A season of preparation, and finally, Easter

The past few seasons have been like a whirlwind. I got married and had a baby in the same week. My in-laws stayed with us for an extended visit to help after James was born. Lent started, we worked on getting the house cleaned and organized. My country focused on who would be the next president. My toddler adjusted (or is adjusting?) to life with her new brother. I am adjusting to being a new wife. I had my first hours, days, and weeks as a stay at home mother of two.

And through it all, I’ve had these feelings, these unshakeable intuitions. I didn’t want to talk about them at first, because… well, I felt like they were whisperings of the Holy Spirit and that those precious, mystical intuitions were something to keep hush about. And not just because people would look at me like I’m crazy if I went around talking about how God was nudging me.

holy spirit catholic lent easter christian faith testimony oh the simple joys God is good

So starting this winter I had this intuition, this whisper inside me saying: prepare. I didn’t know what I was preparing for. I tried to prepare mentally, spiritually, and outwardly. I tried to live simply and minimize my life, get organized, donate old clothes. Change can be big and scary, but since I had this gentle and comforting warning, I felt at peace with whatever Big Change might come next. I wondered what it might be. I didn’t take myself too seriously, because you never know how reliable these kinds of intuitions are. But it felt reliable. So I watched, I waited. It was Lent, so I prayed and I spent less time on social media and more time with my children.

On the eve of the terrorist attack in Belgium, I had a nightmare. I don’t remember the details but I knew it was big and bad and that everything would change and my nightmare gave me the day: Easter Sunday. I woke up sort of skeptically terrified. I knew that it was just a dream. But I feared there would be a huge terrorist attack, or that a loved one would die, or that something would happen to me or Bodie or my children. Have you ever had a dream like that? Where you know that it’s just a dream and yet you can’t shake the feeling of, “What if it isn’t”?

So, I tried not to obsess. I stared at my babies beautiful faces more and spent even less time on the internet. I cried and I prayed. (Postpartum hormones anyone?) I told myself, it is just a dream. After a day or two I moved on and worried about it less often. Then I read this article and realized: these feelings and intuitions are about this liturgical season. My children weren’t going to die, Jesus was.

No giant worldly change was coming. It hit me like a ton of bricks, Lent is supposed to be a season of spiritual preparation. Good Friday is supposed to be big and horrible and tragic and devastating. My heart broke for Mary, who must have known what was coming for her son. Who had to watch her baby be strung up and crucified and ridiculed and tortured and killed. But then I was filled with the peace and joy of the resurrection, of Easter Sunday coming, and because of this, we are safe. Saved.

Realizing this all made me think wow, is this some kind of liturgical seasonal affective disorder? Some bad postpartum anxiety? But I think not. It isn’t a disorder, it’s a blessing. It is something that I’ve prayed for — to be closer to Jesus and experience his experiences, even those that are painful.

God is good, and when we pray to be close to Him, he draws us near in unexpected ways.

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Trouble praying? Prayer journaling, a book review + giveaway!

Disclaimer: Family Christian provided me with a copy of “Praying the Bible” for review, and they are providing one to the giveaway winner (see below).This review and all the thoughts and opinions contained in it are honest and my own. This post contains Family Christian Affiliate Links. 

In his most recent book “Praying The Bible”, Donald S. Whitney, offers readers a method of prayer that draws from the bible, particularly the psalms to pray through the regular concerns, thanksgivings, and petitions we have each day. Though I was a little unsure at first, (perhaps because we are different denominations), I found the book very clear, and his method was very fulfilling.

praying the bible review donald don s whitney s. how to pray prayer christian faith catholic biblical oh the simple joys

Whitney is a professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Whitney talks like a pastor, but his speech is clear. You don’t have to have a deep understanding of theology to read his book — he writes at a level that is easy for all to understand and so for some, this will be an easy read. That’s okay though, the whole point is to get you praying the method right? And his method was one that I enjoyed very much.

Though I’m not terribly familiar with the concept of prayer in other denominations, I believe that most Christian faiths including Catholics would find that this method of prayer fits in with their beliefs. In fact, since you have to choose part of the bible to pray over, Catholics (or others) could even use the daily reading, especially the responsorial psalm, as the chosen passage to pray through.

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Why I remain a Catholic – Michelle from Oh The Simple Joys

A recent pew report showed that the number of people who call themselves Catholic is decreasing, and so Elizabeth Scalia of Patheos challenged all Catholic writers and bloggers to tell the world: why do YOU remain a Catholic? I love challenges like this, and a lot of you have been asking me about my faith recently so I thought that this would be a great way to let you into my little world of faith.

Here’s why I remain a Catholic:

I just got here

Yep, I’m a convert! I was born to a Presbyterian father and a Jewish mother, and grew up in a household with two faiths. (In fact we still celebrate many Jewish holidays, or incorporate aspects of that culture into our lives. Our Easter table had kugel on it, our Christmas tree always gets a Star of David ornament.)

So Jewish and Protestant roots, then I went to a Quaker high school. In college, I searched and searched, and finally found my faith. I took classes for over a year, learned all that I could, and was finally baptized, confirmed, and had my first Holy Communion three years ago in 2012. Though I’m out of that first little “honeymoon phase”, I still feel new and excited about my faith, and I have a ton more to learn.

christmas menorah red and green chanukah oh the simple joys catholic jew religion faith
Tacky? Perhaps, but I love our red and green menorah, and the ways we honored (and blended) our Jewish and Christian heritage.
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Keep kids in church: my case against “Cry Rooms”

keep children in church not the cry room or religious ed to build faith

Let me paint you a picture of church with my toddler. It’s usually just the two of us. Here’s how today went:

Miriam thinks the kneeler is a balance beam. Okay, I can handle that. Whoops, elbow’s getting too close to the the people in front of us who are kinda rustling like “what just touched me?” Time for a new game. Try to escape the pew! Testing the limits of how far I’ll let her go… out of the pew? One step? Up the aisle? No? Okay, after stomping and grumping, time to meet and explore the people next to us. I don’t want Miriam to distract them from worshipping so I pull her back into my lap. Ah, nice. For five seconds, then it’s onto exploring the people behind us! And now they are kneeling so their faces are REALLY CLOSE, HI!!! And so on, and so forth. It is HARD.

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Vocational discernment, in baby steps

Recently I had 6-7 inches of my hair cut off. Woohoo! Freedom! No more miserable blocks of time spent brushing out tangles, no more scraggly Michelle, no more worrying that somehow my hair will get wrapped around my baby’s neck while we sleep next to each other. Also, no more wondering whether I want to be a nun. Weird right, from a haircut? But seriously. Vocation affirmed.

In the Catholic faith we talk a lot about ones “vocation”, which is a word that means one’s “calling” in life. When I think of vocation I think of two aspects; one’s career, and whether one has chosen to pursue the life of a layperson or the life of a priest/nun/monk.

Until today, I’m not even really sure that I was aware that I had chosen not to pursue religious life. When I was pregnant with Miriam, I remember thinking, “I guess I won’t ever be a nun… nuns don’t have children.” I kept thinking of St. Rita, who did have a husband and children, and THEN became a nun afterwards. It was never really something that I seriously considered or explored as a possibility, but it was always in the back of my mind.

Letting go of the thought of being a nun means another step in embracing my life as a partner and a mother. I don’t see it as something to be regretful about, but as me stepping in a direction more in line with God’s path for me. For every weak branch that we trim, our trunk, our true calling, is affirmed and strengthened. I’m happy with this decision, and am happy to have discerned another aspect of my vocation!

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