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Showing posts from January, 2016

Day 32: God's Graces Through Gratitude

My women's small group from church is reading Fr. Jacques Philippe's "The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Thérèse of Lisieux." While reading the chapter past night, I came across this passage, which struck me for a number of reasons. It is actually a quote from Thérèse via her real life and Carmelite sister, Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face from a memoir titled "A Memoir of My Sister St. Thérèse."

What most attracts God's graces is gratitude, because if we thank him for a gift, he is touched and hastens to give us ten more, and if we thank him again with the same enthusiasm, what an incalculable multiplication of graces! I have experienced this: try it yourself and you will see! My gratitude for everything he gives me is limitless, and I prove it to him in a thousand ways. 
I recently read about how abundant God's graces are, but that so often we forget to ask him for them! I have started to try to remember this in my prayers throughou…

Day 31: Where I Am

I tend toward being a "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" type of person. While I am mostly content, I'm always thinking life could be so much better if I did or had this thing, or was able to get into or out of that thing, or lived here or there. 
Today while I was driving around on some errands, I felt a strong sense of gratitude for Right Here Right Now. 
We have some big decisions about where to live, school, and future involvement in some activities and groups  coming up in the next few months. The uncertainty makes me quite anxious. 
But today was different. I was able to let go of the anxiety and really be thankful for where we are NOW. We woke up in a comfortable home, went to a familiar church, and we chatted and played with friends in the gym afterward. 
Tonight we spent some time with three other families who are dear to us, and I was overwhelmed with the sense of comfort and peace I had there, knowing full well that we may not be spending so …

Day 30: My daily flip calendar

I have this little daily flip calendar in my closet on top of a slender chest of drawers. I don't even remember to flip it each day, but just having it there makes me smile. In KonMari language, it "sparks joy." 
My older sister gave it to me when I still lived in my upstairs room at my mom and dad's old house. I moved downstairs some time in 8th grade, which means I've had the little calendar for...20 years! Whoa!
I don't remember why she gave it to me, perhaps as a little token when she was graduating from high school, or maybe a birthday or a Valentine gift. I'm sure she doesn't remember it and would giggle at the thought of me keeping it so long and through several moves. But I'm so glad I have it. 
Each day has a little quote, line from a poem, or scripture verse. Some are more inspiring than others, and there's one day (I think in August) missing, a quirk that makes me smile. I think of her each time I flip it and I can't imagine gettin…

Day 29: Baptism Day!

January 29 is child #1's baptism day! In our little family, we've started to celebrate this, not quite as a birthday, but definitely a special day!

Yesterday all three boys and I took a special trip to our local Catholic bookstore where #1 got to pick a gift, anything he wanted (within reason). I put the baby in the backpack because he would wreak havoc on a small bookstore with lots of statues and tiny things around. 
I figured #1 would look around and pick a toy while I looked at books and we'd head home. Well, I was wrong! The big boys looked at EVERY item in the kids section, examining many carefully. Then they popped out to look at rosaries, miraculous medals, tiny boxes, holy cards and the like. 
My back was killing me with the baby on it after an HOUR, when he finally picked a boat with a set of apostle figurines. For $35. So I gently suggested we look for something else.
He finally picked a movie about St. Francis Xavier. We watched it when we got home and had brea…

Day 28: Podcasts

When I was still working, I listened to Pandora for much of the day. I had some pretty great stations figured out, but then I got into podcasts. When you work in operations in a cubicle all day, it's easy to keep up-to-speed on podcasts, so I subscribed to many.

Life as an at-home parent does not allow me nearly as much time to listen to my beloved podcasts. I try to get one in a day, usually during meal cleanup. 
Some of my favorites include:  Catholic Stuff You Should Know Messy Parenting The Simple Show Fountains of Carrots Evangelical Disciple (our excellent priest's weekend homilies)
I also occasionally listen to: The Jennifer Fulwiler Show UMD Newman Catholic Campus Ministry (homilies from Fr. Mike Schmitz) America's Test Kitchen Catholic Answers Focus This Inspired Life
There are more I've been wanting to try out, like Happier With Gretchen Rubin, but just haven't made the time. 
Yesterday I got a little shout-out from one of my favorite podcasters, Father N…

Day 27: Pioneer Woman

I first heard of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman when a thoughtful friend brought a meal over after I'd had #2. She mentioned it was a PW recipe and shortly after I started following her blog/website.

She posts so much more than just (just? they are fantastic) recipes. There are lifestyle posts, home and garden posts, and lots of giveaways. Which I've never won, cough cough, 
She has over a million followers on Facebook, and so I'm sure many more on her website, but she seems so friendly and down-to-earth that sometimes I forget we're not real life friends. Because I get crazy attached to bloggers, I guess. 
At any rate, I dig her work and have enjoyed most of the recipes of hers I've tried, which is more than a few. Last night, even though it was Wednesday, I made her Sunday night stew with mashed potatoes and it was delightful.
The kid who hates everything hated it, the other kid gr…

Day 26: Something

I'm falling behind! I'm still practicing gratitude, but also trying to get to bed earlier and, thus, forgetting to update ye olde online gratitude journal at night! 
I saw this on Instagram and loved it: "When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears." Tony Robbins
I feel like I should know who Tony Robbins is, but I have better things to do that google him right now. 

Day 25: One-year-olds

My current one-year-old is, I think, the most mischievous of the three I've had so far. My husband says they were all quite similar, and that I probably just don't remember. Since I've heard that sleep is when long-term memories form, and since I'm perpetually sleep deprived, he could totally be right.

At any rate, I often describe this kid as a maniac. He's not really out of control or bouncing off the walls like I know some one-year-olds can be, he just tends to leave a wide path of destruction! 
He wanders around emptying drawers and cupboards and carrying things to different rooms and throwing and climbing and tickling and hitting. He can't stay off the kitchen chairs, and he's recently learned to open the interior doors of our house (insert sad face). He keeps me constantly on my toes, or the edge of my seat, or whatever. You get the idea.
The kicker is that he does it all with such a joyful disposition that it's hard not to just sit and watch him …

Day 24: A Day of Rest

For Christians, Sundays are a day of rest. Or they are supposed to be, anyway. But in our culture that values productivity and busyness higher than religion at times, the resting part of the holy day has been all but forgotten.

I'm a list-writer and someone who always has several irons in the fire in addition to projects I'd like to get started. Rest and relaxation aren't necessarily hard for me, but on weekend days I always feel like I need to make the most of my time, and often that includes activities that really don't need to be done that day.

Today I truly felt the desire to rest, and did not feel the guilt that usually accompanies that desire. When the baby woke up from nap, I played with him (and watched the Broncos/Patriots game) until everyone else got up. My husband graciously offered to take all three kids sledding so I could relax on the couch. I wasted no time snuggling in and falling quickly asleep. And it was glorious.

My husband took it a step further a…

Day 23: Teams of Our Lady

Last fall, my husband and I joined with six other area couples to form a team in the international movement called Teams of Our Lady, which is amovement of "Married Spirituality" which brings together Christian couples united by the Sacrament of Marriage; and who wish, together, to deepen the graces of their Sacrament of Marriage.

Three of the couples were already friends of ours and we met the others at the forming of the team. In addition to a pilot couple that helps us get started, we have a chaplain from a local parish who attends the monthly meetings and is involved in the prayer and discussions. 
While we are only four months in, "Teams" (as we refer to it) has been fruitful for us. The evil one seems to always attack us on the day of our monthly meetings, which makes us cranky and stressed and not too excited to go. But once we are there, the sharing of a meal, fellowship, and sharing removes the stress and inspires us both individually and in our marriage. 

Day 22: TGIF

Oh man. TGIF! We had a terrible day here. Thank God we are all healthy and safe, just moody.

As the mother, I know I set the tone for the rest of the household, and I did a good job of setting it to cranky today. I gave up on parenting around 2:00 pm and have never been so relieved to see my husband walk through the door.

I'm so grateful my family continues to give me chances to redeem myself, and that God gives us a fresh start with each new morning. Here's to the weekend!

Day 21: Ordinary Time

Today was an ordinary day. When No "gratitude moment" immediately came to mind, I realized that I should be (and am) grateful for just that: an ordinary day. 
Nothing notable happened. We had laughter and tantrums, some yelling and some crying, fun and fights. Dad worked a long day, but the rest of us got to go to Mass and visit with friends. 
We are healthy. We have a home. We are surrounded by loving, kind, generous and supportive friends and family. 
I have recently heard of friends of friends with a one-year-old in chemo, a husband who died unexpectedly leaving a pregnant wife and other kids, people who've been without work for a long time, and many other things going on. 
What those people wouldn't give to have a day like mine, where we just did regular stuff and ate PB&Js. I'll take it. Praise God!

Day 20: Snow Fun

I could be described as "indoorsy." Especially in winter. There are no winter outdoor activities I really enjoy because I hate being cold. I mean, I'll go sledding if it's nice out, but I'd be equally as happy doing Amazon shopping on my couch. Today was the first 20-degree day in quite a while, since we've been stuck in a below-zero rut for a couple of weeks. So the boys asked to go outside and I obliged.

The baby (actually a 17-month-old) usually goes out but is typically held or carried in the backpack. He's fairly new to walking and his hand-me-down boots are a size too big. I thought today I'd see how he did on his own, mostly because I wanted to drink coffee instead of carry him around.

I bundled him up in his little snowpants and boots and thumbless mittens and we all headed outside. He started out a little unsteady and unsure but after a few minutes he strayed from my side and started exploring. To my delight, he did better than expected and m…

Day 19: My Online Support Group (Blogs and Podcasts)

I both praise and curse technology, and I've see all the Facebook posts about how moms need to put their phones down and take care of their kids. I know it, and I do struggle with clickfests that start with an innocent Facebook scrolling session and end in reading an entire blog archive, 3 Buzzfeed lists, taking an '80s lyrics quiz and following 5 new people on Instagram.

I often use podcasts to keep me motivated doing house work. I just scrubbed the floor listening to the Fountains of Carrots podcast and I got to thinking about how grateful I am for online support of my vocation.

A friend and I are in the midst of Operation: Phone Detachment, in which we are are trying to be more mindful about our phone usage and not letting it detract from forming real relationships and living our lives fully. Knowing I need to use my phone and the Internet in moderation and with thoughtfulness, I do find comfort and entertainment through podcasts, photo feeds, and especially blogs. I love t…

Day 18: Kind Words from a Stranger

Yesterday I received a call from a complete stranger. It's rare that I would answer a call from an unknown number, because it's 2016 and people don't do that, but she'd left a voicemail previously so I was expecting the call.

The caller was a woman who had sat by my husband and the two younger boys at Christmas Mass at my in-laws' church. She was just calling to tell me how she enjoyed sitting by them and was pleased that the kids were good at Mass. 
Our kids actually are pretty good at Mass, all things considered. We take them to Mass often so they know what to expect. 
What astounded me, though, was not the thought that some stranger thinks my kids are perfect angels (they're not) but that she'd put forth the effort to actually call and tell me so. She briefly chatted with them after Mass, but then sought out my mother-in-law to get my number and called several times until I answered. 
People do not make this type of effort to reach out to strangers these…

Day 17: St. Joseph's & Our Priests

Tonight after confession, the Divine Mercy chaplet, a friendly chat with our Pastor, and Mass, I was reflecting on what a great parish St. Joseph's has been to us, lo these last 10 years. The parish's motto is "Led by the Spirit" and, although it's not perfect (what parish is?), I have certainly felt the Holy Spirit at work there.

We got married there and stuck around, even though it's across the river and in a different diocese, and there are other churches closer to our house. We feel so at home at St. Joe's and even though our anniversary came and went, I still feel surprised that we've been there almost 11 years. Some of our dearest friends are gifts from God to us through St. Joseph's.

One of the perks of being one of the largest parishes in the diocese is that we always have great priests. We've had at least seven or eight priests there, but only two pastors since we joined, Father. Larry and Monsignor Mike. Both of them are shepherds wh…

Day 16: Real Men

This morning we met several other families in our church's library to pray a family rosary. The men's group my husband is a part of leads a monthly family rosary. Despite sub-zero temps, six wonderful families showed up to pray together. We prayed the Joyful Mysteries and each husband/father led a decade.

I realized sitting there how grateful I am for this small but faithful group of Catholic men, who are really living out physical and spiritual fatherhood for their families. Our culture has a disordered sense of masculinity today, so it is refreshing to see men who really lead their families well.

Men who sacrifice for their families and communities.

Men who trust in the Lord, and bend their knees to His will and authority.

Men who lead their families in prayer.

Men who protect their wives and children, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

These men aren't perfect and they don't claim to be, but they certainly live out masculinity in a way that unfortunately is co…

Day 15: We Made It

We made it through the week with my husband's new job, a long commute, sub-zero temps and me having to get everyone out the door for preschool at 7:30 am. We are tired but we didn't die from it. I'm calling it a win.

Day 14: Snow is Pretty

And it's a darn good thing it is! 
I'm not a lover is winter, but there are a lot of other reasons I love living where I live, and so we stay. I don't have outdoor winter hobbies like ice fishing or snowmobiling, but having little boys forces me outdoors. I know it's good for all of us to get outside in the winter, and so we do it. 
Today we got a 20 degree day in the middle of two several-day streaks KD below zero temps, so outside we went. I'd already shoveled after lunch, but there was another couple inches after school so the big boys and I headed out and did the job again. 
The snow fell harder as we worked, but it was warm(ish) and not windy, and the snow was really beautiful. Soft fluffy flakes falling slowing, as opposed to the common scene where ice chunks slap you in the face because the snow is heavy and wet and the wind is blowing 40 miles per hour. 
When I finished I stood and watch the boys running around joyfully with their little shovels, and even thoug…

Day 13: Silence

This morning at Mass our wise priest challenged us to take 20 or 30 minutes to just be silent.
To most people, and certainly to anyone with small children, that idea seems almost laughable. When I do get a rare quiet minute, I have a long to do list, a book I want to read, or I just zone out looking at Instagram or reading blogs. Even though I do try to take time each day to pray, I rarely take time to sit in silence and
So today when miraculously both boys were sleeping AND the dishes were done, I just sat down. 
And sat there. 
I didn't try to pray or start reading anything. It was probably only five minutes or so that I sat there, but a glorious few minutes it was. I got up and started tidying up in silence, not thinking of the 38 podcasts in my queue or turning on any music. I stood and watched my 3.75-year-old nap on the couch and thanked God for his sweetness. 
My silence probably lasted around 15 minutes. I definitely noticed a perspective shift and was able to mostly…

Day 12: Husband and Mercy

I had a crappy day today. I was just in a funk I couldn't dig out of, for no particular identifiable reason. So the first thing I am grateful for is my husband, who came home from a new job with a long commute, complemented my cooking, bedded the children and is now doing more work at the house without complaint. If he complained half as much as me, we'd be screwed.

My second thought of gratitude is for God's mercy, when we screw up and act like asses and he forgives us time and again. That's a win for me.

Day 11: All the things

I was nervous about this day last night, as it was our first day back to real life after an extended holiday break feeling. I was up at 5 with the baby but for once wasn't all bent out of shape about it as I was planning on getting up at 6 anyway. 
I was able to pray, do the daily readings, and eat breakfast before the big boys woke up. The boys were really good all day, except the baby trying to get into the pool at the big boys' swimming lessons. 
We got both pantries cleaned, which is no small feat with 3 little boys, and Ben got home an hour and a half earlier than we expected. All big wins in my book! 
I'm probably most grateful for our attached garage today. Anyone who has kids in car seats knows what a hassle it is the winter when kids need to be bundled up and leaving the house expends the same amount of energy as running a marathon. Temps have barely touched 0 for the last several days, so having the garage there for half of the buckling and unbuckling is a major ble…

Day 10: A New Beginning

My husband starts a new job tomorrow. I have so much gratitude in my heart right now! We have gotten to spend the last 6 weeks spending more time together as a family than ever. We've gotten to reevaluate where our priorities are and work on some things that will likely enhance our family life in a number of ways.

Although I'm nervous for the changes this job will bring to our lifestyle, I am thankful for the pending return of normalcy (even though we don't yet know exactly what that will look like). 
For what are you grateful today?

Day 9: Bathroom Tile

We tore up our master bath last fall to do some necessary work on the walls and, well, you know how it goes. One thing leads to another. We finally got around to picking out some tile (yesterday) and having it installed (today)!

We picked one that would go with the brown main bathroom and the gray master bathroom. We haven't put the toilets back or anything, but it is dreamy. I hear angels sing when I open the bathroom doors to gaze at it. Which I have actually done. Here's hoping we get the light fixture up, paint touched up and toilets done in a timely fashion. I'm so pleased!

Day 8: Music From My Past

After supper tonight, I sent everyone downstairs to play after supper so I could enjoy some solitude while I cleaned up the kitchen. I use this time most evenings to listen to podcasts. I grabbed my ear buds and my phone to find one, but somehow music started playing.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jimmy Buffett's "They Don't Dance Like Carmen No More" so I figured I'd listen while I chose a podcast. About a minute into the song, I felt myself smiling and started to sing. Sidebar: I'm willing to forgive the double negative in the song title. I do also pray that Jimmy will one day return to the Church, as he is a fallen away Catholic. He was given a gift in his musical and business talents and I would daresay I'm a Parrothead, albeit not as enthusiastic as I was in my teens and twenties. 

Music is one of the great joys of my life; listening to good music makes me feel alive. Letting my iPod shuffle almost always leaves me smiling.

"Carmen" bro…

Day 7: Printing and Laminating

Today's grateful feelings are brought to you by HP and Scotch. The brand, not the drink.

I rarely have ink in my printer, and when I do I want to print ALL the things. Today, those things were a couple of printables from Kendra at I chose the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and put them in cheap frames by my kitchen sink. I thought they were fitting for the Year of Mercy!

Then I printed wallet(ish) sized copies of her Anima Christi and Memorare prayers and laminated them. I'm not much of a New Year's Resolution type of person, but I do want to memorize these two beautiful prayers this year, so I made the cards to stick in my purse, van, and any other random place I can think of. I'm pretty excited, since I rarely follow through on ideas like this.

One thing that helped was the Scotch brand laminator I got as an Amazon deal of the day last year for $17. I love it more than it is appropriate to love office equipment. 
So my three-part thankful…

Day 6: Wednesday

Yes, I am grateful for Wednesdays! After a 3-week break, my church's mothers group started back up today. I look forward to our Wednesday meetings every week, and it was so refreshing to get back with my people!

After mothers group, I met two former coworkers for lunch at one of my favorite sandwich shops. It's been almost 11 months since I quit working, and I miss those two fiercely. They were part of my everyday for 3.5 years, and I hope we continue periodic lunches because they are so fun. 
Five o'clock in the afternoon may be too early to deem the day a win, but it's been a fabulous Wednesday so far!

Day 5: Bedtime That Didn't Make My Head Explode

Our boys are generally pretty good kids. But we struggle at bedtime; tantrums, arguing, stall tactics. All the regular stuff.

Last night we were at friends' house for supper. Any parent knows that when more than one family of kids gets together, the kids all act like angry schizophrenics, especially when it's time to part ways and go home to bed. 
Last night we had the same arguments we always do when leaving the B's house. But we managed to get home and still get everyone in bed by around 8:20. 
The baby didn't cry, and big boys didn't beg for more stories, a glass of water, Chapstick or any of the other crap they use for excuses to stay up. And no one got up to poop at 9:30. I'm calling it a 12th Day of Christmas miracle!

Day 4: Closed Doors

It only took me four days to miss a day! Classic. I did realize I'd forgotten to post yesterday at about 10:20 pm, as I was settling down in my bed to start reading a new book ("My Sisters the Saints" by Colleen Carroll Campbell, if you must know). Tired and a little cranky, I let the bought pass and started reading. 
When I awoke this morning I realized what is was in grateful for today that I didn't realize yesterday: closed doors. I live with three small boys, so I'm not talking literal closed doors, although I am grateful when someone remembers to close the bathroom door so the baby doesn't splash in the toilet!
What I really mean is when God closes a door that I'd thought I wanted open. My spouse lost his job last month, and almost immediately I was grateful because I know we wouldn't have chosen to leave a situation that was OK. We knew it was a blessing and that God had better things in store for us. Last night I was cranky because a house I was …

Day 3: Weather

In North Dakota, the weather can be unpredictable. We walk on egg shells from October to April, especially if we have travel plans. We've been late for Christmas and missed Thanksgiving and my Grandma's December 26th 90th birthday party due to blizzards or freezing rain and ice-covered roads. Checking the 10-day forecast near any holiday is second nature to us. 
This year, we had the most glorious Christmas and New Years weekend weather we could have asked for. Clear roads on both of our 250-mile-away long weekend trips was a blessing I didn't realize during our 16+ hours in the car the last 12 days. On our two 5-day long weekends, the kids spent hours outside playing, sledding and fishing. In a word: fabulous. 
I rarely praise God for favorable weather, but am quick to shake my fist at the sky when my plans are foiled. So, thank you, good Lord, for the warm temps and clear roads this holiday season!

Day 2: My favorite verses

While we were looking for appropriate readings for our wedding, we came across Philippians 4, and we knew right away that we'd found our second reading. It has since become my favorite passage, and the one I fall back on consistently. I'm grateful for it, especially when I need the reminder to rejoice, which unfortunately is often! Full of beauty and joy, it gives me just what I need most days. 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,  by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,  make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding  will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have lear…

Day 1: Chaos

I'm sitting here in the midst of Christmas season and New Year's Day chaos. There are 17 of us staying all weekend in my parents' lake home. I hear constant noise: kids laughing, screaming and fighting. I hear farming, sports and political talk. We compare and admire gifts. We drink wine and beer and snack on cheese and crackers. We change diapers and comfort crying babies. And I realized how grateful I am for these crazy and regular moments in my life. 

My temperament is melancholic, and I am much more apt to complain about what's wrong than realize and express gratitude for all that is right. I am constantly begging God to meet my needs, but am rarely praising Him for all the good in my life. And there is so much of it. So very much. 

The other night when I was lying awake from 2 to 6 a.m. seething that I was awake while the baby was actually sleeping, I remembered how several times I've considered starting a gratitude journal. I've read about the benefits, and…