I’ve been writing a book for my oldest daughter and children (and maybe for you too). Unfortunately, I haven’t touched it since the summer so, I’m pausing my blogging in order to focus a bit more. I love that this is coming along with Advent and the cozy time of the winter. Many religious orders greatly reduce their day to day correspondence during Advent and Lent in order to have a bit of a contemplative retreat-in-daily-life. That’s what I hope this will be for me. Maybe you too have something brewing that you need to retreat for a while to discover and develop? I’ll pray for you. Please pray for me. FYI, the book is about the habits, mindsets and resources needed to experience a continually growing life-giving connection to Christ in the midst of daily life. Its called “A Christian’s Coffee”.
I recently stumbled upon a book called, The Power of Vulnerability by Brene’ Brown. It seems that everyone else found out about her before me and evidently she is a beautifully strong voice in the public sphere. As I was listening to this “shame researcher” unveil her findings, many connections popped up with things I’ve heard in the Confessional.
A message I hear over and over again is the truth that you and I, as children of God, are lovable. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. Who we are is not equated with what we have done but rather it is equated with the love of the Holy Trinity. The best thing I can do for myself, for my children, for the politics of our country, for the thriving of our community is to walk around remembering with comfort, that I am God’s child (and that you are too).
The alternative to this, is shame. In shame, I equate myself with sin. Instead of admitting that I have done ugly, horrible and lame things, I believe that I am ugly, horrible and lame. With shame, I am paralyzed and condemned. With guilt, I can be forgiven, make amends or set free. Guilt doesn’t have to stick. Guilt can bring about change where as shame paralyzes. Guilt is incident related, not internally related.
A few points that Brene’ mentions:
Shame breeds in secrecy. It turns into anger, depression and bitterness. It is contagious. People who live wholeheartedly are able to speak openly about shame since it has little power in their lives. In her research, again and again, Brene’ found that people who can successfully resist being caught by the power of shame believe that they are lovable and they have a place of belonging and acceptance.
This goes hand in hand with our Catholic faith! We are loved children of God. We have a place in the heart of the Trinity, in the Body of Christ, in the house of God, among our fellow brothers and sisters, here and now and in heaven to come.
Brene’s work which highlights the difference between shame and guilt partially shows why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so powerful. Our loved nature never is changed. Even in the midst of sin, are still his children. We are loved. Period. In guilt (not shame) we are free to take an experience of something bad that we have done and say “I did that.” I’m sorry. And its done. Free. Openness, peace, confidence. In Confession, we say this to our loving Father God through the Church (who is our understanding, relating, human family).
One of my newly favorite saints, St. Josemaria Escriva, believed that the core of “Opus Dei” (the work of God) that was taking place in his midst was regular everyday people’s deep understanding of being a child of God. It is only from there that we are free to look at our sin and say, I’m sorry. Our guilt is washed away. It is from there that we can serve. It is from there that we can play.
So, let’s consider to day- who are you? Shame or Child of God? God knows the answer. Will you let Him speak it to your heart?
Every family has their own wonderful ways to encourage and teach each other. Here are a few of mine. I’d love to hear a few of your ideas too!
- Display a colorful book at the breakfast table (a children’s bible, a book of saints etc.)
- Gift cute stuffed animals that have a little recording of a bedtime prayer.
- Play bible games (memory, Pictionary, trivia).
- Have kids flip your rotating Christian calendar.
- Host parties for Saint’s feast days.
- Put up hand written Scripture verses around the house from your own personal prayer.
- Celebrate saint feast days specific to your children.
- Let your kids light a candle at a church on a special day – like the anniversary of their baptism.
- Give Holy Water to your children and let them bless the house.
- Start your drive on long trips with a prayer.
- Pray the rosary in the car.
- Listen to cd’s about saints, scripture or good stories.
- Explain basic prayer into words kids understand.
- Participate in Feed My Starving Children with your family.
- Pray every night at bed time.
- Make a morning offering with your kids.
- Walk your kids on a tour of your church.
- Walk the stations of the cross as a family during a time when the church is open but not busy.
- Emphasize the physical motions of piety and reverence during Mass. (Kids love kinesthetic learning!)
- Aim to do a devotion every morning with your kids.
I didn’t used to be crazy about the saints until I realized that they were becoming my friends. As I get to know the stories of their childhood, their struggles and their ways of living out deep concepts, I myself find a strong grace at work in my own thoughts and actions. Surprisingly, I can see this effect in my children too as they relate to Christians from the past and carry a kindred connection to the present. Here are three of my favorite ways of getting to know a saint. I call it “easy” because the writing of these three approaches is simple, story like- almost candy. Continue reading “3 Easy Ways to Get to Know the Saints”
Sometimes getting ready for the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be like staring at a blank wall. We don’t know where to start. Plus, you might be freaked out because you don’t remember what to do once your are in the confessional. Here are two guides that that my family uses. 1. One of the guides is to prepare (we often do this in the car on the way to the church, at the church in the pews or in line for confession). 2. The other guide is a cheat sheet to bring in to the confessional so we remember the steps. Priests way of conducting Reconciliation vary quiet a bit so, this can make any guide a bit ridged at times.
You can use this word document or read below.
There is a wellspring of things to offer to God and receive from him by simply looking at your life. This prayer never seems to get old because life is so full and God is so active. Here is my version of this “examen” or “reviewing of my day with God.” Most of it was passed on to me by some great Jesuits. 5-7 minutes is an ideal amount of time for this prayer but depending upon circumstances, it can take between 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Whether you pray with words, feelings or images, lift up everything to God, bringing your life into the loving Light of Christ. Periodically you can adapt this to review a certain season in your life instead of just a day.
Prayerful Review of the Day
Pray for Light
- Ask that you can look at this day with His light.
- “Holy Spirit, please enlighten my mind so I may see this day you gave me in truth and love.”
From this day, for what am I most thankful?
Where do I see God’s grace active in this day?
- Converse with Jesus about these things and listen to what these good things mean in your life.
- “Thank you… Jesus, you are… This is special because…”
- Allow gratitude to well up. Offer it back to the Father with love.
From this day, for what am I least thankful?
What needs to be converted?
What was a challenge?
- Converse with Jesus about these things and listen to what needs healing.
- “Please forgive me… I’m sad… Please help…”
- Offer it back to the Father with love.
Tomorrow with Christ
- Converse with Jesus about how God wants to (or has already) equip you for tomorrow.
- “What concept, scripture verse or resolution shall I carry in my heart for tomorrow?”
- Make a tiny resolution about your own action for tomorrow. Ask for God’s grace to fulfill it.
Judging from my smile, you would never have guessed that I was burning on the inside but, there were a handful of years in my life when vicious words swirled in my mind and anger took the place of peace. Disappointment, lack of sleep, failure and chaos certainly contributed to this mental/emotional state but years later, after coming out of that fog, I am amazed to see that the things that really made a difference were small things that God gently fostered which bought me to a place of greater ease.
Have you ever felt seething frustration that you can’t seem to shake? Or do you know that you love others and that you and yours are in God’s hands but there are poignant moments when you can’t seem to act like it or feel that trust? It can be incredibly devastating to a daughter or son of God to go through these emotions and yet be incapable of consistently living up to the deepest baptized part of self. For you, I’d like to share the ways that God melted my pervasive anger and replaced it with a steady ease of faithfulness. Don’t get me wrong, I still have quite a pop. I still am irked by things and real problems still trouble me, as they should. But, the looming anger left me. His steady love reigns more securely within me and I travel through ups and downs as one who is closer to whole.
1. Solitary Prayer. I had been praying while I did this or that. I had longed for God all day long. I went to church on Sundays and wished for more. I volunteered for church. I served the poor. I gave my life over to God again and again. But I hadn’t been praying quietly consistently. Then I made a commitment. 10 minutes a day. Then 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Pretty often, I would set a timer and just sit there. Sometimes I’d write. Sometimes I’d read the bible. Sometimes I would look a pictures of holy saints or scenes of the life of Christ. Mostly I just kept glancing at the clock. Still, it was good. Very very good. My time was often interrupted and I would just say, “I’m praying.” I would close my eyes. I’d pull the kid close to me. “You can pray silently with me if you want.”
2. Sacrifice. Years previously I had read Story of a Soul by St. Therese. With a little spiritual direction, I was much better able to apply the revolutionary way of love that had stirred my heart by that spiritual master. I tried every day to make a tiny mortification of my senses that took very little time. Sight – I would intentionally not look at something beautiful – Christmas lights on a house, a pretty advertisement. Speech – I would refrain from speaking one story swirling in my mind. Taste – I would forego one thing I wanted to eat. Leisure – Playing a board game became my relaxing time instead of that book I wanted to read. This was the toughest one for me, especially since all of my time seemed to belong to someone else. Giving up what little I had did me good. Sometimes, it wasn’t the best though. Comfort – For one minute, I would go without a sweater. Or I’d not use the back of my chair. All these mortifications, I would offer up as a prayer for my family, or children in a hospital, for world peace or for my husband.
3. Spiritual Direction. Having someone listen to the beat of my heart for God, know the deepest and worst part of me and still have hope and joy for me was and is… well, let’s just say even writing these words brings me to tears. It is like having the Holy Spirit whisper directly into my ear. If I didn’t have a spiritual director, I would go to Confession monthly or twice a month and receive similar inspiration. I think that this saved my life. It saved my soul.
4. Secret Visitations to the Tabernacle. When I had just dropped one kid off at an event and was on my way to pick up another, if I happened to drive by a church, I would run in for 1 minute of prayer before the tabernacle. Sometimes the doors were closed and I would kneel on the steps. This did me very much good. Occasionally, I would haul a kid with me and we would both blow a kiss to Jesus. It was good. It is good.
5. Whole Life Confession. During Lent, I got the crazy idea to confess everything I’d ever done. I had heard about some saints doing it and nuns or monks before they entered a monastery. It took a long time. An hour, to be precise. The poor priest. He said it was the longest Confession he’d ever heard. Obviously, I didn’t just show up at the confession line and start with day 1 of my life. I made an appointment ahead of time. I think this was a specific calling to me at this specific point in my life. I don’t think everyone is called to do this so, don’t feel bad if it is not your inclination. If it is, go for it! This really helped me to see Jesus loving me in the midst of every stage of my life.
6. Praying the Rosary. I didn’t feel like I had the time to stop my work and pray the rosary so I decided to pray it all day long. Sometimes I prayed the first mystery at 1 o’clock, then the second at 2 o’clock, etc. Sometimes I prayed the rosary only when I was driving. Other days, I prayed when I did menial tasks like the laundry or mowing the law. Often, I only did 3 Hail Mary’s for each “decade.” I struggled to get the whole rosary in each day. I would wander and return, wander and return. This struggle saved me. Instead of dwelling on my sadness or anger, my thoughts were always rallying back to be with Our Lord alongside Mary.
7. Crying Boldly in Prayer. After many months, or even years of carrying on in the above ways, I had experienced much growth and freedom. However, I was still grieved that a few things could still set me off deeply. One day, I was kneeling before the tabernacle and I was so frustrated with myself and with the anger that I felt that I bawled and bawled before the Lord in His tabernacle. Then, I got the courage to ask boldly for healing. I think I got it. I don’t think I could have asked at any old time in my life and gotten the same gift. I think God brought me to that point over time and then led me to ask boldly.
So, that’s my story. Or a bit of it. God has been good. Perhaps God wants to use one of these modes in your life too. What do you think? What direction is God moving you to find relieve from frustration?
If you listen to a kid pray the Lord’s Prayer, it is super cute “our father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name”… until you realize that she has no idea what she is saying. Even for adults, it is easy to zip through the prayer without meaning the words because they are different from the terms we usually speak. So, here’s a translation for a 9 year old:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
God, you are our father. You are in heaven. Continue reading “Howard be thy name?!?… the Our Father for kids”
At a soccer game this weekend, I listened as a lady and her husband lamented that they could not turn back the clock to a few months ago, before their son began playing Fortnite. They wished they could do it differently. These parents longed for the old productive good fun their son had and they felt a bit mournful and defeated amidst his new addiction to the game. However, they were wearing a chipper attituded in the midst of their “defeat” because they love their son no matter what and figured this is the way it just had to be. At least it wasn’t worse, they thought. We traded stories. At first they were surprised at my family’s stringency however, by the end of the soccer game (which we won), the mother was ready and energized to restore the order she and her son once had. The only thing that my stories really told her was, “you can do it.” Continue reading “Surrender your dreams for your family? No way.”
Autumn and Natalie Merchant are similar. I get all sentimental, sad and discontent when Natalie Merchant enticingly sings,
“Theeeese are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since
Will the whole world be warm as this…”
It makes me miss childhood, high school, college, engagement, young adulthood, the toddler years, these years. It makes me prematurely miss today and tomorrow. Fall feels the same way at times. Goodbye summer. Goodbye warmth. It was fun while it lasted. But now, eternal winter is around the corner and you can never return to this glory.
Well, thankfully, those are mostly lies. Continue reading “You Will Bloom More than Once”