Ink Slingers Lisa Canning Mom So Hard Series

What if it Didn’t Have to be so Hard?

Welcome to this installment in the series MOM SO HARD – FINESSING THE INTRICACIES OF YOUR MODERN CATHOLIC FAMILY, a series focused on taking a look at the Faith through the lens of being a Catholic mom. This series is going to–using a spiritual foundation as our starting point–walk with you and share candid and practical elements that make up our days. We will look at primary spiritual elements, recognizing that without God, nothing is possible. How do we start our day? How do we end our day? If God does not bookend our days (at a minimum), we can start to see how feeling overwhelmed or worse can creep into our day. Even the most mundane of chores and activities can be done to glorify God. So, grab some coffee, a notebook, and a pen, and let’s get started, shall we?

For the first five years of my motherhood journey, I felt like I did not belong. 

We were married young, with no savings, and I had just launched my interior design business when we had our first child. We had no available income for childcare, but more importantly I wanted my baby near me. I wanted to be his primary caregiver. I wanted to embrace the vocation of motherhood full on.

But at the same time, I also had a passion for my work. Just two years before having our son John, I hosted a show on HGTV that launched my interior design and television career. I saw before me enticing opportunities I could have never imagined for my life. And while no one said it this harshly, it was definitely implied that it would be more convenient for everyone else if I waited to start a family.

So I found myself, at the age of 25, with one foot firmly in the stay-at-home mom camp, and one foot firmly in the working mom camp. I had some friends telling me my place was at home, and at home is where I should stay. And then I had some friends saying I could have it all, and what was the harm in working. And I felt so much tension, feeling like I didn’t fully belong to either camp. 

So as a result, I worked hard to prove to both groups that I could do it. I wanted to show the stay-at-home moms that I was still a present wife, mom, and homemaker! Look how cute my son looks on my hip while I shop for fabric samples- he’s like my assistant! And to the working moms, I wanted to prove that I could still be successful, that I was crushing it at work, that I could juggle kids and work without missing a beat.

I was able to keep up the juggling charade for a few years, but it got more and more intense. As my career grew, so did my family size. By the time I was 30, I had 4 children ages 5 and under.

And I was exhausted.

It all came to a massive implosion on a snowy November day. A light dusting of snow had fallen in my hometown of Toronto, making everything look so peaceful and pristine outside. And it was in such stark contrast to how messy the inside of my minivan was. My passenger seat was full of interior design samples, the floor of my car was littered with goldfish crackers, empty water bottles, forgotten sippy cups. I had an overflowing bag of diapers, wipes and onesies, and way in the back I had my less than a week-old newborn daughter Rose, and I was bringing her into a messy construction site because I had put so much pressure on myself to show up for work. 

And it hit me that day as I stared at the mess and chaos around me, and realized that my priorities were as messy as my minivan.

That was the day I said no more. That was the day I said there had to be another way. That was the day I finally wholeheartedly invited God into my plans, and let Him show me how to use my gifts in appropriate ways, at the appropriate times. That was the day I became obsessed with figuring out a way that I could be a great wife and mom, but also pursue my dreams at the same time. 

I had become so reliant on what my achievements said about my identity and self worth, that I was blind to what this pursuit of success was doing to the people who mattered most to me, the souls I had been entrusted with to nurture, support, and bring closer to God.

It is so difficult to hear God when you are so consumed by achievement. He had been speaking to me throughout the chaos but I was reluctant to listen.

But slowly, things started to change. I changed my business drastically. I made sure my family knew they were a priority by ensuring I made space for them in my calendar. I showed up for my prayer life like I would show up for a client. I showed up for my marriage like I would show up for a live tv spot. It was a long and winding road of unlearning past habits and developing new ones, and trusting God even when it felt hard. But now ten years into my motherhood career, and seven gorgeous kids later, I am happy to report there truly is another way. What God revealed to me in the mess of my minivan and so many other messy motherhood moments, is that His plan is always so much better than my own.

Here is what I know to be true: God did not give us dreams so we could feel guilty for having them. This was the lie I believed for many years- that I was somehow wired wrong as a Catholic mom for having a desire to use my gifts outside of the home. What God revealed to me in my years post my “minivan meltdown”, was that with strategic time management, delegation and a clear sense of your priorities, you can be a great mom and pursue the dreams He has for you for you at the same.

But at the same time, this pursuit requires surrender and sacrifice. During certain seasons, it might be possible for a mom to dedicate time to a dream for several hours a day. During other seasons, dream chasing might only occur in short 15-minute sprints in between diaper changes. What’s also important to remember is that raising kids is one of the most important achievements of all. And while sometimes, it might not feel like you are “doing anything”, or no one sees the work you are doing, our Father in Heaven sees it, and the people who need it most, see it. God’s timing is perfect- and although we may have strong desires, His timing is the very best timing, and we need to have the docility to listen to His voice and go where He needs us. 

Lisa Canning is a parenting, lifestyle and interior design expert in Toronto, Canada where she lives with her husband Josh and her seven children. You can pre-order her first book, The Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time right now!


Let’s dig deeper. Did this post resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before getting married?
  2. What was my spiritual life like before children?
  3. What is my spiritual life like now?
  4. How would I like my spiritual life to be?


CATHOLIC PLANNER – DAYBOOK – “It’s the best first step you’ll take towards organizing a better tomorrow.” Martina Kreitzer, foundress of Catholic Sistas

BOOK – The Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time right now! by Lisa Canning



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Responding to Crisis

Until recently, I had always thought of myself as a “joyful Catholic”.  Unfortunately, recent events have left me feeling angry, betrayed, heartbroken, and yes, maybe a touch bitter.  I have read with growing revulsion and depression all the latest news coming out about former Cardinal McCarrick, Pennsylvania and most recently the widespread coverup by church hierarchy which now appears to include Pope Francis.  I am devastated.

Our family has somewhat of a personal connection to McCarrick.  He was our archbishop for several years.  He also presided over or attended many of the profession of vows and ordinations of a religious order we have been closely connected to.  In fact, I have many photos that I took in which he posed with the religious sisters after they had made their First Professions.  My stomach churns at the thought. So yes, my initial response to these latest scandals is righteous anger and I firmly feel that is not a wrong emotion to feel at having been so betrayed by Church leadership. I don’t want to remain an angry, bitter Catholic. I must take steps to move on.

I’ve read all sorts of responses to the present plight.  Many are calling for inquests, resignations, withholding of funds, protests of the USCCB at their yearly meeting, etc. One voice I’ve noticed has been largely silent, and that is the voice of the Domestic Church.  As mothers, fathers, and families what can we do to ensure these atrocities against our children and against our Church do not continue?

First of all, we need to move past the emotions of anger and fear.  I’ll honestly say, I still feel pretty insecure about my little guys ever entering seminary.  I know I need to get past that fearfulness.  God willing and with His grace, I know I will.

Right now the Church needs our prayers more than ever.  This crisis has all the hallmarks of a satanic attack on Mother Church. As a family, pray for her.  Pray for her protection. Pray for her healing, Pray for her purity. Pray for justice. As part of this you might choose a penance or sacrifice to make as reparation on behalf of the Church.  

Pray for the victims. I can not even imagine what they have gone through and what pain they must be in. Pray most especially for their healing.

Pray for those who have betrayed the Church and her teachings.  This is a tough one, but we are called to pray for our enemies.  Pray that those who’ve broken faith by ignoring, shuffling, hiding, and lying will finally do what is right and holy and bring light, truth, and healing to the Church.

Pray for your own bishop and priests, that they may remain courageous and faithful to the Church and their vows of celibacy. I still believe most of our priests and bishops are good holy men.  They need our prayers and encouragement more than ever.

Pray for wisdom and fortitude, because we are going to need it when speaking to our children and answering the questions of our non-Catholic family and friends.

How do we discuss such a delicate issue with our children?  As a parent, I have only addressed the scandals with my older children who have either already heard the news or who were likely to hear it.  We need to be honest and let them know we are angry, hurt, and disgusted.  We also need to reassure them that we do not put our faith in men but in Christ.  Popes, cardinals, bishops are not the Church and she will survive this trial as she has survived countless others.  Finally, we should remind our children why we are Catholic in the first place.  The Church is the one true Church, founded by Christ and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

Just as we need to address the shocking events with our older children, many of us may also need to answer the questions of those outside our faith.  Once again, acknowledge the sinfulness and your own personal ire and disappointment.  Remain firm in defending the Church as a whole and your commitment to remaining Catholic.  Express hope that the Church will address the root causes of the depravity and will make some serious changes that will protect children, teens, and seminarians from now on.

In the future, how do we parents protect our children? 

First of all, we need to be wise and prudent parents.  We should never leave our children in the company of a lone adult who is not immediate family.  I know this sounds extreme, but the one thing I was most taken aback by was that McCarrick and others were so completely trusted by the families of their victims that they thought nothing of allowing their children to be in the abuser’s company alone. This was a tragic and avoidable mistake.

Secondly, listen to your child.  If they come to you with questions or concerns about an adult or other authority figure, hear them out.  Ask questions and take what they tell you seriously.  Many of the victims reached out and were not listened to, which is absolutely heart-breaking.

It’s so important to teach your children appropriate boundaries with adults and authority figures.  Sadly, we need to have these conversations at younger ages than ever before and I, for one, hate that we have to impinge on their innocence in this way but it has become a necessity.  Elizabeth Foss wrote an excellent article addressing this need in light of the recent disgrace.  I highly recommend reading her article and following her sage advice.

Finally, we can turn to the sacraments and pray for the protection of our children’s innocence. As a family, make a practice of frequent confession and try to attend Mass at least one extra day a week. Pray continually for the protection of your children’s innocence, especially imploring the intercession of their guardian angels.  We have been given a very precious and important gift in being parents and it is our responsibility to protect and defend them to the best of our abilities.

A final action item for the Domestic Church relates to our diocesan bishops.  I believe we have a duty to write our bishops, expressing our dismay and concerns regarding the recent news about the immorality of McCarrick, the abuses in Pennsylvania, and the rumors that many in the USCCB and Church hierarchy knew, remained silent, and did nothing.  Ask your bishop how he intends to respond and if he will make it a priority to address the crisis in November at the annual conference.  In closing let him know you are praying for him and all the Church.

For whatever reason, God is allowing this tribulation to come to a head.  We must remain firm and cling to our Faith in this time of trial.  Holy Mother Church will survive.  We have Christ’s word for it.  Pray. Do Penance. Take Courage. Remain in Hope.

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Friday Abstinence All Year Round?

Did you know Catholics in this country are still encouraged to forgo meat on Fridays, not just during Lent, but throughout the year? The USCCB issued a pastoral statement in 1966 which outlines expectations for practices of penance and abstinence for US Catholics. You can read the entire statement here, but I’d like to highlight the following section:

23. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by FREELY (emphasis added) making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

24. Among the works of VOLUNTARY self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give FIRST PLACE to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by FREE CHOICE as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.

Unfortunately, this traditional penitential practice has fallen out of practice and has gotten a bad wrap in recent years. Some warn of becoming too Pharisaical in regards to old traditions—too focused upon the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. There may be some real truth to that, so let’s examine reasons why we might want to adhere to this ancient custom.

reasons one might want to practice Friday abstinence
  1. Weekly abstinence is a good practice in self-denial and penance outside of Lent, helping us to recall how our physical flesh can tend to lead us into sin. By abstaining we are reining in our body and learning self-discipline.
  2. It’s a wonderful way to offer up a prayerful sacrifice for a specific intention. Denying our fleshly desires can become a form of prayer and penance in turn leading us to greater holiness. Abstinence is good both body and soul.
  3. It makes remembering the binding law of abstinence during Lent a lot easier if it is a habit throughout the year.
  4. As a family practice during the regular week, it can remind us we are Catholics and called to continual conversion and acts of penance. Christ gave up his own body—his own flesh—when he suffered and died on the cross on Good Friday. Our simple act of abstaining should call to mind Christ’s selfless sacrifice upon the cross.
  5. It has the potential to make Catholics as a community more identifiable and unified which could open dialog with those we come in contact with outside our Faith

We had been practicing Catholics for several years before we stumbled upon year round meatless Fridays. As a general rule, we try our best to adhere to abstaining from meat as a family every Friday of the year. Sometimes, the inconvenience of abstaining is too great (such as attending a party or having to eat in a restaurant whose meatless options are either non- existent or can not meet some of our special dietary needs). On these mostly rare occasions we choose another penitential practice to replace abstinence form meat—such as fasting from a meal, giving up dessert, or fasting from social media. For the most part this habitual practice has not been all that difficult and has led to an increased understanding of the meaning of penance in our family.

Dear Sistas, I am not writing here to pass judgement upon whether you choose to eat meat on Fridays or not. What I do desire is to encourage you to search your heart and ask yourself what is really keeping you from adopting/adhering to this tradition. If your reasons are legitimate, what are you doing to replace this preferred (according to the USCCB) penitential practice? If your reasons are superficial, I’m encouraging you to make the commitment to give up meat on Fridays—not because you feel you have to fulfill some kind of empty religious requirement but because you really do see a need for penance and can offer this small sacrifice for yourself, your family, for the Church, and for the world.

Trust me, I know not everyone likes fish and 52 weeks of tuna casserole very well may be more penance than a family can endure. Dietary issues might also play a part in eschewing Friday abstinence, as they do in our family. We can not have dairy and so typical cheesy Friday dishes are not an option for us. We Catholic Sistas will not leave you in the lurch. As a way of encouraging and helping in choosing meatless meals the following links to recipes, cookbooks, and cooking blogs are provided.

Cookbooks for meatless meals

12 Months of Monastery Soups by Victor D’Avila-Latourrette (has some great meatless and economical soups)

The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry(what goes better with soup than homemade bread?)

A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz(has several meatless recipes as well as great choices for celebrating the liturgical seasons)

General meatless recipes

Meatless meals from Growing Up Gabel

Easy meals with shrimp from Growing Up Gabel

12 Kid Friendly Meatless Meals

Homemade falafel

Cheesy baked ziti

Gluten free recipes

Meat-free Whole 30 Recipes

Mediterranean potato hash

Mediterranean shrimp recipe

Chile lime fish taco bowl

Paleo Pad Thai (This is a family favorite recipe. It lists protein choices but can easily be made vegetarian or with shrimp)

Paleo salmon cakes

Paleo crab Cakes

Paleo shrimp cobb salad

Moroccan sweet potato lentil stew

Easy 10 minute asian zucchini noodles

Dairy free recipes

One pot wonder thai peanut pasta

Coconut chickpea curry

Crockpot blackbean and tomatillo soup

Mushroom bolognese

Bangkok coconut curry noodle bowl

Vegan fried rice (you could add shrimp to this too)

From our very own blog

Meatless meals that will make you drool

Meatless Fridays

Beet quinoa stuffed artichokes

Roasted acorn squash cranberry rice medley

Vegetable tofu lasagna

The hungry man’s salad nicoise

Pasta in pumpkin sauce

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A House Full of Joy

“Don’t you have any hobbies?” “You know what causes that?”

You’ve heard it all before. The probing questions, the not-so-discreet counting as your brood passes by, the eye rolling when you announce, again, that you’re pregnant. To you, tired mama, I say, it’s worth it. It’s worth every rolled eye, deep sigh, or rude comment you are forced to field.

We still have a long road of parenting ahead of us and maybe one day, we will have more sleepless nights and endless diapers.  But for now, we are in a baby lull. We are given a time to focus on raising only people who can walk to the car or go to the bathroom independently. It’s an odd place to be, after so many years of dependency. But it is a good time to reflect on the gifts we’ve been given.

After the gawks and stares, the next comment we’ve all heard is, “I don’t know how you do it!” or even more pointed, “I only have one and I’m losing my mind!”

Oh, how different six is from one. Had I been given six babies growing into six toddlers, all at once, I’d definitely have even more wrinkles than already I do! But life doesn’t generally work that way. God eases us into big family parenting, one (and the occasional two!) at a time.

Our first children came fast and furious, one after another. Those were hard years filled with sleepless nights, tantrums and meltdowns (sometimes not from the kids!), and sweet, sweet snuggles. On the oldest’s fourth birthday, I juggled a toddler and infant as I served the cake and ice cream.

That boy is fourteen and our “baby” is very nearly four. As I serve her birthday cake next month, there will be no toddlers or infants to juggle. But the years in between those two are filled with siblings and laughter and love. We wouldn’t have it any other way. There have been difficult seasons, but even those are laced with a joy that can only come from the big love of a big family.

There is a specific love that comes from following the will of God, from being open to bringing new life into an already filled-to-brimming home. Our walls are filled to bursting, but our hearts are as well. Six kids isn’t six sleepless infants or six screaming toddlers. It’s six friends, six helping hands, six joke crackers and table setters and board game players. It’s late night giggling, homework helping, and partners in crime. It’s six built-in, forever by your side, best friends.

Yes, this life requires sacrifice. But so does anything worth doing. The taste of reward is that much sweeter when sacrifice is required. It takes sacrifice to save for that beach vacation or a vehicle upgrade. We work hard for our material goals. Our spiritual goals are that much more important. Raising souls for Christ’s army? Equipping those souls with siblings to assist them along the way? When you step back and look, you realize that the sacrifice isn’t all that big, in proportion to the reward.  

When I look around our kitchen table and see smiles, hear laughter, I know that it’s worth every wrinkle, stretchmark, and sleepless nights. When I look down the pew at Mass and see the fruit of our marriage literally filling the pew, I know it was worth every worry and struggle and frustration. Christ said, “Let the children come to Me” and I’m sure He also meant, “The more the merrier!”

Decorating a Catholic Home Ink Slingers Janalin

Decorating a Catholic Home: No Cost Hallway Vignette


I have had this space at the top of our stairs on my ‘to do’ decorating list for a while now.  Our upstairs landing is dark and has been a sorting area for my de-cluttering projects as of late.  And  I’m ready to make it a pretty and enjoyable space for our family to enjoy!

Decorating a Catholic Home: No Cost Hallway Vignette

As you may remember I made a PDF printable to share with the Catholic Sistas readers before starting a home décor project like this.  After completing this important step I knew the direction I needed to take to get started with my project. 

First of all, I decided that this project was going to be a no cost space and that I would use things that I already had on hand.  Last spring during the city wide cleanup I had found a large custom black frame and had picked it up with the idea that I would re-frame one of my other pieces of art with it.

Decorating a Catholic Home: No Cost Hallway Vignette

If you are a thrifter like I am you know the excitement of a find like this!  What a gift!  The frame had been sitting out overnight and had some condensation on the inside of the glass.  I took it home and set it outside on our porch and faced the face of it to the west for maximum sun exposure and sure enough by the day it had cleared up. 

Decorating a Catholic Home: No Cost Hallway Vignette

Here are the items I gathered that I decided to use for my no cost decorating.  The trash to treasure picture (for the frame), a green urn, a very special vintage guardian angel picture  (that was needing re-framed), a crucifix, and a pair of candlesticks.

The next step was to take the two frames apart in preparation for the guardian angel’s new home.  The trashed frame was obviously newer and came apart easily.  What I was not prepared for was the vintage guardian angel image to break apart in my hands.  *sob*  After a moment of thinking I had ruined this special gift I realized that I could glue it back together with Modge Podge and possibly also give it an extra layer of protection for years to come if I gave the entire image a coat.

You can see the pieces that had broken off here as well as the carpet showing the gap between the new smaller image and the black frame’s mat cut out.  I decided to use a piece of black foam core to mount the angel image to.

At this point I had to trim off the edges of the guardian angel print and use a Sharpie marker to hide the tear lines in the paper.

I’m not a super perfectionist when it comes to hanging things but I do have a stigmatism so I used a ruler to check and make sure that everything was square and centered.

Next came the coat of Modge Podge underneath and entirely over the top.

After about an hour of drying I was able to clean the frame and put my ‘new’ image inside!

I was very pleased considering I was using entirely free or found objects!

I found a couple of handsome guys that could help me hang our new artwork…. and now we are ready to finish up the space with  the other pieces to make a nice vignette.

Here is the final result which I am really happy with considering that I did it all with no outside purchases!  In addition to the items I knew I was going to use I also added some vintage books, a framed verse, a small dish with my grandmother’s rosary, and some snowball flowers to make the space seem fresh.  

Do you have a space that needs a Catholic touch?  I would love to help a reader or two with some low cost suggestions to bring the faith into their home decor in a future blog post.  Email me your space at hello (at) with Catholic Sistas REFRESH in the subject line if you would like to be considered!