Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, March 1}

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Then from the cloud came a voice,
'This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.'"
Mark 9:7

This week we prepare for the Second Sunday of Lent with the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Can you imagine if you were at the Transfiguration?  With Jesus' clothes turning a brighter white than we can even imagine, seeing Moses and Elijah, and then God speaking... 

Sometimes I catch myself reading some of the events in the bible like a fairy tale rather than the most miraculous, shocking, and world-changing events that ever occurred.  I hope to convey the importance of examining and meditating on these events to my children in this week's family meeting, so that we may never be complacent or apathetic to all that Jesus did and continues to do for us.

My Journey in Faith: Making My Life Look More Like Christ

Thursday, February 19, 2015

“I want my life and my marriage to look less like the world and more like Christ.”  
- Marquis Clarke (What Matters Most in Marriage)

This is such a simple quote, but I love it because it really speaks to my life. I have lived both a life that looks like the world and am now trying to live one that looks more like Christ.  And I have seen the glaring difference between them.  
I grew up as a cradle Catholic and my family went to church every Sunday. I received the sacraments, I went to CCD every week, and went on retreats.  But throughout my youth, in college, and into my early twenties, God was neatly compartmentalized in my life. He was for Sunday mornings (sometimes), and when I needed help, I threw up a prayer to Him (you know after crying about it or trying to solve it myself).  I didn't really consider God in my day-to-day life.  My life “looked like this world”.  

I had bought into what our culture sells that as women we should be attractive and stylish, have nice things, and be adored by others.  And I had to be perfect at everything, or I wasn't good enough -- sports, school, my personality, everything.  I saw my worth in what people thought of me.  I tried every beauty product, buying new clothes, different workout routines.  I was constantly trying to be prettier.  I remember thinking, I will feel and look good if my hair is more blond.  So at 22 on a whim, I bought some do-it-yourself blond hair dye, went back to my apartment and had my roommate bleach my hair.  You can probably guess how that turned out….  But even after the emergency hair appointment to fix it and my hair was looking pretty good, I still did not feel good enough.   I was trying to find fulfillment in the things of this world.  

I was generally happy, but not content.  I was successful, but not fulfilled.

Shortly before the hair bleaching incident, I got engaged to my now husband, Matt.  Both being Catholic, we were drawn to being married in the Church and so we had to take marriage preparation classes.  The program was led by a priest and 6 lead couples.  Each week there was a new topic, like communication, the marriage vows, attentiveness, sexuality, finances.  And each week, no matter the topic, there was a clear message: put God at the center.  

At first this sounded a little impractical.  You know, I was looking for easy answers on how to be happily married and they’re telling me the answer is to change the whole way I live my life.  But these couples were so joyful and passionate and they seemed to have exactly what we were looking for in marriage.  And that was their big word of advice:  Put God first.

It was then that Matt and I started growing in our relationship with God. -- It was nothing momentous but it was the beginning of my spiritual conversion.

We started with attending weekly mass and praying more regularly.  

We started praying together, which was a suggestion from the married couples, and hearing Matt’s innermost thoughts, worries, and dreams helped me grow closer to him and put God at the center of our marriage.

I bought a Women’s Devotional bible and eventually we joined a small group bible study.  I was learning about God through scripture and the Church’s teaching, and I was started to realize how much I had been missing.  I began to understand God’s love for me, that I wished I had known all along.  I prayed my first rosary.  I went back to confession for the first time in about fifteen years, which was scary but so worth it.  I started filtering out the music and TV shows and pop culture influences that were leading me away from God.  Slowly but surely, I started to see the fruits.  Life was starting to look more like Christ.

Our  marriage was stronger and much happier.  I was becoming less self-centered, which made me a better wife and a better person.  

Now up to a certain point in our marriage, Matt and I were still resistant to the church’s teaching on contraception.  But we were having issues that stemmed from using contraception and following the world’s teaching on sex.   It seemed like God was telling us to trust Him and start using Natural Family Planning.  Both Matt and I will tell you that this change transformed our marriage in ways we never would have dreamed. (Maybe that's for a future post...)

Shortly after becoming pregnant with our first daughter, I developed severe morning sickness.  For those of you have had this, you know how debilitating it is.  My two pregnancies were the hardest times of my life, and it was through prayer and trying to offer up my suffering that I got through it.

After we had a few years of marriage under our belts, we got involved in the same marriage prep program that we had gone through, only this time as a lead couple.  Getting involved in our parish helped us grow in our faith tremendously and we made lifelong friends with others who share our values.  

So when we moved to our new home and joined our new church last year, we knew that to continue growing in our faith, we needed to become a part of parish life.  On our second time coming to mass, I was invited to join a women’s bible study group starting up called Walking With Purpose.  It was exactly what I needed, and I certainly don't believe it in coincidences.  Being a part of a program that brings women together to learn about our faith has been such an incredible blessing for me. And my family. And pretty much anyone who has to interact with me.  It helps keep me focused, learning, praying, and building relationships with other women on the same path.  It’s through studying God's word that I finally understood that my dignity and worth rests in simply being a daughter of God.  

I have seen firsthand the truth in what Jesus says in John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

Looking back it’s these small steps of pushing away worldly things and bringing God closer that have led to enormous changes in my life -- I feel an inner peace that comes from knowing God’s love and forgiveness, no matter what I have done in the past.  He has given me greater clarity and I feel driven to do His will each day.  

I know that I still have a long way to go in becoming like Christ, but I have seen how seemingly small changes can have a big impact.

Lent is the perfect time to reduce the many worldly distractions and focus on growing in our relationship with Christ. He is inviting us. All we have to do is accept His invitation. And remember, we are all on our own faith journeys. Don't ever be discouraged.

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, February 22}

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent has officially begun, and there is no better time than now to put God at the center of our lives.  My goal is to do my best to avoid distractions and spend more time in prayer and doing the things that will prepare my heart and soul for Easter.  If you haven't already, see what you and your family can do to make this a fruitful Lenten season.  

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, February 15}

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This week's gospel continues the telling of Jesus' healings, this time of the leper.  

Too often, I take for granted that Jesus healed people, probably because I rarely imagine what the actual event would have been like.  But if I place myself in that time and place, where lepers were outcasts with no hope, I can begin to imagine how miraculous it would have been to see not only Jesus heal the leper, but also to touch him.  What a shocking and compassionate thing to do.  

I have to be sure that I do not grow complacent with stories of Jesus' healings and miracles.  I should never lose the amazement and shock that are warranted by what Jesus did and who Jesus was and still is.  This is what I want my children to gain and keep with them, so that's what I'm hoping to impart on them with this week's Catholic Family Meeting.

Catholic Family Meeting {Prep for Sunday, February 8}

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This week's gospel reading tells the story of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law.  He goes on to heal others afflicted with illness or demonic possessions, and then retreats to the desert to pray before continuing his ministry throughout the whole of Galilee.

A big focus of our Catholic Family Meeting this week is on Jesus taking time to pray.  This is another example of Jesus relying on prayer to carry out his role on earth.  

If Jesus couldn't do God's will on earth without prayer, then why do we often think we can? 

I am working on building my own prayer life by scheduling it into each day and taking that time when the idea enters into my mind.  That is God inviting me to talk with Him.  I can either answer his call or ignore Him.  

During our family meeting, I want to discuss prayer with my children and talk about how my husband and I pray by ourselves.  Sure they hear us pray together as a family everyday, but the only way for them to know how to pray on their own is to be taught ways to do so.  

I hope to save them a lot of trouble later in life by helping to guide them now. :)