Living Lent After Lent

It’s been nearly 20 days since Easter Sunday, and still, I feel like I’m living in the season of Lent.

Lately, life has thrown a lot of me. It’s not anything negative, but the simple busyness of life has come at me fast since Easter. I always feel like I’m running from one place to another, running on little sleep and 2-3 cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer per day. My prayer and devotional life has suffered, and some days, I think, “I haven’t prayed, or I’ve prayed very little, today.” On these days, life is unsurprisingly more difficult.

But, today I forced myself to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. When I say “forced,” I don’t mean that it’s a requirement for Catholics to pray the Rosary. Rather, it’s totally optional, but a totally optional practice I had slacked on for the past few months. In the past, I had a habit of praying a Rosary every day, and it’s no coincidence that my life was better for it. In the busyness of Lent and Easter, the practice fell away. It was more difficult to get up in the morning for 20 extra minutes.

I let hustle take over.

But, today, I calmed my mind and I prayed. As this week has been yet another busy week for the books, I felt calmer and more at peace than I have for a while. It was as if a load was lifted from my shoulders. Just 20 minutes is all it took to achieve a noticeable peace in my daily life.

So, my advice to you is this: When the season of Lent is over and you still feel like you’re in Lent, take time to pray. Say an Our Father or say something in your own words. God is not seeking perfection, He only wants to hear from us. He knows what’s on your heart, but He wants so much for us to reach out to Him through prayer.

As this week draws to a close, think of how you can spend more time with God. Maybe it’s reading from the Daily Readings or simply sitting in quiet. No matter what that time is, it will never disappoint you.

Have a happy weekend!

 

 

 

For Everyone New: An Introduction

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the regularly scheduled programming.

At the beginning of Lent, I had a great idea. I thought that I would abstain from all social media, including blogging. In my mind, I imagined that this time off would help me recharge and revamp my writing ministry. As it turns out, the idea to fast from writing was not one of my brightest ideas. Since Easter, I’ve sluggishly turned to my keyboard, only to find myself staring at the blank screen. As it turns out, writing is a lot like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the easier, and better, it becomes. Conversely, the less you write (or exercise), the more difficult the task is. So now, eight days after Easter, I’m finally writing to you.

Surprisingly, during the Lenten season, I picked up a few followers not only here on WordPress, but also on Facebook and Twitter. This post is for those who are new to Quelpart. However you ended up here, I am grateful. I hope my writing brings you the joy of Christ in your daily life.

What’s a “Quelpart?”

You can read more about the story behind my blog’s name HERE. In short, Quelpart is the French name of the island I lived on while teaching in Korea. But, the name means much more than that.

About Me

I’m Sarah. I was born, raised, and educated in Kentucky. I worked and lived in South Korea for a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved looking at and reading maps. My heart is always in East Asia. In the early morning, I rattle my rosary beads. By day, I’m a teacher. At night, I read books, write, and drink coffee. When I’m not working or reading or praying, I collect designer handbags. The wildest thing I’ve ever done is travel to Tijuana, Mexico for bariatric surgery.

If I’m not jetsetting or scouting New York City’s Flushing Chinatown with my Long Island fiance, you can usually find me at my parish’s adoration chapel. I’m a convert to Catholicism, and my only regret is that I wish I would have done it sooner. I love the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy. I am devoted to our Blessed Mother, especially under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

About This Blog

Around here, I blog almost exclusively about the intersection of the Catholic faith and “real life.” Occasionally, I may mention my travels. But overall, this is a blog fascinated with the wild and sacred adventure of life with Jesus. I try to blog twice a week: sometimes more, sometimes less. Regardless, I pray you’ll stick around and keep reading.

to Him through Her,

Sarah

 

GUEST POST – On Choosing a Nun’s Life: The Road Less Taken by Christina M. Sorrentino

Welcome to the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I pray your time of reflection and sacrifice is bringing you closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we progress through the weeks, I pray that you have found my Lenten series of guest posts to be a blessing in your spiritual walk. Today, it is my pleasure to host Christina M. Sorrentino, a digital friend and fellow blogger. Christina is an aspiring nun and she’s sharing her vocation story today. May you be blessed by Christina’s witness to the faithfulness of Christ.

“And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

-Luke 1:38

Growing up I had never been around religious sisters as my entire education was in the public schools, and it was not until I was an undergraduate in college that one day while walking to class I happened to turn around and there behind me was a Daughter of St. Paul. I remember how seeing that sister in her blue habit bought a smile to my face that day while I thought to myself, “What are the odds on a public college campus there would be a religious sister”? That is the first time that I remember ever encountering a religious sister.

The thought of becoming a nun never entered into my mind until I was in my early twenties and met a young seminarian who was joyful and zealous about his vocation to the priesthood. I recall sitting with one of my friends at dinner one evening and admitting to her that seeing this seminarian preparing for his upcoming ordination inspired me to begin thinking about my own vocation, and I said, “I think I want to be a nun”. I was terrified at such a thought and pushed it right out of my mind almost immediately after I made the statement. Where would such a thought come from, me a nun? How could I give up my dream of becoming a teacher, a dream I had worked so hard to attain my entire life and instead enter into the convent? I was only a year away from a bachelor’s degree and having a career, and I was not ready to be open to the will of God at that time in my life.

Fast forward after several years of teaching, and having the experience of a lifetime in my dream career I started to think about becoming a religious sister again, and a gentle nudge to consider the convent came back to me. Now in my mid-twenties I finally felt that I had reached a point in my life that I could be open to God’s plan for my life. I loved my job, and I knew that I could go about living the rest of my life working and living a normal life like majority of everyone else, but I felt I wanted more in my life. I had this burning desire to not only be happy in my life, but to have this deep feeling of being content, and ultimately living a life of complete and total satisfaction and fulfillment. There was a moment for me kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament after mass one Sunday when God confirmed for me that I need to be open to His will, and I felt content with such a feeling, although scared of what this meant for me, and how others would respond to this choice.  But I was overcome with this strong desire to want a more intimate relationship with Christ in a way that could only be between a religious sister and her divine spouse. I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me and found such a deep sense of peace in having a call to religious life. I am also blessed to have received support and encouragement from the priests in my life, and through their vocation I have been continuously inspired to fulfill my own vocation.

I will be entering Marycrest Convent with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, a contemplative-missionary religious community, on September 8th, the Feast of the Birth of Mary. How beautiful to receive a date on a Marian feast day! I first learned about the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate from the Council Superior of Women Religious website and the magazine of the Sisters, The Parish Visitor, given to me by one of the

Religious Sisters

Imagine Sisters

priests at my parish, which further confirmed for me I needed to visit this community. The Sisters help fallen away Catholics to have a deeper relationship with Christ and to find their way back home to the Church. Such a charism of imitating the Good Shepherd and striving to bring the lost sheep home truly has touched my heart. They have a devotion to Our Lady and pray the Rosary daily as a community, and each day also have holy mass, Eucharistic adoration, meditation, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours together. Their life of prayer being centered on Jesus that expands out into to their apostolate missions makes them contemplative-missionaries, and searching for a community that is both contemplative and active was an important part of my discernment journey. I hope as a religious sister to be able to help others to come back to the Church and to know the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Christina M. Sorrentino is a millennial, cradle Catholic who is an aspiring religious sister, and a blogger and writer in Staten Island, New York. She is the author of Called to Love A Listening Heart – A Book of Catholic Poetry. She has contributed to Blessed is She, Pursued by Truth, Pilgrim – A Journal of Catholic Experience, Leonie’s Longing, Catholic New York, and the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals. She blogs about faith and discernment at “Called to Love a Listening Heart”. You can also find Christina on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Quiet: The Sunday Revolution

Growing up in rural Kentucky, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. On Sundays, the pace of an already slow world nearly came to an absolute stop: we went to church, ate lunch, and then took naps. That was my Sunday schedule for the better part of the first eighteen years of my life.

What irked me, though, was a precept my parents held for Sundays: no shopping, no going out to eat, no spending money.  This wasn’t a hard and fast rule, but 90% of the time, it held up (unless our proverbial ox was in a proverbial ditch). And I HATED it. When everyone else was going out on Sunday afternoons, having lots of fun that I wasn’t having, I was stuck at home, looking at four walls. On the rare occasion that we did have to make a Walmart run or out to a restaurant, I felt like I was finally liberated into proper society.

Growing in Wisdom

Now, that I’m much older, I understand why my parents were so serious about Sunday rest. The seventh day (our Sunday) was set aside by God as a day of rest from the very beginning. After laboring over creation for six days, God takes the seventh day, and makes it holy (Genesis 2:2). Even God, creator of all that we can fathom, took the time to rest. Yet, my younger self saw no need in rest when there was a perfectly open day to fill with activities. I failed to see that if God rested, and even commanded it to the Israelites, that I certainly was not exempt.

But, to paraphrase St. Paul: When I was a child, I thought and acted like a child. Literally.

As an adult, I too often see the empty parts of my schedule quickly filled to capacity. As they say, nature abhors a vacuum. If I’m totally open during one evening of the week, you can bet that by the time that day rolls around, I have some type of commitment in my schedule.

Sundays, too often, aren’t much different.

Near the end of Mass each Sunday, I’m often thinking about my grocery run to Walmart. Not only the groceries but, How can I get a good parking space close to the door? Did I remember my coupons? Should I get my hair trimmed? Should I grab a bite to eat before heading back home? All of this is going through my mind before the announcements have ended. I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation, your mind thinking of everything but the miracle of the Mass. You’re definitely not alone.

24/7/365

In the midst of our rushed society, it seems so difficult to turn off. We’ve gone from laws in place banning any business on Sunday to it as just another day of the week. I remember, before my brother was born, my mom used to work part-time at a Walmart in the next county over. On Sundays, the store would open at 1:00 PM. Yet, as time went on, the time became earlier and earlier. If it wasn’t 1:00 PM, it was noon. Noon soon faded to 10:30, and 10:30 faded into 24/7/365. This was in 1995.

Perhaps one of my favorite stories from my mom’s Walmart days is one I’ll call “You’re Going to Hell.” On a rare occasion, my mom would have to work at the store on Sunday afternoons for a few hours. This day, my mom was approached a young boy who informed her that “my daddy is a preacher.” Well enough.

What happens next, though, has gone down into clapback history.

The little boy proceeds to tell my mom, “My daddy says you’re going to hell because you’re working on Sunday.” 

My mother, not one to be schooled by a child, immediately responds with “Well, if your mom and dad weren’t out shopping today, I wouldn’t have to work.”

Point taken.

The Sunday Revolution: A Brief How-To Guide

My mom’s story is in possession of a truth nugget: If we keep Sunday holy, we allow other people to keep it holy as well. In the words of St. Mother Teresa, we must “live simply so others may simply live.” Even more, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds the faithful to avoid any unnecessary work on Sundays, especially if it hinders the worship of Our Lord (CCC 2184-2186).

Often, as I stand in the checkout line at the supermarket, I wonder how many people were unable to attend worship services due to my choice to shop for groceries on Sunday. Sure, I’m only one person. But, one person plus one person after time can add up to a society that disregards the holiness of Sundays. And as I write this, I am speaking to myself as much as I am you, my attentive reader.

I am not asking you to immediately forego your weekly family lunch at Cracker Barrel, nor am I seeking to induce guilt because you have to run into the local Save-a-Lot for a gallon of milk. Rather, I am asking all of us to change the way we think about Sundays.

Consider this:

  1. Shop for groceries on Saturday or another weekday.
  2. Host a meal at your home, as opposed to a restaurant.
  3. Block out a segment of time on Sunday afternoons solely for rest: don’t engage in any weekday-related work. Just rest.

I firmly believe that once we change our thoughts about Sundays, ultimately, our behaviors will change. I challenge you, next Sunday, to engage the quiet holiness of the day. Make one tiny change this week, and then next week, make another tiny change. You and I may be surprised at the differences we can make in not only our lives, but the lives of others.

May God bless you as you engage in the Sunday revolution.

Quiet_

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13 Day Rosary Challenge: February 1st – 13th, 2018

Can you believe that January is almost over? Even more, can you believe that Lent is almost upon us again? On February 14th, the season of Lent will begin and stretch through the last week of March. While Lent is designated as a time of penitence and sacrifice in preparation for Easter, how often do we prepare for the preparation?

From February 1st through February 13th, I encourage you to join my Two Hearts Rosary Challenge. Each day, you will receive an email with daily intentions to help you grow in prayerful devotion as you approach the Lenten season. For more information and to join the challenge, click the link below:

https://mailchi.mp/08651a63d476/two-hearts-rosary-challenge

Ways to Pray: Five Favorite Catholic Devotional Practices

One of the most hidden, but striking, beauties of Catholicism is the many devotional practices available to those in the Faith. For those who are considering conversion, or have recently converted, it may seem overwhelming to pick which “way” to pray. Perhaps you’re a Catholic who is trying to find your way back to the rhythm of prayer.

Of course, you can simply talk to God. You don’t need a method or a formula. But, if you’re like me, you may find yourself at a loss for words when speaking to Our Lord. This is why devotional practices are so important: these written prayers and repetitions often root us in the reality that God became man, died for our sins, and defeated death in the resurrection. Personally, I find that when I have something tangible (a devotion, for example), I am more likely to pray and meditate on the Gospel. For your reference, here are five of my favorite Catholic prayerful devotions.

  1. The Rosary: Hands down, the Rosary is one of the most recognizable of all Catholic prayer devotions. With meditations on the Gospel and Scared Tradition, the Rosary offers a full look at the life and work of Jesus Christ. In my personal experience, the prayer has served like a security blanket: it helps me pray when I don’t know what to say and it brings me comfort. I offer up my intentions, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the work. Amy Brooks of Prayer Wine Chocolate has said that she enjoys praying the Rosary with friends. This is a great way to grow with those in your life. Personally, I prefer to pray alone. Regardless of your prayer group preferences, the Rosary is a good place to start.
  2. Eucharistic Adoration: Eucharistic Adoration, or Adoration, is a beautiful practice. (For a short primer on Adoration, click here). Simply, Adoration is a time of silence, in a church or chapel, where we adore Our Lord in the form of the Eucharist. While in Adoration, worshipers may pray, read, or simply sit in silence. There is no time requirement, though I do suggest an hour. Adoration is a wonderful opportunity to sit in the presence of Jesus and to bring Him your worries, cares, hopes, and fears. Like the Rosary, you can participate in Adoration alone or in a group. Chloe Langr of the Old Fashioned Girl blog attends Adoration on a weekly basis with her husband. For couples, Adoration is a great way to bond and grow spiritually. For anyone, it’s a chance to visit the Lord. For more information, contact your local parish.
  3. Daily Mass Readings: Part of my morning routine includes prayer and the Daily Mass Readings. These are readings from the Scriptures that are read at Mass for that day around the world. Typically, there is an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a second reading from a New Testament epistle, and always the Gospel. You can find the daily Mass readings by searching for the “USCCB Daily Readings.” While reading the Bible may not seem like a prayer in the traditional sense, you can certainly turn it into one! For example, if you know of someone who is sick, you can offer up your reading as a prayer for that person. It’s a beautiful way to learn the Word of God while praying for those around you.
  4. Fasting: Honestly, fasting is not on of my favorite devotional practices. Like most people, I don’t enjoy self-denial or curbing my desires. I want what I want, and I want it now. But why, then, is fasting on the list? Essentially, fasting orients me to the correct frame of mind (and that I do like!) During Lent, when I’m dying to log into Facebook, I say a prayer instead. I use that time I would have spent on social media in prayer. Maybe your distractions are different. Maybe, for Lent this year, when you are craving chocolate, you recite a verse from the Bible. When we deny ourselves, we find that we become closer to and more like Jesus.
  5. The Divine Mercy Chaplet: This chaplet, popularized in the 20th century, focuses on Jesus’ deep mercy and immense love for us. On rosary beads, we ask God to have mercy on us for the sake of Jesus’ “sorrowful passion.” But, we not only pray for ourselves with the chaplet, we also pray for mercy “on the whole world.” In a society that is abandoning Christian values at a rapid pace, we are in deep need of God’s mercy and the message of Christ’s love for us. When we discover that Christ loved us enough to die for the world, we will conform our lives to His.

Of course, these are not the only devotions that Catholics can take part in. There are so many more ways to pray and such little time to write about them all. As I grow in my faith, I would like to learn more about other prayerful devotions. For example, a very popular way to read Scripture is through lectio divina. The lectio allows you to intentionally read Scripture instead of blazing through it (as I often do). This video from Ascension presents the lectio divina beautifully:

Finally, I’ve taken a particular interest in sacramentals. Sacramentals are not sacraments: they do not provide grace, but rather, are signs of grace in our lives (CCC 1670). Sacramentals include holy water, medals, icons, and assorted other items. One of my favorite sacramentals is the Miraculous Medal, which I’ve written about here. Lately, I have read about scapulars: small pieces of cloth often worn under clothing and around the neck. I have a little metal one that I wear around a chain, but not a full blown “real” one. Fr. Nicholas Blackwell, a Carmelite in New York City, talks about the famous brown scapular:

While the Brown Scapular is one type of scapular, there are also assorted colors, such as the blue scapular. Just today, I was introduced to the green scapular by Annie Fulkerson of Salt and Light. The green scapular is often used and prayed with in order to bring about conversions and healing. Please note that Catholics DO NOT believe that the scapular or any object itself can heal or convert someone. Only God can do that. But, He can use these tangible objects to work miracles in someone’s life.

green scapular

The Green Scapular Devotion // Photo: Annie Fulkerson

As we sprint into the new year, I hope that your prayer life is vibrant and growing. If you’re getting back into the swing of prayer, start small. You don’t have to pray a full Rosary every day, start with a decade and move up. Maybe you could make a list of all of your prayer needs and just start talking to Our Lord. Maybe you’re a seasoned prayer warrior, and are looking for something different to add to the mix. I hope that my list can help you. In conclusion, there are so many ways to pray and talk with to Jesus. What are some of your favorite devotions? Share with me below. I look forward to hearing from you, and may God bless you this week.

Thank your for reading and for your support!

 

Ways to Pray

Abandoning Perfectionism

I have a specific memory of a moment in the fifth grade.

In this moment, I was weighed down with school supplies: three packs of loose-leaf paper, two boxes of yellow pencils, and a box of crayons. I reached my desk, unloaded the supplies, and neatly stacked the pencils, crayons, and paper packs. Paper on the bottom, then pencil boxes, and finally crayons. My ordering was well-orchestrated, the stack of crisp supplies was wonderfully arranged. I was proud of myself as a classmate asked, “Is all of that yours?” For a brief moment, in the top left corner of my desk, I had constructed perfection in the form of school supplies.

This fifth grade memory is not the only recollection I have of self-constructed perfection. Perfectionism, unfortunately, has dotted my life (and usually on a daily basis). From my obsession over straight-A’s in in elementary school through college to making sure the food in my fridge is stacked perfectly, I can think of only a few days where perfectionism hasn’t reared its ugly head. And like me, maybe you can relate to the constant edginess related to seeking perfection.

Most recently, I’ve struggled with balancing my chosen religious devotions. As a new Catholic, I’ve discovered so many new ways to pray to and worship Our Lord: novenas, books, daily readings, the Rosary, and chaplets. Lately, in an attempt to find a steady devotional schedule, I’ve found myself overwhelmed with my own expectations. For example, in the mornings, I typically participate in the daily Mass readings and pray the Rosary (or at least a decade). Throughout the day, I try to pray a few times using the Liturgy of the Hours. At night, I write down my thoughts using an examen journal and my own personal diary. For a perfectionist who is keen on completion, this can be tricky.

Though it’s good to participate in daily readings and prayer practices, I am often in my own worst enemy. I may think “Ah! I only prayed one decade of the Rosary today! If I don’t pray the whole thing, I’ll break my daily streak.” Or, “Ugh! I missed a day in my examen journal and now it’s all off kilter for the month!”

It’s in moments like these that perfectionism takes my attention from Christ and shifts it upon myself. Perfectionism lets me believe that I am in control of everything, that I am the center of the universe. If I forget to read the daily Mass readings, then I’ve messed up my day. This mindset totally ignores the power of Christ in my life and disregards the fact that ultimately, He is in full control. The world’s balance does not depend on whether or not I can complete a task or not.

Now, don’t mistake me for promoting apathy.

As Catholic Christians, it’s critical that we read Scripture and pray on a daily basis. But, lest we fall into the harmful pattern of perfectionism, we must understand that our perceived “goodness” will not help us maintain control. Many people who are devout have also suffered great trials. However, it was the grace of Christ that carried them through. Rather than rely on ourselves, we must learn to rely on Christ.

We must abandon perfectionism, one little error and trial at a time.

 

Abandoning Perfection

The Thing About Weight Loss

breakfast-orange-lemon-oranges.jpg

In June 2017, I underwent bariatric surgery in Tijuana, Mexico. After over a decade of struggling with my weight, I knew I had to do something about it. In a previous post, I mentioned how I had “done it all.” Literally: Weight Watchers, ear stapling, low carb/high protein, personal training, supplements, visits with nutritionists, and more.

I jumped into something I never said I would do (bariatric surgery), in a place people believe you shouldn’t go for surgery (Mexico). But, when your insurance probably won’t pay for a $30,000+ surgery because your only condition is obesity, you have to take matters into your own hands. That’s what I did. The Saturday before my surgery, I went received the Sacrament of Confession and went to Vigil Mass. The next day, June 18th, I boarded a plane with my mother and flew to San Diego, crossing into Mexico later that evening.

I never looked back.

I was at the end of my rope, which apparently led me to a Tijuana hospital room while watching cars line up at the U.S./Mexico border. Finally, on the night of June 19th, as I was wheeled away for surgery, my heart was pounding out of my ears. I could see blood coming into my IV from my rapidly accelerating pulse. As the doors on the elevator closed, I repeated in my heart like a record, “All you saints and angels, pray for me.” As the surgical tech helped me onto the operating table, I begged Our Lord to get me out of the operating room alive. I knew it was too late to back out. Once the anesthesia hit, I don’t remember anything else.

Nearly $5,000 and six months later, choosing bariatric surgery (sleeve gastrectomy) for my health needs was one of the top five decisions I’ve ever made. I’m happier, healthier, and there’s a bounce in my step that wasn’t there before. As of the writing of this post, I am down 72 pounds from my pre-surgery weight. Am I now a paragon of perfection regarding nutrition and exercise? Absolutely not. When the surgeon took out 75% of my stomach, he didn’t bother take out the part of my brain that craves enchiladas.  It’s still a daily struggle, but not as much as a fight as it used to be.

In all of my success, I’ve particularly enjoyed buying new clothes. For someone who’s been the same size for most of their life, this phenomenon may be hard to imagine. But, for someone who has been a size 24 in pants and dresses, it’s a whole new world. In a matter of months, clothes that were always off limits to me were now within my realm. From June 2017 to November 2017, I had dropped 10 sizes, going from a 24W to a 14 regular. I could now wear “regular” women’s clothing. I walked in the nearest Macy’s and walked out with a haul that cost more than I care to think about. It was a wonderful, terrific, feeling. Who knew size 14 could be so fun?

In the midst of all of my positive transformations, I started to notice other changes as well. Not positive, not negative. Just changes.

For example, I had updated my social media photos to newer head shots. Nothing racy or revealing, just pictures at festivals or out in the sun. Within days, I received unsolicited messages on Facebook and Twitter from men inquiring about my marital and relationship status. Just today, my “other” inbox in Facebook lit up with another lonely heart looking for a connection. 72 pounds ago, this rarely (if ever) happened. Guys openly flirt with me now in public. It’s bizarre. Still, another change is the attitudes of the people around me. When I venture beyond my home, those who would rarely speak to me now go out of their way to make conversation. Formally cordial acquaintances now say little-to-nothing at all. It’s not everyone, though. In fact, it’s a handful of people. Maybe it’s in my imagination. But, it’s noticeable.

Also, I’ve noticed a change in myself. Now that I’m thinner and nine pounds away from my goal weight, I treat myself with more respect and dignity. I think more highly of myself. When I was nearly 300 pounds, thoughts about myself weren’t as respectful and dignified. While I didn’t hate myself, I hated my body. I hated my eating habits and I hated how I had let stress take my body to a place it shouldn’t be.

While I didn’t frequently read women’s magazines, I hated how I didn’t resemble those women in the pages (even the token plus-size models). Even though I wouldn’t admit it, I had been trapped by society’s expectations, if but in a small way. It took losing nearly 75 pounds for me to realize that I was in a cycle of distressing thoughts and practices. I was like a fish in water: I didn’t know how I had been hooked by secular standards. For me, it was normal.

Finally, the thing about weight loss is that it’s not just your body that changes: it’s your life and your world. Some changes are wonderful: your health improves, your outlook is more positive, and your body is at ease. Some changes, not so wonderful: friends and family may treat you poorly because they think you’re a new person (and they don’t like it). Maybe others are threatened by your drastic transformation. You may realize that maybe you weren’t the best to yourself. It’s normal, and I’ve been there.

Yet, given my success in my journey, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Dear Lord,

When we believe that our bodies don’t fit the mold the world offers us, it’s easy to despair. We forget that we were thought of and created by You in Your infinite wisdom. Forgive us when we fail to recognize that our value comes from You, not the size of our dress or a number on a scale. Help us to take care of the bodies You have given us so that we may glorify You more and more. Thank You for creating me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 

BUSY

Computer, Laptop, Work Place, Camera

On the first Sunday of Advent, I had great plans. A few weeks before the beginning of the season, I purchased an Advent journal. It had daily reflections on scriptures, a journaling section, and a daily prayer. I was all about that life: getting up early, reading the reflection, writing my thoughts, having profound thoughts as I prayed. That was, until the week before Christmas approached. From there, it went all to pot. The sheer insanity of the week knocked me off of my course and I didn’t even finish my Advent journal. To throw me into more of a tailspin: I forgot to fill in my Mass readings journal for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day. I had to go back and fill in all of my blanks.

If you can’t tell: I’m a perfectionist. I like to have all of my ducks in a row. If I’m going to do an Advent journal, you had best bet I’m going to finish. Started a Mass journal? I’m going to Mass even if I’m on my death bed, just so I can fill in the reflections. While perfectionism can be great, it can also be (very) detrimental. Often, I feel as if I miss a day of reading the Bible or a time of intentional prayer, I’ve totally failed. It can be very frustrating.

This perfectionism can also distract me from the joy of the coming of Christ. If you’re like me, and you obsess over details, this Christmas season can be a sweet relief. But, you have to let Christ take over. So sit back, relax, and know that you are loved. Even if you didn’t finish your Advent journal.

Merry Christmas!

Tips for Mercy

I am always compelled by those have lived, and live, lives of mercy. One of my favorite true stories of a merciful life is that of Satoko Kitahara, the subject of Fr. Paul Glynn’s The Smile of a Ragpicker (I wrote about Satoko here). Long-story-short, Satoko left a life of privilege to serve the poor and detested souls of Tokyo’s Ants Town. After her death, the Church recognized Satoko as a Venerable, and she is on the path towards sainthood.

What is impressive about Satoko is that she was merciful to those in her own city. Though she wanted to serve in the foreign missions, she instead was a “Japanese for the Japanese.” In our everyday lives, there are numerous opportunities to show mercy to Image result for mercy pixabaythose we encounter.

Personally, is something I struggle with each and every day.

Often, those around me do not meet my expectations or just get under my skin. It’s easy for me to ignore those I deem not worthy of my time. Yet, today, to have mercy for all is an incredibly counter-cultural act. In fact, in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus tells us to be merciful because God is merciful to us (Luke 6:36). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 6:7).

But why, Lord, does mercy have to be so difficult? My theory: Anything worth cultivating won’t be an easy undertaking. So, to help you along your way, I’ve listed three tips for living a more merciful life:

  1. Pray: This is an obvious solution that sometimes we rarely employ. Is there someone grinding your last nerve? Pray for them. Are you on the verge of hatred? Pray about it. Do you find more comfort in anger than in peace? Pray about it. I know, it’s easier said than done. On many occasions, I’ve relished in the idea of resentment more than a heart of forgiveness. Instead, I should have asked for a merciful heart towards those I perceived had wronged me. Prayer changes things, and God will guide you on a merciful path.
  2. Take Up a Devotion: Is there a religious practice that has meaning for you? This could be praying the Rosary or going back to the same passages of Scripture and meditating on it. Personally, I love the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. While praying the Chaplet, you ask God to have mercy on you and the whole world. When you realize that you, too, are in need of God’s mercy, it puts other struggles into perspective.
  3. Sacrifice: Once again. it’s one of those spiritual practices that’s easy to preach, but harder to live out. I want you to think about someone who annoys you. As a personal rule, I tend to avoid these people. But, to cultivate mercy, maybe we could sacrifice our comfort to say “Hello” to that person or ask about their day. It’s one small step, one little sacrifice, that can lead to a lifetime of merciful living.

Do you have any tips for living a more merciful life? What advice would you give to someone who wants to show more mercy to their friends and neighbors? God bless!

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. // Chaplet of Divine Mercy

One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. // St. Faustina