7QTF: Cat-WHOLE-ic

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Linking up with Kelly and the rest!

Hello! Happy New Year! To any readers out there, I apologize for being so absent. Part busy with baby, part busy with house stuff, part laziness. My resolution this year is to try to blog some more, so we’ll see. For today, though, I’m going to share another resolution–reduce my sugar intake. And to that end, I experimented with the Whole30 program. Today is my last day, As I’ve gone through the program and thought about my rationale and goals, I realize I can apply some of the principles to my spiritual life, too. Just in time for Lent to begin, too!

[1]

Wholeness

The basic point of Whole30 is to eat “whole” foods, meaning just an apple (okay, maybe some almond butter, too), *just* the meat and spices–nothing processed, nothing added that doesn’t need to be added. And at this point in my faith life, I feel like I could use a reset–a way of choosing “whole” spiritual practices–living out my faith in a simple, authentic way. To me, that could mean really focusing on things like the sacraments, prayer, and virtues just as they are.

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Now, that’s not to say anything “added” is bad–quite the contrary, some spiritual practices can be very good for people–reading new authors, making a consecration, etc. But sometimes, for me, anyway, doing a lot of “extras” can draw away focus from what God is asking.

[2]

Intentionality

The rules of Whole30 are intense. I won’t get into them or the program creator’s rationale, but I will say I do have some buy in to the larger point: the program asks you to read labels and make food choices deliberately, and with intention to holistically change the way you eat and think about food (particularly about sweets, my personal demon). So with my faith life, I want to be more intentional–to deliberately choose that which brings me closer to God, to think about what I’m doing for my faith and what it will give to God.

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[3]

Sacrifice

Ah, us Catholics who never met a sacrifice we weren’t supposed to like. Whole30 asks you to give up not just sweets and alcohol, but any added sugar and grains and nuts, and dairy, and your dreams, and your soul…

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Being Catholic means we often have to give up things we like simply because God asks us to—because He is all loving and all good and knows that sometimes those things/relationships/choices are not truly good for us. And sometimes we sacrifice things simply because it is good to do so. While flavored coffee and brown rice might be morally/spiritually neutral, sometimes we give them up because it is good to give something up out of love or desire to grow closer to God. So this coming Lent I really do want to try to give up something like that to truly unite myself to Jesus in experiencing just a taste of the deprivation He experienced in the desert, as well as an infinitesimal amount of the suffering he experienced on the cross.

[4]

Preparation

This eating plan centers around eating three filling meals a day, ideally freshly prepared. While you *can* steam microwave some cauliflower rice, broccoli, and grill up a chicken breast on your George Foreman, you do find yourself in a near-constant cycle of chopping, thawing, cooking, dishes–especially if you also have to make sure your skinny husband and growing toddler get enough to eat, too. So it helps to meal prep, make ahead, and try to get as much as possible out of the way, because in that cruel twist of fate, the toddler’s witching hour is always during “I need to make supper now” hour.

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So in my spiritual life, I believe there’s possibly virtue in preparing for a commitment to doing more holy things. Like, researching and joining a Rosary walking group this spring or choosing the one book to pray through Lent with, or just Tetrising my and Aslan’s daily schedule to fit in *something* so I’m not stuck realizing I should take my faith life seriously at the exact time I have zero mental space for it.

[5]

Penance

I started the Whole30 because it was the program that swayed me the most with its claim of “taming the Sugar Dragon.” You see, fun Fall food, my son’s 1st birthday, and the holidays had me going to near excess with the treats and alcohol. Something drastic had to change, and it seemed only right that I should atone for the delicious sins against my body.

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And in my spiritual life, I can see focusing a bit more on the whole penance deal. Of course, I’ll keep up with receiving the sacrament of penance in the confessional, getting proper absolution; but I want to really *feel* the atonement—really make the connection between the notion that fasting and abstinence are real penance that have a real effect that pleases God.

[6]

Community

I could not have done the Whole30 without the support of a couple of Facebook groups–one is definitely Catholic and the other was started by a Catholic who has lots of Catholic and Christian followers. So it was nice to be in a group where we not only shared recipes of fish/vegetarian dishes specifically because of people following the Friday rule, but also to be assured that receiving the Body of Christ was A-OK (even though according to the diet’s founder, there is absolutely no consumption of wheat), and no we wouldn’t have to start over every Sunday (another strict measure).

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In my spiritual life, community is integral—I mean, it shares the same root word as Communion! I’m going to keep on keeping on with my church-affiliated moms’ group, as well as try to cultivate something in my home parish.

[7]

Discipline

You have to be very disciplined to successfully tackle the Whole30: Saying “no” to anything at Starbucks when you run in for your black coffee, no matter how good the cookies smell. Not buckling in and devouring a personal size pizza because you don’t want to take the extra ten minutes and prep something for a more proper dinner. It was annoying many a time, but in this past week, I’ve felt really confident and just fine with making good choices. Hopefully that will carry through in the weeks to come.

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And of course, discipline, which is so much like “disciple” has a lot of connections to my spiritual life. For Lent, I really do want to grow in the ability to stick to prayer practice.

Hopefully these spiritual lessons will last longer than it seems the nutritional values will. For tomorrow is the last day, and well…

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My Sunday Best

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Linking up with Rosie and the rest!

 

Oh the joys of cellphone photography!

On me: A BRAND. NEW. DRESS. As in off the rack from a department store (Macy’s), and I’m the first to love it. 😀 I’m really super excited about this Betsy Johnson floral number found on deep deep clearance–like so low, I could also buy a pair of clearance pants and spend exactly my $50 birthday gift card. I’m excited, could you tell? Had Aslan not napped until 15 minutes before the opening hymn (it was such a weird awake/nap morning), I would’ve thrown on a pink belt to balance the torso. But oh well. Shoes are chocolate brown Mary Jane style pumps by Steve Madden found at DSW or something like that ages ago. You can’t tell from the photos, but they’re a full on Monet–pretty from far away, but up close a big ole mess. Probably time for a new pair of shoes.

On Aslan: White tee and gray overalls with a darker gray fish pattern. I’d love to try to remember the brand, as they’re the closest size match to his actual age (size 6-9 months, he’s 8). My chunky monkey’s getting to be a 12 months in nearly every other brand.

I’m sure there’s something that could be said about this week’s Psalm (“Lord, I love your commandments“) and NFP, but I won’t go there. I think an inherent flaw of NFP Awareness Week is that there’s just so.much.writing and feelings that come out thanks to all those words, that maybe we’re losing our effectiveness of preaching this particular aspect of the Gospel. So, instead, I’ll be contemplating this line we heard today from Matthew: “‘Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”‘

I’m a scribe! What’s new and old that I can bring out for you all?

 

 

Modern Media Meditation Monday – NFP Song

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Welcome readers new and old! A musically Ignatian person, I often find God in pop songs. And ever since I first heard the lyrics to “Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy, I’ve thought them apt in describing marital love, particularly in connection to principles of Natural Family Planning. But hilariously, the words and the overall point I hope to get at “mess!” are in juxtaposition with this bright, shiny, happy picture used for the USCCB’s NFP Awareness Week 2017 campaign poster.*

“When you think of love do you think of pain?”

Seriously, do you? Now, I know I’m the first to think of Haddaway’s “What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me” as a musical answer to that question. BUT “hurt” is not necessarily the same as “pain.” Love, authentic love, as Christ calls husbands and wives to give to one another, automatically involves the pain of sacrifice. Christ’s pain and death on the cross is the ultimate act of sacrificial love, and is what we are called to imitate in our vocation.

I feel like this is such a good question for couples to ask themselves and to realize that the answer should be yes, sometimes. And I won’ sugarcoat it—using NFP to achieve or postpone pregnancy will involve the pain of sacrifice and little deaths to selves and one another. Now, lest I let these paragraphs scare anyone off the Church’s beautiful teaching or entice couples to throw prudence out the window so as to avoid pain, I will say that because the pain is born out of love, the source, this love and the love of God will be what makes the pain bearable—if we are open to it. And as you might infer from the chorus, my possible interpretation of the singer acknowledges this:

“Hold on, darling/This body is yours/This body is yours and mine/Well hold on, my darling/This mess was yours,/Now your mess is mine”

Hold on, husbands and wives. You have helpmates in one another. Husbands, your bodies are now your wives’, and hers are yours. Ever since Adam and Eve, when man and woman are married, they become one flesh. And part of our bodies is our fertility (or lack thereof). Our power (with the cooperation of God) to create life is an incredible gift. It’s also, frankly, a “mess.”

Sometimes men and women are super fertile in circumstances that seem “messy;” sometimes the “mess” is that couples realize they cannot get or remain pregnant. And even the practice of NFP methods for whatever intention are messy financially, emotionally, spiritually, or of course physically. But the point the Church wants us to understand is that with marriage, the “mess” is no longer our ow, but something we share, and something, if we authentically love the person, are willing to take on.

“You’re the reason that I feel so strong/The reason that I’m hanging on/You know you gave me all the time/Or did I give enough of mine?”

When we practice sacrificial love, we empty ourselves to fill up the other. And our spouses empty themselves to fill us up. As coworkers in the vineyard, equally yoked partners-in-vocation, we give each other strength when one is feeling weak. We also give each other gifts of time and love. And if being practiced, NFP methods can give married couples the opportunities to flex these relational muscles.

The question at the end of this verse is so on point. I love the realness of the singer’s introspection. It’s what we should do–reflect on our part–are we doing what we are called to? It’s the simplest form of discernment, and as anyone practicing NFP knows, family planning is basically discernment–together.

So if you’re dating, engaged, married for just a little or a long time, talk about saying yes to the mess–the beautiful, crazy mess that is your life, your fertility, and one you don’t have to clean up–or put up with alone.

 

 

 

*But I see you, USCCB! This poster to celebrate Awareness Week is very positive and appropriate.

My Sunday Best – NFP Week

Linking up with Rosie and the rest!

 

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Happy NFP Week! I don’t know why that of all things drags me out of blogging hiatus, but you never know what God places on your heart.

On me: A stretchy black and white polka dot dress that I’ve had for years and is a real workhorse of a dress. I think I found it at Second Time Around, a chain of consignment stores I know for sure are in New England. I wore it for 8 months during my pregnancy, but it still hangs nicely on my slowly shrinking postpartum body.

On Aslan: A Carter’s number with sailboats on the button-down shirt and navy shorts. Though I have told my husband we are are not allowing “dress” shorts that my father-in-law sports over the summer (seriously, and no, you actually don’t want to see them), for babies in car seats with poor ventilation, we’ll make an exception to the “boys wear pants and nice shirt to Mass” rule.

So this Sunday’s Gospel featured a couple of parables, and it is also the start of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. And I got inspired to draft this little parable about NFP–probably a stretch, but hey, maybe it will help with one of the biggest misunderstandings out there–“why NFP is not artificial contraception.” Nota bene: The concept of “wedding invitation” was featured in the Archdiocese of Boston’s Transformed in Love marriage prep program (published by Pauline Books and Media), and I am adapting/expanding what I remember. If you have any ways to improve it, please let me know!

There once was a wedding planner who had three couples seek his invitation designs and the rooms of his banquet hall. The first couple requested invitations for 100 guests. They expected about 80 to definitely make it and 10 to definitely reply “no,” but they happily requested the largest ballroom in case everyone could attend–and if any surprise guests showed up, too. The second couple requested invitations for 75 guests. They would have liked to invite 50 more, but knowing their budget and other concerns, they only sent the 75 invitations. They requested the medium ballroom. The third couple had the oddest request the planner had ever heard. They wanted the smallest ballroom, which seated only 50, but they were going to send 100 invitations out! “What shall you do if more guests reply yes?”  “Oh, we’re hiring a bouncer,” the groom said.  The planner replied: “One condition for having your wedding feast here is if you send an invitation out, you must welcome any guest who may come; blocking their entry is not an option.” The third couple went away, pondering what they should do.

 

 

 

 

Not So Shameless Promotion

Given the current conversation about the Vatican’s reaffirmation on Church teaching regarding wheat (thereby gluten) in the Eucharist, I thought I’d let you all know of a way to address the issue sensitively, especially for teens, as well as considerations young Catholics can make when they struggle with a faith concept they don’t understand. Humbly, here’s a link to my teen novel, Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean that portrays this “conflict” as well as many other important themes for teens like choices, chastity and Confirmation. It’s on super special, so I will hardly profit–it would just give me so much joy just to communicate the love of the Church and her loving teachings.

(But it would also be cool if 7th and 8th grade teachers, Catholic school librarians, and youth program directors considered getting a class set. Best discount to do so!)

My Book!

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My Sunday Best

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Two link ups in three days! Great to join you, Rosie and all!

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I wish we would have taken this picture before Mass, when it was sunny and fewer blooms were fully blown out. Oh well. My mind was a little scattered, as I’d just spent the fifteen minutes before heading out freaking out that a bug I smushed on my phone was a tick (there was blood on the tissue) and if a red mark on Aslan was a bite or the itchy spot on my thigh was not in fact a mole, but a head. I’m now much calmer. 😛

On me: Dress is from H&M about 3 years ago now. Shrug from Macy’s Everyday Value collection. The belt is ancient, so I no longer remember what outfit it originally went with. Shoes are from one of those outlet shoe stores; though pretty, sometimes awkwardly fitting.

On Aslan: Cat and Jack dress up outfit, sans the bowtie, which I lost before getting home from Target. When he wore this for Easter, I got a great matching (but huge!) one from Crazy 8’s.

Spiritual thoughts: I found it really interesting that the morning after watching the movie Silence we had a reading on sacrifice from 1 Peter and a homily on the shepherd sacrificing for the good of his sheep (meaning us and our flock).

Fr. Barron and Catholic film critic Steven Greydanus have thoughtful things to say about the movie, but in light of the reading and homily today, I’m reflecting on it even more.

Going by 1 Peter, we should follow Christ, and to do so, have no “deceit found in [our] mouths”–no “korobu,” the Japanese word for the apostasy Fr. Rodrigues and brother priest Fr. Garupe contemplates committing. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross so that we might live in righteousness, much as the Japanese martyrs did in the film.

BUT the key conflict in the film is the wretched moral choices offered to the priests: continue to proclaim the One True Faith and refuse to commit apostasy, but let innocents be tortured to death OR speak his “korobu” and save the lives of five people. It’s like the prisoner’s dilemma of Christian witness: 1. Do you trample on a holy image and allow the authorities to call the Christian faith dead (consequently hindering the spread of the Good News for a long, long time) for the price of your soul and saved lives of a few? OR  2. Do you refuse as a witness to the strength of your faith (“the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church) for the price of the authorities tarnishing the Christian faith (“See how cruel it is–you must let others die because you won’t take one ‘meaningless’ step or say one ‘simple’ word) and the price of the lives of innocents?

In our good and holy priest’s homily, he said that in our journey to become Christlike, we should be like shepherds to our flock (our family, our neighbors, etc.), and that means putting their welfare above all else. Silence begins with Fr. Rodgriues and Fr. Garupe traveling to Japan to see if it is true that their mentor has committed apostasy, which they learn was an action insidiously designed to trap priests. Was their beloved Fr. Ferreira being a good shepherd in renouncing Christ so that others may live? When another character makes a similar choice, what is in his heart after–does he truly believe that his lifelong work for the state is for the “good” of the people (they get to stay alive!). And what is the true good, anyway?

Silence is rather silent on these questions, unfortunately (but given it was fiction, the filmmakers totally had license to actually say something and make a point). And our priest was cornered for the entire donut social, so I couldn’t ask him about it. Maybe next time, when the drama from the pastoral planning announcement has died down. But that’s a whole other post for another time….

7QTF: While the Babe Naps

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Linking up for the first time in forever!

Sooo first there was a six week gap. And now there’s been a 4.5-MONTH gap. Here’s a brief rundown of things happening/what I’ve been thinking since Aslan now naps longer than 35 minutes at a time.

[1]

Aslan is 5+ months old and thriving. He’s going through growth spurt after growth spurt and just a bit smaller than a 10-month old in one of our play/mom groups.

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[2]

Writing has fallen so far on the wayside. A couple of weeks ago, PJ was primary-parent-on-duty so I could spend all day catching up on some writing work and meet friends for dinner. It was in lieu of spending all weekend at a conference when what I really needed aside from workshops about content was actual content. And one time Aslan napped well enough that a friend and I could have a writing date.

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With so little written since Aslan’s birth, there is even less to submit. I did get a chance to send a blog post to a mommy site. I got rejected, but hey, I tried!

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It’s funny how motherhood (especially staying-at-home) was everything I thought it would be like and also nothing like it at all. But during this near-6-month sabbatical I’ve discerned something. I need to work outside the home–and after a lot of mental anguish, I’m beyond caring what anyone thinks about that or providing justification. My reasons have to be only good for our family, not for any naysers. To whit, I have TWO job interviews this coming week. Please pray for me!

[5]

One unwritten (anywhere proper–it’s fully composed in my head) thing is a thinkpiece on Hulu’s adaptation of  The Handmaid’s Tale. Facebook friends couldn’t stop posting about it, so I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Anyone interested in reading “No Balm in this Gilead: Catholics and The Handmaid’s Tale” alternatively titled “Seriously, Mike Pence Would Never Let It Get This Far, So Stop Freaking Out, Ladies.” ?

Aaaand my brain power is shorting out, so how about a couple more baby pictures?

[6]

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Aslan was welcomed into the Church a little while ago. Gotta love that new Catholic smell. Shoot…this reminds me I was supposed to use nap time to write thank yous…

[7]

Pro tip: Boy Baptism outfits make great (and cost-effective!) bunny costumes. Just add ears.

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