Ink Slingers

Welcome Back One-piece

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This summer I am welcoming back the one-piece bathing suit. And you can too! It’s not about hiding stretch marks or feeling more confident than in a two-piece (because I do!). It’s about reclaiming modesty.

I think most of us women can reflect on our coming of age years and realize that we hit a certain point––we didn’t want to be “girls” anymore; we wanted to be “women.” We wanted to grow up already. We wanted to wear makeup, shave our legs, and wear two-piece bathing suits (which are essentially a bra and underwear, right?!). We didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. Without knowing it at the time, we were also rushing to give up our modesty and innocence.

I don’t know about you, but that rush into womanhood (as defined by culture) led me down a path away from God and from who I really wanted to be. The culture taught me that my identity as a woman and my beauty was on the outside. I lost respect for myself and for others and that was revealed in my dress–too tight, too revealing, too short. Turns out, this way of living was not fulfilling, nor life-giving.

I suppose this is a prodigal-daughter-like story because God sent a beautiful holy woman into my life to show me what is was like to be a real woman. You might have heard of her, Mother Mary? I came back from a pilgrimage to one of her shrines and my life was forever changed. I first and foremost learned the truth––my identity and beauty came from being a daughter of God and Christ living in me. This changed everything. I gained respect for myself and for others and within six months, I had a new wardrobe.

Mother Mary taught me that her beauty comes from the fact that she loves God with her whole heart. The more I strive to do the same, the more I recognize things in my life that obstruct my love for Him. She has taught me that we must be pure to enter the Kingdom of God. Modesty guards our purity. Our childlike innocence is what lets us see the angels who gaze on God. Mother Mary is the true and best example of womanhood. From her, we can learn everything God desires of us as women.

So back to the one-piece bathing suit. Having learned what I have in my journey and now as a mother of two girls, I feel the importance of this responsibility to show my daughters what true womanhood is. Yes, the culture is still going to tempt them with the rush into womanhood, with manicures at four years old and two-piece bathing suits at five years old, but we cannot underestimate that they still look up to their mothers!

I’m wearing a one-piece bathing suit for my almost three year old daughter. You might be thinking, “She’s three! She doesn’t notice!” but when we went to the beach this past weekend, do you know the first thing she said when she saw me? “Mommy, we match!” as she pointed to her one-piece suit. I smiled and thought to myself, that’s exactly why I’m wearing it. I never would have thought that wearing a one-piece could ever feel so good!

As my daughters get older and we live strive to live the faith, which is often counter-cultural, I hope they always know that I’m on their side fighting with them. That I’m always striving to be a woman like Mother Mary. That they can look up to me. That we match, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

Bible Communion Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth

Guarding our Hearts and Minds: We Become What We Think About

Since the time my children were little I have always told them that they will become the people they surround themselves with. This means that if they surround themselves with racists, they will begin to accept that ideology. If they surround themselves with people who think drug use is ok, they will begin to think this too. If they surround themselves with people who think God is not important, well, God will soon cease to be important in their lives as well. On the flip side, if they surround themselves with those who wish to serve God and others, they will see the good in doing so and will lead that life as well. If they surround themselves with people who see Christ’s face in the faces of all those they encounter, they too will see Christ clearly in those around them.

Of course, it’s not just our children who are vulnerable to this metamorphosis. If you are like me you may have been more likely to gossip, to swear, or to do any number of other undesirable {read sinful} activities when you are hanging out with people who engage in these activities. It’s easy to get sucked into behaviors we know are contrary to what our faith tells us is right and good.

But it’s not just surrounding ourselves with the wrong people that can change who we are and what we do. Sometimes it takes no one but ourselves to bring about a negative change in our lives; sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

What we allow to enter our minds can have a tremendous effect on our lives. Our thoughts shape our beliefs and our attitudes.

Have you ever had a day that was going good and then something went wrong and your mood immediately soured? As negative thoughts flooded your mind, what did that do to the rest of your day? Did you continue to focus on the bad and ignore the good that had happened to you? Did the negative thoughts fill your mind and push out any positive thoughts that might be trying to form? How did it affect the way you interacted with others? Were you more likely to engage in sinful behavior because of it?

What about other thoughts that might take over our minds? Christ taught that it wasn’t what we put into our bodies that defiles us but what comes out of us from our hearts which corrupts us… “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

We become what we think about.

When our minds are focused on God and on holiness, we become holy. But when our minds are preoccupied with the very things that can corrupt us- anger, fornication, deceit, gossip, envy, slander, pride- we become those things. We may not even see it happening to us; but it always will.

It is these sins which we allow to occupy our hearts and minds that ultimately lead us away from God. We absolutely become whom we surround ourselves with but only because we have allowed our hearts and minds to dwell on things that are not holy nor righteous and good.

How do we fight the battle that is being waged for our hearts and minds? First we must recognize sinful activity when we encounter it. Then we must separate ourselves from it even when separating means losing out on friends or things we otherwise enjoy. If we can look objectively at the issue and realize that the people we are encountering or the thoughts we are having or the activities we are engaging in are leading us further into negative thoughts and away from God, then we have made the first step in being able to conquer the problem.

I know that it is probably easier for someone like me who has an “I can see the silver lining in just about anything” kind of attitude to be able to turn my back on negative thoughts and to search out the good in all situations; however, it is a skill that is imperative for all of us to learn if we wish to be able to conquer our sinful thoughts. If we wish to become holy we must allow our thoughts to be holy.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Is it a tall order to think we can protect our minds and thus protect our hearts and ultimately our souls? In our sinful, broken world it can seem next to impossible. But whereas the world is broken and sinful, Christ is not. He gives us the strength and the wisdom to be able to live up to this calling. When we cling to Him and to His teachings the struggle gains purpose and we become strengthened. It’s not to say it will be easy to purge sinful thoughts and desires from our minds, but it is to say that Christ will always be there to help us.

When we are struggling to do what is right or if we begin to slip back into old, sinful habits, Christ asks us to call on Him. He has given us His Spirit to guide us and help us through; He has given us His body and blood in the Eucharist as true food to nourish us; He has given us the Sacrament of Penance for when we fail to live up to His calling; and He has given us His sacred Word to follow. He has given us all we need to change our hearts and minds.

We are what we think about.

What will you allow to occupy your heart and your mind? Who will you become?

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Phil 4:8