The World We Create For Our Family


I’m really putting myself out there to be judged with this post.  Airing out the dirty laundry for all to see, but I believe that in order for us to live authentically we have to be real.  We have to be open, raw, and able to admit our wrongs AND able to tell others YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Because I know that I am not the only one who has battled this issue and I want to give those moms out there who might be in that spot hope that they can change.  

Yesterday I read a reflection on Blessed Is She that really got me thinking.  The writer said that gossip is often mistaken for community because it gives us something to talk about.  Gossip ends when we learn to focus on building real authentic relationships that are based on talking about the good of others and chatting about our OWN difficulties, achievements, and musings on life. YES, YES, YES!!  A million times yes!  

So, in an effort to not only preach a message but to also be one, I give you all this blog post.  Judge if you must, or maybe, just maybe, let it be an invitation to build authentic relationships with those around you.   

(Excuse the spelling, we all have learning to do, plus I kind of love it 💗.)

Finding this homework paper of my daughter’s made my heart soar!  Her world is “peaceful, fun and relaxing”.  She “loves her world”. (excuse me while I go wipe the tears from my eyes…ok, I’m back. *sniff, sniff*)  Her life wasn’t always that way.

See, I used to be one of those yelling moms.  The type that spazzed out over everything and would yell at the drop of a hat. I HATED myself for it. Yes, I hated myself, not the action.

I would yell even when my girls didn’t deserve it (which was pretty much every single time).  Then I was too proud to ask forgiveness from them for MY mistakes.  It wasn’t their fault I yelled, but I was quick to say, “Why do you do that and make me yell?” *cringe*.  So yeah, I hated myself, because afterwards I’d cry and feel awful for it.  But apparently not enough at that time to change it (palm to face-hard).

I was so prideful back then, even though I didn’t actually like who I was.  Pride can lead a person to be too stubborn to change, even when they know they should!  The devil is really good at telling people they are ok to keep going down the path they’re on.  He was really crafty at filling my head with lies that it wasn’t a big deal and I would look weak to my kids if I apologized!   I mean why would they take me seriously if they thought I was weak?!  Those thoughts are LIES.  Friends, asking forgiveness for our wrongs is the furthest thing from being weak.  It actually takes incredible strength to go to someone and freely admit we wronged them and ask forgiveness.  Humility is the fastest route to happiness and love.

As the years went on, I continuously told my husband that was not the mom I wanted to be.  He’s pretty awesome so he’d try to help me.  I did find myself yelling much less frequently, which I honestly take no credit for!  I can’t for the life of me pinpoint what changed but it did and I’m thankful.  But, the humbling part of asking forgiveness?…yeah, that was very slow to follow.

My job as a mom is to teach my children how to become amazing adults (not amazing kids) and what sort of behavior was I teaching them?! My gosh that is painful to think back on!  Great adults, great christians, know how to ask for forgiveness and truly mean it.  How can they learn that sort of behavior if the one person they look to most for an example of how to be an adult was failing so miserably?

I have spent the better part of this year attempting to grow in holiness.  The recurring thing I kept coming up with (the Holy Spirit guiding me) to achieve said holiness was humility.  Since we’ve already discussed my lack of humility lets just say this was a struggle.  I fought with God tooth and nail to hold onto my pride.  Then I reached a point somewhere along the way that I was just sick and tired of myself.  I busted out the Litany of Humility (see below) and very painfully attempted to say that prayer.  Often I’d get a few lines in and stop and put it away.  No joke.  The next day I would maybe get a few lines further, until one day I cried my way through that beautiful prayer and begged God with all that I had to help me with this.  THANK GOD He is faithful, merciful and so abounding in grace!!  He poured it all over me and I learned (and am still learning) to ditch the pride and live more humbly.

One day I had a setback and went off on my precious daughters.  It was like a dagger to my heart to see their faces as I yelled.  I stopped, I took a deep breath, turned to them and just grabbed them and hugged them both.  I cried, tears just rolled down my face, and said “I am so sorry!  I do not want to be this way and I am so sorry.  You don’t deserve this.  I love you both so very much, please forgive me!”  Kids are pretty damn amazing.  Those little angels of mine hugged me so tight and they cried too and smiled the biggest smiles and said “we forgive you and we love you too mommy!”  Then they happily bounced away to play like it was no big deal.  Had I not apologized, their little wounded hearts wouldn’t have allowed that happen.

My daughter’s homework paper was a reminder I needed that despite knowing I have a long way to go to becoming a saint, I have also come pretty far.  Because her world is peaceful, happy and relaxing and by God’s grace, she loves her world.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve these true blessings that I call my children, but I thank God daily for them.  They really are a gift and gifts are meant to be cherished.

 

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“But where do I start?” When Trying To Grow Closer To God…


I’ve been there, numerous times, that place where you aren’t really living for God.  You aren’t living a bad life, but you know you aren’t living for God.  Sometimes we think, “but I’m so busy today, I will get to that tomorrow…”  tomorrow  comes and goes and the day after and we have yet to kneel before our Lord and even tell Him a simple thank you for all He’s given you.

Friends, let me tell you, everything in your life that brings you peace, love, and joy comes from the Father.  Do not fool yourself into thinking that you alone are the cause for all that is good in your life.  The devil is quite crafty and good at telling people this lie.  I was really good at believing this!  Pride, ouch, that is one sin that I struggled with daily.  I still do at times.  I have come to realize though that all I have and all that I am is a gift from God.  Without Him I am nothing and I have nothing.

So if it’s been awhile since you’ve spent some time with God how do you find your way back to HIM?

Often we picture God as this mighty judge sitting on a throne waiting to condemn us or so far away that He’s just unreachable.  STOP.  RIGHT.  THERE.  First and foremost let me explain the most vital part of a relationship with God; it is a relationship. This part is vital so I’m repeating it, it is a RELATIONSHIP.  He loves you more than you could ever fathom and what He wants is to have a genuine relationship with you.  In order for that to happen you talk to God like you would your nearest and dearest friend, because He is!  He can handle all your moods, all your stubbornness, all your grief, all your joy, all your frustrations and everything in between.  If you’re angry with Him, tell Him!  If you’re lonely, tell Him!  If you’re so filled with happiness, PRAISE HIM!  He yearns for you to talk to Him, no matter what it’s about.

BUT HOW?!

I recently wrote an article for my church about how my spiritual life has grown so much over this last year and how I helped that happen.  I say helped, because God knocked, and I simply answered the door.  At first with a handshake, but now when He knocks, I rip that door open and lunge into His loving arms for the warmest embrace that envelopes every part of my being.

Here’s what I wrote.  I hope it helps someone, even in some small way.  Please know I am praying for you!  Leave me a note and let me know how I can pray for you or if you’d like me to talk more on this topic.

This past year I’ve been learning what it means to be inspired and transformed by God.  During Lent I had decided to not give things up but to instead take the very first part of my day to be with Our Lord.  It changed me.  St. John Vianney said “We must take great care never to do anything before having said our morning prayers…The devil once declared that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.”  

At first it was difficult to focus and keep my mind on things above instead of the tasks laid out before me for the day.  Slowly I started to find little things that would help me grow in my prayer life and holiness.  I journal my prayers to God each day.  This alone is such a blessing, because as the months go on I can go back, re-read it, and tears of joy flow as I see the ways God has answered some of those prayers.  Many times in ways I never could’ve imagined!  

I downloaded the YouVersion app on my phone and use it every morning.  It is a Bible app that also has thousands of devotions to pick from.  Another app I use is Laudate.  It is a wealth of goodness for Catholics.  Each day I read the daily readings from Mass, followed by the reflections and the saint of the day.  It also has hundreds of Catholic prayers and so much more!  

I began listening to podcasts (on iTunes) from Catholic priests to learn more about our beautiful faith.  The beauty of podcasts is I can listen while driving, folding laundry, making dinner, and especially while working in my garden.  Being surrounded by nature, God’s creation, and learning about Him at the same time has brought an abundance of peace to my life in a myriad of ways.  My mind was opened to see how our Church is so rich with history and of Saints that we can learn so much from!  

Learning about the Saints has lead me to pray Novenas (there are apps for this), and I am constantly in awe after seeing my prayers get answered.  The amazing thing about praying to Saints is the reminder that many of them started as very broken sinners, only to be transformed by God and become incredible Saints!  There is hope for us all.  

It is said that pride is what turned Angels into demons and humility that turns men into Saints.  So, I printed off the Litany of Humility but my pride got in the way at first.  I struggled to say this prayer and really mean it.  Thankfully He is patient and merciful, because eventually I surrendered and through this powerful prayer I have grown closer to God.   

A few short weeks ago, after communion, I reached the point of surrender.  I uttered the words “Lord, I give my life to You to do with me as You wish”.  I let go of the fear of the unknown to let God take control of my life.  I pray to Mary for help with this, because it’s a constant, daily, surrendering of myself.  She is the perfect example to all of us what surrender looks like.  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38  Complete surrender and lack of fear for God’s plans in our life-not our own plans-offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him.  Allowing Him to use the resources and gifts He has given us to glorify Him.  

My life has changed and though I am thankful for my past because it has taught me so much, and it is a living testimony to others, I look intently into the future to see what God has in store for me, to serve Him.  

 

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When God Is Silent But The Silence Is Deafening


There has been a resounding theme to the podcasts, devotions, Bible readings, and homilies I’ve been exposed to lately…hearing God in the silence.  Over and over from multiple sources I keep hearing/reading that God speaks to us most clearly in a still, small voice, in the silence.  Here’s the thing, I KNOW THIS!  I have experienced it often and it’s utterly magnificent!  But lately, the silence is deafening.

God has been silent recently and the silence is wearing me down.  I know what to do.  To persevere through it by continuing to pray, spending time with God and receiving the sacraments. But that doesn’t guarantee that God will automatically be vocal again.

Sometimes God is silent to teach us and help us grow spiritually.  It can help magnify things about ourselves that need to change.  If we allow it, we learn to lean into Him even more BECAUSE He is silent.  We learn to place our trust even more in Him.  We learn to wait with patience, a virtue.  We learn humility by realizing that it’s not our own strength that we get by, but God alone.

I have been struggling this last month with being in silence.  I tell myself to listen for God’s voice.  I try to quiet the noises in my head, but then things bubble up that I don’t want to hear.  See, the devil likes to trick us and tell us lies that aren’t true. For a moment I start to believe him.  I pause, recognize it’s him and say a prayer to not believe the lies of the evil one.  But the silence is still too much for me to bear.

I have unanswered prayers that each day seem to grow further away and the heartache of it makes me want to shut it out.  THIS IS PRECISELY THE MOMENT I AM MEANT TO LEAN INTO IT.  Let the pain, the hurt, the confusion of it all just pour out.  Give it all to Jesus, because He understands our pain.  He died on the cross to bear our pained be one with us.   Do you ever have those moments where the flood gates open and the tears flow like a river?  You cry, begging God to answer your prayer.  Lately my prayers have even gone something like this “God, please just tell me if the answer is no!  Just help me to understand so I can let it go!”.  Silence.  Deafening silence.  I wipe my tears and let the pain sit for awhile and feel it.

There is a saying I hear often that I never quite understood until recently…  “Offer it up!” It just never made sense to me.  Until now.  Now I get it.  I have to learn to truly offer up my suffering to become more in union with Jesus’ suffering on the cross.  We all have our  own, different, crosses to bear.  I’m getting there, I’m slowly learning to ‘offer it up’ and unite my suffering with Jesus’.  I can be a slow learner at times.  Thankfully God is patient, especially when I am not.  Sometimes, silence is the best answer to my prayer of “Just tell me if the answer is no!” because it’s hope that maybe, just maybe, the answer is “yes, my child.  Be patient because the answer is yes, but you aren’t ready yet and I am making a way for you.”

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Romans 12:12

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Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back From Being a David In a World Filled With Goliath’s


There is an old saying that people don’t change.  I strongly disagree with that though.  People can and do change!  Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse but we all change.  Sudden change can be hard, but oftentimes it’s necessary to become a better version of ourselves.  This has been something weighing heavily on me lately.   I am changing into a better version of me because of my faith.  Old parts of me are dying.  Praise God for that because they were things I didn’t always like about myself.  Like the prayer “Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.”  It’s referring to the sinful parts of ourselves, not us as a whole.  God doesn’t want us to be a different person. He made us and created us, but the sinful parts of us need to go.

I’m finding the courage to navigate a newer side of myself that wants to be bolder in my faith.  Like writing these blog posts.  The human-ness in us wants to be accepted and liked.  Sadly, writing about God isn’t always popular, so we tend to shy away from talking about it or writing about it.  Then one day God grabs you and shakes you and says wake up!  So the groggy eyed Nicole got up every morning during Lent and spent the first part of the morning sipping hot coffee (because it’s early! DUH!), praying and doing devotionals.  There’s a funny thing that happens the more you pray…it makes you want to pray MORE!  God fills those empty parts of you with all HIS goodness and love and you start to feel whole and loved and happy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy person by nature but this feeling is something even more, and it literally fills you to the brim!  Lent had a profound effect on me this year.  Holy week tore me up, spit me out and made me radiantly new.

Yesterday morning I was in the middle of a devotion and felt drawn to write something down.  I grabbed my prayer notebook and wrote.  What’s funny is this post is actually one I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks but the words always evaded me.  I knew when the time was right, it would come to me.  These next few paragraphs in Italics are what I wrote. Word for word.  I pray that they reach someone and speak to you in a way they did to me as I sat in prayer.  As I finished writing, right at the minute I had to wake up my girls, I set my notebook down and had such a sense of peace about it and knew this post was ready.

Do not be prideful that you lack the ability to change because of fear. Fear of people looking at you differently.  Fear of losing old “friends” whom live a different sort of life than the one God intended for us.  Fear of being seen as different.  

It’s just like when someone changes their food choices in a permanent way.  For instance… just because the old you would drive through McDonalds, but the new you wouldn’t dream of it!  You don’t stress much about making the change because you know it’s better for you.  You feel better for these changes so you keep at it.  Spiritual changes are no different.  Getting rid of old sinful ways, like bad food choices, will improve your life.  You start to feel better!  God never promised that it’d be easy.  Jesus said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34  That cross led to eternal peace and happiness in Heaven.

Think of it like this, when going to a party many times when following a Paleo diet there aren’t many food choices.  It can be awkward and difficult to navigate the buffet and stick to your lifestyle.  We don’t want to be embarrassed by being different or make the host feel bad, but we stick to our diet anyway.  Why?  Because even though the food may taste amazing at that moment you know that deterring means you’ll feel awful later.  Just like sin.  It might feel good at the moment but later on the guilt, the shame and the hurt hit you and you feel awful.  

So why is it so difficult to stick to your beliefs as a Christian?  If you can do the hard work for your health, make the hard choices, and stick to your guns by not eating unhealthy foods, why is it so hard to stick to your Christian beliefs?  Your spiritual life is on the line.  Eternity, not just the time you’re here on this earth.  It is hard to make changes and be a new person on your quest for a close relationship with the Lord.  We’re human and we fail often.  But we’re not defeated in that sin, we need only go to God for true forgiveness.  Just like with food.  One day we may indulge and eat something we know isn’t the best choice, but it doesn’t mean we totally give up and go back to our old ways.  We start again at the next meal and do better.  

Say for instance you realize you may partake in some sort of activity that you know is wrong. Whether it’s drinking in excess, gossiping, premarital sex, drugs, cussing, etc., and your friends are used to you doing these things, or they do these things.  How do you go about changing this cycle and telling them that isn’t who you are anymore?  There is a massive fear of being rejected for these changes.  MAKE THE CHANGES ANYWAY.  Do it for yourself, your happiness, your inner peace, and your eternal destiny.  

If your friends are true friends they will love you and support you through the changes and when you become the new you.  If they abandon you, make fun of you, or challenge you then maybe it’s time to look for some new friends.  Be willing to be the one that stands out from the crowd for your faith. Be brave!  

David stood up to Goliath because he knew God was on his side.  God is on your side too.  Be a David in a society filled with Goliaths.  After all, we all know what happened to Goliath.  

In High School I was once called “one of those God freaks”.  I blurted out before I knew what I was saying “No, I’m not!” but then instantly regretted saying it.  I didn’t get a chance to defend myself because the kids (one of them was supposedly a friend), walked off laughing.  It’s been 19 years and I still remember that moment.  It’s high time I quit living that way, denying my love of God by being private about it, and start being brave to show that I love God.  I’m working hard to be a better person and change into a better version of me.

I pray that if you know this feeling too, you look inside and find the strength to be brave and be a David.  I’m not suggesting being pushy with your faith.  What I am saying is to not be afraid to be the new you.  Be the you that tries hard to avoid sin, even when everyone you’re surrounded by is doing it.  Don’t be afraid to divert a conversation that you know is heading in a bad direction.  Don’t be afraid to turn down that extra drink, that date that you know only wants one thing, or suggesting a different music station.  Be you.  Unapologetically you.