Monday, 6 March 2017

Mass Musings: Lenten Inspiration

So, how is your Lent going so far? Has it been a joy, or a struggle, or somewhere in between? Have you taken the time to go deeper into your faith?

Going into Lent, I kind of overloaded myself. I wanted to do all these things to become a better Catholic, and a better person. But one day, as I was driving to pick my daughter up from school, I was listening to The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM (Channel 129. I'm a big fan of Jennifer Fullwiler, Lino Rulli and Father Dave Dwyer!). I can't really remember which program I was listening to (I'm thinking maybe Gus Lloyd?) and the speaker was talking about how we don't do the three tenets of Lent -- fasting, prayer and almsgiving -- to make ourselves better, or to somehow make God love us more. God can't possibly love us any more than He already does! His love is so infinite, so unfathomably deep, that it's hard to understand. But the wonderful thing about His love is that it is a free gift -- we can't do anything to earn it.

No, Lent is not a time to polish ourselves and become all-star Catholics. It's a time to take a step back from the world, and a step into God. It's a time to prepare ourselves for the feast of remembrance of Christ's resurrection. It's a time to go deeper into the faith, and to take quiet time to really take stock of where we're at in our walk with God. By denying ourselves the luxuries of our cushy lives, even if it's just by giving up snacks or candy, and by extra prayer, perhaps even extra acts of mercy, we can put our priorities back in the order that God wants them to be in. What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than to strive to live lives that showcase his love to all?

I have a renewed love for the times of Lent and Advent. Both are quiet, introspective times where we can really be honest with ourselves, and honest with God, about what we need from Him. And He will always come to us when we first open ourselves to Him.

So what does all this have to do with the Mass readings from yesterday? Well, as much as we all know that Lent is an important time, it can be hard to really live it out. In the first reading, taken from Genesis 2 and 3, we see the story of how sin entered into the world, and entered into ourselves in the form of Adam and Eve's original sin. It's a sad story -- Adam and Eve were living in Paradise, but Satan tricked them into entering into temptation, and they had to leave the presence of God.

And yet, in the second reading, taken from Romans 5, we hear a hopeful message: But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And again: Just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all people, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all people.

That's some pretty inspiring stuff! What is inspiring, as well, is the story of Christ's temptation by Satan at the end of his forty days in the desert. Matthew 4:1-11 tell us how Satan tempted Jesus with food, with testing God and with power. What did Jesus say? He was hungry after not eating for forty days, he was thirsty beyond imagining, and so tired. But what did he say? "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" Then the devil left him, and suddenly Angels came and waited on him.

There have been many times in my life -- not just during Lent -- that I should have followed Jesus' example, and in the face of temptation, said, "Away with you, Satan!" There are times I wish I was more grounded in the Scripture, so that I, like Jesus, could refer to it when faced with my own struggles. I'm going to focus not so much on what I'm giving up this Lent, or what I feel like I should be doing, and focus more on grounding myself in the faith, so that I too can resist temptation and stand strong in God.

I hope you learn and grow a lot this Lent. Don't worry if you stumble and fall -- God sees your effort, and He loves you. Nothing you do can make Him love you any more or any less. In the middle of a season that can be quite sombre, that's something to celebrate.

photo credit: timbu <a href="">Sun & Sand</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Friday, 3 March 2017

Dealing with Overwhelm

Motherhood is an amazing journey -- it has its highs and its lows, its moments of pure joy and, on the other hand, pure frustration. One of the most difficult things you can experience as a mother is overwhelm.

What is overwhelm? Well, in my own personal history with it, it's when things in your life get so busy and crazy, and you've put so many expectations on yourself and your children, that you end up feeling like it's all just too much.

I recently went through a spell of overwhelm. My twenty-month-old is getting his two-year molars in, so he's not feeling the best. He's keeping me up a lot of the night to nurse, and he's going through a super clingy stage where even when I go upstairs for a few minutes, and he's safe with his dad and sister, he screams like I'm abandoning him for life! And my daughter is going through some issues of her own -- the normal five-year-old things that come up, like copping a bit of attitude and testing boundaries by arguing.

I'd taken the kids to visit my parents for two days, since my sister and her husband had also come in, and we hadn't seen them since before Christmas. The first day there, my sister, mom and I took my son for a shopping day at the mall. We left my daughter with her grandfather, who always does a great job of looking after her.

Needless to say, my son's teething and separation anxiety made the whole trip to the mall hurried, unpleasant and extremely frustrating. I couldn't even go into the change room, and leave him for a few seconds (just a few feet away) with my mom and sister, without him having a screaming fit. Shopping is usually so fun and relaxing for me, but not this time! My mom and sister did what they could to help with him, but I think we were all thankful when we were back at Grandma and Grandpa's.

The following day was more of the same. I was having issues with my daughter, in that she really wanted to go to McDonald's for lunch, whereas we all wanted to go somewhere we could sit down and relax and eat real food. Thank goodness that Lent is here, and we've given up sugar and fast food, because I really feel like I was starting to give in too much to childish whims and catering far too much to exactly what my daughter wanted instead of exercising my parental autonomy over her.

The next day, I took the kids to Mass for Ash Wednesday before heading home. All I can say is thank goodness that the church in my parent's town has a separate place for parents to take their children when they're feeling rambunctious, because it was not a very relaxing time.

By the time I got back home, I was feeling so overwhelmed. I was snapping at the kids and I, myself, was copping an extremely bad attitude (which in no way helped my daughter to have a good attitude of her own -- she learns from me, after all!). I was even grumpy with my husband, when all he was trying to do was help me get to a better place.

So, I took some time to myself. I read a post on a mommy blog that dealt with the feelings of overwhelm, and I realized it was all completely normal (which I knew deep down, but sometimes it's really helpful to hear it from someone else who has been there). And I prayed, and started to feel better.

Now that we're back home and back to a normal routine, I feel much better. I also feel better because every morning I am spending time with God in prayer. I really feel like this strengthens me for whatever challenges I may face at any time during my day and my parenting journey. And I feel really good that I took the time to apologize to my husband and my daughter. I explained to them that I was feeling overwhelmed, but that it wasn't right for me to take a bad attitude with them, and I promised to work hard to keep a kind and loving attitude even when frustrated.

My kids are still going through things -- as I am. My baby boy is still teething and waking up at all hours. Boo is still working on having a better attitude. But I am now in a much better place. I can now model a positive, kind attitude. My biggest takeaway from this is that I need to let go and let God. I can't do it all. When my kids are going through things, I need to take some other things off the table and be there for them -- they are my priority! If it means spending less time on my writing, or on keeping the house looking perfect, so be it. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Embrace the chaos, don't fight it. Nothing lasts forever -- not difficult stages kids go through, and not this blessed time being the mother of two little ones. They'll grow up before I know it, and I'll miss the chaos. So I'll embrace it now.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Praying with the Pope: March Intentions

It's that time again! A new month, a new chance to add our prayers to those of Pope Francis as he gives us one special intention to really focus on this month.

This March, the Holy Father will be praying especially for evangelization: specifically for persecuted Christians, that they "may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church." (taken from the Living with Christ Sunday Missal)

I ponder from time to time, not often enough, though, just how lucky I am to live where I do. My great-grandparents chose to emigrate from many places (Croatia, Germany, Scotland, Ireland) to Ontario, Canada. They could have chosen anywhere -- the United States, other parts of the Commonwealth, or other parts of North America. But they didn't -- they all chose Canada. I am so thankful for this -- thankful that I live in a country where I can go to Mass every Sunday and holy day, and openly practice my faith without fear of persecution or danger. I can pass the faith on to my children without worrying about whether they'll face dangerous repercussions for believing in the name of Christ.

But it's not so for every Christian. Sadly, in many places of the world, Christians are persecuted, suppressed, and put in grave danger just for their beliefs. It's mind-boggling to think that this still happens, in the year 2017! But as dangerous extremist groups like ISIS use their terrorizing, bullying tactics to push forward their toxic agenda, or groups like Boko Haram victimize the most innocent people, Christian persecution flourishes and continues in many parts of our world.

This month, let's unite with Pope Francis in prayer for these brave Christian men, women and children who put their faith before all else. Could we do the same? Let's also be generous in our giving -- to the Church, to charities that will help these people -- and let's be thankful that we are able to live out our faith without ramifications.