Faith-Based Ideas for a Fun Summer

This is my children’s first week of summer vacation. Across the country, if children aren’t on summer vacation, yet, they will be soon. So, I thought this post I wrote for CatholicMom.com last May would be a perfect #WorthRevisit post today.

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Visit a local shrine or find one near your vacation spot. Here is the my family at the living Rosary of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Two Inlets, MN.

Two weeks from today is my children’s last day of school. Summer is right around the corner. While sifting through summer camp brochures and swim lesson schedules, I wonder how to intertwine our Catholic faith into our summer plans. With a break from religion classes and youth group meetings, how can I help my family keep connected to our faith in fun ways?

Here are seven ideas to keep our faith alive and active this summer. Perhaps some of these ideas will inspire your family, too!

Add in Prayer. Summer provides more flexibility, but that does not mean we should take a break from our relationship with God. In fact, summer allows more opportunity for prayer. As a family, why not add at least one daily Mass, if not more, into the summer schedule? Other ideas include adding an additional Rosary to family prayer time, scheduling a weekly family Bible study, or signing up for a summer holy hour with older children.

Attend Vacation Bible School. Every summer, I enroll my children in our parish’s VBS, and I often try to find one additional program at a neighboring parish or school. VBS is a fun week of Bible stories, songs, crafts and friendship. Plus, VBS is usually a very affordable option that the entire family can enjoy.

Host a Staycation. If there is not a parish near you that offers VBS, why not host your own? Holy Heroes publishes Summer Faith Adventure, which is an at-home Catholic VBS. They provide affordable materials to teach children about the Church, Bible and sacraments. Add some fun snacks, and you are all set for a fun week of faith-based learning!

Visit a Shrine. Wherever you are traveling this summer, consider adding a visit to a shrine, cathedral or other Catholic site to your itinerary. Two years ago, when my family took a weeklong trip to Northern Minnesota, I searched online for Marian shrines. I was pleasantly surprised to find a replica of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes right in my own state! One day, on our way to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, we took a detour and spent some time at this beautiful shrine. There, I renewed my consecration to Jesus through Mary, and our family prayed a decade of the Rosary on “living” Rosary beads. Search online to find a Catholic shrine or historic church near your home or vacation destination, and add it to your itinerary.

Pack It. On your family’s road trip, or even as you run from soccer camp to the library, make sure to have faith-based CDs to listen to in the car. Holy Heroes has produced some outstanding saint dramas that are available for download or on CD. In addition, Cat Chat CDs teach different elements of the faith in a radio-show format. Children will enjoy listening to these, and parents will appreciate the quality of what their children are learning.

Plant a Mary Garden. After I consecrated myself to Jesus through Mary, I wanted nothing more than to place a statue of Our Lady in our yard. I do not have a green thumb, so my mom agreed to help me create a garden around my Mary statue. Now, it is one of my favorite parts of my house—inside and out! Mary gardens have been part of our Catholic tradition for a long time. They can be elaborate or simple, depending on your gardening skills. A Mary garden can even be created in large flowerpots by adding a small statue or holy card of Our Blessed Mother among the flowers.

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Don’t Forget You. As we focus on making sure our children have a fun summer, it’s important not to neglect our own spiritual growth. This summer, make it a priority to read at least one faith-enriching book. Starting June 6, CatholicMom.com will be reading Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You by Sonja Corbitt. Perhaps you will join us, as we read just one chapter per week through August 1. This is a very doable way to read and grow in our faith. Stay tuned to the CatholicMom.com Web site for more information! [UPDATE: This summer (2016), join WINE: Women In the New Evangelization for its online summer book club! They will be reading Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. You can find more information HERE.]

As we continue planning a fun summer for our families, hopefully these simple ideas will inspire all of us to incorporate our Catholic faith into our plans. How will you intertwine faith-based activities into your summer schedule? Please share your ideas below.

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For more #WorthRevisit posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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Daybook: Hello Summer

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Outside my window …

It is sunny, and the high is supposed to be near 80. We are having a gorgeous late-spring. My children are playing with the neighbors, and it can be quite crazy. But I am grateful for every day they can run and play outside.

 

Thanking God for …

* Another wonderful school year
* Good teachers
* Good Catholic/Christian schools
* My running group and my fitness challenge groups that keep me on track
* Success at the scale — 11 pounds gone!
* Summer plans

Last Day of Preschool

 

Praying for …

* My husband and all that is on his mind and in his heart
* The joys and struggles that are facing my children
* Healing from my various health issues
* The unemployed … and their families
* Those who are sick and suffering

 

Pondering …

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Listening to …

My current favorite songs: Fight Song by Rachel Platten and Oceans by Hill Song.

 

Reading …

I just started reading Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, after seeing War Room. God has put on my heart a greater desire to spend time with Him in prayer. I tend to analyze how to do it, and that paralyzes me to not do anything at all. (This is the story of my life, but I can really see it in my prayer life right now.)

In a couple weeks, WINE: Women In the New Evangelization will begin its online summer book club, and I would love for you to join us! We are reading Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. You can sign up for the book club here. Let me know if you have any questions, because I am the one who is organizing it!

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On Goodreads, I added a 2016 Reading Challenge. I don’t really have a super aggressive goal; simply 16 books in 2016. But I’m not doing very well, either! Maybe the second half of the year will include more reading. Are you on Goodreads? If so, let’s connect there!

 

Around the house …

I made summer schedules for me and my children. Now, we just have to stick to them!

Just before my twins’ First Holy Communion, I worked really hard to clean and refresh our main living spaces. So, I am content with the state of my house. Of course there is always something to do, but it’s not bothering me right now, and so I am not going to stress!

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In the kitchen …

To Weight Watchers, where I am down 11 pounds, I have added Shakeology to my plan. I continue to like the accountability and insights that I receive from the WW meetings. This has been a hard area for me, and I know myself well enough to know I can’t do it alone.

 

Plans for the week …

* Standardized testing for my (now) 8th grader
* Play practice for two of my kids
* Camping for Greg and my sons
* A trip to the fairy gardens with the girls

 

What is new with you? What are you praying for, pondering, reading, or listening to? Please feel free to share in the comments! And happy Monday!

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Spring Fever, Mother’s Day, and a FREE Printable

This might sound cliché, but this spring truly has been busy! It is hard for me to even wrap my head around the fact that it is May 6, and my children will be done with school in less than one month! Of course, thoughts like this prompt anxiety to race through my mind and heart … I better get organized! What am I going to do to keep them busy for three months? Of course, it really doesn’t help to worry, does it?

“… do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34)

We receive the same “don’t worry advice” from St. Francis de Sales:

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As much as this spring has been busy, it also has been delightful.

Two of my daughters graced the stage as munchkins in their school’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz. It was a fabulous and fun musical that involved as many students as possible. Our school is K-12, so the younger students are part of the children’s chorus, and as they get older, they have more opportunity to take on bigger roles. (Yes, there were 90 munchkins, who had to be split into two groups!)

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Another daughter is playing softball this spring and is even pitching in some games. Thank God for the gorgeous weather we are having, for it has been truly enjoyable to sit outside and soak in some Vitamin D, as I cheer on my daughter and her team.

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Personally, I have been working on some fun projects, too! I am coordinating an online summer book club for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization, and I personally invite each of you to join us for a wonderful time! We are reading Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney, and you can find more information HERE. If you have questions, just let me know, but I really hope you will join us!

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I started a 30-day “faith and fitness” challenge group! We are working out every day, eating healthy, and praying and reading our way through the book of Hebrews through Katie Orr’s Focused15 Everyday Faith Bible study. I also started up again with my Moms on the Run group, and with both groups, I have worked out every day this week! You guys, this is a big deal for me! I recently posted this image on Instagram. Click on the photo to find out why it describes victory to me.

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I completed a 30-day online course on creating social media graphics, and I LOVED it! Blogger Crystal Stine has written a fabulous book called Creative Basics, and you can easily go through it on your own. However, she offers a live course—with videos and a Facebook group—once a year, and it was very beneficial. I cannot say enough good things about this course!

Our final project was to create a printable to share on our blogs, and I thought it would be perfect to create a pretty, encouraging message for all of my mama readers! Motherhood is hard, isn’t it? And sometimes we need a positive reminder—more often than just once a year—that we don’t have to be a perfect mom to be a good one! So, my gift to you for Mother’s Day is this printable to print out, share, and display somewhere you can see (and remember) this truth daily. Click on the image below, and it will open up as a PDF. But before you do that, leave me a comment about why you are grateful for being a mom, or share why you are grateful for your own mom (or a woman who has been like a mother to you).

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Celebrate! You Are God’s Precious Daughter

On this #WorthRevisitWednesday, I am reposting a reflection I wrote today for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization. I couldn’t help but share this reflection here today, too, because well, you’ll see why …

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Today, my daughter Olivia celebrates her 12th birthday.

I look back on the day of her birth with love and laughter. By mid-morning of that day, my second daughter was born, swaddled in a blanket, and sleeping in my arms. My husband and I looked at each other, wondering what we would do for the rest of the day; we had already accomplished so much by 9 a.m.!

Reflecting upon the past 12 years with this precious girl, I remember all of the phases and stages that we have been through. Olivia was a cheerful baby; she loved to laugh. When she was a toddler, she wore red, patent leather shoes with everything. I remember when she broke her arm the day before our summer vacation, and she couldn’t swim at the water park that was attached to our hotel. She was so disappointed! As she continues to grow, her unique, God-given gifts shine ever more brightly: She is athletic; she is compassionate; she shows her love through hand-made cards and gifts. Olivia is an amazing girl, and I am overjoyed to be her mom.

As I celebrate my daughter’s life today, I am reminded that just as I delight in Olivia, our Heavenly Father delights in each of us, His precious daughters. God calls to His mind all of the phases and stages of our youth. He reminisces of the delightful memories of our infancy, and as we grow, He marvels as the gifts He gave us continue to flourish. In those memories of us reaching out to Him in need, He sheds a tear of love and mercy that quenches our brokenness.

Yes, God is delighted to be our Dad! Let us always rejoice in the promise that He has called us by name, and we are His.

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For more #WorthRevist posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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3 Lessons I Learned While Learning to Run

It’s been two years since I first wrote this for CatholicMom.com. I decided to repost this today for #WorthRevisitWednesday, because I am getting ready to get back out on the trails with my favorite fitness group, Moms on the Run. This year I am joining the walking group, due to some of my health issues, but I have a renewed enthusiasm for focusing on what I CAN do to be healthy and strong for my family and all that God is calling me to do.

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It’s 6 p.m., and I am running around the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on my family’s dinner. I ask Anna to set the table and Olivia to fill the water glasses. As I call my family to dinner, I fill up my water bottle and lace up my running shoes. I call out to my family, “Save some for me!”

And I head out the door.

I am very much in favor of family dinner, and I strive to maintain this sacred time more often than not. But this isn’t a normal evening, because each Tuesday night, I join other moms for a weekly running club.

Me, a runner?

With my water bottle, workout clothes, and Asics Gel running shoes (that I was professionally fitted for), I guess I look like a runner.

But not only do I look like a runner, my running coach and teammates tell me I am a runner. And after completing my first 5K race last summer, I suppose they are right.

I am a runner!

But how did I, a woman addicted to chocolate and allergic to exercise, get here? It hasn’t been easy.

Struggles, fears and excuses.

I’ve always struggled with making exercise a regular part of my routine. Everything else took priority, and I made every excuse I could think of not to exercise.

Was it fear of hard work? Was it the dread of pain and discomfort? Was it laziness? Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above that stood in my way of taking that first step out the door and onto the running path.

For a long time, I was able to get away with not exercising. As long as I ate a healthy, well-balanced diet. But the older I got and more children I had, I accepted that exercise needed to become part of my life.

But how was I going to make exercise happen? As an analytical person, I can think about a decision so much that I end up doing nothing at all. And that’s exactly what I did about exercise. I thought about getting up early, before the kids and sunrise, to fit in a workout video. I thought about attending a class at our local YMCA. Many times throughout the day, I thought about going for a walk around my neighborhood.

But did I actually act upon any of these thoughts? Um, no, I didn’t.

What’s it going to take?

Once I admitted that I wasn’t going to exercise on my own, I decided to join a group that would give me what I needed most: accountability. Not only did I pay to join the group, but I also knew I would have a coach who would notice (and call me on it) if I was a no-show.

The group I joined wasn’t just any exercise group. It was a running group. As someone who usually came in dead-last when we had to run the mile in junior high, the thought of choosing a running club seemed a little crazy. But my husband encouraged me, and so did a few close friends. Plus, I really liked that this group was specifically for moms at all running levels and abilities.

In late spring 2013, I drove to the park where my running group was meeting for our very first workout. I didn’t know a soul. We formed a circle and introduced ourselves—name, how many kids we have, how long we had been in the group, etc.

Much to my delight, I soon discovered that many of these women were “non-runners,” too. And no matter how many children we had, we were all looking for a way to carve out some time for our own health and well being.

That spring, it was cold and wet most days we set out to run. But I was impressed with how we showed up each week, rain or shine.

One day, in particular, I recall the weather being on the iffy side. We didn’t want to go too far down the path, only to have it start storming on us. So, we stayed closer to the parking lot and ran laps around the playground. It was cold and the light rain pelted my face, no matter what direction I was facing. I was uncomfortable and irritated. I just wanted to go home.

But at the same time, something inside of me wanted to overcome the discomfort. I wanted to embrace the challenge, rather than run away from it. And I did; we did!

Step by step.

My running started out small, walking more than running, but with each workout, I increased my running and decreased my walking. And as the cold, wet spring turned into a hot and humid summer, I persisted through the feelings of not being able to catch my breath, as the thick, heavy air descended upon me like a weighted cloud. I recall sweat just dripping from my forehead and down my back, and wondering how on earth I would be able to drink enough water to rehydrate myself.

Slowly, over 18 weeks, I, and all of my teammates, had become runners. All at our own pace. Some of the women were crazy fast, and some of us were slower. But we completed our season on one of the hottest days of the summer, as we ran a 5K race, some of us for the very first time.

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3 Things Running Has Taught Me:

1) I learned the value of self-confidence.
One of the things that was holding me back from exercising in general was a lack of self-confidence. I simply did not believe I could do it.

And while I have yet to fall in love with running, I have discovered that the hardest step really is the first one. The second, tenth, and hundredth steps were easier, because after each run, I felt strong, confident, and energized. I learned how good running was for me, not only physically but also mentally. It motivated me to challenge and push myself and not to be afraid to try. I didn’t have to be the perfect runner; I just had to do it.

2) I learned the positive power of encouragement and support.
From day one, our group was a team. As we passed one another on the path, the women were always cheering one another on, saying “good job” or “keep it going.” Our coach was incredibly good at having the right balance of encouraging us and challenging us. She was always motivating us to go just a bit farther, without pushing us over the edge.

One day, I was really struggling with our workout. I was having a hard time setting a pace for myself and breathing regularly. Negative thoughts started flooding my head: “What are you doing, Sarah? You’re not a runner. Who are you trying to kid?”

I was overwhelmed to tears by how truly difficult it was for me to keep going at all, let alone to keep up with the rest of the group. After I walked a good half-mile, I thought I had pulled myself together, when I saw our coach jogging toward me with a great, big smile on her face. I started crying all over again. She walked the rest of the way back with me and was incredibly supportive with her words of encouragement.

She spoke truth to me that trumped all the lies in my head. She reminded me of how far I had come, how what I was doing truly was hard, and how important it was to focus on the positive rather than on what I couldn’t do yet.

My coach’s support and my team’s encouragement kept me going through the remainder of the summer and all the way to the 5K finish line. As I was nearing the end of the race course, I saw my coach running toward me once again. But this time, she was not there to walk the rest of the way with me but to RUN with me.

Her presence got me through that last bit of the race, and as I got closer and closer to the finish line, I saw a sea of purple and green shirts at the bottom of the hill. My fellow teammates, cheering my name, their faces shining and smiling! This time, I was crying not because I felt defeated but because of my overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had completed a very intense 18-week running program and 5K race!

Eighteen weeks prior, I considered myself a “non-runner.” The thought of running a road race had never crossed my mind. My workouts started small and increased little by little. How amazed and accomplished I felt after my 5K! The fear and doubt had disappeared!

I could not have done it without encouragement and support from my coach and teammates. And for me, the valuable lessons I learned really could be applied to any area of my life that is challenging or that desires change.

3) I learned the awesome miracle of my own human body. 
God truly created the human body to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). During one of my last runs before my 5K, I was listening to some praise and worship music on my iPod. Lyrics of God’s amazing love, wonderful designs and awesome majesty flooded my ears and transformed my heart.

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know …

As I heard these words from the song Enough by Barlow Girl, I was in complete awe of God, supplying me with a healthy body, giving me legs that were running in stride to the beat of the music, blessing me with the very breaths I was breathing in and out.

How amazing the human body is! It really can do marvelous things. It can bring a new life into the world, it can fight off disease. Each of us has unique fingerprints and DNA. The human body’s list of awesomeness is endless, really.

I had always admired “those people” who were super athletic and could accomplish and endure much, like marathon runners for example. But on that particular run, I noticed that my body was doing something quite marvelous. I could feel the strength in my legs and the fast beat of my heart and sweat beading on my forehead. I could feel myself gaining momentum as I was in complete awe at how God made me to do marvelous things, too!

The song Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Matt Redman only confirmed the awe I felt for God.

You gave me this breath,
You gave me this strength …
There’s elegance in all you create
Your grand designs leave us amazed.
The wonders of the way we’ve been made
Speak of Your power, tell of Your grace.

As I ran, I could not think of anything else but to praise God for creating me to move! He gave me the ability; it was within me all along. And now I was finally able to believe in my God-given ability.

Life-long lessons.

The process of becoming a runner taught me valuable lessons that can apply to both on and off the running path. It taught me about my own personal strength, my need for support and the miracle of God’s designs working in me. I know that I will encounter other obstacles throughout my life, things that will cause fear to well up within me, things that will seem challenging and impossible.

I pray that the lessons I learned while becoming a runner will help me face those challenges and obstacles head on!

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Have you ever faced a challenge in your life that you overcame or learned from? How have the lessons you learned from that challenge affected other situations in your life?

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For more #WorthRevisit posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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You Are Enough

For today’s #WorthRevisit post, I found something that I hope is as much of an encouraging reminder for you as it is for me. I originally posted it over on CatholicMom.com on October 28, 2014.

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My husband left for a business trip Sunday afternoon. It was disappointing that our weekend got cut short, but thankfully, this is not the norm. As my children and I made certain that everything was in order for an early Monday morning—uniforms washed, baths taken, homework completed—I braced myself for three hectic days as a solo mom.

Monday came and went with a busy, but uneventful schedule. The kids were playing so nicely in the living room, that I decided to extend their enjoyment by just a few minutes. (When I notice them getting along, I like to reward it!) But then, I heard the scream, followed by tears and the calling of my name. “Mom, Mom, come quick.”

Joseph was crying so hard, no sound was coming from his mouth. But what was coming from his mouth was quite obvious. Blood. And a lot of it. I called out to one of the kids for Kleenex, as I opened my arms to receive my wounded son. As he cried in my arms, five other children cried around me. The volume was so loud, I couldn’t hear anything.

I am not the bravest mom in the world. I cannot even pull out a tooth for the Tooth Fairy. I feared even looking to see what damage had been done to cause that much blood. I braced myself and peaked into Joseph’s tiny mouth. I could tell his teeth and gums were banged up. His front teeth were pushed back.

Thankfully, my mom, who lives with us, was close by at a neighbor’s. I called her home, and she helped me clean up Joseph and calm everyone else. Joseph took some Tylenol like a champ and slept through the night.

In the morning, his lip was gigantic, and he only ate soft yogurt and applesauce. I called the dentist and scheduled an appointment for noon. Until then, I held him. A lot. There wasn’t anything else I could do. Any plans for my Tuesday were canceled. I couldn’t even remember what I had hoped to accomplish that day. All I needed to take care of was sitting in my lap.

To wrap up a long story, the dentist gave us two options: 1) reset and splint Joseph’s teeth with a 50% chance of success, or 2) pull the teeth and have him go on with life.

I texted and called my husband, until I finally got ahold of him. I wrote, “EMERGENCY! IT’S JOSEPH!” After which he texted, “Can I call you later?” I had to laugh inside, but my text came across, “NO!!”

Even though I knew that the easiest choice was to pull Joseph’s teeth, I needed the voice of my husband to agree, before I could go forward.

Joseph was so brave as the dentist and his assistant gave him laughing gas and Novocain. His tiny hand held mine the entire time. All I could do was pray, asking the Blessed Mother to pray for Joseph. Over and over again, “Hail Mary, full of grace …” I pictured her  holding Joseph in her arms and her mantle of protection completely covering him. The moment brought me back to other times in my motherhood, when I could do absolutely nothing but pray, like the day my twins were born, and I needed an unexpected C-section.

Joseph didn’t really start crying until it was all over. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking and feeling, but I trust that Jesus, through Mary, was giving him extra grace and comfort that only He can give. Joseph had a hard time calming down when it was all over, so he bled a lot, again. But he finally relaxed long enough for the blood to stop.

As we drove home, and Joseph fell asleep, I had this enormous sense of purpose come over me, flow down upon me, anoint me. As a woman who chose to stay at home with my children full-time, often I feel like my purpose isn’t as important as other women who are making a difference in the world. My work is hidden. It is hard to have personal goals when the mundane tasks of homemaking and the demands of other people consume most of my days. It often feels like I should be doing more: more volunteering, more service, more something. And that what I actually do is not enough and doesn’t make much difference.

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I know the Church teachings and famous quotes about motherhood that express the importance of this vocation. I know the truth in my head. But so often my heart aches as a result of the feelings of failure; the sense of being two, five or ten steps behind at all times; and the lack of appreciation or approval from the world and even sometimes from those within the walls of my own home, including myself.

But in that moment of grace, the truth leapt into my heart, and I believed that I am indeed fulfilling a most important purpose in this world. It was me who my son ran to when he was so badly injured. It was me who calmed him down and gave him a sense that it was going to be OK. And it was me who took care of a pretty traumatic situation with confidence and poise, for the sake of my son. I do not say this to get credit or to get glory. I say this to inspire other moms (and myself) to believe with all their hearts that what they do, day in and day out, matters. It matters to our families, even if they never say a word, and it especially matters a lot to God.

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Most days, we are not going to feel the greatness of our work. Most days will run together and feel pretty normal. But all of those normal, boring days create a spirit of stability in the hearts of our family. Days will come—like they did that week my husband was out of town—when life turns upside down, and we will be the hero for our children. And knowing that, even for a split second, will give us what we need to keep on doing the dishes, folding the laundry, driving to and from soccer practice, and tucking little heads into bed. Because that work is important, and that work is enough.

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For more #WorthRevisit posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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Disney Fun in Our Easter Baskets

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With Easter being only one month after our trip to Florida and Walt Disney World, I decided to keep our memories alive with a few Disney-themed mementos.

My children have been admiring these little toys called Tsum Tsums for awhile now. We have seen them at Target and Walmart. Just before Easter, Target and the Disney Store hosted a “buy two, get one free” sale, so that came in handy when buying six of these cute friends.

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I hid seven eggs for each of my children—one color per child—for an indoor Easter egg hunt. One of their eggs had one of these adorable Tsum Tsums inside. (They fit perfectly inside the jumbo-size plastic Easter eggs.) My children were so surprised to find them among their candy-filled eggs.

In addition, I purchased a couple sets of the smaller non-plush Tsum Tsums for my girls, and these fit well inside smaller Easter eggs. (Again that “buy two, get one free” sale came in hand!)

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Other Disney-themed Easter basket items included a Tsum Tsum sticker book, Frozen coloring book, Disney character Rubik’s cube from the Shop Disney App (my review here), Baymax toy, and character pencils. My sons got bubbles in the shape of lightsabers and mini Star Wars ships from the dollar store, and my girls got some colorful pens, too.

All of these items have kept my children very busy during our spring break, which was another reason for focusing on things to do rather than on candy to eat! I kept the candy simple with chocolate crosses, Peeps, jellybeans, and (my favorite) Cadbury Mini Eggs. Stretching across nine baskets (six kids plus my husband, mom and I), this seemed like a sweet amount.

Our recent trip will probably be the highlight of our year. It was an incredible blessing, and it has provided a multitude of memories. Therefore, some of our holidays and celebrations may reflect our trip this year, and I see that as a reminder of just how grateful we are for our dream-come-true vacation.

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Egg-stravagant Hunt

On this #EasterWednesday, I found the perfect post for the #WorthRevisit link up! I wrote this five years ago, and oh how little my children look in these photos! While we did not get this egg-stravagant with our Easter Egg Hunt this year, we have fond memories of past Easters and the joy of sharing the Resurrection with others.

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This Easter Sunday, we hosted our very first Easter Egg Hunt. We invited extended family and those neighbors who were in town. We ended up with 17 children participating, and we hid more than 270 eggs!

Hiding so many eggs was not difficult this year, because we do not have a lot of landscaping or trees, yet. So, many of the eggs were simply scattered across our lawn. Inside the eggs were jelly beans and other candy … and some Catholic stickers from Dollar Tree (of all places!).

Twelve of the hidden eggs were Resurrection Eggs. These eggs have symbols inside of them that tell the story of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, such as a crown of thorns, silver coins, a small chalice, and more. There is even an empty egg to symbolize the empty tomb.

After all the children found their allotted number of about 17 (or so) eggs, they emptied the candy and stickers into their baskets. (And they were great about putting the eggs back together before dumping them into a big clear bin!)

But if they found a Resurrection Egg, they were instructed to keep it.

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Then, I read The First Easter by Carol Heyer, and each time we got to a part in the story where a Resurrection Egg applied, the child who had the egg showed everyone the symbol within. If the child was old enough, he or she also explained the symbol to everyone else. Then, a chocolate bunny was awarded for the Resurrection Egg winners. (But I also had extra candy on hand for all the kids!)

We originally got the idea for this egg hunt from some friends from our old neighborhood. They always hosted a similar egg hunt, and our children loved it. I always liked how beautifully it brought the fun of egg hunting and candy back to the true meaning of why we celebrate Easter—Jesus! So, we decided to carry on the tradition in our new neighborhood. Hopefully, this was only the first of many egg-stravagant hunts in our backyard!

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For more #WorthRevisit posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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From the Archives: Five Ideas to Celebrate the Easter Season

This post was originally published for CatholicMom.com on April 9, 2015, and I am honored that it is part of CatholicMom.com’s new feature, “From the Archives.”

This Easter, plan on going for your own Emmaus walk. Photo via geograph.org.uk.
This Easter, plan on going for your own Emmaus walk. Photo via geograph.org.uk.

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.”

—St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily

As you probably already know, Easter is not just a one-day holiday in the Catholic Church. It is a 50-day season of celebrating and meditating on Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the event on which our entire faith is centered.

During the Octave of Easter, which is the eight days between Easter Sunday and Divine Mercy Sunday, it is as if each day is Easter Sunday! If you are reading the daily Gospel readings with us each day, you probably already have noticed that all of them are related to the various accounts of the Risen Lord.

Fifty days is a long time to celebrate something. But when we recall that what we are celebrating is the most important aspect of our faith, we are grateful that in the Church’s wisdom, we are given ample time to focus on what the resurrection means in salvation history as well as what it means to us, personally.

We do not have to keep the party going for 50 days, though! After all, most of us have jobs, school and chores to attend to, not to mention the upcoming spring sports schedule and various family commitments to incorporate into the daily routine.

But if we can sprinkle a few key celebratory moments into our normal schedule, then perhaps we can still maintain a spirit of Easter between now and Pentecost Sunday (May 24). And perhaps celebrating the Easter season will allow our faith to become an even more intricate part of our everyday life, well into Ordinary Time and beyond.

To read five simple things to do this Easter season to keep the joyous celebration of Christ’s Resurrection alive in the hearts of you and your family, please click over to CatholicMom.com.

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Trusting in God’s Patience

Have I told you how much I love #WorthRevisitWednesday? You probably can tell by how much I participate in this link-up! Even if I can’t get to this space much in a week, I try to at least check in here on Wednesdays! Today’s post is not far into the archives. In fact, it is posted today on the WINE: Women in the New Evangelization blog. But since it posted several hours ago over there, this is technically a revisited post! It has a Holy Week theme, so it fits today.

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In this Year of Mercy, I wonder how I experience God’s mercy. It is difficult to wrap my head around something so profoundly miraculous, because often, I feel so unworthy of it.

But as I ponder the Scriptures, I cannot deny the reality of God’s mercy. Pope Francis explains it well when he describes mercy as patience.

“Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy.” (March 17, 2013 Angelus)

Think of those we read about in the Scriptures, who truly encounter Jesus’ patience, His mercy. Their stories show us that if Jesus is patient with them, He is patient (merciful) with us, too.

There is the Samaritan woman, who meets Jesus at the well (John 4:5-42). Even when she reveals her past to Him, He doesn’t turn away. He is patient with her, and His love transforms her life.

There is Martha, who is anxious and actually complains to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus tells her that Mary has “chosen the better part,” but he does so in a way that shows loving patience. Can’t you just hear it when He says her name, “Martha, Martha”? And through this encounter with Jesus’ patient mercy, she is renewed. Martha is quite a different woman when we meet her again (John 11:1-45).

There is the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus’ entire demeanor during His interaction with her is patient, gentle, and kind. “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She replied, ‘No one, sir.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’” I imagine her life is never the same again, after her encounter with Christ’s mercy.

As we enter the Triduum—Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection—Jesus’ patience and mercy pour out from the pages of Scripture. He is patient with the apostles when they scatter and hide. He is patient with Pilate when he interrogates Him. He is patient with the Roman soldiers who brutally beat Him up. He is patient with the weeping woman. Jesus’ very suffering and death on the Cross are the fullness of God’s patience and mercy!

We must remember that when we sin, when we complain, when we fail, the patience, love, and mercy that Jesus showed countless times in Scripture are ready to be lavished upon us, too. Mercy is a gift, freely given to us by the Giver of All. Are we open to receiving it?

“He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. ‘Great is God’s mercy,’ says the Psalm … Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!” —Pope Francis

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For more #WorthRevisit posts, please visit Allison at Reconciled to You and Elizabeth at Theology is a Verb.

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