Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#WorthRevisit :: Drink Deeply and Be Filled

http://www.altusfineart.com/living-water-2/?sort=bestselling
Living Water by Simon Dewey

Since the Gospel reading about the Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42) is very common during the season of Lent, I thought I'd add this re-post to the #WorthRevisit blog link-up today. I love this Gospel story; it is one of my favorites.

The story of the Woman at the Well reminds me of the sacrament of Confession. Jesus meets the woman where she's at, and He loves her, even with all her failings and shortcomings. Like the Woman at the Well, Jesus meets us where we're at, in what we're struggling with, in the sacrament of Confession. All we have to do is open up to Him, and His mercy, grace, love and peace will overflow like living water onto our parched souls.

Once in a homily, our pastor talked about Jesus' gaze at this woman, and He reminded us that when we look upon the Lord in prayer, He really is looking back at us. Sometimes, I forget that, when my prayer is dry or when I feel like He is being silent and not responding quickly enough to my pleas. Well, perhaps He is being quiet, but that doesn't mean He's not present, not gazing lovingly into my eyes. I have to remember to be still and be with Him a bit more when I pray.

I wrote about this Scripture passage five years ago, but I am reposting it again today. I hope the message of God's love will bless you in some way today.

God bless you, dear friends, as we near the holiest of weeks!

Originally published on March 15, 2009:

This image was a focal point on my retreat—Be Filled—a few weekends ago. A small card was taped onto the retreat journals that were handed out. Large posters with this image on it surrounded our meeting room. And every time I gazed upon it, I saw myself. I was the woman at the well. I was the woman in need of a drink. I was the one who Jesus was looking so intently at with those eyes of love.

Can't you just picture yourself as the woman in this picture? Yes, we all know it really is the Samaritan Woman at the Well. But couldn't it really be any one of us?

Here is this woman, encountering Jesus. At first, she does not understand Him. Maybe she does not feel worthy of talking with Him, for she is a woman after all, and a Samaritan woman at that.

But with such love, He sits and talks to her. Doesn't this picture capture the idea that in this whole world, she is the only one who matters to Him at that very moment?

He offers her water, life-giving water, that she may thirst no more but be filled completely.

And even though she reveals her past to Him, He doesn't turn away. Rather, with mercy and love, He draws her closer unto Himself.

It is clear she has faith in the One who is to come, and when He tells her He is the Messiah, she cannot help but tell everyone around her about Him.

And so it is with me ...

Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly be loved by Jesus. My sin is too big. My fear is in the way. My past mistakes are haunting me. I am bound by a spirit of regret, anger, despair, doubt.

Jesus does love me—and each one of you, too. Our faith tells us this, Scripture reveals this to us, the Church teaches this, and so it is true. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you.

He wants us to come to Him like that woman did. He wants us to sit at His feet. He wants that time when it is just us and Him. He wants us to believe that we are that important to Him, because we are. He wants to fill us with life-giving water—the Holy Spirit—to banish once-and-for-all our sin, our fear, our doubt, and be redeemed by His overflowing mercy and love.

Like on my retreat, I hope to meet Jesus this Lent at the well. To drink deeply of His mercy, healing, forgiveness, love, grace and peace. To come back again and again for more. He wants to pour out lavishly upon me, upon all of us, if only we ask and are open to receiving Him.

I hope to do this to receive. But also I hope to do this to sacrifice with Him, as He journeys to Calvary. May I love with Him by taking up my own cross along side His. That in the suffering and loss I may also experience Resurrection in the most fulfilling way possible. Deeply. Purely. Completely. Lovingly.

And then after I do this, like the Samaritan woman, may I share this faith, this truth, this love with others—my family, my friends, anyone God places in my life—so that they may drink deeply, too.

This Lent, and for years to come, let us be like the Woman at the Well, so we may thirst no more.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Daybook :: Doesn't Feel Like Spring {Plus Giveaway Reminder!}

Outside my window ...
Quite a difference from two weeks ago, when I wrote my last daybook post! It is cold and cloudy, and it doesn't feel like spring. My children are disappointed in this weather, because this week is spring break for them.


Thanking God for ...
* A sure sign of God's love for me ... even when I started the day on the completely wrong foot. Yes, that is a whipped-cream heart in my coffee that I didn't even try to make! I know it was from God, reminding me of His love and mercy. He definitely knows how to speak to me—through my coffee, of course!


* A very powerful experience on my annual Spiritual Exercises retreat. I have been attending the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola for about five years now, and each and every year, the message God has for me is always just what I need. The format is familiar, and I love the routine and rhythm of the prayers, times of meditation and even the silent meals. Every year, it is one of the best weekends of my year. (I recently wrote about the Spiritual Exercises on CatholicMom.com, and specifically the Priests of Miles Christi who present the retreats all over the U.S. Check it out! You just might find a retreat close to you!)

* Watching my daughters work hard on their swimming and enjoy the opportunity to compete in their first swim meet.

* Spring break ... Even if we're staying home and it's cold, it's nice to have a break!

* A new four-month health and fitness class I am taking.


Thinking about ...
Perseverance, mercy and joy ... The three key words I took away from my Spiritual Exercises retreat. (More later ... maybe.)

I have been using this prayer book almost everyday for five years. It's from my Spiritual Exercises retreat. But just last weekend was the first time I ever read the following prayer. And it was just what I needed.

Act of Confidence in Divine Mercy (of St. Claude de la Colombière)

Lord, behold a soul that is in the world so that Thou may exercise Thine admirable mercy to make it shine before heaven and earth.

Others glorify Thee by showing, through fidelity and constancy, the power of Thy grace and how sweet and generous Thou art to those who are faithful to Thee. As for me, I will glorify Thee by manifesting how good Thou art to sinners. In me Thou will show that Thy mercy is superior to all our malice, that nothing can exhaust it, and that no relapse, however shameful and culpable it may be, should make a sinner lose hope in Thy forgiveness.

My beloved Redeemer, I have offended Thee gravely. But it would be worse still if I add to my offenses the horrible outrage of thinking that Thou art not so good as to forgive me.

In vain Thine enemy—who is also mine—sets new snares for me daily. He may cause me to cast away everything except the hope I have in Thy mercy. Even though I fall a hundred times, and my sins were a hundred times more horrible than what they are, I will always continue to hop in Thee.


Wearing ...
* Green sweater
* Navy and white stripped maxi skirt
* Floral scarf

Reading ...
* My Bible and The Bible Timeline Guided Journal by Sarah Christmyer. The journal guides you through the story of salvation history by reading the 14 narrative books of the Bible in 90 days (or as long as it takes you). I went through The Great Adventure Bible Study 10 years ago, and it was amazing! I have done some additional studies, too. However, I really want to read the Bible on a more regular basis and enter into Lectio Divina, praying with Scripture. So, this Lent I am focusing on it!

(Sarah also is offering a series on covenant with God this Lent, specifically by musing on the first readings of each Sunday Mass and how they take us on a journey through God's plan to save us. They have coincided perfectly with my Bible reading, reinforcing themes of God's love and His desire to save us. They have enhanced my Lent, for sure!)

* Momnipotent by Danielle Bean. I am reading this book and accompanying study with five wonderful women. We only have one session left. The message has been just perfect for where I am in my motherhood. It has been much more thought-provoking and self-reflective than I expected. I have loved it.

* The Thief by Stephanie Landsem. This is the second book in her Biblical fiction series, and it is just perfect for these final weeks of Lent! I recently interviewed Stephanie for an article on CatholicMom.com, and I am currently hosting a giveaway for her newest release, The Tomb. It is not to late to enter! I will be announcing the winner Wednesday, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation!

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads: 15 books in 2015. I know it's not a lot, but I am working on small steps and being realistic in my real life. Are you on Goodreads? If so, let's connect!


Creating ...
* Healthy meal plans

* Plans for Holy Week and Easter (lots to do here!)

* My 40-Cross Prayer Shawl


On the table ...
I have a few Paleo meals on the menu from eMeals. I also got the Paleo cookbook, Well Fed 2, for my birthday, and I plan to make Sunrise Scramble and Cincinnati Chili this week!

My sweet little St. Patrick's Day girl, and we're not even Irish!


Plans for the week ...
* Haircuts for the boys
* Easter dress/outfit shopping—What do we have? What do we need to get? This will also serve as attire for our upcoming parish directory photo!
* Cinderella
* Confession and Eucharistic Adoration
Called & Gifted workshop this weekend


Praying for ...
* my husband
* my children (by name)
* family and friends, especially those who have asked me to pray for them
* the souls in purgatory

I am linking up with Jenny at The Littlest Way today!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fiction series breathes new life into beloved Gospel stories {and a GIVEAWAY!}

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph! In honor of this very special day, I thought it would be fun to host a giveaway! Hooray!

Last evening, I had the pleasure of attending the release party for Stephanie Landsem's third novel The TombIt was my very first book release party, and it was a real treat! Located at the historic Lowell Inn in Stillwater, Minn., friends, family and fans gathered to have Stephanie sign our new books, and to enjoy scrumptous appetizers and amiable conversation. It was fun to be out and about in the middle of the week to support my new friend's amazing accomplishment.



I met Stephanie on an icy evening in January at a meeting to plan the WINE: Catholic Women's Conference. I am grateful that God placed us at the same table that evening, because not only was I introduced to an incredible woman of faith and joy, but I also was introduced to a beautiful book series that breathes new life into beloved Bible stories.

Stephanie is the author of the Living Water Series, which comprises of three Biblical historical fiction novels. The WellStephanie's debut novel, is about the woman at the well. The Thief centers on the healing of the blind man and also integrates the story of the good their crucified with Jesus. And The Tomb, which just released March 17, is a story about Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

I recently read The Well, and I found it to be an absolutely beautiful story about faith, love, hope and surrender. It is adventurous, moving and inspiring. I could not put it down, and I did not want it to end, as I read the last several pages through my tears of overwhelming emotion for the characters that Stephanie so deeply developed. What I loved most of all was her beautiful way of writing a story about unconditional love so strong that we are willing to sacrifice our own hopes and desires for the good of another person and for the glory of God. Click here for my full review of The Well on Goodreads.

(I plan to start The Thief today, because I was told by two women I sat with at the book party that it is a great book to read during Lent and Holy Week! Plus, I think a solemnity such as this deserves some refreshing activity, like getting lost in a good book. Don't you?! And I cannot wait to have the chance to read The Tomb ... maybe during the Easter season! It is already receiving rave reviews!)



A few weeks ago, Stephanie and I met for coffee, partly for fun and partly so that I could interview her for an article I wanted to write for CatholicMom.com. It was so interesting to learn about her writing journey and a little more background behind her books. I encourage you to click on over to CatholicMom.com to learn more about her and the Living Water Series! You will be glad you did, I promise!

Now that I have had a chance to introduce you to Stephanie and her books, I'd like to give you the chance to win a copy of her brand-new novel, The Tomb! Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, and please share this giveaway with your friends! I will announce the winner next Wednesday, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 9, 2015

Daybook :: Birthday Edition

Flowers and a flourless chocolate cake for my birthday!

Outside my window ...
Sunny and bright! We are having some lovely spring-like weather with temperatures in the 50s and 60s! Yay!!


Thanking God for ...
* Another year of life. Today, I turn 39 years old. I have always loved my birthday. It isn't as big of a deal to me as it used to be. But it's not because I dread getting older; I really don't. I just think I am passing the excitement onto my children and letting them take over the hype and fun of birthdays. It teaches them to be generous, not just for my birthday, but for each person's birthday in the family.

* For the excitement that birthdays bring to my children. It is fun to watch them have fun coming up with their own ideas of how they want to honor the birthday person.

* A lunch date and shopping with my mom and youngest son

* Introducing me to a new saintly friend: St. Frances of Rome, whose feast day is today.


Thinking about ...
At the WINE: Women In the New Evangelization conference last month, speaker Patty Schneier encouraged us to celebrate the feast days of our family members. For years, we have done this with the saints we are named after. Our list of patron saints is long in our family of eight! And it is a special part of who we are as a Catholic family!

But Patty also encouraged us to know about the saints whose feast days are on our birthdays. So today, I am learning about St. Frances of Rome! A wife and mother!

Check out this quote from St. Frances: "A married woman must often leave God at the altar to find Him in her household care." Wow!

Another connection to her already: Our family's devotion to our Guardian Angels has been growing lately. Our awareness of them in our lives, with us wherever we go. More specifically, the angels' role in the Mass ... We watched a fantastic animated film The Greatest Miracle that illustrates the unseen that takes place during Mass. Well, St. Frances of Rome was given the gift of seeing her guardian angel in bodily form, because her faith was so great!

I feel like God just introduced me to a special spiritual mother! And I can't wait to get to know her even better! What a blessed birthday gift! St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!


Wearing ...
* Black cowl-neck top
* Jeans
* Black shoes with NO socks!
* New highlights in my hair, including some small brighter red pieces positioned for subtlety!




Reading ...
* My Bible and The Bible Timeline Guided Journal by Sarah Christmyer. The journal guides you through the story of salvation history by reading the 14 narrative books of the Bible in 90 days (or as long as it takes you). I went through The Great Adventure Bible Study 10 years ago, and it was amazing! I have done some additional studies, too. However, I really want to read the Bible on a more regular basis and enter into Lectio Divina, praying with Scripture. So, this Lent I am focusing on it!

(Sarah also is offering a series on covenant with God this Lent, specifically by musing on the first readings of each Sunday Mass and how they take us on a journey through God's plan to save us. They have coincided perfectly with my Bible reading, reinforcing themes of God's love and His desire to save us. They have enhanced my Lent, for sure!)

* Momnipotent by Danielle Bean. I am reading this book and accompanying study with five wonderful women. We only have two sessions left. The message has been just perfect for where I am in my motherhood. It has been much more thought-provoking and self-reflective than I expected. I have loved it.

* The Accidental Marriage by Roger Thomas. I am reading this along with a book club through CatholicMom.com. And it's definitely not to late to join! We'd love you to have you read with us!

Taken from the book description: What does heroism look like? When does friendship become too costly? Do we ever truly touch one another, or are we doomed to walk alone forever? Can love survive trials, or does it inevitably wither and die? The Accidental Marriage is a contemporary story that explores these questions through vibrant, sympathetic characters whose struggles and triumphs illustrate that love doesn't always look like you would expect.

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads: 15 books in 2015. I know it's not a lot, but I am working on small steps and being realistic in my real life. Are you on Goodreads? If so, let's connect!


Creating ...
* A new schedule ... I have been struggling with this lately! I keep falling into old habits that really don't work anymore. What do you do when you need to change things up a bit?

* My 40-Cross Prayer Shawl


On the table ...
My husband made Paleo Chicken Pad Thai for my birthday last evening. It was delicious!

I have a few Paleo meals on the menu from eMeals, including spaghetti squash and meatballs, Asian burgers and chicken gumbo.



Plans for the week ...
* Momnipotent
* Adoration
* Spiritual Exercises retreat this weekend


Praying for ...
* my husband
* my children (by name)
* family and friends, especially those who have asked me to pray for them
* the souls in purgatory

I am linking up with Jenny at The Littlest Way today!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lent Around My Home: Reclaiming My Joy

When my children were quite young, in fact when I only had half of the children I have today, I felt compelled to find ways to make the Catholic faith come alive for my children. More than simply attending Mass with them each Sunday, I wanted to teach them to pray, introduce them to the saints, and celebrate the liturgical seasons within our domestic church. I wanted to bridge what they saw and experienced at church and how we lived at home. I didn't want church and home to be separate. Rather, I desired family life and faith life to be integrated and intertwined with each other. My hope was (and continues to be) that living out the Catholic faith would be a natural and central part of their lives.

I think it started with a little gem-of-a-book called Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler. I found such valuable information in it, especially when I had a whole crew of toddlers and preschoolers. Then, when I started blogging, a whole world opened up to me! Blogs and blogs of Catholic moms sharing ideas about how they honored feast days, decorated their Catholic home, and utilized recipes to celebrate the Faith with their children. The Catholic blogging world is a well-spring of ideas from simple to extravagant and everything in-between. (And now other avenues of social media, like Pinterest, make that well-spring even deeper!)

I took what I was reading about and learning about from other Catholic moms and I really got into decorating our home for the liturgical seasons, planning crafts and activities, and organizing feast day tea parties. I am not overly crafty or exceptional in the kitchen, but the spirit with which I did these things as well as the experience my children had was what mattered most to me. When I look back, these are some of the most cherished memories that I have with my young children.


Free download for this calendar courtesy of Shower of Roses.

But then I went through a season of burn out and being overwhelmed to the point of depression, and I lost my ability to keep up with it all. I could barely keep the house clean and groceries in the pantry, let alone remember to plan a feast day dessert. It was a hard and difficult time for me. One of the saddest parts of barely being able to do the bare minimum to survive is that you lose a lot of what brings you joy.

And that was it; I lost my joy. Doing the basics only to survive took everything out of me. It's what was needed to survive, but it wasn't what brought joy to my life. And I was sucked dry.

I didn't really know what to do to get my joy back. I was at a stand-still for a long, long time. Even when I came out of the deeper part of my depression and felt ready to reclaim joy in motherhood again, I didn't know what to do or how to do it. I was rather paralyzed.

Once I lost the joy of doing the special things I did as a mom, it was almost like I forgot how to do them all together. I felt like I was behind on so much, that I really didn't know where to begin again. And I certainly couldn't begin with what I loved, could I? I mean, what about the room that needed organizing or the papers that needed sorting?




In the meantime, my children were growing up quickly, and I no longer had a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers. Now, I have a gang of school-aged children, my youngest already four. How do I do what I did but for different aged children?


Lenten acts of kindness ideas courtesy of Family at the Foot of the Cross.

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to hear a very motivating talk by Catholic speaker and author Patty Schneier at the WINE (Women in the New Evangelization) Catholic Women's Conference. At the end of her talk, she gave some very practical tips for living out the Faith on a daily basis. Two tips that Patty gave were things I used to do in those "glory years" of my young motherhood but that fell by the wayside during my rough patch. One was to know and celebrate the feast days of our children, not only the saints they are named after but also the feast days that fall on their birthdays. The second tip was to decorate our home in ways that exemplify our Catholic faith, so that no matter who comes into our home, they will know we're Catholic. One specific detail Patty talked about was decorating for the different liturgical seasons, such as Lent. She told us how much she enjoyed this, and she especially liked decorating for Lent with her purple cloth draped on the mantle and images displayed from a calendar of The Passion of the Christ movie.

Patty's talk was so convicting, I truly believe God used her to speak directly to me on what to do to get out of my rut. I resolved to return to my former ways of honoring the liturgical seasons, starting with this Lent. I looked to see what I had on hand, I searched Pinterest for new ideas, I made a trip to Hobby Lobby, and I made a plan.



I cannot tell you how therapeutic it has been for me to decorate little corners of our home this Lent. I found joy that I have not experienced in quite some time. I rediscovered that I enjoy beautifying our home with little touches here and there. I have thought a lot about Our Blessed Mother and how nicely she must have kept their home in Nazareth. She must have cared so much about making things warm and cozy for Jesus and Joseph. As I thought about Mary, I determined that I want to have that same care for my own home, to take pride in my work around the house, rather than thinking of it as drudgery and almost pointless because it gets undone before my very eyes. I am nowhere near a good homemaker. I do the tasks of a homemaker, but I don't take much ownership in my work, which I think I should. Maybe, God willing, my little Lenten decorating projects will be a good step toward embracing my work and my vocation just a little bit more. Maybe, just maybe, that joy I had lost will continue to emerge through rediscovering the tasks that used to bring me such life, peace and contentment. And all the while, reintroducing my children to our traditions of celebrating the Catholic Faith in our domestic church.
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