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Living a fruitful Catholic Life

Fleeing into the Desert, With Joy!

February 29 ;) 2015

Last week was an experiment. I happily shed my practice of fasting for Lent, choosing to eat and drink anything and everything that pleased me. Lent was still here in prayer and action; but my physical self had abandoned it. (See Blog below. )

It was fascinating. I was like an adolescent whose only question was,

“What do I want?” “What do I want?” “What do I want?” “What do I want?”

“WHAT DO I WANT?” I ate and drank, enjoying every moment . . . for a time.

My greatest question, in a way, is that eating is not sinful so we are not talking about sin when we are fasting, right? Right? Well, right. Gluttony is a sin but eating is not sinful. In Lent, when we attempt to straighten our crooked paths to avoid sin, there are so many opportunities. What we watch on television should be questioned; does this make me a better person? Is there a better way to spend my time? Should I be spending time talking and listening to the people I love? These are great questions but they gave me no help.

My answer came Friday as I prayed one of my favorite prayers.

Dear Lord,

I only want to do what you want me to do,

Say what you want me to say,

Go where you want me to go,

Be who you want me to be.

I found quickly that I was eating what I wanted - alone.

It was like going on vacation alone, dining alone, watching sunsets alone, and visiting famous places alone. It was no fun. In these forty days, we remember Jesus going out into the desert to fast and pray and I want to be with him. I want to be with Him. So today I run into the desert to catch up.

I know He is waiting for me.

A Pop Tart for Jesus?

February 22, 2015

I love Lent. I really love Lent. I want Lent to feel different and the more different it feels the more amazing Easter will be. Alleluia! He is Risen! Alleluia!

My knowledge of the past is that families would exhaust the sugar on Fat Tuesday. Doing without until Easter is beyond my comprehension and makes me a little jealous. These are the kind of people who didn’t point out that Sundays are not a part of Lent’s 40 days.

I also like fasting. Unfortunately, I am good at it. Most of my life I spent skipping meals and not in a good way. By the time I was 30, my husband told me that my body thought it was living in a concentration camp. There was some truth in that. May God bless anyone who doesn’t have enough food and those being starved to death. May God bless them.

When I realized that my habits had caused my metabolism to become “uber” efficient the result was some hard reflection focusing on my need for control in this part of my life. It was time to make a change. I decided I had to start eating three healthy meals a day and accept the inevitable weight gain. I chose to trust in God that my body would accept the change. I didn’t gain much weight and was thankful believing I was healthier.

Body image and body imagine problems are difficult to heal. Even though I made a healthy choice, I still struggle. I have been thin and well . . . “fluffy”. Regardless of my weight, my body always looks the same to me. I look like “a mom”. I weighed the most after Matthias’ birth. I was struggling with physical and emotional pain. It was through exercise at the local rec center that I recovered. The weight came off slowly - I didn’t lose a single pound for six months. It was in the activity, finding a safe place to be, and working towards health that was important. I regained my health, I mourned, and I survived.

I know the way I look at myself isn’t based in reality. My body is amazing. It has bore 10 children and nursed 9. It has been stronger then I thought possible. I think it is beautiful and I know my family agrees. I know I am healthy and I know my current weight is, well . . . ok. I know emotionally that it doesn't make sense to become an exercise fanatic when my image doesn’t change much in my mind.

So back to the issue of fasting. You can see why the issue of fasting is a touchy one for me. Weeks before Ash Wednesday, I had a particular person to pray for, to pray hard, to pray constantly. I have faith in God and His promises and I could feel Him tell me that this was a crucial and that I needed to pray, and I did. Then, I listened to a talk about St. Francis De Sales and the speaker said that in some occasions one should pray, fast and give alms. I was all in. Yes! I can do this!

From that moment, I continued to pray. I found sources of almsgiving and I fasted. I do not skip meals. I fast by not eating or drinking anything but water between meals. The thought that fasting might result in weight loss did occur to me. Actually, it occurred to me several times. I pushed back hard against the thought. Was it control that I desired? Do I fast not because it is hard but because I can? Do I feel empowered by the control I feel in this? “No”, I answered, “this was a spiritual exercise, not physical.” This is not about me! Or is it?

I knew fully the answer when I stepped on the scale on “Fat Tuesday”. Don’t laugh, it’s not that funny. I had fasted nine days and I had gained 7 pounds! I nearly threw the bathroom scale out the window! I must explain that I usually fast between meals during Lent. It is one of those parts that I explained earlier. I love it that Lent is completely different - every day, every part of my life that I can “Lentanize”, the better. So in response to years of genuine questioning my intentions, I did and do not use the scale during Lent. Last year, I prayed that my fasting would result in not and single pound lost, and I didn’t. I was pleased and oh, so disappointed! Now it had happened again and I needed to figure this out. What would I do if my desire to fast had nothing sacrificial about it? What if I had created a lent in my own image?

The last straw was placed when I saw Matthew Kelly’s, “Best Lent Ever.” Its headline, Please Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent! Arrrghhhhh! Ash Wednesday had passed and I was as confused as ever. I had to do something. If I was using Lent as a glorified diet then that was wrong. I made a bold decision; I opened the refrigerator and pulled out a Cherry Coke from the back. I don’t know how it got there and I was honestly sick of seeing it. I don’t like cherry cola so it seemed like the best remedy. (Yes, I was functionally insane) I didn’t enjoy it at all so I topped it off with a pop tart, which was tasty. There, it was done, no fasting this Lent.

We are reminded by the Church that Lent is a time for metanoia a time to change our minds. Turn away from the sin in our lives and focus on Christ. It is a time to remember His sacrifice that restored us to Himself. My decisions to turn away from sin, to stow my cell phone while driving, to remove the digital distraction I crave and instead focus on the people in the room, to avoid impatience and indifference is the real work of Lent.

Lent should be different and that difference should change our lives beyond Easter. If we always give up the same things each year then perhaps those things are either: not sinful, or if they are and we are not attacking our sin. In such a case, we are not growing in holiness. It is a lack of contrition that leads one to happily confess the same sins over and over. Together, lets move beyond last year’s Lent, trusting God to show us the areas to reform in our lives.

When Jesus went out into the desert, He fasted and prayed. Most of all, He abandoned himself to the Father. He trusted in the Father’s Will for 40 days, in His mission, and all the way to the Cross. Let us walk into the desert with Him, abandoning our will and submitting to God’s plan for our lives.

May our days of preparation for Easter be blessed and may we grow in sincerity and genuine holiness!

A Encounter with Evil

or . . .

Just Happy to Be Here

February 6, 2015

Being away from the kids is difficult. I am always conflicted when I leave home because my travels offer me great educational opportunities and many challenges to grow. They also expose my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Last year on my way home from Cheyenne, I required a miracle when I encountered danger in a much needed potty stop.

It’s a long story but I would like to share it with you and some of its lessons.

I have always known or now know:

  • Beware of rest areas.

  • Don’t stop at a rest area when you are alone

  • Don’t stop at a vacant rest area or areas with a single vehicle

  • Beware of indicating your travel intentions with your turn signal

  • If you are in danger, don’t depend on your memory. Use your camera phone

  • Call and text loved ones vital information if you are in danger

  • Tell them you love them

These reminders are common sense and the way that I have raised my children, especially my girls. I always point out danger signs when making a travel stop. Sharing signs of caution in a strange town or area. Noticing things like a bathroom whose stalls reach the floor with locking doorknobs instead of latches. "Listen to the warning bells." I tell them, "That is the voice of God."

I heard that voice a year ago as I turned into the rest area. I had been anxiously watching for it for twenty miles. My stomach had been upset for days, eating fried food had put me my whole system at a disadvantage. Just what kind of disadvantage, I was soon to discover.

When I saw the familiar spot in the distance; I thanked God and I turned on my blinker. As soon as the 18-wheeler slowed and turned into the area – my interior alarm went off. I heard that alarm, loud and clear, but I really needed to use the bathroom. I studied the vehicle as he pulled to one side of the parking lot and I parked on the other. I grabbed my pepper spray (my husband loves me) and with it, in the shape of a handgun, I carried it behind my back and headed into the building. We were alone there.

Once in the bathroom stall, I began to text my husband. I told him of my fear and that I was in trouble. I described the truck and was relieved when he responded. In such a remote area in Wyoming, I was blessed to have a signal. My worst fears were confirmed when the motion activated hand dryers sounded – once, twice, then a third time. I was not alone. Someone was in the bathroom and it was not a woman. I continued to text James all the information I could remembered and after about twenty minutes told him I was prepared to leave the stall. If he didn’t hear from me in three minutes, he was to call the highway patrol. I texted “I love you!” and I was afraid. I had already read and re-read the directions on the Kimber (my pepper-spray gun) and as I completed the steps, a blessing occurred. The pepper gun made a sound. This sound was surprisingly loud, an answer to prayer. I can’t say that it sounded like a gun but in a way it sounded something like the cocking of a gun. It surprised me and I wasn’t the only one. He left and when I found the room empty, I thanked God.

With caution, I surveyed the foyer to see the truck driver just leaving the building. I watched him cross the snowy parking lot. At a safe distance, I hurried to my car still playing the “woman with a gun” role. I wanted his license number and I started my car. Confirmation was mine when I was unable to catch him. I knew to my marrow, I had narrowly avoided violence. I considered the reality that my children may never have seen me again and my husband would have dedicated his life to finding me after I disappeared.

This week, a year later, I celebrate the love of God, the protection of Angels who gathered around me, and saved me from my foolishness. I was prideful that day, I walked into danger thinking I could handle it. I thought I was thinking clearly. It felt like I was thinking clearly; but after a year of praising God that I was saved that day – I know fully that I was not in control. I was not making good choices and allowing myself to believe that my actions allowed me to survive that event, denies the Grace of God.

It has been an amazing year, that is a fact. I am constantly humbled by the blessings of God,

the love of my family, and I as I celebrate my life, I praise Him. 

Thank you Lord, for You are my Rock and my Salvation!

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