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

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.

Tweetable: The Significance of Ash Wednesday

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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Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this Lent

Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this LentGo to confession. Truly.

Church teaching requires that Catholics go to confession at least once a year. However, to grow in the spiritual life, the Church encourages Catholics to go at least once a month (when I was young, we were encouraged to go every two weeks). But this post isn’t about the theology behind confession or Church teach.

You see, I love going to confession. Besides the Eucharist, Confession is my favorite sacrament. (Crazy, I know!) Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous sometimes when I go to confession. I sometimes think I don’t have anything to say. And yes, I often confess the same things over again. But that’s okay!

When we go to Confession, we don’t just have our sins forgiven. We gain grace and strength to live out our womanly vocation. Additionally, depending on the priest, we can get some really good insights and/or advice. Even if we don’t, we still encounter Christ in a very real and profound way in Confession.

Sure, just like the liturgy, it is great if get to confess to a priest who is on fire for his faith and truly a vessel of Christ. But, sadly, that just isn’t always going to happen unless we are blessed to be in a parish with priests who understand the value of the sacrament. We just need to remember that no matter what vessel Jesus decides to use, it is JESUS we confess to in the Sacrament. Years ago, I read in a book that when we go to confession we “whisper into the ear of Jesus.” That has made such an impact on me and to this day I try to remember that when I go to confession.

Over the years, I have gone to confession to some wonderful priests and there have been times when I left the confessional wondering if the sacrament was valid! One day I realized that I have a choice. I know the priests in the area that I like and I try to make a point of confessing to them. Of course, I realize that I am blessed to live in an area where there are several churches with at least two priests in the parish. If you live in an area where that is not possible, please don’t let that stop you from the Sacrament. The grace is still there!

So please, if you can, please take the opportunity to go to confession. Here is a little blurb on how to make a good confession, if you need it.

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Tweetable: Give Yourself the Gift of Confession

Ten Meatless Meals for Lent

Note: I am reposting this with the express intention of highlighting the COMMENTS. Lots of people chimed in with their own ideas/recipes over the last couple of years, so if you haven’t checked them out, scroll down and please do! 

10 Meatless Meals for Lent

Do you find it challenging trying to come up with meatless meals each Friday of Lent that doesn’t consist of fish or pizza? I do. And for our family, we don’t eat meat on any Friday of the year, so it can be particularly difficult to not fall into a rut of eating the same thing every week.

So, to spark some ideas for you here’s a small list of our favorite meatless recipes. (Click on the recipe to go to its recipe instructions.)

1. Macaroni and Cheese. This is my sister-in-law’s recipe. Not only is tasty, it is SUPER easy to make.

2. Lentils: lentil Soup, lentils with rice or Honey Baked Lentils. (addition: As noted in the comments, this is a DELICIOUS way to eat lentils. 🙂 )

3. Egg Balls. (Yeah,  sounds weird I know, but it is delicious! You just have to try it to believe me!)

4. Peas and Macaroni. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe.

5. 5 Can Soup. I got this recipe a long time ago from some friends in Ohio.

6. Veggie Omelet. (Or any egg dish such as fried, scrambled, souffle, etc.)

7. Potato Pancakes. This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.

8. Beans and Macaroni. Another delish recipe from my mother-in-law.

9. Ratatouille. A classic French dish but easy to make.

10. Vegetarian Lasagna. Yum!

Other meal ideas would include, eggplant Parmesan; tuna casserole; cereal or other meatless breakfast food (such as pancakes, french toast, oatmeal – who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner?!); veggie burgers and vegetarian chili.

What are your favorite vegetarian and/or meatless meals for Lent?

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Tweetable: 10 Meatless Meals for Lent

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Join the Lenten Mercy Challenge!

Lyn Mettler, on behalf of MyConsecration.org, sent me the following invitation:

Lenten Mercy Challenge

I wanted to invite you to participate in MyConsecration.org’s #LentenMercyChallenge beginning this Friday, Feb. 12. In an effort to demonstrate the power of prayer paired with fasting, MyConsecration, which is dedicated to promoting Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, is challenging Catholics to pray 1 decade of the rosary and fast on bread and water for lunch every Friday during Lent. These efforts may be offered up for a specific intention as an act of mercy.

This is a wonderful, wonderful idea and I want to pass the opportunity on to you. Personally, I will be following a stricter fasts on Fridays for Lent this year but I will definitely be adding on the extra decade of the rosary to my Fridays.

If you are looking for ways to fast and pray more this Lent the #LentenMercyChallenge (which starts TODAY) may be perfect for you. Go here to find out more and to sign up for the challenge.

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Tweetable: Join the #LentenMercyChallenge!

Ten Ways to Get The Most Out of Lent

(repost)

As you know this week is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I *LOVE* Lent. I do. Really! Lots of us cradle Catholics find the fasting and sacrifices of Lent a drudgery. Others ignore Lent altogether. Not me. I see Lent as a mini New Year. A new beginning and another chance to re-charge the batteries in my relationship with the Lord.

10 Ways to Get the Most out of Lent

Here are some ideas for you to spend your time this Lent. (Btw, if you read my “Making Advent Meaningful” post, you’ll notice some of the suggestions are the same. That’s because there are some things – like the Mass and rosary – that are worth being reminded of again. 🙂 )

1. Daily Mass. Since the Eucharist the the “source and summit of our faith”, it stands to reason that daily mass should be on top of our Lenten “to-do” list!

2. Adoration. Next to the mass, adoration is the next best thing – especially if you are unable to make it daily mass for whatever reason. More and more parishes are offering at least monthly or weekly exposition and adoration (and some have perpetual adoration) of the Blessed Sacrament, so try and snag a half hour each week if you can!

3. Stations of the cross. The Stations of the Cross is a beautiful way to remember the passion of the Lord. Again, most parishes have Stations of the Cross once or twice each Friday of Lent. If you can’t make it to church, you can get some beautiful pamphlets for next to nothing and pray they them at home with your family.

4. Forgive. Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and so that we may receive mercy. One of the best (and hardest!) ways to show gratitude for the Lord’s goodness is to forgive those who have hurt us – especially if the transgression was grievous. Just as hard, if  not even harder, is forgiving ourselves. Or sometimes we hold on to grudges and anger, even when we can’t remember how a particular person has hurt us! If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, maybe you can pray the Lord opens your heart to forgiving someone who has hurt you, or praying that He will help you forgive yourself? Even the prayer that He helps you to WANT to forgive would be a great start…

5. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The morning and evening prayers of the Liturgy of the hours are always beautiful, but especially during the Lenten season.  It is the official prayer of the church, and when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you are united will all the faithful around the world who are praying it with you!

6. Go to confession. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation now, but whatever you call it, there’s no better way (besides the mass!) to prepare for Easter. There will be (or should be) many Penance services around your diocese, so you should be able to find one that fits in your schedule.

7. Watch the Passion of the Christ. Yes, watching the Passion of the Christ is painful. It’s in your face. It renders us speechless. And it should. What Jesus endured for our sake wasn’t “touchy feely” or a walk in the park. It was ugly, but our sin in even uglier, and sometimes we (I) need something like this movie to remind us (me) just how much Jesus loves us and was willing to endure for us.

8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Who says you have to wait for the Divine Mercy Sunday Novena to pray the chaplet? It’s a short but perfect prayer for Lent. I also try and read parts, if not most, of Saint Faustina’s diary during Lent, too.

9. Pray the the Scriptures. Next to participating in the Sacraments, there is no better way to deepen our relationship with the Lord than Scripture.  Spending as little as five minutes a day with His Word can transform your life. (New to reading the Bible? Read this guide on how to pray the Scriptures.)

10. Fast. All through Lent we will be hearing about fasting. It’s good for the soul. It opens our eyes to the needs of others. it cleanses us of our base passions. But, fasting isn’t just giving up food, or even television (both of which are excellent). This year, why don’t we fast from anger, sloth or any of the other “capital sins” and try to feast on its opposing virtue? (I know my diet has been terribly deprived of patience lately! 😉 )

Now, don’t feel pressured to do all of these activities. Remember, the focus is to deepen our relationship with Christ not add on more to-dos! Start out small. Pick one to three activities and focus on those. Lent is not a competition or race to see how much you can do. It is about focusing on a few things and doing them well so that you can focus on growing deeper in your relationship with the Lord, not exhaust yourself.

So tell us, what are your suggestions for making Lent special for you this year?

P.S. For a printable version of this list go here to subscribe. Subscribers, go to your private page to download the list.

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Tweetable: Ten Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent

Are You Ready for Lent?!

Can you believe that Lent starts next week with Ash Wednesday? It seems strange, especially since technically the Christmas season (for us Catholics) just ended February 2 which was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Well, ready or not here it comes! Now may be a good time to think and pray about what you want to happen during the Lenten Season.

For most of us, the focus of Lent becomes focused on us. Or, at least, I’m guilty of focusing too much on me. What am I giving up for Lent? What will I do for almsgiving? What prayer practice am I going to do this year? Then when we fail or mess up we blame ourselves, get frustrated, and sometimes give up. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fasting, almsgiving, and extra prayer are all good things. I’m not saying to abandon them!

What I am saying, for me, is that I want to switch focus this year and put it on Christ. I am still going to “do” those Lenten practices but I am going to try and keep my eyes fixed on Christ and really enter into the mystery of His suffering, death, and Resurrection.

One way I am going to do this is to make a greater commitment to journaling and to use it as a form of prayer. Journaling is a wonderful way to pray. Why? It is a type a freewriting where you can pour out your heart to God without thought. Or, if you have a definite thing to say, putting it into paper makes it “real” or tangible.

I started journaling a few years ago for Lent and it made a huge difference for me. Once Lent was over, I sort of let the practice fall by the wayside. Oh, I still continued to journal every day but it was, again, more of a “me” thing as opposed as a tool to connecting with God.

Lenten Prayer Journal for Women

To help me using journaling as a prayer aid, I created the Lenten Prayer Journal for Women. Each day has a short quote from one of the Mass readings for the day and lots of lined and blank pages. My plan is to use these pages as an opportunity to do a sort of informal reflection on those quotes. Of course, many days I will probably use the pages to pour out my heart to God in other ways too and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to use a prayer journal!

I’ve also made the journal available to you in hopes that it may help you kick start your prayer this Lent, too. If you are looking to refocus your mind and heart on Christ – if only for a few minutes! – I pray that this journal will help you do just that. 🙂 May it be your best and most fruitful Lenten season yet!

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Tweetable: Are You Ready for Lent?!

Saint and Feast Days in February 2016

February is a short month both in the number of days (although this year is leap year) and in number of celebrated saints. However, Lent starts extra early this year so most of February are Lenten days. Here are the saint days:

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

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

Saints and Feasts

February 2Presentation of the Lord (feast)

February 3: St. Blaise, bishop & martyr (optional memorial)

February 3: St. Ansgar, bishop (optional memorial)

February 5: First Friday Devotions (optional)

February 5: St. Agatha, virgin & martyr (obligatory memorial)

February 6: First Saturday Devotions (optional)

February 6: St Paul Miki & Companions, martyrs (obligatory memorial)

February 8: St. Jerome Emiliani (optional memorial)

February 8: St. Josephine Bakhita, virgin (optional memorial)

February 10: Ash Wednesday (fast & abstinence)

February 11: Our Lady of Lourdes (optional memorial)

February 14: St. Valentine’s Day (not observed liturgically)

February 17: The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (optional memorial)

February 23: St. Polycarp, bishop and martyr (optional memorial)

Other Dates to Note

Every Saturday is traditionally dedicated to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

February is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Family

February 2: Groundhog Day (USA)

February 12: Lincoln’s Birthday (USA)

February 15: George Washington’s birthday observed (USA) & Presidents Day (USA)

February 15: Family Day (Canada)

February 22: George Washington’s birthday (USA)

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Tweetable: Saint and Feast Days in February 2016

Three Cheers for Lent!

Three Cheers for Lent!Ash Wednesday is this week and as you can tell from the title of this post, I’m excited about the arrival of Lent! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Some people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. And that’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated with oneself for failing to live up to one’s promises. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. I am giving up something, but Lent is more than that.

Lent is about renewal!

New Year’s is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, do this, don’t do that. August/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.” And technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, almost even more so than the Advent/Christmas Season. It is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what is important in life. It is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus, with the Blessed Trinity.

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 another thing to do or not do for the next six weeks. So, 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 four things you can give yourself:

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.

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.

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. 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 five minutes or so reading the Bible and/or sitting quietly before the Lord.

4. 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/not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

Now, let’s support each other. Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do/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!

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