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Allison Gingras Ink Slingers

Happy New, New Year: Trying an Autumn Reset

Happy New, New Year!

For over 20 years, each January 1st, I made a massive list of all the things I wanted to change or accomplish in the upcoming year. Not sure what precipitated this tradition? Maybe my love of making lists along with the thrill of physically crossing an item off said to-do list!

My resolutions were carefully written down, organized by theme, and numbered by the order in which I would tackle each. Now that I think about it, my list resembled the front cover of a woman’s magazine:  

  • 10 ways to a healthier me;
  • 10 books to read (probably the only one I actually accomplished, especially after I launched a podcast featuring Catholic books);
  • 10 decluttering projects to tackle; 
  • 10 ideas for being a better mom (wife, domestic goddess); and
  • 10 Spiritual practices to adopt (the other one I mostly complete).

Some Things Never Change

Decluttering last Summer, I found old journals containing resolution lists from previous years. It was funny (or maybe a little sad) how many items carried from year to year, and to this day still, remain incomplete. These incomplete items are the ones in most need of discernment. Maybe they continue unresolved because either they are not part of God’s plans for me or I need to move them up in my priorities. 

The lists included such things as:

  • 10 ways to lose weight and keep it off;
  • 10 Sunday meals to bring the family together;
  • 10 people to reconnect with; and
  • 10 strategies to get out of debt!

The Autumn Reset

One September, as summer wrapped up and the calendar filled with new activities, I felt an urge to take a fresh look at my January resolutions. The timing seemed perfect, even my calendar (which followed the academic year) was clear and ready for a reset. I tend to enter Autumn refreshed and refocused, as opposed to frazzled in January following the hustle of the holidays, so again the timing just seemed a better fit.

And it was.

First, I lowered my expectations. I set realistic, attainable goals based on my current situation and not what might come. Kind of like not buying size 8 jeans when you are still a size 12 as a motivator to lose weight. In case you have yet to have this experience; trust me, it never works! Celebrating small victories kept me much more motivated. Ten ways to declutter the house, with the list consisting of the ten rooms I wanted to tidy up; I became more specific:

  • Tackle the kitchen junk drawer;
  • Throw away all socks without a buddy;
  • Eradicate all dust bunnies from under beds and in corners; and (my personal favorite)
  • Find the actual top of my desk.

Second, I took a long, hard, and prayerful, look at my life and decided what things were essential to not just me but my family. Prayer became the center of every decision. I would take my list of lists to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and sit with Jesus, seeking his counsel. “Lord,” I would ask, “Which of these items align with the Father’s will.” Some tasks from the original resolution list disappeared altogether, while others would stay but move much further down on the priority scale.  

God First, The Rest Will Follow

My spiritual goals took precedence over everything because when I am in right relationship with my God, so does everything else. However, I simplified this list as well, focusing on those activities and practices that best honed my ability to hear Him speak into my life.  

  • Attend Mass weekly (or more often if I can). This resolution is important because it is a tenet of the Catholic faith, but also it is just plain good for you, your soul, and your whole family;
  • Join (start or stay with) a women’s faith sharing group;
  • Pray every single day; it is easier than you think, especially when you recall prayer can be as simple as a conversation with God!

One of the benefits of this reset thinking included realizing, God wants me healthy, but he wasn’t looking for me to some perfect avatar of myself. My shape-up list, which I framed as becoming a ‘healthier me,’ at a closer glance, focused more on becoming my social media avatar. Which you will not be surprised to learn is not an accurate assessment of who I am or could even become especially having reached the half-century mark. How could I reframe the reset goals to benefit not just me but my whole family? Easy, I asked my family for ideas on how we could all improve our well-being. The new list included very attainable goals:

  • Eat at home (together, at the table) more often;
  • Incorporate fun into our workouts — try a sport, discover fun places to walk or bike ride, motivate each other to move;
  • Try new foods and recipes.

Stop Stealing Other People’s Blessings

Lastly, the crazy Autumn reset included taking a hard look at my calendar. How overscheduled had we become? When deciding which activities to start in the Autumn, have I accounted for practices, games, volunteering or fundraising requirements, and even a possible championship run! If we are honest with ourselves, our calendars fill-up with good things, but not all are the good things God wants for us. Do I overextend because I fear what my “no” will mean to the school, organization, or activity, to whom I have given it?

Once when I complained about being overwhelmed and stressed, my Spiritual Director, the late Deacon Jerry Ryan, wisely countered with, “Stop saying yes to everything, you are stealing other people’s blessings.” Wow, I just never saw it that way! He also mentioned a little something about my pride and my misconception that only I could do the task in question. Someone else will step up if you say no, maybe they are just waiting to be asked? What a magnificent resolution for my Autumn reset, to help someone identify and use their gifts for others.

 

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Ink Slingers Krista Steele Series The Ask

Crisis of Faith

The Ask

Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.


I’m struggling with my relationship with the Church and have stopped attending Mass since October. My priest gave a sermon that I felt was anti-gay, and I walked out. I met with him to talk about it, and he said some things that were even more extreme than what I heard in the sermon, and topped it off with a little Islamophobia. For me, it was the culmination of years of discomfort with the Church’s teachings on sex, marriage, and the family.

To help me discern whether I can return to the Church or not, I’d like you to explain the Church’s teachings to me. What does the Church say is bad, wrong, or disordered about homosexual sex (and for that matter, oral sex, sex with birth control and/or sex by infertile couples, whether they are infertile naturally, as a by product of life-saving medical treatment, or by choice)? It is my understanding that the Church says these acts are bad or wrong because they can’t create babies, or because they don’t allow for the supposed perfect mutuality of heterosexual intercourse. And I do understand that the Church is totally fine with infertile married people having sex if it’s natural or because of cancer treatment, but not with vasectomy. My issue is that I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with any of these kinds of sex, if they take place in a loving, committed relationship. I think that all of these kinds of sex can be an expression of selfless love and putting the other person first.   

I would like to return to the Church, but my conscience, what I believe is the voice of God in my heart, tells me that my acquiescence to what I believe is bias and exclusion, is worse than missing a few Masses.

I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my question.

~Crisis of Faith

+++

Dearest Crisis,

I’ve spent many hours thinking about and reflecting on your question in prayer. This seems to me less a question of doctrine and more a question of belonging. While I don’t identify as an LGBT+ person, and I’m not a theologian, I am a person who has questioned Church teaching and my belonging within the Body Of Christ, so that is what I can speak to.

Experiences like yours make the Catholic Church, the Universal Church, feel anything but Universal. Instead of “all are welcome”, it can feel like some are welcome. If I’m being honest, I’ve wrestled with and continue to wrestle with many of these same questions both theologically and personally as I witness the experience of close friends.  

As I’m reflecting on your question and writing these words, my almost three month old daughter is napping in the next room, and I think of how easy it’s been for me to “fit in” within the community of the Church as a straight woman. I was raised Catholic, married a good Catholic man, and we’ve started our good Catholic family. That’s what people see on the outside, anyway. They don’t see my sins, my wrestling, my own many crises of faith. All they see is a “good girl” who shows up to mass every weekend and checks all the boxes of what it means to be “Catholic enough”.

You, my dear, are a seeker, and I encourage you to keep seeking answers to your questions. Keep following that righteous anger. Instead of allowing it to pull you away from the Church, how might The Holy Spirit be using this to draw you in. How might you be uniquely called to work for a more diverse and inclusive Body Of Christ. How might you say to those in the LGBT+ community: “Come to the table. There is a place for you here.” Be a person who invites those that others would exclude.

As for your questions regarding specific Church teachings, this priest isn’t the only priest. If he isn’t able to answer your questions well, continue to seek out priests, religious and laity who will. I cannot recommend spiritual direction enough. I found a spiritual director through the Dominican Sisters of Peace who are located in my home town.  Sister Joan and I have been meeting once a month for three years and her wisdom has guided me well on my own spiritual journey. Remember the primacy of conscience when it comes to issues of morality. Let your conscience be your guide to seek Truth.

If you want to understand more about Church teaching and perhaps get involved with ministries that advocate for and serve LGBT+ identifying persons within the Catholic Church, check out Eden Invitation, as well as Courage and EnCourage.

Thank you for trusting me with your questions. Thank you for seeking answers. Whatever you do, keep asking and keep seeking always.

 

Yours in Christ,

Krista


RESOURCES

Read our archives on same sex attraction

Crisis of Faith