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Worry vs. Trust

Worry vs. Trust

Worry sits on one side, trust on the other. Two enemies that could (should??) be friends. Friends who have each other’s back when life gets complicated and crazy. I find it disheartening—not sure if this is the right word or not—that I can experience both […]

The Trees We Plant

The Trees We Plant

My kids were not having a good morning. My older kids were fighting with each other. My younger kids were following the not-so-excellent past actions of a couple of their older siblings.  I had had enough! Into my ‘War Room’ I went, knelt steadfastly in […]

Little Flowers Girls’ Club® & The Virtue of Cheerfulness

Little Flowers Girls’ Club® & The Virtue of Cheerfulness

 

My youngest two daughters joined the Little Flowers Girls’ Club® this year, and it has been an absolutely wonderful…or should I say blessed…experience for them! 

Based on the example of virtue modeled by St. Therese of Lisieux, there are four Wreaths [of flower badges] that can be earned altogether.  Each Wreath of badges contains petals earned for each virtue ‘study’ completed.

The Little Flowers Girls’ Club® that we joined is working hard to  complete Wreath III, which involves studying the following virtues:

  • Eutrapelia
  • Friendliness
  • Initiative
  • Orderliness
  • Self-Control
  • Responsibility
  • Patience
  • Cheerfulness
  • Fortitude

Additionally, they have been working on the Patron Saint Badges of St. Pier Giorgio Frassati (Hiking), St. Zita (Cleaning), and St. John Paul the Great (Acting).  As of last night, the girls completed their study of all the virtues, save for Fortitude and all three Patron Saint Badges.  Way to go, girls!

As a Little Flower mom, I was asked to give at least one ‘virtue talk’ and provide at least one snack during the course of the Club year (September to May).  The girls are divided into two groups based on age/grade: a younger group consisting of K-2nd graders, and an older one for 3rd graders and above.  Since both of my girls are in the younger group, my ‘virtue talk’ on Cheerfulness was directed toward them.  Each virtue has a corresponding saint and a flower that is presented as a model for the girls to follow.

The Virtue of Cheerfulness & Mary, The Mother of God

Representing the virtue of cheerfulness is Mary, the Mother of God and the wild blue phlox; a blue wildflower with five petals.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I could do justice to Our Blessed Mother, whose life encompasses way more than just one of the virtues we covered this year.  I mean, she truly is the epitome of every imaginable virtue!  Yet, Mary’s happy heart and her willingness to do as God directed without complaining makes her a perfect model of cheerfulness in a world that could be anything but.

As a peasant girl, Mary’s life was hard; and by saying “Yes!” to God, her life was about to get much harder.  We know this to be true by the way in which Joseph, and the community in which she lived, responded to her pregnancy; the rigorous journey that she and Joseph had to make to Bethlehem, and then later to Egypt to escape Herod; the worry she experienced at ‘losing’ Jesus when he was at the Temple; the suffering she shared with Jesus during His passion.

I spoke to the girls about the way in which Mary obeyed God.  Did she begrudgingly say, “Fine, I’ll do it!” and stomp off while muttering to herself about the unfairness of the request?  Or did she cheerfully submit to God’s request by her humble reply of, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38)?

Next, we discussed the five dimensions of cheerfulness, one for each petal of the blue phlox flower:

  1. Marian – Following the example set by Mary, the Mother of God
  2. Courageous – Being cheerful even when things are not going our way
  3. Heroic – Facing adversity and substituting our ‘normal’ reaction with cheerfulness, especially when it’s HARD!
  4. Consistent – Practice makes perfect!  With practice, we can make cheerfulness a daily habit
  5. Contagious – Being cheerful leads to cheerfulness in others, and so forth.  The ‘domino effect’ is endless.

Lastly, we talked about the ways in which we could add cheerfulness to someone’s day.  The list they came up with was fairly extensive, but here are some highlights:

  • Read to a younger brother or sister
  • Help Mom with dinner/dishes/cleaning up
  • Let a friend have the biggest/last cookie
  • Say, “I Love You” to someone who might be sad
  • Give someone a much-needed hug

I also found these wonderful coloring pages from Waltzing Matilda to keep the girls’ hands busy while they listened 🙂  All in all they were a wonderful group of girls, who listened intently and added so much ‘GOoD’ to the conversation!

Monday Morning Meditation

Every Monday morning, I receive a Monday Morning Meditation email from Salt of the Sound, a husband and wife music duo (a sensation, really) that I recently fell head-over-heels in love with. Salt of the Sound is often featured at Pray As You Go, a daily […]

Our Catholic Homeschool

Our Catholic Homeschool

We are in our 7th year as a homeschool family, so I just thought I’d share some fun facts about us! –>Name of our homeschool: Little Saints of Divine Grace Academy –>Grades we homeschool:  1st,  2nd, 5th, 7th, and 8th –>Home ‘room’ names: Fatima 1, […]

Saint Teresa Benedicta, Pray For Us!

Saint Teresa Benedicta, Pray For Us!

Motivation is a Mean, Mean Animal

Motivation is a Mean, Mean Animal

I’ve been having major motivation troubles lately…mostly in regard to mornings and running.

I began this post a couple of years ago before a back injury set me b-a-c-k…way back!  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about mornings, motivation, and keeping fit.

A disclaimer: I’ve not yet returned to running, by choice.  However,  I *did* walk my first marathon in June (yep, just last month) AND I’ve promoted to a purple belt in karate.

About Mornings

I will never be a “morning person.”  So, I stopped trying.  Instead of trying to be a get-up-and-shout-for-joy person like my mother, I’ve accepted the “coffee, Jesus, move” method of starting my day.

((and, truthfully, the coffee usually doesn’t come into the mix now until after I’ve prayed the Angelus and consumed roughly 28 ounces of water).

But, here’s what I’ve learned: My mornings…and ultimately my entire day goes better when I start with prayer.  I start first with the Angelus and then move into Lauds (the morning prayer of Liturgy of the Hours). In-between the two, I might enjoy my first cup of coffee…although the really being awake part of my day doesn’t really arrive until after I’m done saying my morning prayers.

How amazing, right?  It’s like I was born to put God first in my life.

Oh wait, I was!

We all were.

Created in God’s image, we find our most authentic selves when we find more time (or any time at all) for God in our lives.

About Motivation

Yes, motivation is a mean, mean animal.  But, do you know what?  The lack of motivation is the meanest animal of all.

You see, motivation is the driving force that propels us from our desires to our “do.”  It’s a great tool in getting things done, so long as we don’t allow our fear of failure or our lack of S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals to stand in the way.

When it comes to motivation, we really have to start right were were are instead of jumping ahead into someone else’s “I am here” place.

If your “do” is to run a marathon, and you’ve never run before, you don’t start by running 20 miles. or even 10. or 5.  You might not even start by running at all.

Since my back injury, I’ve learned to slow down and simply “be” where I’m at. For the time being, that means that I’m walking marathons instead of running them.  And, trust me, I didn’t just jump into walking 26.2 miles either.  No, I simply started with were I was: Standing upright for as long as I could without pain, then going for short walks (not even a block long), then longer ones, until I could safely (and fairly pain-free) walk for the hours (7 or 8 of them) required of a marathon.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I’m not the “runner” that I once was, I thank God daily that I’m simply walking…that I’m simply able to stand straight again…that I can enjoy life with my children again.  There was a time… not too long ago… when I thought I might never get beyond the pain to do something as basic as stand up straight.

Today, my motivation is intrinsically tied to my faith life, and on my simply saying YES to Him who created me.  Whether God comforts or challenges me, I more fully trust (more than ever before) that He will lead me down the path that is most fulfilling in terms of Mission Completion.

Like a carrot dangling before me, God’s mission empowers me to “want” do great things.

I want to change the world.

I am motivated.

About Keeping Fit

Since my injury, I have learned to pay more attention to my limitations and to work with them, instead of against them.  As the health of my back improves, so does my overall fitness.  But, listening to my body (to God working within) has been critical.  God designed our bodies to heal themselves in extraordinary ways.  It’s amazing, really!

And because I want to be better…at listening to God, and responding to God with my Yes’s, I have also gotten better at taking care of the body He gave me.  Because I want to.

I want to take care of my body as a temple of God.

My back injury, my limitations. I now see them as reminders from God to focus on what is most important to Him rather than what is most important in the world.

With His grace, I have been given much of my “life” back.  It’s a changed life, but one that is much more fulfilling.

So what if I’m not running marathons. I am walking them.

So what if I’m not prepping for my black belt, like I might have been before my injury. I am shoring up my foundation as a purple belt.

So what if I’m not racing competitively.  I am full of energy, able to bike again, and do more “living” with my kids.

Fitness, as I have learned, is not about rock-hard abdominals and a cover story in Muscle & Fitness or Running magazine.  It’s about taking care of the body that God gave you in the YOU that you are.  It’s about meeting God half-way between your creation and your destination.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8


Dear Diary

My Catholic Conversion Story

My Catholic Conversion Story

 

I converted to Catholicism at the Easter Vigil in 2007, just days before running my first Boston Marathon. This is the short version of how that came to be.

Just after Thanksgiving in 2005, my Mother-in-Law passed away as a result of a tragic accident. My husband, who was Active Duty with the U.S. Army at the time, was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. As a result of his mother’s death, he received a delayed reporting date of March 2006.

At the time of my Mother-in-Law’s death, I was employed as a Human Resources Specialist at Fort Drum, NY. Feeling overwhelmed and wanting to be closer to family during my husband’s deployment, I sought out employment in the midwest (primarily Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan). As luck would have it, I secured a reassignment to Fort McCoy, WI, the interview for which came just a couple of days after my husband deployed.

Now, I must explain that going to Fort McCoy was like coming “home” for a couple of reasons. First, I was born in Wisconsin (in Burlington, closer to the Milwaukee side of the state). Second, the first duty station that my husband was assigned to after we married was Fort McCoy. We spent two years here before moving on to Fort Wainwright, AK (for three years) and then Fort Drum, NY (for eight years).

During his time at Fort McCoy in the 1990’s (1993-1995), my husband worked with a retired Army veteran turned civilian. As this was my only connection left to Fort McCoy, he…well, actually his wife…was the first person I contacted upon securing employment there. Although I hadn’t seen or been in contact with them for years, they opened both their hearts and home to me, as well as my two dogs, and one cat (luckily for me, they also run a kennel and grooming business :))

While I simultaneously sold our home in New York state and bought a new home in Wisconsin, I stayed with my old-new again friends and accompanied them to various events, including a barn dance sponsored by St. Patrick’s Parish in Sparta, WI. It turns out that this particular event – during the end summer of 2006 – would be absolutely life-changing!

You see, up until the night of that barn dance, I had come up with just about every excuse in the book to NOT to accept their invites to church. It just wasn’t my thing at the time – I was spiritual, but not religious – if you catch my drift. Then, came that barn dance.

Ah, yes, THAT barn dance. You see, I lost a jacket at that barn dance. Not just any jacket, but a Boilermaker 15K race jacket from a venue in New York state. At the time, it was nearly as coveted as the Boston Marathon jacket that I would eventually earn the right to wear in April 2007. I absolutely LOVED that jacket.

So, anyway, about the jacket. It wasn’t until we were getting ready to go that I noticed it was missing. We searched high and low to no avail. And while it seemed silly to think that someone would purposefully steal a jacket from a church-sponsored event, I couldn’t completely rule it out. After all, it WAS a pretty cool jacket!

Fast forward to the next day, which just happened to be Sunday. Again, the invite to church was extended and again I declined. But, something (someone?) prompted me to reply with the following challenge: “I tell you what, you find my jacket from last night, and I’ll go with you to church every week until I move into my new house.”

Upon their returning home from mass, I was greeted with the biggest, “You are NOT going to believe this” that I’ve ever heard in my life. It turns out that someone – whom they had never, ever seen before in THEIR lives – came up to them after mass and asked them if they had lost a jacket. They responded that they hadn’t, but they knew who had (meaning, me).

That, my friends, was the beginning of the end of my non-Catholic life. As promised, I attended church with my friends until I moved into my new house. But, it didn’t stop there, of course. I wouldn’t otherwise have a conversion story, right?

The message that I received at every Sunday’s homily turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear. I can’t explain it. I can’t deny it. I have no way to reason that it wasn’t meant to be – for me.

Now, seven years later, I am raising five kids in the Catholic faith while strengthening my own. This blog is my {im}perfect journey toward the goal of becoming a more Christ-centered Catholic.