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Ink Slingers Lynette

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's ResolutionsThe days of December marched on, steadfastly moving forward, boldly proclaiming the finality of another year. Even before the day after Christmas had completely dawned, I could feel the annual ritual beginning to stir. I secretly braced myself for the onslaught of questioning that would soon be the unavoidable focus of conversation for several weeks to come. Only hours into my day, my unsuspecting friend with great enthusiasm quipped, “So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” I smiled and politely responded, “I’m not sure yet,” all the while fighting the urge to launch into a long verbal dissertation on my utter disdain for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I chose to excuse her well-intentioned question and listened with sincere interest as she eagerly told me of her plans for the coming year.

The Rub with New Year’s Resolutions

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t make resolutions. I think resolutions to act or not act in a certain way are essential to our growth as individuals. But I also believe our approach is grossly misguided when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. I can’t provide any empirical evidence to confirm that belief, but my own experience and observations have led me to question our obsessiveness with this somewhat futile endeavor. For many years, I blindly followed society’s New Year’s insanity without a thought to what I was really doing. I’d conjure up the perfect resolutions and start out on January 1st with vim and vigor, only to fizzle out within weeks. Observations of those around me confirmed the same behavior. And it wasn’t just a behavior change; a significant amount of money was being spent by myself and other individuals trying to achieve these self-imposed feats of willpower and endurance. The question that began to weigh on my mind was twofold: why do we subject ourselves to such torture every year and why do we fail so miserably at staying the course?  

The answers, I feel, are not as complicated as one might assume. Human behavior can be quite complex, but when we view our behavior in light of how and why we were created, the reasoning behind our actions becomes much more clear. I don’t think anyone will argue the fact that it is built into our human nature to strive to improve who we are as individuals. Just look around and the evidence is clear; self-help books and motivational talks, exercise programs and equipment, classes on virtually any topic you want to become more proficient at, etc. At the core of that desire to improve is our God-given call to holiness. Scripture is replete with verses confirming we are to seek holiness above all things: “Be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16); “For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7); “…offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,..” (Romans 12:1), to name a few. Denying this innate call only serves to undermine our ability to grow to our fullest potential as individuals, for we were created to be images of our Creator Himself.

Our failures to achieve that which we set out to do with such resolve at the onset of a New Year are found, I believe, within that very same calling. Perfection is found only in God, and therefore only God is capable of bringing anything to perfection. As New Year’s Day crept closer and closer, I found myself resisting, even more, the nagging insistence to jump on that bandwagon of resolutions. The stark reality was that change was needed, and not just small, insignificant change. For months, I had known what those changes were, but I also knew, from previous attempts, that those changes were next to impossible for me to implement. It was exactly that mindset, however, that these were changes “I” needed to bring about, that had driven me to failure every time.

New Year's Resolutions“Take Over, Lover of my Soul
Take Control
I surrender, There’s nothing I want more
Than to know you, LordWhat am I supposed to do with all my kingdoms next to you
You’re the Lord, You’re the Lord
I could gain the world and more
It’s all nothing next to you
My reward..”
(Take Over, Shane & Shane)

I was scrambling to get ready to leave for an appointment, but as the music and the words of this unfamiliar song filled my room, I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed, stunned. Those things I needed to change – those “kingdoms” I had so carefully built with stones of selfishness, pride, and vanity, were nothing. Like a queen desperately trying to defend her king in a losing game of chess, there comes a time when she realizes she is left powerless to protect him. She surrenders, and a new king reigns victorious. At that moment, who did I desire as my king? How many more battles I willing to engage in to try to protect those kingdoms? I let my heart answer; there was only one King I truly desired, the one whose kingdom I knew was everything, and I was done fighting.

Inevitable Surrender

I surrendered that morning. I laid down my weapons and simply asked Him to take over. New Year’s Day came and went and I didn’t make a single resolution. God was already quietly working on my heart in the shadows, stripping me of my kingdoms, one by one. Some I freely let go of, others were taken from me. But through it all, I would play that song and let the words become my prayer. And then, I would surrender again, and again, and again.

The process has not been easy, nor has it been painless. What worthwhile change ever is? I am still a work in progress, but He has accomplished more in me in the last month than I could ever have hoped to achieve on my own. As long as I “show up” everyday willing to answer the call to pursue holiness, He will continue to bring about that perfection in me with His grace and mercy. “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.” (Phil 4:13)

The world doesn’t need our New Year’s resolutions, it needs our surrender. A surrender to all those kingdoms that make us less than who we are called to be; beloved kings and queens in the eternal kingdom of our Lord.

How are you surrendering to our Lord this year?
Categories
Advent Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle Spiritual Growth

Random Acts of Kindness: An Advent Gift

advent candles 1

 

With Advent right around the corner and Christmas to follow afterward, Catholics everywhere are getting ready for the upcoming holidays. Both here and on the Catholic Sistas’ fan page we have challenged you to prepare for Christmas ahead of time, even helping you by providing a countdown and list of “things to do” week by week so that you can enjoy your upcoming Advent season without stressing about the Christmas season.

Hopefully with your Christmas shopping under wraps early, you can begin to plan how you will enjoy and celebrate your Advent season.

Last week Christi gave us a wonderful Quick Take 7 regarding activities we can do with our families to help make our Advent celebrations holy, memorable, and special. It’s important that we actually take the time out of our busy schedules to truly enjoy Advent.

Advent is the beginning of our new liturgical year. In Latin the word Advent means “coming”. We are encouraged to focus our hearts and minds on the upcoming birth of Christ as well as His second coming at the end of times. We should not only prepare our families, but we should also look to prepare ourselves for this beautiful season in the Church year.

One way to prepare our hearts and minds is to begin to think of others instead of ourselves. I would like propose an Advent challenge to each of you. This Advent I pray you will seek to perform random acts of kindness for those you encounter. What better way is there to prepare a place in your heart for Christ than by allowing Christ’s light to shine through all you say and do?

I have compiled a list of some random acts of kindness you might think about incorporating into your day, but I would love to hear your ideas as well!

Each day vow to make at least one person’s day better through a random act of kindness. Perhaps you are able to do more; if so, I challenge you to extend your kindness to as many people as you can. Imagine the joy you can spread by performing simple acts of kindness for others!

You can:

  • Pay for the person behind you in a coffee shop or drive thru
  • Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while to reconnect with them
  • Offer to babysit for a harried mom or dad (for free!)
  • Leave a small gift for a stranger in a random place
  • Leave a small note of appreciation to someone who could use a pick me up
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line
  • Give a homeless person a food and/or gift card to a restaurant
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter
  • Send a card or flowers to someone you know is going through a hard time
  • Tape coins to a vending machine with a note saying “Enjoy a treat on me!”
  • Visit someone who is homebound; make them a meal to share together
  • Leave kind notes on people’s windshields reminding them that they are special
  • Hand write a thank you note to someone who has done something kind for you
  • Donate blood
  • Write a Christmas card to a soldier
  • Send a Christmas box of goodies to a soldier
  • Choose to smile at everyone you encounter and say hello
  • Write a letter to someone who has greatly impacted your life
  • Bring a homemade baked good for your office or class
  • Offer to help an elderly neighbor
  • Leave your mail carrier a surprise treat in your mailbox
  • Call a store or restaurant where you have received good service and brag to the manager about the person who helped you
  • Instead of getting defensive or angry in a situation, remain calm and compassionate instead
  • Donate your used books, clothes, or household items to your local library, shelter, or emergency center
  • Give blankets, coats, and socks to the homeless
  • Offer your prayers for those you know are in need of them
  • Forgive someone who has hurt you even if they have not asked for your forgiveness

What other random acts of kindness could we perform to help others see Christ’s light and love shining through us during this upcoming Advent season? How can we further prepare our hearts and minds to receive the Christ child?

My friends, I pray that your Advent season will be full of joyful anticipation and small acts of loving kindness which will focus your heart and mind on Christ’s coming.

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle

Come Holy Spirit

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been riding in my car, walking in a store, talking to a friend, watching TV, looking at Facebook, or even just reading a book and been struck with an idea for a post for Catholic Sistas.  There isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t say to myself, “I should write about that!”  Unfortunately, life gets in the way and I often forget what it was I wanted to write about.  There have been times I have sent myself a text with a single word or a few words as potential reminders, I’ve written notes on receipts scavenged from my purse, and I’ve even told my kids, “Don’t let me forget this!”  Still, most of the time those amazing stories get away from me. There have been times that I am left wondering what God wants me to share this time.

Thankfully I have a secret weapon… the Holy Spirit!  Whenever I am going to write a story or an article I pray for God to guide me and the words I will share.  I want His words to echo through my fingers as I type.  I ask that God send his Holy Spirit to me to show me what it is that needs to be said.  I’m sure there are many times that I bungle what it is He is trying to get me to share, but I try my best to allow His words to shine through.

So why is it that I am sharing this with you?  I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and how with the advent of the internet we have seen a rise in people just saying whatever it is that is on their minds without regard to other people’s feelings.  There seems to be a decline in manners and how we treat others.  Perhaps in “real life” we wouldn’t be so bold as to say some of the things that we say online.   The anonymity of the internet allows us to stand up for what we believe in but it also can lead to acting in an unkind or perhaps hateful manner.  I have seen this so often when people argue over hot button issues like abortion, same sex marriage, the scandals within the Church,  immigration, or gun laws to name a few.

When engaging in discussions on any topic, as Christians, we are called to be respectful of each other.  One of the best ways to remain respectful is to ask God to send His Holy Spirit to guide our words, both in speech and in type.  I have often seen people make comments like, “Wow, that’s so very Christian of you.”  Or “Aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?”  What we say and how we say it helps others either see us as Christians or makes them question if we truly are Christ’s disciples.   Shouldn’t our actions and words be a reflection of Christ in our lives?  We can speak the Truth with dignity, respect and love.  We only need to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide all that we say and do.  Of course we can ask for His help but we also have to accept the guidance that He sends us.  Sometimes this is the hardest part!

Before engaging in a debate online, before defending your faith to others, before spreading God’s word, pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to be with you.  Call upon the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to guide you in all you say and do.  When you do, Christ’s love will shine through you and those who you encounter will know you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

  Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may be all holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Advent Ink Slingers Michelle

No Room At the Inn

Last year, exactly a year ago, I gave birth to our son in the emergency waiting room at our local hospital.  After begging over and over again to be helped I repeatedly heard, “Sit down, there is no room for you.”  Pregnant, scared and in pain, I did what I was told.  I could never have envisioned what awaited us.   It wouldn’t be until the next day, when I was home, that I would relate my experiences to that of our Blessed Mother as Joseph tried to find a room for her in Bethlehem.

When I think of the Christmas story and how Mary and Joseph were turned away because there was no room at the inn I can’t help but think now of our own experiences.  Just days before Christmas our son would be born in a place that I could never have thought we would be delivering a child.  I’m sure as Mary and Joseph settled down in the stable and gave birth to Jesus, they also could not comprehend why they were turned away and why their son had to be born amongst the animals in the stable.  Still, they rejoiced the birth of their son.

When I look past our own story I think about why there was no room for Christ to be born in the inn.  I often wonder if this was also to foreshadow how some would then go on to treat Jesus, both then and now… repeatedly turning him away because they have “no room” for him.

Why would someone turn away Jesus?  Why can’t we make room for him?  Sometimes there are reasons that make us wonder if God is even there with us.  It would have been so easy to turn away from God during our heartache.  It would have been easy to say, “There is no room here for you.”  The harder choice was to continue to provide a place for Christ in our lives.  Other times people are too busy.  Still other times some may not want Christ in their lives.  It’s easy to hang up that “no room” sign and forget about him altogether.

During Advent we are called to dive deeper into our faith, to make room for Jesus, to anticipate his coming.  Our website has given us many ideas and activities we can do to accomplish those things.  But what about those people who still insist there is no room in their hearts for Christ?  What do we do about them?  One of the best things we can do is to pray for them.  Pray that they will open their hearts and seek Jesus.  Pray that those fears, those doubts, those insecurities will be overcome.  We need to reach out to them through our actions and our words.  We can show them that we are there for them and that we carry Christ’s love for them as well.   Hopefully, through the love that shines through us they will find the love of Christ as well.

During this Advent season, but also throughout the entire year, I challenge you to remove that “No Room” sign and allow Christ into your heart.  Trust him in both the good times and the bad.  Don’t shut him out and don’t turn him away.  If you know someone who has a sign permanently hung by their door show them Jesus’ love and kindness.  Show them through your words and actions just how wonderful it is to host the King of Kings within your heart.   Perhaps they will remove that sign that says, “No Room” and they will welcome him as well.