A Summer Schedule

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Summer of 2020.  It’s starting out as usual in some ways… laps in my dad’s pool, movie nights, and eating ice cream; but in many ways it will be different.  My family’s annual Fourth of July party has been canceled. Birthday and graduation celebration plans are up in the air.  I’m wondering whether or not I should invite my adult son over to visit us, when I’ll see my friends in person again, and when it’ll be considered safe to hug my parents.

And, we are wearing masks.

Staying in the day, in the moment, without thinking about all the future unknowns helps me to enjoy my life.  It’s easy for me to worry or to get frustrated when I read news articles.  There are recommendations and mandates, postponed decisions, and perhaps, inconsistencies with the decisions being made.  There are things I don’t fully understand, having only partial information, and these same things are clearly out of my control.

So my priority for this summer (and always, but I get sidetracked), is prayer.  I want to find a balance of prayer, work and rest.  So here is the basic plan:

  • 7:00-8:15  Hygiene, chores, morning prayers, breakfast, spiritual reading and meditation
  • 8:15-9:30  Mass, rosary, start laundry
  • 9:30-11:30  Projects/food shopping/weekly cleaning
  • 11:30-12:00  Reading (fiction)
  • 12:00-1:00  Angelus, lunch, chores, finish laundry
  • 1:00-4:00  Driving lessons, French lessons/pool time, work out
  • 4:00-6:00  Shower, dinner prep & eat, chores
  • 6:00-10:00  Angelus, meeting/movie/blog post, family time
  • 10:00-11:00  Iron, hygiene, night prayers, reading (non-fiction)

I’ve been trying to follow this schedule for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve not been praying the rosary or the Angelus consistently yet.  Because it hasn’t been raining much, we’ve been swimming at the pool almost every day.  I also haven’t been consistent with my reading times. Projects, movies, hanging out with Bobby, and helping my mom (or the kids) seem to take over my time.

One benefit of following a schedule, that I noticed recently, is that it helps me to enjoy the present moment.  Doing the tasks that need to get done at a certain day/time each week, helps to get rid of the overwhelming feelings that I am behind, or forgetting things I need to do, that clutter up my mind and make me feel anxious.  For example, knowing that we are going to clean the house on Friday morning, or that I’m going to take Joseph driving after lunch, allows me to relax when I’m reading a book on the couch, or sitting at the pool with my family.  I don’t have the guilt that I should be doing something “more productive” at that time.

I can also see when I am avoiding doing something on my schedule.  Sometimes there may be a good reason for doing so, but other times I may be avoiding feelings, or maybe my priorities have gotten out of order.  So the schedule can also help with self-awareness and with being intentional as people often say nowadays. Most of all, I hope it will help to make God, rather than me, the center of my life.

 

Peace During the Pandemic

After at least a week of obsessively scrolling facebook, chuckling at toilet paper memes, and reading news articles; I am back to believing that God has a plan for my life.

So I got off the beam for awhile there. It’s hard not to panic when your food’s running out, there’s a rumor that everything will be shut down for two weeks, Walmart is packed with people who might be carrying the Coronavirus without symptoms (or worse, might cough on you) and every few aisles, you turn down one that is just about wiped out.  Add in the fact that most of the activities that keep me grounded are canceled indefinitely, and the unsettling feeling that I always have when I read sensational media.

I don’t want to feel like I’m reading propaganda.  I just want the facts. I don’t want to read that in a population of 300 million, the number of cases is “ballooning” to 48. I started out with my usual skepticism.  Aren’t we overreacting? Look at the numbers.  How can China’s cases be going down now with only 80,000 cases out of 1.4 billion people?  Are we going to destroy the economy and give up our freedoms for something less serious than the seasonal flu?  Why are people not questioning this?  I understand the argument for “flattening the curve”.  But the argument is only true if the premises are true.  And why is everyone assuming that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be infected, when many of the tests are coming back negative?  And why isn’t testing available for everyone who wants to be tested?

But on the other hand… I don’t want my mother or my father-in-law, who both have COPD to get sick.  And I don’t want my father to get sick, or my kids, or my husband, or me, or my next-door neighbors, or anyone… I’m social distancing.  I’m not letting my kids have their friends over.  I’m dropping groceries off at my mom’s door.  I’m attending ZOOM meetings, talking on the phone, texting, and counting or singing while scrubbing my hands with soap and water just like the rest of the world.  It was all so disturbing.

And it was all so distracting.  Until I decided to take a break one day.  No news, no facebook. I prayed and I journaled. I took these notes from this video.  It reminded me to be patient.

  1. This trial is God’s will. God has a plan for you.  Nothing is so bad that God can’t use it for your good.
  2. Stop thinking of the negative aspects of it.  Start thinking of the positive aspects of the trial.  Discover truths today and dwell on them.
  3. This won’t last forever.  Only eternity is forever.  Answer with faith and patience, not anger.  God has a loving plan for you, be patient.

I struggle with acceptance and surrender.  I think I know better.  But if I think I do, I’m already in a trap.  I have been distracted.  I forgot the truth – that God has a plan for my life.  I must make him the center of my life.  Not curiosity, or knowledge of what’s happening in the world, not seeking to control what is out of my control.  I do not know why this is happening right now, but I will use this time to grow closer to God.

Yesterday, I went to a drive up adoration at my parish.  I listened to a beautiful version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in my van.  I felt so grateful to be across the street from the Blessed Sacrament.  This experience has opened my eyes to how much I took for granted.  We often had weekday Masses at 7:00, 7:15, 8:30, and 12:10 in different churches in my hometown, and sometimes I’d sleep in or get too busy to go to them.  There would be adoration on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and everyday in the next town over.  And now the church doors are locked.

But God has a plan for me. Today I have hope and I will trust him. I will let him guide me to where I should go, what I should do, and what I should say.  I don’t have to worry.   I can choose to, but I don’t have to.  I can have peace in any situation.

 

God Has a Plan for My Life

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It has taken me fifty years to really believe it. It would take a book to describe how it happened.  It’s been slow and steady.  And obviously, it is still unfolding.

Right now I see it as hundreds of seemingly unrelated events, situations, conversations, memories, and truths learned.  It’s taken thousands of prayers and much pain was endured (never alone).  I guess I wanted to be self-sufficient. Maybe I wanted things my own way.  But letting go of this illusion of control brings me hope.  Seeing that God has a plan that has been there all along, and trusting that His plan is going to be better than mine ever could have been, gives me peace.

I’ve Been All the Living Lost Creatures

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This is what I was thinking during Deacon Roger’s homily this morning. Today’s gospel reading was from Luke 15:1-32. (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son)

I have heard these parables so many times before, that I wasn’t expecting to have a new perpective on them today. I’ve identified for many years with the prodigal son. I went away and wasted my life. I sought pleasure in sinful ways. I’ve experienced the loneliness, remorse, shame, desperation, and sorrow that I imagine he felt. I have known humility and the joy of God’s love and mercy.  (I have meditated on Rembrandt’s painting, shown above.)  He gave me a new life and I was grateful.  I wanted to serve Him and I stayed in close contact with Him.

But not perfectly. I’ve been the lost sheep. I wander off and at some point I find myself on my knees.  And He sees I’m lost and comes to get me.  And He picks me up and holds me close.  And I remember how much He loves me. And I thank Him for always being there for me.  (I have often meditated in churches on sheep paintings or mosaics.)

I could be the lost coin, but it’s hard for me to identify with an inanimate object. I’ve just never gone there.  No lost coin meditations. And I didn’t think I was the prodigal son’s brother either… until today.

When I used to hear the story, I would be happy that I was lost, but then found.  I was dead, but now alive. And I thought the brother was a jerk for not being happy for his brother’s return. Today, I realized that I’ve been the brother!

Somehow, over the years since my own return, I got lost again, right here at home. I started to believe that after all the sacrifices I have made for God, that he should do what I want. Of course, I didn’t realize I was thinking that way.  But I know as I came out of the fog, I’d hear myself say things like: I’ve worked so hard and let God lead me in so many areas of my life. So why do I have to do more? 

Maybe I thought that if I worked hard and didn’t complain (verbally) that I would be happy in Heaven someday.  I don’t know, but it only made me angry and resentful. I believe God wants obedience more than sacrifice, and that He wants me to obey him out of love for Him, not to get what I want.  The anger I didn’t know I had, kept me away from the closeness to Him that I could have been enjoying.

Now I see that the poor brother was lost too.  He tried so hard to please his Dad, but he had certain expectations and some selfish motives hidden from even himself. He was self-righteous and proud that he was the “good” son.  He was giving himself pats on the back and didn’t realize that he too had many faults.  He wasn’t humble.  He lacked compassion and had a hardness of heart that kept him from feeling His father’s love for him.  His father loved him SO much… not for all the good things he did, but because he was His beautiful son.  The brother needed to let go of his anger, forgive his prodigal brother, and have compassion for his brother and for himself as well.  He needed to surrender his own will, trust his father and feel His love.

Deacon Roger pointed out that the parable doesn’t say what happened to the brother.  But I know he can enjoy his life.  He can be emotionally close to his father.  He can be loving to all, even himself.  He can be grateful for what he has and for having such a generous, merciful and loving father.  His father is not a slave driver.  He really cares.  He wants what’s best for His children. And He knows what’s best for them, even though He lets them choose whether or not to trust Him.  And you know how I know?  I’ve been the brother!

 

 

A Big Bowl of Waiting, a Cup of Busyness, and a Dash of Surrender

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It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written here.  Bobby and I have worked three days on trimming the arborvitae bushes at my father’s house, and I’ve brought five of us to seven medical appointments. There was a day spent in New York City, some college visits and a funeral. Life has been busy. But I don’t want to write about being busy. I want to write about waiting.

I had some time to reflect while I acted as Assistant to the Regional Manager. (I mean held the ladder, while Bobby trimmed.)  I thought about how while I’ve been busy these past two weeks, I’ve also been waiting, and how I’ve had many experiences with waiting.

This past Friday, I had hoped that a decision would be made and my waiting would be over.  I was feeling very anxious and expected to feel relief and maybe some peace when this waiting was over.  When it didn’t happen, I was really disappointed and also frustrated. I talked with a friend about it, (and vented and whined) and was reminded that here was an opportunity to let go of my will and trust God’s will.  While praying, I remembered a time when I was newly married and hoping to get pregnant.  After five months of waiting and disappointments, I finally let go of my wanting to have a baby.  I had the thought that maybe I might never get pregnant and suddenly I felt OK with it. Maybe Bobby and I would travel and golf and do service work. I wanted to do God’s will, not my own. I had surrendered.

This happens to me over and over, and it happened again on Friday night. I remembered that God wills my good. I don’t know what that is.  I tell myself that if such and such happens, then I’ll be at peace. Then I focus on it.  And I get anxious when it’s not happening, but the peace comes as soon as I surrender my will, accept God’s will, and trust that He is taking care of me at that very moment and always.

So whether it’s waiting for a baby, a house to sell, a test result, a decision to be made… whatever it is… I have found that what will give me peace is to truly desire to do God’s will, whatever that may be. And to ask Him for help and remember (with gratitude) how good He has been to me throughout my life.  Friday night, I was even moved to say “Thy will, not mine be done.”

Dear Stuff

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I found this letter that I wrote (maybe two years ago), prompted by a blog post on Be More with Less called “How to Write a Break-up Letter to Your Stuff”.  It was written quickly and without revision, but today I am appreciating the analogy.

Dear Stuff,

I am making a commitment to only be with stuff that serves a good purpose or leads me closer to God. I believe that this is how God wants me to relate to things.  I’m liking the idea of seeing material possessions as tools.  They help me to do God’s will. Like school supplies and curriculum help me to educate my children. Pots and pans are tools to cook with.  My crucifix reminds me of Jesus.

I’m writing to tell you that you are not good for me anymore.  I don’t need you; you do not cause me joy.  Some of you I did need in the past.  You were tools at one time, and you served your purpose well.  but my life has changed, and I no longer need your help.  Others of you, I don’t even know why I have you around.  I never used you for anything.  Maybe you were given to me and I said thank you to the giver because I love them and didn’t want to say no.  Maybe I purchased you when I was afraid.  You made me feel better.  From you I am learning to have a criteria for future purchases.  To ask if I really need it.  What purpose will it serve?  Can I do without it?

I am determined to live a well-ordered life.  I am working my butt off this summer to go through everything and keep only the tools God wants me to use and to let go of my attachments to you all.

I have trouble letting go of some of you.  I’d like to keep you just in case I’ll use you again in the future.  But this is not what God teaches.

He wants me to live in the present and serve Him, love Him and pray unceasingly to Him.  He does not want me to worry about tomorrow.  He says it in the Bible.  He will provide for me always.  I really need to trust Him completely and let you go.

I did not sign my letter.  It was anonymous.  And because I like to linger over ideas…  How about a list of questions to ask when decluttering, based on the ideas found in this letter?

  • Does this serve a good purpose or lead me closer to God?
  • Why do I have this?
  • Is this a tool I used in the past, but don’t need anymore?  Let it go.
  • Have I never used this?  Let it go.
  • Was this a gift? Did I thank the giver?  Let it go.
  • Did someone give it to me and I didn’t want to say no?  Let it go.
  • Did I purchase this when I was afraid?  Let it go.

Questions to ask before a new purchase:

  • Do I really need this?
  • What purpose will it serve?
  • Can I do without it?

Remember:  Live in the present.  Love, serve and pray all day.  Do not worry about tomorrow.  God will provide for you always.  Trust him completely and let it go.

DECLUTTERING QUESTIONS    30 DAY LIST

 

 

Self-Care

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In 2018, I resolved to make some changes. I wrote about them in my first post. I completed my Whole 30, and then from Superbowl Sunday until Mardi Gras, one could say that I took a break from healthy eating. So I decided to recommit to my resolutions for Lent, which began on February 14th this year. Here is what I’m doing:

Eating healthy.  I’m doing another six weeks of eating Whole 30 compliant foods. Maybe this time I will be able to do the reintroduction of foods when it’s over and see which foods affect me negatively, if any.

Exercising.  (5 times a week for at least 30 minutes) I have only been doing the Couch to 5K weeks one and two so far. But I think I might step it up with Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I know that it will work my arms and abs (and everything) much more than the walking and running.  I also own her Ripped in 30. That is super hard for me.

Daily meditation. I usually start by reading from a book called The Language of Letting Go. A friend gave me a copy of it years ago, before I met Bobby, at a time in my life when I was trying to take better care of myself.  I loved it, then passed it on. I recently purchased a second one, and it’s as good as I remember. I’m at another time in my life when I am trying to take better care of myself after years of letting my physical and emotional needs be low priority. I’ve also been watching the daily videos from Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever. So far, they seem to go right along with this theme of self-care. I usually do some journaling and spend about 15 minutes talking to God (like a friend) and listening in quiet.

Continuing Operation Joyful Space.  I’ll admit, progress has been slow. I need to remind myself of why this is important to me, and stop the time-wasting distractions. I visualize this project as taking things off of my overflowing plate, or taking a weight off my shoulders. I long for a calm, orderly, peaceful environment.  My ideal home is tidy. There are places for everything. Only what we love, use (or will use at a specific time) would be in it. It would be beautiful… with candles, flowers, art, music and space. Everything in it would be in good repair, taken care of, maintained.  It would be comfortable and cozy. In addition, my life would have rhythms or routines, balance, and time for what’s important. (satisfied sigh sound)  That’s why I need to persevere!

The Menstrual Journal. (shown above)  This is not for Lent. I’m doing this for three months as recommended by my OB/GYN. This is a new interest for me. Science was my least favorite subject in school. In fact, I liked every subject except for science. I’ve said for years that I have a mental block when it comes to medical things. And I used to get bored when anyone would talk about food and nutrition. And food talk, channels, shows, allergies, photos and foodies seem to have increased over the years. Food talk seems trendy now. BORING! Then I found out I was having problems with my hormones. Suddenly, I’m reading about medical stuff.  Around the same time, I began to have a desire to take better care of my body, mostly to have more energy, but also to stop the night snacking. I believe eating when I’m not hungry dulls the mind and can numb feelings too. I may be getting off track here….but my point is that now I’m interested in hormones, and my menstrual cycle, and how food affects it, etc. I’m considering that being aware of my cycle may be a key ingredient in self-care. So I’m actually enjoying keeping this journal. And I’m tracking my food, sleep, exercise and feelings in it too.

I will continue to read, learn, pray and act in ways that will make me physically, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally healthier.

2018

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I’m beginning this year with a BANG! I’m making lots of changes around here, such as starting a new blog and making it public. Here is where I’ll write about all the other changes I’m making too.

In 2018, I started doing a Whole30. This is drastic for sugar-loving me. I’ll admit my biggest reservation about starting it was giving up eating movie popcorn, “with extra butter layered,” as my husband requests it. So far I’m doing well. I’m cooking my butt off; and cooking, for those of you who know me well, is not something I do frequently. Unless you count popping frozen food into the oven.

I’m also exercising. No killer workouts for me. I’m taking it easy, but committing to doing it almost daily. Let’s say five times a week for at least 30 minutes. Last week I did the Couch to 5K (week one) five times on an old treadmill we have in our basement.

The next thing I’m doing is not much of a change. I’m decluttering my home. Yeah, I know I’ve been trying to get totally organized for 20 years now, but I mapped out a plan to finish my whole house in six months. This means that by June 30, 2018, everything in my home should have a place, and all of my own stuff will be used or loved (or both), including sentimental and digital clutter. That is the goal. I plan to take baby steps daily to get there.

Finally, I’m making daily prayer and meditation a priority. This, more than any other thing, will be a change for the better.