Category Archives: faith

What are you giving up for Lent?

When I was a kid giving something up for Lent was a big choice: chocolate? pop? television? It had to be something that felt like an indulgence – or maybe something I could complain about often.

I grew older and latched onto the idea of doing something extra for Lent. Reading books about scripture or faith. Praying a certain prayer each day. One year I put a box in my office and each day dropped in something that I didn’t need – it was both doing and giving up.

Now I tend to try and do both the giving up and the doing extra. I’ll be honest though, the giving up part seems silly. I know, I know there’s something about strengthening your self-discipline but for someone who is self-disciplined all the time? It seems unnecessary. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m drawing any closer to Jesus or remembering his sacrifice in some special way because I’m not eating snacks in the afternoon.

But Lent starts next week and something does, in fact, need to be done to honor the season. In preparing to lead a youth ministry night, I came across the 1 – 1 – 1 challenge for Lent. That’s what I’ll be following:

  1. Give up one thing
  2. Pick up one thing
  3. Focus on one sin

Here’s hoping for a fruitful, strengthening Lent. How will you be honoring the season?

One word

I’ve started listening to a new podcast called Abiding Together. It has a beautiful voice and at approximately 30 minutes is just right to listen to on a walk. One of their episodes was about picking a word for the year. Sort of a theme for your personal year and, in this context, your prayer life.

I’ve heard of this notion before but never really been interested in doing it. But they brought up the idea of a word for a season – in this case for Lent – and that struck a chord. That seems more tangible to me and a good way to focus what has felt a bit like a scattered Lent so far. So I started thinking about it as I walked and listened.

I thought I had a word but I wasn’t sure. I said a prayer about the idea and left it in God’s hands. And then the word that I was considering popped out of someone else’s mouth the next day in my Lenten faith sharing group. So I started to think about it some more and how I could apply it.


As in creating an intentional space to grow. To pray. To think.

Metaphorically pushing aside the clutter of thoughts and to do lists and demands on my time and creating space. I imagine this space as blissfully quiet. It’s warm there. And sheltered. And peaceful. I’m sure I can see water. I think I like this space. Now the challenge in front of me is taking the time to create this space on a regular basis.

Being thankful for: my faith

Week #7 of the 15-week gratitude challenge and the topic is thanking someone who helped you find God. I grew up going to Catholic school. As a young child I seem to remember that our Mass attendance was a given. As a teen we didn’t go to church as a family and I know I didn’t go on a regular basis. As a college student I found myself going fairly regularly on my own. Once I was married we had a routine of going to Mass on Saturday night and then going out to dinner. I started to become active in our church as a young, married adult.

I grew up with God as a part of my life, and can certainly thank my parents for that, but I can’t think of an epiphany where someone “helped me find God.” However, I can think of someone who modeled a family life of faith that I knew I wanted for my family someday. A life that I work hard to instill in the lives of my children…

Who helped me find my faith?

My godmother.

My Aunt Mary Lou is the mother of four children. If there was one impression I had of their lives when we were all growing up it was “they do a lot of church.” They went to Mass every week even when they were visiting for the summer. Mass on vacation just didn’t make sense at all to me at the time – though when we went to visit them, I remember going to church with them. All of my cousins were altar servers and active in their church. I barely volunteered at church and remember sketchily attending any sort of church functions. Even though I went to Catholic school, just like they did, they seemed much more closely tied to their church community.

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to model my family’s faith life after my Aunt’s family, but I can see now that her influence is strong. Going to Mass isn’t a question of “if” around here, it’s “when.” We go to Mass on vacation, even when I’m on a vacation with just my husband, we always find a church and go to Mass. My children are all active in our church. The rule in our house is that your church gives you a lot, you have to find at least one way to give back to your church. Our church community knows each of us by name and we know a lot of people in our church community. We pray as a family and I’ve worked hard to instill faith traditions into our lives outside of Mass.

Looking at my family I realize… we do a lot of church. It is a foundation of faith that I wanted to give my children. I have my Aunt to thank for that.

Thank you, Aunt Mary Lou for giving me a model of faith to follow.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.

Being thankful for: children

This week’s challenge (week #6) is to take time to be grateful for someone under the age of 18. I like that this challenge is helping me to reflect on things that I don’t always think about. Let’s be honest I think about people under the age of 18 all the time – constantly. People under the age of 18 dictate the schedule of my days. I worry about them. I pray for them. I nag them. I cook and clean and do laundry for them. I laugh with them. I hug them. I read to them. I tell them I love them. I don’t, however, take time very often to be grateful for them.

How am I grateful for children?

I am grateful for my oldest because she was the one who taught me that I could be patient. I am grateful for her sense of humor and for her ability to weed out the fluff and focus on the right things.

I am grateful for my second child because she was the one who taught me that it’s good to be sensitive to the world. I am grateful for her creativity and for her ability to see the world in a different light.

I am grateful for my youngest because he was the one who taught me to be flexible. I am grateful for his strong sense of responsibility and for his ability to notice things that others don’t.

Thank you to my very own children. Thank you for teaching my heart how to expand with love, for reminding me how fun it is to play and learn, for bringing your unique personalities and talents into my life.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.


I spent yesterday afternoon at a religious retreat for catechists. It was the sort of thing that I signed up for thinking “This sounds like a great presentation. I think taking this afternoon to reflect on a few things will be inspiring as I start a new year of teaching religious education.” It was also the sort of thing that had me dragging my feet on the actual day thinking “Why did I sign myself up for something that requires me to sit in a room full of strangers for four hours. I could be at home reading a good book instead of having small group discussions.”

It’s hard being an introvert sometimes.

As my earlier self suspected, it was a great presentation. At the very beginning I gasped a bit when the presenter told us we were there to focus on one word: joy. It’s a word that is popping up a lot for me lately. Just last week in my marathon training update I told you that I want to run this race joyfully. I haven’t picked a race mantra yet but I know it’s going to include the word joy. I find my prayers lately focusing on the joy in the world around me (maybe my Friday posts should be Joy in Small Things…).

The goal of the retreat was to teach us how to lead our classes with joy. At the end of the day, the presenter revealed that he took a scripture verse as the framework for the retreat:

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

(Galatians 5: 22-23)

That was my second a-ha moment (to freely rip off Oprah). These concepts go far beyond the classroom. If I can find ways to develop these gifts, I will have a more fruitful life. I will live a life centered on joy. I’ve got some more thinking to do on this and with a month full of long runs ahead of me, I’ll have plenty of time for reflection. But I wanted to write this down before I lost the sense of surprise I had yesterday: I showed up out of a sense of obligation. A feeling of “how bad can it be.” A stubbornness of making myself do things that should be good for me. And I walked away smiling because it gave me the gift of joy.