the poor. Catholic.org tells the story how St. John grabbed a bowl of food to give to some starving people he came across and almost got arrested, ran into a burning building (the very hospital he spent time in) to rescue the patients, and jumped into a flood to save a drowning man – which became the cause of his death. St. John of God died, while kneeling before the Crucifix, on March 8, 1550 due to complications related to a sickness he caught after saving the man.

What Can We Learn From St. John?

At first glance, the life of St. John of God seems nice but bears no relevance for our lives. Not true, that. First, we can learn what it means to love God. Like all the Saints, St. John committed his whole self to God and was willing to do anything for Him even if it meant ridicule, rejection or misunderstanding. How about us? Are we willing to do anything for God even if it means being misunderstood or accepted by others? Living a life for God today is a real challenge. Society is so backward in so many ways and if someone shows a commitment to God they are almost instantly labeled a fanatic or weirdo. Am I willing to be a weirdo for God?

Secondly, even though St. John was sometimes too impulsive he acted on what he believed were inspirations of the Holy Spirit. How many times have I heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to help someone in need or to offer encouragement or a kind word to someone going through a difficult time but failed to follow through? Too many times than I would want to admit, for sure. We can imitate St. John by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit and his promptings. And even more importantly, we can imitate him by acting on those promptings.

Resources

To learn more about St. John of God, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

Catholictradition.org

Catholicsaints.info

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The Significance of Ash Wednesday

For many non-Catholics (and many NEW Catholics) Ash Wednesday can seem weird. Why would anyone want to walk around with ashes on their head all day? And, truth be told, many cradle Catholics have been going to Mass and getting ashes for years without understanding the purpose of Ash Wednesday, as well.

The Significance of Ash Wednesday

Image by Balaska (2009) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

What is the significance of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, is a day set aside for prayer and repentance. We fast, we abstain from meat, and we get ashes as a reminder of our human frailty. It is also a day to remember the spiritual reality that surrounds us; our earthly life is only part of the journey. Yes, will die and our bodies will “return to dust.” However, it doesn’t stop there. As our bodies return to dust our souls go to heaven, hell or purgatory. Therese aren’t necessary pleasant things to think about but they are important things, nevertheless.

Therefore, Ash Wednesday is a gift. Yes, a gift. This day of repentance is a gift because it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our lives. Think of it like a “spiritual New Year” where we can access our relationship with the Lord and make steps to strengthen our relationship with HIM.

  • Have I grown in our relationship with the Lord over this past year?
  • Have I grown lax or lukewarm?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to change in order to become the person God wants me to be?

From this reflection, we can make “resolutions” or a plan of action for how we will spend our Lent this year. This is where we can decide if we need to give up coffee,  sweets or something else.Or, we can work to change die-hard habits or sins which are holding us back and keeping us in bondage. Additionally, Lent is a great time to make a plan to learn more about our faith or pray the scriptures more often.

Why Ashes?

The use of ashes have a long history as a sign of repentance. I encourage you to read the History of Ash Wednesday over at American Catholic.

As regards to the rite of ashes, it is very simple. We go up to the priest or whomever is distributing the ashes. He makes the sign of the cross (well, it should be a cross. Sometimes it looks more like a blob!) on our forehead while saying “Man you are dust and to dust your shall return” or a similar phrases. This phrase comes from Genesis 3:19:

By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”

Our Obligation

Ash Wednesday is NOT a holiday of obligation. We are not required to go to mass, but it is strongly recommended that we go to Mass if we are able to. Going to mass is certainly a wonderful way to start Lent off on the right foot.

However, whether we go to Mass or not, we ARE obligated to abstain from meat and to fast today. The fasting requirement consists of one full meal and two smaller meals that equal one meal. No snacking or eating between meals is allowed. Of course, beverages are allowed at any time.  Everyone over the age of 14 is required to abstain from meat and everyone between the ages of 18-60 are required to fast. (See Canon law 1250-1252) I think pregnant women are exempt, but not sure.

Related Links

Here are a couple of links for further reading.

New Advent

About.com

Fallible Blogma

I pray that your Lenten journey be a blessed and grace-filled time for you and your family!

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PSST: If you are looking for ideas for Lent, read this blog post here. And don’t forget: Today is the last day you can get the printable Lenten Prayer Journal for only 5 bucks.

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5 Ideas for Lent

Ash Wednesday is next week and I, for one, am excited for it! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Other people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. That’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated – or giving up – when you fail. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. There is an important place for sacrifice and denial, but Lent is WAY more than that.

5 Ideas for Lent

Lent is about renewal!

The beginning of a new year is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, to do “this” or don’t do “that.” August and September is the beginning of a new school year and a time when kids (and adults) resolve to make “this year better than last year.” Of course, technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, even more so than the Advent and Christmas Season. Lent is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what and WHO is important in life. And, it is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus and with the Blessed Trinity.

Therefore, the purpose of the “mandates” of Lent, prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, is to help us go deeper into the truths of our faith and our relationship with Christ, NOT to give us yet “one thing to do or not do” for the next six weeks. Thus, I’d like to invite you to rethink your strategy for Lent this year. If you have been in the habit of giving up something for Lent and it hasn’t worked for ya, how about instead of giving up something, give yourself something. Here are five ideas of things you can give yourself for Lent:

1. Give yourself the gift of Confession.

If you haven’t been to the Sacrament of reconciliation in a while, now would be a good time to go. The Church requires Catholic to go to Confession at least once a year for a reason. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a very special way.

There are a lot of people who are afraid of going to Confession or who think it is a waste of time. “Why go to confession to a priest when I can tell my sins right to God?” However, confession is a gift from God that gives us special graces, allows us to grow in grace and to come back to Him when we fail. I strongly encourage you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regards to confession. Do the research on why Confession is important. It is really a very important sacrament!

2. Give yourself the gift of the Eucharist.

If you aren’t in the habit of going to daily mass, now would be a great time to start – even if it just one or two days a week – or just on Saturdays. The readings for Lent are just as powerful during the week as they are on Sundays.

There is a lot of focus today about the community aspect of Mass which is important. However, we also must never lose sight of the purpose of the Mass. It is the center and source of our Christian Life! When we receive communion, we receive Jesus Himself. We take Him into our souls and our hearts. What an amazing and profound blessing and gift that is!

3. Give yourself the gift of prayer.

The rosary is a particularly powerful prayer and it is a wonderful way to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s Life, Death and Resurrection. It is even better if you can pray together as a family. Also, many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross each Friday which is a beautiful way to enter one’s self into Our Lord’s suffering. If you can’t do that, try to just spend a few minutes or so reading the Bible and Lectio Divina.

There are also a lot of retreats and devotional booklets that are published for the Lenten Season. If that helps, pick one of those up and use it to help guide your prayer. Better yet, scrap that and just talk to God as you would a friend. He is always ready to listen! It may seem strange at first but we can, and should, speak from our souls and pour out our heart.

4. Give yourself the gift of reflection.

Prayer isn’t all about talking! It is also about listening and reflecting on what God wants to tell us. One way to do this is by jounaling. When you journal, you can certainly write down your prayers. However, you can also write down notes, scriptures, and insights that you get during prayer. You can paste prayer cards and pictures, doodle, and make it your safe and private place of encountering God.

To help you do this, last year I created a Lenten Prayer Journal. It is an unguided prayer journal sprinkled with scripture verses from the Mass readings, blank pages, and a section for specific prayer intentions. It is my heart’s desire that the journal be a comforting and “magical” place for you to grow in your faith and love for God.

(P.S. From now until March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday – you can get the printable pdf. version of the journal for only $5, regularly $12. Go here to purchase and download instantly. Go here for a free sample of journal. Go here for the paperback version of the journal on Amazon.)

5. Give yourself the gift of intention.

Finally, above all – no matter what you do the Lent – let it be intentional and focused. Be fully present to your devotions, family or whatever it is you are doing or not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

So many of us, myself included, live life too reactionary. We don’t take the time to think things through because we are too busy rushing from activity to activity and responsibility to responsibility. This year, take a few minutes to look at your calendar. What can you delegate, reschedule or remove so that you can give yourself some breathing room and mental space?

Now, let’s support each other.

Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do or not do in order to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus and renew your spirit this season? By putting it out there, it will help you stay accountable and give me the opportunity to pray for you!

As for me, I am focusing on the Nineveh 90 challenge. We are only a week in and it is proving to be a challenging and yet powerful experience. It is definitely helping me to be more disciplined in certain areas, that’s for sure! I still may give up something specific on top of this but I haven’t decided yet. 🙂

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Have You Heard About Nineveh 90?

I am a little late on this because I just recently found out about it – but not in enough time to get a blog post about it until now!

Have you heard of Nineveh 90

This year, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. The exact date is May 13, 2017. Therefore, in preparation of the anniversary, Fri Heilmann is hosting a 90 day challenge which he is calling Nineveh 90.

The challenge is called Nineveh 90 after the story of Jonah in the Bible. If you haven’t read the book of Jonah, you should take the time to read it. It is the story of the prophet Jonah who is called by God to go to Nineveh to warn them about their sins. Of course, as you may know, Jonah resists, gets swallowed by a whale for 3 days, but finally goes to Nineveh. For their part, when the people of Nineveh hear the message, they cry out to God in prayer and penance. God hears their prayers, has mercy, and does not carry out the punishment on them.

Thus, the Nineveh 90 is a 90 day challenge to convert our hearts and minds and bodies to God. It consists of the 54 day rosary novena, the 33 days of preparation for Marian Consecration, and the consecration itself on May 13. In addition, participants are called to exercise regularly, get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, and offer prayers and mortifications daily.

The recommendations are all laid out on the Nineveh 90 website but some suggestions include daily Mass, frequent confession, daily holy “hour,” and fasting from alcohol, sweets, television, etc; and accountability. If you can’t do all the suggestions, don’t get overwhelmed. Like it says on the website, just pick one or from each category and commit to doing those. Starting this challenge now will be a good segue into Lent which starts in only a couple of weeks, March 1.

Now, the challenge started Monday, February 13, but it not too late to join in! Go to the website to sign up, join the Facebook group, and get going. You in?!

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