catholic living

Lent is not a weight loss program

I remember very distinctly the first time I decided to participate in a Lenten fast. It was long before I converted to Catholicism and I didn't know much at all about Lent. Easter, yes, Lent, no. I recall sitting in my high school Phys Ed + Drivers Ed class on a Fat Tuesday and overhearing a friend talking about how she'd lost around 15 pounds the previous year thanks to giving up cheese and chocolate (two things that were, and still are, very near and dear to my heart) for Lent. I remember thinking two things:

1. Why in the world would someone willingly give up eating chocolate? 
2. I had no idea you're supposed to try to lose weight before Easter, weird. (I honestly thought this considering many of those who said they also gave something up for Lent were doing it to shed some pounds. Who knew?)

I decided to investigate a little further and while I don't recall exactly how she explained it to me, although I'm positive it had nothing to do with making a sacrifice in remembrance of Jesus' suffering or preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, whatever she did say convinced me to give it a shot.  

I would give up eating chocolate until Easter Sunday! Huzzah!

I wouldn't do it to lose weight (I was pretty gangly in high school) or because I thought I ate too much of it and could use the discipline (which I totally did) but just to see if I could do it. It was 100% a personal challenge... you know one of those, if she can do it I can do it kind of decisions. It was all about me. Proving something to myself or, more likely, being able to say, "Hey everyone, look at me giving up chocolate for Lent. It's such a huge struggle. Do you have the highest respect for me as I take on this super selfless decision?"

Oy, high school.

Needless to say that first attempt at fasting from something was pretty pathetic (I had a chocolate instant breakfast drink the next morning followed by an Andes mint before remembering I had, so selflessly, given up the treat) as were the many years of ill-planned and ill-performed fasts that followed but I can basically sum them all up by saying I didn't truly understand the point or purpose of a Lenten fast until I converted.

It turns out fasting during Lent is not part of a 21day-fix (or 40, rather) like so many people make it out to be. Look at me all learned and stuff. 

During my conversion process I started to understand and appreciate the actual purpose of a Lenten sacrifice. Now I'm no Catholic scholar, and still see myself as a rookie in the papacy ball game, but here's what I've learned thus far. It's not about me doing something just to say I did it. It's not an excuse to finally give up that vice I've been meaning to cut out of my life.  It's definitely not a time to wave my sacrifice around like grade-school show and tell. No, no, no. 
It's about making a true sacrifice, big or small, that helps build my relationship with God, and often times also with family. It's about recognizing and honoring the unfathomable sacrifice that God made in sending His Son to die for my sins, and in turn Jesus' sacrifice of giving his life. It's a physical representation of a spiritual sacrifice emulating Christ's 40 days in the desert. It's about doing something, intentionally and whole-heartedly, that allows me to prepare for and celebrate the miracle of Christ's resurrection. I now find myself incredibly inspired and encouraged each year as Ash Wednesday rolls around. I also find myself shaking my head at how trivial I made Lent out to be way back when. 

Catholic or not, the personal and spiritual journey that Lent allows you to endure is one that can be, if you let it, truly life changing. Maybe you do decide to give up your favorite vice or treat. If that kind of personal sacrifice is a real struggle for you and something that sends you into a deeper state of prayer, that's wonderful. If you decide to turn off the TV or disconnect from social media so that you can focus your attention more closely on creating a closer bond to your children and husband, that's awesome. If you decide to give up any additional spending other than food and bare necessities to better appreciate what you've been blessed with, that's fantastic. If you decide to walk to work or daily mass as your way of honoring Jesus' journey in the desert, bravo. Whether it's tiny or extreme, make it more than just something to do. Make it something you rely on God to get through. Turn to prayer and reflection whenever temptation rears it's ugly head. When you find yourself struggling, offer it up. 

Offer it up. A foreign concept to many, but a common Catholic phrase (so I've learned after being a part of a number of Catholic mama Facebook groups). The most clear and concise definition as I understand it is to offer your suffering to God as a sacrifice. Most of the time there is an intention behind your offering. For example, when you feel the twinge of hunger during your Ash Wednesday fast, you might offer your hunger pains as a sacrifice to feed those who are without food. A different and not necessarily Lent-related offering is one I heard from a dear friend of mine who once spoke of offering up the pain of miscarriage as a sacrifice to change the hearts of those considering abortion. You can also offer up a sacrifice without intention, asking God to take your honorable suffering and use it for His own Will. Putting a focus or intention with your suffering is a way to honor how Christ offered up his own suffering on the cross to save all our souls. 

Along with offering up your suffering Lent is also a time to enhance your prayer life and reliance on the Lord in every aspect of your life...

The kids are driving me crazy and I'm having a really hard time remembering to speak to them in a calm, loving voice. Help me seek out peace and patience before I lash out in irritation or anger. 

I've been craving a soda all day and feel I might slip up on my sacrifice. Lord, help me to remember the sacrifice YOU made for me when I feel temptation's pull. 

I know I said I would volunteer at the women's shelter once a week but I just don't feel like going right now. I know I'm feeling selfish about my time and would rather be doing something for pleasure. Help me remember that others aren't able to just sit in their warm homes and snack all day, and my small sacrifice can show the love of Christ to someone who really needs it. 

When it gets hard, and it will, pray. Ask the Lord for guidance. Offer up your sacrifices. 

I realize now that my original introduction to Lent is probably the norm in pop culture today. Ninety percent of the time when someone talks about Lent they are usually saying, "So what are you giving up for Lent this year?" It doesn't have to be giving something up. In fact, some of the more challenging and positively life changing sacrifices include adding something to your routine.

  • Waking up before the kids so you can spend time in prayer before your day begins. 
  • Striving to do one creative or faith-based activity with the kids each day instead of setting them in front of the TV for an hour.
  • Making sure the dishes are clean and out of the sink every night before bed. 
  • Giving alms to the poor once a week/month as a way of sharing God's love with the world.  

If you're looking for inspiration you can find more ideas like these from some of my favorite mama bloggers (who just so happened to be Catholic). They are far wiser and far more poignant than I so I definitely recommend stopping by their blogs. 

Catholic All Year
Tales from the Mommy Trenches
Do Small Things With Love

AND, if you want to join me (and a handful of other mamas) in a group scripture study, I recommend getting Waiting in the Word, A Mother's Lenten Journey. It's never too late to join, I'm loving it thus far! 

Until next time...

 

Yes, sweet child. Pray for me.

I lost it. I lost my cool. I lost my cool with my daughter. I lost my cool and I yelled, LOUDLY. And it scared us both.

I'm an imperfect mother and I lost my cool with our three-year old little girl. I yelled at her, sent her to her room, and immediately felt a rush of guilt wash over me. I promptly went to her, scooped her up in my arms, and told her I loved her. I told her I was sorry for yelling for scaring her. I told her how her disobedience and back talk were unacceptable and made me sad and angry. I told her that my actions were also unacceptable and I shouldn't have yelled. We shared a long hug, a small prayer for patience and love for us both, a sloppy tear-soaked smooch, and carried on with the morning.

A little while later while I was continuing to de-stress in the shower, the curtain suddenly pulled back and my sweet girl was standing there looking up at me.

Mommy, I said a prayer for you to be a good mommy. Because you weren't nice to me so I said a prayer that you would be a good mommy.

Queue heart-break. It was all I could do not to collapse into the fetal position in the middle of the tub. Along with the heartbreak came a whirlwind of emotions. Initially I felt another wave of guilt rush over me, heating me more so than the actual water I was standing under. Then I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and incompetent. At some point anger crept in too. Anger that the whole situation started because she was disobedient and yet now I'm the one that needed prayer. Why doesn't she pray that she is a good daughter? How about that? How about not driving me up the wall that led me to yelling in the first place?

WHAT? Seriously, WHAT?? Was I blaming my three-year old for my hasty and inappropriate behavior? Was I trying to turn the need for prayer away from myself and onto her?

I swatted the devil off my shoulder and reminded myself of one of the wonderful prayers from "The Original" Mother's Manual that I try to read in the morning before starting my day.

Dear God, in giving me the great gift of motherhood, You have also conferred on me the sacred and weighty responsibility of patterning my child according to the model of Your Divine Son. May I not shirk my duty of correction, and may I fulfill this duty according to Your holy will. May I realize that in administering correction I am taking Your place, speaking for You; and may my corrections be such as to be worthy of this trust. May I never correct of punish a child of mine while I am angry but learn to correct in a calm, motherly manner and to administer punishment with a gentle firmness born of tender mother love rather than with any excitement of passion. May I learn to pray to You for light before I give correction or punishment - for light to guide me so that such acts of mine may be according to Your holy will and in each case bring my child closer to me and both the child and myself closer to you. 

I took a deep breath and called out to my sweet child. She poked her head back around the shower curtain (talk about vulnerability) and I told her how grateful I was that she took the time to pray for me and reminded her that we all need a little extra payer sometimes, especially mommy. I asked that she continue to pray for me but also ask God to help her learn obedience and kindness as she grows. And to pray that we all act with loving hearts.

Okay mommy!

That's all I needed. Okay mommy, said with an innocent little smile. I took a deep breath and my feelings of guilt and frustration washed away. In that moment I wasn't ashamed, but proud. I was proud of my sweet little girl. Proud of her for, at just three years old, turning to prayer when we both needed it. Proud of myself for instilling in her the importance of leaning on the Lord in prayer. I didn't realize it had taken hold in until that moment. I was also proud of myself for not sinking further into my slump but remembering what my true purpose as a mother is. To raise my children to be the best versions of themselves and to glorify God.

As parents, we mess up sometimes. A lot actually. We make dumb, passion of the moment, brainless mistakes. And it feels awful. Like curl up in a ball on the floor of the shower and ugly-cry awful. But, in the midst of all the slip-ups, we should never forget that God gifted us with these tiny souls to care for during their time on this earth. It is only with His love and compassion that we will succeed and if we aspire to give them the same type of sacrificial love He bestows upon us, we're all going to be alright. We may not be alright all the time, but we should never lose faith in ourselves. Never lose faith in our children. Never hesitate to say, "Yes, sweet child. Pray for me."

Until next time...

Fatty Fatty Tuesday

  Happy FAT Tuesday everyone!

Since yesterday's post was long and loaded I figured I'd lighten things up today. As you know, today is FAT TUESDAY and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which kicks off the celebration of Lent. Even before I converted to Catholicism I practiced Lent.  Well, more dabbled than practiced, but I liked the idea of sacrificing something in my own life in preparation for Easter Sunday so it generally consisted of giving something up. I remember being really inspired by a friend of mine who gave up chocolate, cheese, AND soda one year in high school. I thought she was bonkers for doing all three at once {I would not survive without cheese} but I decided that since I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic it would be beneficial to try to give it up. Boost the self-control, cut back on the sugar. Easy enough, right?

Wrong.

While I made sure all of the chocolate was out of the house , there was one thing I forgot about. I had a morning ritual of swinging by the WaWa that was ont he way to school {when I wasn't running late} and grabbing a cup of coffee. Well, a cup of sugary caramel latte. And so that I didn't have coffee breath during school I would grab a 'king size' Andes mint up at the register.

Andes mint = chocolate. High school Sara = unable to think clearly before 3rd period. Lenten chocolate fast = screwed up on day 1.

Yes, I failed my very first Lenten fast by forgetting that Andes mints are not just mints, but CHOCOLATE mints. I'm awesome.

So, since I'd already failed on day 1, I figured I may as well just scrap the whole 'no chocolate for 40 days' thing and enjoy the month+ leading up to Easter. Next year I'd try again.

The next year rolled around and I was determined to make my chocolate fast work! Day 1 of Lent and I'm feeling great about my chocolate-free decision, I'm JUST barely going to make it on time to school so there's no chance of me "accidentally" eating an Andes Mint from WaWa. So I grab my bag, grab a Slim Fast shake {the breakfast of champion high schoolers who refuse to wake up any earlier than they have to when school starts at 7:25} and am on my way to school. I feel a sense of pride as I come up to the light at the previous year's point of failure {aka WaWa} and smirk to myself thinking, "I can't believe I just 'forgot' that I was eating chocolate last year - what a bonehead I was", as I take the last gulp of my Slim Fast shake. My CHOCOLATE Slim Fast Shake. As I choke on that final gulp, realizing that I'd repeated my mistake for the 2nd year in a row, and admitting that I was, in fact, STILL a bonehead, I continued on to school.

You'll be happy to know that I didn't just bail on Lent all together that 2nd year, and although there were at least 3 other times in the span of 40 days when I realized I was  accidentally eating chocolate, I did make it to Easter at least TRYING to keep my fast.

Needless to say fasting didn't really happen for the next few years, and if it did it was interpreted quite loosely.

Now that I'm a confirmed Catholic and far more mature and disciplined than I was in high school, Lent is something I really enjoy participating in, and take pretty seriously. Last year the hubs and I fasted from sweets together. He also fasted from alcohol but since I rarely drink I just stuck with the sugary sweets. It was tough, I was jones-in for sweet tea and Nutella, but we got through it and I went into a full-fledged sugar coma once Easter came around. This year we've decided to cut out the sweets again and as a change of pace I'm going to try to add some things into my daily routine. Prayer is something I could always use more of in my life so that's one thing I'm really going to highlight over the next 40 days {hopefully forming a pattern that will last far beyond Easter Sunday}. Since I've stopped dancing and spend most of my time IN the house with Keelin I'm also going to make a point to increase my physical activity. Thanks to the world of iPhones I've added a few yoga and Pilates apps to my phone and plan on setting aside time each day to engage my body. NOT only that, but I'm going to limit the amount of time I have the TV on during the day. When you're a WAHM it can get kind of boring. No offense to my kid, who is a blast, but 3 hours of playing with tupperware can drain a mama, so it's not uncommon for me to have something {movie, tv show, etc} playing in the background throughout the day. Keelin has her own Sesame Street time but I've been disappointed in myself at how much that background noise has grabbed my main attention over my daughter or my work. No good. Has to change. Commencing change now - well tomorrow.

SO... now it's your turn to tell me about your Lenten adventures. Are you giving something up? Adding something to your daily routine? Do you have a Lenten FAIL story like mine worth sharing? How do you keep yourself on track for 40 days? TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME!

Until next time...

Don't forget to join me for the upcoming Link UP Week! A full week of fantastic link ups to help find new blogs, learn about each other, and generally have fun!

link up weekLet me know if you are planning on joining me so I can give you a shout out the week of and check in on your link ups! Here are just a FEW of the link ups you can expect during Link UP week.

It's Ok Thursday - A Complete Waste of Make Up and Brunch With Amber Craft-O-Maniac Monday - Craft-O-Maniac Fill In The Blank Friday - The Little Things We Do Social Sunday - Ashley's Carnival Ride and A Complete Waste of Make Up

Do you have a favorite LINK UP that you don't see on this list? Let me know what it is so I can join in on the fun!

Baptizing the Bean

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fantastic weekend like we did! Saturday was a wonderful and exciting day as the hubs, the pups, the bean and I gathered with friends and family to celebrate Keelin's baptism! Well, we left the pups at home, but they were there for the after party back at the house.

The day started out a bit too gloomy for my taste but by the time we arrived at the church the sun was shining and the sky was filled with beautiful white fluffy clouds. Quite the perfect setting for such a special service.

Before heading to the church I dressed Keelin in a footed ballerina onesie {I know that's TECHNICALLY NOT what they are called but if it's one piece, it should be called a onesie... okay Gerber?!?} that snapped up the front because I wanted to keep her christening gown as wrinkle {and spit up} free as possible and I knew it would throw her into a hissy fit if I had to lift anything over her head while changing her. Although I'm convinced she is one of the happiest babies on the planet, there is one thing she absolutely cannot stand, and that's changing clothes. That's when I hear her best screams! But I digress...

The change into her christening gown went without a single fuss or tear {kudos to me} and Keelin looked quite adorable. The gown she wore was not only the gown I was baptized in, but it originally belonged to my mother's father. I didn't get a very good picture of it but the the delicate lace details are absolutely beautiful and she looked like quite the little angel! Here's a shot I took a few days before when we first tried it on.

Z's mother also  her a beautiful bonnet that ended up being slightly too big but we put it on her anyway since it was so cute.

We had a lovely group of friends and family there to share in the day and we couldn't have been more thankful for their presence for such a special occasion. Keelin is TRULY loved!

She was a little past due for her morning BM so I was slightly concerned that she would totally let it rip in the middle of a prayer or in the priests arms {do you think that's considered blasphemous?} but thankfully she had impecable timing and dropped a nice load right before the service started. My daughter the genius... always planning ahead!

She only cried for a minute or two during the service and surprisingly it was NOT while the priest was pouring water on her head! I actually think that was her favorite part!

I did have to giggle when she was crying because she it seemed her tears were contagious as her mass buddy Ruthie started wailing as well. It was a classic case of baby see baby do, I suppose. They're best buds for life!

Other than that the service was absolutely perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better day, or a better weekend for that matter!  There's nothing quite as wonderful as feeling {and SEEING} the love from friends and family, during such a special occasion!

Until next time... 

The winner of my favorite picture of the day:

An Easter tradition greatly missed

Time to get a bit nostalgic. 
When it comes to holidays people are more likely to go "all out" for what I like to call the "Big Five": Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and birthdays. 
Think about it. While we 'celebrate' {more like recognize} everything from President's Day to St. Paddy's day, the Big Five are the holidays that require full re-designs of store set-ups and days of planning and decorating to pull off. There are parties out the wazoo, holiday-specific food you serve and travel plans to make. 
I'm a huge fan and supporter of the Big Five but always get a little bummed that people tend to forget about one of my favorite holidays:
EASTER!

I've always loved Easter and although it doesn't get the same amount of "decorative" attention that the rest of the Big Five normally do, I always welcome it's arrival. To avoid sitting on my religious soap box for too long, I definitely attribute my love of the holiday to my love of what it represents in faith. I have so many things to thank God for everyday and on Easter I get to celebrate Christ's resurrection into heaven and his gift of eternal life for those who follow Him.  {stepping off of soap box} In addition to my 'holier' reasons for loving Easter, I also have a lifetime supply of great memories that are tied to the sweet and colorful day. One of which involved a fun tradition that I plan on continuing with my future children.  Every Easter morning growing up, my mother would wake up my brother and I and take us to the starting point of our adventure. She'd usually pretend like it was any other morning and she was getting us ready for the day but when we would look down at the floor by our bedroom doors, there would be tiny pieces of these:

"Oh my goodness, it looks like the Easter Bunny has been here!", she'd say as our excitement would rise! We'd follow those bunny tail puffs all over the house. Up the stairs, down the stairs, in this room, in that room, OUTSIDE, in to the shed and anywhere else they would lead us until we finally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no wait...wrong holiday, the bright and colorful EASTER baskets filled with special goodies guaranteed to make us smile! It was always such a special treat and something I looked forward to every Easter.  When I went away to college my mom shipped my Easter basket of goodies, complete with a few cotton balls for nostalgia. I absolutely love this fun little game and tradition that my parents started and can't wait to use it with my kids when they are old enough to enjoy it! {I suppose they have to exist before they get old enough, eh?}

 
Until next time...
What are some Easter traditions you observed growing up?