From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional

From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional

Lent is fast approaching.

Even though I’ve been consistently thinking about Lent over the past few weeks and prepping my students and small group for it, I still haven’t fully decided what I will be giving up/adding to my life for the next 40 days. Many ideas are swirling around, but I haven’t landed on specifics yet. This morning, I was talking with one of the prisoners and after I explained a little about Lent, he asked what I would be doing for it. Great question, friend, I thought, I’m not quite certain yet.

However, there is still time to decide. Time to prayerfully consider how we can draw nearer to the Lord’s heart as we wander into the desert so that He may speak to our hearts more intentionally.

To that end, I created a Lenten devotional for you (and me)! I’m excited about this little project and I hope that it will enable us to have a more fruitful Lent. (Click picture below for the pdf)

Continue reading “From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional”

I Had a Slow Childhood

I Had a Slow Childhood

School was called off for today before I even went to bed last night. It meant that my sister and I leisurely watched a movie and then talked for a while before curling up to fall asleep. This morning, the snow hadn’t started yet so I went out of the house for a couple of hours, returning as the snow began to lie thick on the roads. Ideally, though, I would have been still tucked away in my bed or perhaps snuggled on the couch with a cup of coffee as I turned through my latest book.

In high school, I was surprised when I heard that on snow days kids went to go hang out at the mall. For me, it was an unthinkable action. Why would I go out into the blustery weather when that was the exact reason I wasn’t at school? I also was gifted with a father who would have unquestionably smacked me with a hearty dose of common sense if I would have even asked to drive to town despite the weather. Being at home was actually what I wanted to do anyway. While I liked school, I didn’t mind a day of sleeping in and being home. The same still holds true as an adult.

I grew up slow.

By that, I mean, as I grew up, we moved slowly.

I look at the schedules my students have or the schedules of kids and it looks so different from my youth. In elementary school, I usually rode the bus home and I was there until the next day when I left for school. My mom made supper and we all ate together. Sometimes the older siblings were running off to practice or games, but we almost always ate supper around our dining room table.

My summers were quiet, too. Sometimes we explored the farm or watched too much TV or read book after book. But it was slow, with plenty of time and space for us to play in the hay loft or read through book lists with forty to fifty titles. It wasn’t perfection, although my memory tends to cast an overly rosy hue on the days of my childhood. However, it had the great beauty of not being rushed.

Continue reading “I Had a Slow Childhood”

For the Sake of the Joy

For the Sake of the Joy

Nearly every Tuesday, I have “contemplative time” for my classes.  Do they actually reach contemplation?  Probably not, but I like to provide intentional time for silence and prayer.  It is ten minutes where the only thing that is required of them is to be still.  In a world overflowing with noise, arguments, ideas, and busyness, I try to offer them a brief respite from the long list of things they must do.

To help direct their prayer, I display a Scripture passage, a quote from a saint, or an excerpt from a spiritual read for the students to use as a starting point.  A few weeks ago, near All Saints’ Day, I had them focus on Hebrews 12:1-2 for their time of prayer.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I had fifty minutes that day to reflect on these verses.  Different portions stood out to me at various points in the day.  Yet by the afternoon, one phrase continued to stir my heart.  So much so that I wrote it out on a note card and affixed it to my desk organizer so I could continue to ponder it in the days to come.

For the sake of the joy… Continue reading “For the Sake of the Joy”

A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression

A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression

The culture seems to indicate that I should feel a bit like an oppressed victim.  Partly because I am a woman and even more so because I am a young, Catholic woman.  The “male-dominated hierarchy” that imposes a radical ban on my sex from becoming a cleric is meant to be railed against.  And yet I do not imagine myself to be oppressed or a victim.  Instead, I feel genuinely free.

Recently, I started reading Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves and I’ve found it to be quite enjoyable.  The stories are from women who embrace the fullness of the teachings the Church has to offer, finding within the precepts a path to freedom and joy.  In the news and social media, many take it on themselves to speak for Catholic women and how we must feel.  Breaking Through makes the bold claim that Catholic women do not need anyone to speak for them; rather, Catholic women have the ability and intellect to speak for themselves.  Instead of writing us off for actually embracing the Church’s teachings, others are encouraged to listen to the personal experiences women have had as they have grappled with and eventually embraced the wisdom of the Church. Continue reading “A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression”

A Transforming Perspective

A Transforming Perspective

If you think I am a perfect person, this must be the first blog post you have ever read.  That concept, that idea of perfection will be quickly shattered.  And it should be, because it isn’t true.  

Not long ago, I found myself in a situation where I would need to work at something with someone I didn’t know well.  A few minutes into the encounter, prideful me thought, “I think this person can really learn a lot from me.”  God is probably amused and a bit horrified by my internal dialogue.  I didn’t mean it in a bad way and I didn’t think I was their savior by any means.  In the moment, I simply thought this person could learn something from me.

However, an hour or so later, I came to the realization that actually that person might have a lot to teach me.  In light of that awakening, I found my initial perception incredibly smug and prideful.  It was a lesson in humility, one where I was able to see some of my flaws and shortcomings without there being a great embarrassing display.

The Lord is generous to me.  He is quite generous in showing me the areas of my life that aren’t what they should be.  He is also gracious, because He often makes these revelations in small, simple ways.  A few words, a brief encounter, or a fleeting thought garners deeper insight upon later reflection.

He crushes me slowly, in a beautiful way.  Continue reading “A Transforming Perspective”

A Lesson in Snow

A Lesson in Snow

The evening air is cool, but it feels nice as I lean on my shovel and survey the path ahead.  I’ve been outside for nearly forty minutes and the end is in sight, but not as close as I would have liked.  At my house, we take turns shoveling the lovely snow and I thought it was unofficially my turn to do the honors.  A corner lot with long, long sidewalks make for an impromptu workout and time to reflect.  The front sidewalk is easy and I simply slide the shovel along, emptying it every few feet.  I turn the corner and it gets progressively more difficult.  Finally, I’m looking up the path, realizing that the sidewalk is inches below, under freshly laid snow as well as snow that has been crunched underfoot for days.  So I forge a path of my own, seeking to find the trace of civilization beneath nature’s blanket.

I pause again and it pops into my head.

Shoveling snow is like sin/bad habits–it is easiest to get rid of it right away, rather than wait and do it later.

I smile, wondering if any of the other evening-snow-shoveling-folks are theologizing as they scoop.

Admittedly, I like the reflection, though.  The front sidewalk was easy because it had been maintained and all I needed to do was take care of the most recent snowfall.  But the back sidewalk had been a bit neglected and getting it to the same state as the other required far more work.  Ice needed to be chipped and compacted snow had to be disposed of.  It was work that wouldn’t have been needed if it had been taken care of the first snow.

The same thought can be applied to the spiritual life, particularly in regards to cultivating good habits.  What if when I noticed myself doing something I didn’t like or was bad or was not going to help me grow in my life, I would immediately correct it?  Instead, it is easy to say it isn’t that big of a deal and continue until it becomes a habit.  Then we realize we need to take action, but it is no longer just a tendency or inclination but an ingrained habit.  So we go to work: we chip away at it and look longingly down the path to the time when this flaw can be behind us.

What if we got to work on those little things right now so that later on we wouldn’t have to pour more energy into them?  What if we worked so that little things could simply stay little?  Makes a bit too much sense, probably.

It would mean combating laziness with productive work and using my time well.  Not planning to work on laziness later.  Instead of thinking, “Yeah, I probably should do something else rather than peruse Facebook (again) or watch another movie” and then justifying said behavior anyway, I would get up and go: pray, take a walk, go for a run, read a book, clean my room, lesson plan, grade papers, etc.  This goes back to the whole mentality of sacrificing the easy thing in the present to do what I actually want to do, things that bring me life and fulfillment.

Yet another goal and way to grow in my daily life discovered.  Instead of waiting to tackle little problems or flaws, I should enter into the skirmish now so there doesn’t need to be a full-out war later.

From one person on the frontlines to another: let’s get to work.