I want to be like Mary, forgo my own plan, and follow God's plan instead

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I love when God times something so perfectly that it becomes uber obvious and a wonderful teaching point just slaps me in the face (a gentle God-slap, of course).  

This past week was the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (AKA when Mary said "yes" to God's will and became the mother of Jesus Christ).  This happened to coincide with my weekly bible study group's study of Mary.  (Walking With Purpose.  Woot woot!)  And so you could say I've got our Blessed Mother on the brain, and it made me think about how I want to be like her.

In Luke 1:38, Mary responds to the Angel Gabriel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word." 

Photo: Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord! Celebrate with this NEW desktop wallpaper!

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

(Mobile wallpaper and cover photo versions available at
Cassie Pease Designs
Mary, a betrothed virgin, accepted God's will as her own, despite the very serious challenges that it would cause in her life, with her future husband, her family, and her community.  I'm sure like all of us, she had many plans for her future, none of which included raising the Son of God as her own and later watching him be put to death.  But Mary is eternally faithful and put her trust in the Lord, knowing that He knows best.

So this made me think of my own journey in faith and my need to focus on God's will.

I spent my teenage years trying to be perfect.  I thought, "If I have perfect hair and perfect clothes, if I'm a perfect athlete and student, if I'm perfectly kind and funny, if I'm perfect, people will love me and I'll be happy."  As an adult, I've often bought into our culture's ideals of being the perfect woman and having the perfect house, the perfect family, and the perfect stuff.   

Surprise!  None of that made me content with life, and striving for worldly perfection just left me feeling even more flawed.  Sure I was happy most of the time and I have loved my life, but I still felt like I was missing something vitally important.   

I've heard it explained that we all have a God-shaped hole.  There's even a song about it.  We try to fill that hole with different things:  money, relationships with people, careers, sex, material goods, traveling, you name it.  But the only thing that can fill the God-shaped hole is....(ding ding.  I'm sure you got it!) God!

All this time, I never asked what God's plan was for me.  I was living for myself and my will.  It has taken several years of growing my faith to get to a point where I'm wholeheartedly seeking to do God's will.  Only when I started to focus on doing what God wants, did I find the peace and joy that I had been searching for.

But of course, this is no easy task.  I can be selfish, impatient, sarcastic, and temperamental, among other things.  (I sound like a doll, don't I?)  I'm a sinner, and I will never be perfect.  But I strive to be holy, and I know that I will not achieve that by pursuing worldly pleasures: driving the perfect car, having the perfect house, the perfect hair, or the perfect children.  (Although, God, I think having awesome hair would sure help me evangelize ;). I will only grow holier by striving to discern and do God's will, and trusting that He will give me everything I need.  
I want to be like Mary, forgo my own plan, and follow God's plan instead.  

However, I know that God's plan will challenge me to do things that I won't want to do, will make me uncomfortable and will require patience and persistence, of which I don't think I'm capable.  But 

Many who know me well, know that I am an anxious person, and I grew up terribly shy to the point that the only way to get me to speak in public or assert an opinion in a group was to make it a requirement or part of a grade.  I hid from my own 5th birthday party.  I quit basketball before my junior year because being 1 person on a 5 person team put too many eyes on me.  I needed at least 11 or 12 teammates to blend in.  And I was so excited when my wedding was over, not just because I was married (yay!) but because I would never have to be the center of attention like that ever again. (double yay!)

Now, here I am trying to shove my ideas down your throat share my faith and thoughts with anyone who will read them.  I am not a good writer (as I'm sure you've noticed) and it makes me nervous each time I click publish on a post.  But I feel called by God to share in any avenue He gives me, and I pray each day that I will slow down enough to listen to Him and let Him guide me in my actions and words.  This is merely one small example of how I have seen God working in my life.  

Once I started focusing on God's plan for my life, I began noticing the many ways that He is working on my concerns, desires, struggles, and strengths in a way that I could never understand, but that make perfect sense when they come to fruition.  He gives me everything I need to follow His plan, as long as I am open it.

I want to start each day asking God for guidance in doing His will in my life.  I love this prayer from the Walking With Purpose 101 book, Choosing the Better Part by Lisa Brenninkmeyer: 

"Lord, please help me recognize when You are interrupting my plans with Your own.  
Help me to yield to You this day instead of clinging to my own agenda.  
Help me to follow You with a generous heart."

I know that I will fail, as I have many times before.  Many.  Including today.  But fortunately I no longer live my life afraid of making mistakes.  I know that God will forgive me, and the only thing I need to worry about is always striving to know Him, love Him, and do His will.  He will take care of the rest.

P.S. - Mary rocks.

A Simple St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick's Day will be here in just a few days, and I admit I'm a bit overwhelmed with what to do and how to celebrate this special day with the kids.  So I set out to find some ideas for celebrating a simple St. Patrick's Day and keep the focus on the real reason behind the holiday:  St. Patrick!

from Happy Saints

About St. Patrick

St. Patrick is one of the most well-known saints, as his feast day is celebrated on March 17 throughout the world.  He pretty much single-handedly converted all of Ireland to Christianity, making him the patron saint of Ireland.  Green and shamrocks are important symbols of St. Patrick's day because Patrick used the green shamrock to explain the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He's kind of a big deal.  

You can find in-depth information about St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, here.  I also love this explanation of St. Patrick from Happy Home Fairy and her poem, "The Trinity":

Here is a fun Saint Patrick's Day Song for the kids that also tells a bit about St. Patrick and other traditions of the holiday.

Easy Crafts and Activities

St. Patrick's Coloring Pages
Catholic Inspired

printable trinity craft for kids
Printable Trinity Craft
Catholic Icing
If you don't want to paint, you could also just color in a shamrock with crayons or cut one out of green construction paper.

Texture Collage Shamrock
No Time for Flashcards
I love this idea because you can use whatever random green items you have around your house!

Easy St. Patrick's Day Foods

green food ideas
Lucky Charms and Green Milk
Thoughtfully Simple
Who doesn't love an excuse to buy Lucky Charms?!  And dying green milk can be as simple as using green food coloring or green jello mix.

Fruit Rainbow
Saucy Mommy
Love how easy and healthy this one is.  And you can talk about the rainbow as a symbol of God's promise from the story of Noah's Ark.

Shamrock Pizza
Make the Best of Everything
I don't think dinner gets any easier than frozen pizza with some cut up spinach.  Another idea is to just put other green veggies on the pizza.

Looking for even easier food?

Two words, green and shamrock.

Pretty much anything green and/or cut into the shape of a shamrock goes for St. Patrick's Day.  

Green grapes, green peppers, salad, spinach wraps, whatever you have on-hand make it easy to have St. Patrick's Day food. 

Or just use some green food coloring to make some staples, like pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or rice crispy treats green.  (Rice crispy treats are a staple, right?)

Shamrock Rice Crispy Treats
Simply Designing
St. Patrick's Day Pancakes
Green pancakes
She Knows
See?!  I know my little ones will go nuts for even just regular foods that are green.

Oh and here's a fun, free printable Irish blessing for some St. Patrick's Day decor:  

irish blessing chalk printable
Free Printable Irish Blessing
Sweet C Designs
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Lenten Planner for Adults

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If you saw my post last week, Preparing for Lent With Kids, you may have seen this Lent planner designed for children ages 4 and up:

Lenten Planner for Kids
Click to print
After using it to plan Lent for Grace, my 4 year old, I decided that I liked it so much, I would make one for myself!  I actually prefer a checklist, so I made a modified one for adults, below.  I'm hoping that writing down my plans will help me stick to them!

If you would rather write in all your ideas, here is a blank Lenten plan:


I hope you and your family are grower closer to God this Lenten season.


Preparing for Lent with Kids

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent is actually one of my favorite parts of the year.  It sounds strange because we often think of Lent as a time of discomfort and sacrifice, as we give up vices and fast.  But I find Lent to be a great time to refocus my life on the Lord and become holier. 

Catholic Culture has this very informative Lenten Workshop, with links to information, activities, and prayers. 

As the girls are still so young, I haven't included them in many Lenten practices in the past.  But this year I want to start some traditions for our family that emphasize the importance of these 40 days before the joy and celebration of Easter.  

Lenten Calendar

Printable Lent Calendar
Catholic Icing
We used this printable Lent calendar from Catholic Icing last year, and it was a great way for Grace, who was 3, to track the 40 days and special feast days, like Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, etc.  All you have to do is print it out.  Pretty easy!  There is also this one from Holy Family Classical Academy.

Below are some other ideas for including kids in practicing Lent.  They are organized under the 6 principle works of Lent.

Principle Works of Lent

1.  Fasting

Children aren't obligated to fast during Lent, but they can fast in very minimal ways.  For example, they could give up special treats or drinks or not have dessert.  They could also focus on not complaining about meals.  This is one that Grace could definitely try!

2.  Prayer

Lenten Prayer Chain
Reasons to Praise God
As a family, we have prayer time before meals and bedtime, but Lent is a good time to add to those traditions.  We can add special Lenten intentions during our nightly prayers. 

Another idea, that I'm sure my kids will love, is to create a Lenten prayer chain, like the one to the right.  Simply cut out 40 strips and write a person to pray for on each one.  Then, staple into a circle and create a chain.  Each day, take off one link and say a special prayer for that person.  Mary from Reasons to Praise God also adds an Our Father and a Hail Mary for each petition.  Such a great idea!

As I was making our Lenten chain, I created this header using graphics from We Lived Happily Ever After.  

 CLICK HERE to print the 40 Days of Lent chain header.

Part of my own Lenten plan is to pray a rosary everyday.  Grace can pray the rosary with me using her own children's rosary, and it can be beneficial for the toddlers to hear prayers, even if they can't say them just yet. 

3.  Almsgiving

Almsgiving means charity, or giving of our money, time, or goods to others.  

As a family, we are starting an Almsgiving box to collect food, household items, toys, etc. to donate.  

As Pope Francis said in his Lenten message, "I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."  That means not just donating food we don't like or old happy meal toys.  Our acts of charity should require sacrifice and be a challenge.  

We also have a jar to save money as a family for a special charity.  If you want to do the same, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, and Heifer International are a few of my favorites.

If you'd like to print and use my Lenten Almsgiving labels, just click below:

Small label (for jars)
Large label (for boxes)

4.  Good Works

Good works can include charity, like helping someone or doing a good deed.  According to Catholic Culture, it also involves doing our regular duties to the best of our abilities.  As a mother, that means striving to be patient and calm with the children, and going about housework with a positive attitude, serving God through serving my family. 

For the children, this could mean not complaining, doing chores without being asked, or being kind to siblings.  It would probably be good for them to focus on just one, so that this does not become overwhelming.  

5.  Education

What better time than Lent to learn more about our faith?    
Lenten Adventure
Holy Heroes

We plan on reading bible stories from the Gospel that will culminate with Jesus' death and resurrection on Good Friday and Easter.  

Another fun, easy way for kids to learn during Lent is through Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure.  It is free!  All you have to do is sign up with your email, and you will receive 3 emails each week that provide activities and learning for each day of Lent.  I'm excited to try it this year. 

6.  Self-denial

Giving up something can test us, but it should also help purify our soul.  Keeping this in mind helps me stick to it, and get back on board if I happen to falter. 

For kids, self-denial could mean putting away a favorite toy for the period of Lent.  It could also be limiting or eliminating TV, video games, or time on the tablet or computer.  Kids could also choose to give up desserts or treats.  

It might be easier to hold everyone accountable by displaying their sacrifices, like the Lenten Sacrifice Garland below by Karen's Adventures in Mommyland.

Lenten Sacrifice Garland
Karen's Adventures in Mommyland

I always find it easier to stick to a plan if I write it down.  If you'd like to use the printable Lenten Plan worksheet I created

Have a peaceful and fruitful Lenten season!