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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Therefore, during this glorious time, let the joy of Christ’s resurrection penetrate your heart and soul. ๐Ÿ™‚

Resurrection

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

5 Ideas for Advent

Canย  you believe that Advent begins on Sunday, November 27?? That is only 2 1/2 weeks away! That’s not a lot of time to think about how you want prepare spiritually for Christmas.

In the past, I would get so caught up with the material preparations of Christmas that I would get overwhelmed and lose focus on the the meaning of Christmas. I would get stressed, lose sleep, and generally just wish that the whole season would be done and over. (Sound familiar?)

Image by geralt (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Image by geralt (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to take stock and make some decisions to help me focus on the purpose of Advent which, of course, is to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The changes made a huge difference for me and so I will follow the same plan.

Now, for me, preparing for Advent (or Lent) isn’t necessarily about adding more things to my schedule. It is about making the most of my current schedule…So here are the 5 things I plan to do this year:

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Yes, I am one of those ober-organized people who like to do things in advance. ๐Ÿ™‚ For Instance, I already have my shopping list and my card list written. I also hope to have my cards ready to send out by the time Advent starts and some of the gifts purchased. If all goes well, I should be done with all my Christmas shopping before the second week of Advent!

As for baking, I plan to do some baking early and freeze it all. Most baking goods, especially cookies, freeze really well. However, for some items, I will have to wait to last-minute so they are baked fresh. ๐Ÿ™‚

II. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week.

In the past, I would commit to go to daily mass and fail every year. It just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, for this year, I am going to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

III. Fast Twice a Week.

Fasting isn’t just for Lent! Technically, Advent is a penitential season and this was especially true pre-Vatican II. In fact, the Church still encourages us to fast regularly all throughout the year even though it is not an official precept of the Church.

There are many benefits of fasting and I have wanted to get into this practice for a while. Therefore, I figure Advent would be a great time to finally get started. I will be fasting Wednesdays and Fridays.

IV. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

Of course, the Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe are perfect activities to do with children. I will do the Advent Calendar with Andrew each morning and light the Advent Wreathe candle during each meal as a family.

V. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. Writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

Last year, I created an Advent journal but it was too late to actually use for the Advent season. So, for this year, I will actually be using the journal I created. What I like most about the journal is that it is simple and has a lot of lines and writing space. Each page has a scripture verse that (sometimes loosely) correlates to the daily Mass readings and then lines for writing. It is not a guided journal but some days I will use the scripture as a starting point for prayer and some days I will just write for the heart. It also includes blank pages for drawing and/or pasting and has a section for prayer requests.

If you are interested, you can find more about the journal and purchase it here. Also, for a limited time, I am offering the PDF version of the journal for only $5 bucks! It is regularly $10 so it is half-price but it won’t last long. The sale ends on Friday, December 2, 2016.

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For more ideas for Advent, here are 10 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful and an Advent Meditation.

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Tweetable: 5 Ideas for Advent

Advent Prayer Journal for Women Cover

Is God’s Love Enough?

Has God ever punched you in the face? Not in the literal sense, of course, but in the way that you hear something and it just changes everything for you?

Is God's Love Enough?

Image by brunoabdon (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Well, He “punched” me about a month ago. I went to confession and when I was done telling my sins the priest says (among other things), “When we sin we are, in effect, telling God that His love isn’t enough for us.”

BOOM!

For some reason, those words rocked me to the core. “Of course, God’s love is enough! I go to Mass, I pray, I go to Confession regularly. I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior and try to do right by him. Heck, I even have a blog to encourage other women with their walk with the Lord! Of course, His love is enough!”

BUT, is it? Really?

By definition, sin is a rejection of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125 (1850)

Thus, when I sin, I choose self-love, self-wants, and self-desires over God’s love. So, yes, when I sin I am telling God that His love isn’t enough. I am telling Him that my immediate self-gratification and my self-will is more important than His Holy and loving Will for me.

Thankfully, God’s love and mercy is bigger than my self-love. He knows my hearts, all of our hearts. He knows that we are small and petty and foolish and yet He loves anyway. He knows that we will reject Him – are sins nailed Jesus to the Cross! – and He continues to choose us anyway.

Since that confession, I’ve tried to remember those words. When I am tempted to impatience, anger or other sin, I try to remind myself that God’s love is enough. I don’t have to choose impatience or bitterness, or whatever. It hasn’t been perfect. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. But, guess what? That’s okay! His love is even enough for my failures!

God’s love is enough for you, too.

Whatever you are going through right now, try to think of those words. Are you suffering or in pain? God’s love is enough. Are you struggling with bitterness, anger or hatred? God’s love is enough. Are you lonely? God’s love is enough. Are you out of work or facing financial problems? God’s love is enough. I promise, no matter what you are going through, God’s love is enough.

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P.S. Know that I pray for my blog readers daily! If you have a specific intention you want me to pray for, don’t hesitate to let me know.

The Secret to Holiness

(Repost but still relevant!)

Catchy title, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t claim to truly have the secret to holiness, obviously. However, I think that as I’ve been The Secret to Holinessgetting older, I’ve discovered the secret of holiness for me.

In reality, holiness is nothing more than growing into a deep, living and personal relationship with God. We get to know God through liturgical and personal prayer, frequenting the sacraments, practicing virtue, reading scripture and studying our faith. It is living our lives in Jesus, and through Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Father. It is having our hearts aligned with God.

Isn’t that what the saints did (do)? They have an abiding prayer life – even when it is dry and difficult for them. They receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, regularly. They practice virtue, often to an heroic degree, daily. They often have a great understanding of scripture and the precepts of our faith, as well. (FYI, knowledge of scripture doesn’t always mean being “learned.” There were, and are, many “uneducated” people who have great knowledge of the ways of God!)

The saints make no excuses. They are consistent in following the ways of the Lord. Instead of falling into complacency they actively seek God and work to serve Him. And, therein, for me, lies the secret to holiness: consistency. Consistency is key.

I don’t know about you, but I make excuses. It is just SO EASY to make excuses or to put other things first. I make resolutions and fail to keep them. I justify myself when I fail in virtue (he “made” me be impatient, because he won’t do what I want!). Sometimes I feel like I am the seed that was choked among the thorns (Matthew 13:1-23). I start out promising to be patient or pray more or go to daily mass or whatever; then, life gets in the way. Or, rather, I let life get in the way. I don’t manage my time properly or get my priorities mixed up. I’m inconsistent in living my faith, not only the way I “should” live it but the way I ultimately WANT to live it.

Is it a lack of faith? Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe, if I had the faith of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), all the excuses, justifications, and inconsistencies would disappear. I don’t know. I do know that I need to work at being more consistent and focused.

How about you? What do you think about this? what does holiness mean to you? What do you think is the secret of holiness to you?

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Tweetable: The Secret to Holiness

All Saints Day

All Saints Day is this Sunday, November 1. It is a glorious solemnity wherein the Catholic Church celebrates all of the saints, known and unknown. It is definitely one of my favorite Solemnities in the liturgical calendar. This year, since it falls on Sunday, it is a holy day of obligation (as are all Sundays).

Celebrating All Saints Day

Image by kropekk_pl (2009) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Sadly, here in the United States, if All Saints Day falls during the week it is no longer a holy day of obligation. I almost wish it was always a holy day of obligation because it is a wonderful thing to celebrate all the saints, whether they have been officially canonized or not. Why? Because they are where we want to be! They “fought the good fight,” won the battle, and now live forever with the Triune God. That’s worth celebrating if you ask me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

One way to celebrate (besides going to Mass, of course!), is to pray the Litany of the Saints. It is such a beautiful prayer – and even more beautiful when sung! Here is a lovely version that I found on YouTube:

Another great way to celebrate is to read up on a saint (or few) that you do not know about yet. The Church has lifted up many saints as examples for us and when we read about them we can get inspired. Here are a few of my favorite saints.

For information about the history of All Saints Day, go here and here. Speaking of history, did you know that the word Halloween came from “All Hallow’s Eve?” It originally was a day of fasting and preparation for all Saints Day; however, over the years it unfortunately evolved to the scary, spooky, commercial day it is now.

(Yep, I am not a fan of Halloween. I don’t like all the emphasis on ghouls and scary things. I know it is supposed to be fun but I don’t see anything fun about glorifying evil in any way – even in jest – because there is nothing glorious or good about evil. Anyone with me or am I the only one?)

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Tweetable: All Saints Day

First Friday Devotion

I sometimes feel like September is a “mini New Year’s” because the kids are going back to school, summer is fading into fall, and there is a “newness” of sorts in the air. New clothes, new shoes, new supplies, and a new chance to begin again. Do you get that feeling too, or is it just me?

Since posting the saints and feasts for September on Monday, I starting thinking that the fall can also be a new opportunity to start fresh spiritually, as well. If you let your prayer time go by the wayside, now is a great time to get it going again. As you prepare for your fall schedule, make sure you add time in to pray alone and/or as a family.

FirstFriday

Image by gracemazzaurbanski (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

One way to do this is to commit to the First Friday Devotions. It is a very simple devotion and the only “requirement” is to go to Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. Of course, there are other practices worth doing if you have the time.

If you can’t make it to Mass, you can certainly make a spiritual communion and say a small prayer such as “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.” Or, if you read this too late to go to Mass, mark the First Fridays on your calendar now so you won’t forget for next month.

While you are at it, tomorrow is First Saturday, so mark it on your calendars now to head to mass. (There are other requirements for First Saturday devotions which you can read here.)

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Tweetable: First Friday Devotion

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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Linked to Sunday Snippets

 

How to Put Together a Child’s Traveling Bag

Childs Traveling Bag

(This is a re-post of another very popular post that I published a couple of years ago that I have updated and added some more info.)

I am piggybacking off of yesterday’s post, thanks to Kathleen over @ So much to say, so little time, who asked me to share what kind of toys I keep in Andrew’s traveling bag.

Here’s a snap shot of the contents of the traveling bag we brought with us to North Carolina:

  • Drawing pad with crayons and “no-spill” marker paint
  • My Big Rescue Book
  • Lacing boards with string
  • His favorite (and well-worn!) Woody doll
  • Small teddy bear
  • Transformer toy
  • Toy horse
  • Prayer book
  • Rosary

Weย  had a separate bag just for his favorite reading books and homeschooling books. I also have a few other toys set aside that weren’t in this trip’s bag. I like to switch off with a few different toys/books, so they are “new” to him. He tends to stay more content and play longer that way!

How to put together your own traveling bag for little ones:

1. Get a cute bag or tote just for traveling. You can even design your own tote if you’re the creative type. I’m not very creative, sorry to say, so we use Andrew’s old “mass bag“. (You’ll notice that some of the contents are now included as part of Andrew’s traveling bag. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

2. Keep the toys small. Obviously, you’re not going to want to waste precious car space with big, bulky toys, so keep the toys small enough to snuggle next to the child’s car seat or on his/her lap. The largest toy we brought was the transformer toy and it fit right between Andrew’s car seat and door.

3. Let the littles help pick out the toys. I let Andrew pick out which toys and books he wanted to bring. He was so excited to pick out his own toys and looked forward to playing with them during the car ride!

4. Switch them out. Like I mentioned above, alternating the toys periodically makes them feel like new to the children and they will most likely play with them longer.

UPDATE:

backpack

His current travel bag (he also has a Spiderman backpack he likes to use)

Now that Andrew is eight we have updated his traveling bagย  and I thought I’d share some of its contents to give you ideas for your older children:

  • rosary and prayer-book
  • various books (especially audio books)
  • home-school course work
  • hand-held DSI video game (30 minute limit per day)
  • small toys (action figures, such as Transformers, Spiderman, etc.)
  • travel art supplies
  • maps and compass

One of my readers suggested in my other post on keeping kids happy when traveling that she puts on a movie in DVD player in her car. We don’t have a DVD player in our car nor do we own a portable player, but it is certainly a good idea! (Yes, I know I could use my laptop but I would be afraid he would drop it and we can’t figure a way to stabilize it without him holding it. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

I hope that helps. Do you have a traveling bag you use with your children? What items are in yours? Do share in the comments!

How to “Get Something” Out of Mass (Practical Steps)

In the previous installment of “How to ‘Get Something’ Out of Mass” I said I would share some practical tips and ideas for getting the most out of the Mass. Pick a few and them give them a try for a few weeks. If they work, great keep doing them and add a couple more. If not, scrap them, pick a couple different ones and try those.

Eucharist

(photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc)

Before Mass:

1. Pray the Scriptures.

Sometime during the week, spend a few minutes readingย  and praying over the Scripture readings for the coming Sunday. If you can read them on Saturday, that would be best that way they will be fresh on your mind come Sunday morning.

2. Get ready the night before.

Lay out the clothes and shoes for you and your family. Set the table for breakfast if you will be eating before the one-hour fast kicks in. Do whatever you can the night before that will make the morning go smoother and easier to get out the door in time for Mass.

3. Arrive 5-10 minutes early.

I know that sounds impossible, but if you can get to church early it will give you time to take the kids coats off (in winter), settle them down and do any last minute runs to the bathroom before Mass starts. It will also give you time do do #4.

4) Spend a few minutes in prayer.

Give your heart and mind a few minutes to quiet down and settle your heart. Re-read the scriptures for the Mass and give yourself to enter into the mystery that is about to begin.

During Mass:

5. Minimize distractions.

Getting rid of distractions all together is impossible. Well, it’s impossible for me, at least. But you can do things like avoid looking around the church, talking or whispering to those around you and such to minimize them. (One of the reasons I where a mantilla, or chapel veil is because it helps me to keep focused on what’s happening in front of me, not around me – but chapel veils is for a whole other topic of discussion!)

6. Stick to the missal.

This is actually a technique for avoiding distractions. Since the changes to the mass came out over a year ago we all went back to the missal to learn the new wordings. But whether you have all the responses memorized or not, reading along is a great way to keep focused. It also gives a whole new perspective. Sometimes when I’m following along with the priest by reading I’ll see something that I never noticed before.

7. Answer the responses.

A huge part of Mass is the communal participation of the faithful in the liturgy. We are supposed to respond at the appropriate places and sing along with the various songs at Mass. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live in NJ, the communal participation is sorely lacking. Very often the only people I hear singing along with the choir is myself (which is rather scary!) and my family.

After Mass:

8. Make your thanksgiving.

Years ago it was the norm that people would say for few minutes to thank the Lord after receiving communion. Nowadays, the priest is barely off the altar before people are rushing out of church. Resist that urge. Try and take a few minutes (or even one or two minutes) to make your thanksgiving and thank the Lord for coming to you. I remember being told by the sisters when I was with them that the body and blood of our Lord remain undigested for about 10 minutes after you receive communion. I don’t know for sure if that is true or not, but it’s certainly something being mindful of.

9. Discuss the Mass with your family.

On the car ride home or during lunch or dinner talk about the mass as a family. What was their favorite (or worst) part of the homily? What did the priest mean when he said such and such? How can we practically live out something that we heard at Mass today?

10. Prepare for next week.

The Mass is the most central part of our lives as Catholics. We are called to live out the liturgy in our lives and live for the liturgy (figuratively speaking.) Look forward to going to Mass each week. Go to daily Mass when you can. Read different books about what the saints say about the Mass. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the Mass. The more you live your life within the liturgy the more the liturgy will live within you. (<–Tweetable!)

What about you? What are your favorite tips for getting the most out of Mass? If you feel like you don’t get anything out of Mass, why? We can all use a little help in getting the most out of the Mass so let’s get a conversation going about this.

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P.S. If you want support and accountability in living out your spiritual life, including getting the most out of Mass and prayer, I encourage you to get on a free clarity call with me. Together we can explore the possibility of working together in a way that further supports you and help you go deeper into your relationship with God.

 

Weekly Goals

Set Goals

It felt so good crossing off my goal list and actually accomplishing a few things! Here’s what I got done this week:

1. Pray, read bible and go to daily mass at least 2 times.

2. Do school with Andrew, read to him lots and spend at least 15 – 20 minutes a day just playing with him.

3. Get back into exercising 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times this week. (Well, I did a lot of stretching and calisthenics and did the elliptical once, but I’m counting it anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

4. Spend 30 minutes a day writing on my book. (It’s done! You can check the book out here and the affiliate program here!)

5. Plan out and write at least two blog posts for this week AND plan out a blogging schedule for August. I’m also hoping to pre-write as many posts for August as I can. (I planned a loose schedule for August but didn’t get a chance to pre-write them.)

6. Think ahead and write out my plan to get through the September through December semester. (More on this in a future post…) (Willing and able to write a guest post? I’ll be pleading for future guest bloggers this week!)

Andrew is in day camp this week, so I am going to use the time to get a lot of computer stuff done if I can. Here’s my plan:

1. Pray, read bible and go to daily mass at least 3 times.

2. Exercise 20 minutes, 3-4 times this week.

3. Pre-write as many posts for August as I can.

4. Line up guest posts for September through December.

5. Hide a love note in Michael’s work bag and one in Andrew’s lunch bag (so he sees it at lunch in camp).

6. Go to “Family Camp Night” on Friday.

What are your goals for this week? Share them in the comments or head over to the Money Saving Mom link-up and join others sharing their goals for the week.