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Ink Slingers

I Pick Me: Responding with Love

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that ended with you feeling like less? 

I recall a situation not too long ago between me and a colleague. This person became extremely upset, and began to speak down to me. Instead of responding by speaking up, I let him continue to berate me. I drove home that night questioning what was wrong with me, and why I felt incapable, stupid, and used.

I used to struggle with the idea that as a Christian, we must be overflowing in mercy in all interactions with others. Submission, humility, meekness – these are all words that cross my mind when I am thinking of how to love best in a conflict situation.

What Does Meekness Look Like?

Meekness attempts to leave room for others and learn from them. To be meek is to be patient with others, practicing restraint and selflessness. What meekness is not is allowing others to hurt us, or choosing to stay in a harmful situation.

And as much as others may say hurtful things to us, I’m willing to bet that we say more hurtful things to ourselves. In fact, it’s easier for us to be compassionate towards others than towards ourselves. 

We Have Dignity

We are all dignified and constituted with value by virtue of Christ’s incarnation. All of us carry the responsibility to honour human dignity – including our own. Reverend John J. Coughlin outlines this in his article “Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being”:

God’s forgiveness of humanity, which is expressed in the Son’s perfect self-sacrificial love, serves as a testament to the highest degree of human dignity both by revealing the love of God for humanity and by demonstrating the fullest possibility for the human person. (2003)

God’s sacrifice demonstrates the fullest potential for the human person, which means that the only appropriate response to one another is love. Unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Now we know that we cannot love perfectly, but we have a calling to participate in that love to the degree that is possible for us. If we don’t, we risk undermining the dignity of all human beings. 

John Paul II writes that the human person cannot live without this love. In the absence of the “revelation” of love, the human person remains “incomprehensible” to self” (Coughlin, 2003).

Understanding that preserving human dignity requires love, how do we train ourselves to respond with love?

Some important things I learned in therapy:

  1. Managing your thoughts can be a way of protecting yourself. We can begin to change the negative thoughts and emotions we have about ourselves during times of conflict and stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was, and continues to be useful in mind management.
  2. Setting boundaries is a way of honouring human dignity. It is, in fact, necessary that we do so to protect and uphold our own dignity. This can look like learning to say “no”.
  3. Like most important life skills, setting boundaries must be practiced. As any healthy relationship takes time/effort, so does our relationship with ourselves. We must love our neighbours as ourselves after all.

Responding to yourself with love is not allowing others to use or demean us in any way. It means not allowing others to walk all over us, or take their anger out on us. As women on the receiving end, this behaviour may even become normalized, which tends to result in lower self-esteem and higher negative self-talk. We need to have a loving relationship with ourselves in order to extend our hearts genuinely to others. In the context of a conflict or confrontation, it is okay to pick yourself.

Picking yourself can look like: 

  • Suggesting you have the conversation at another time, when you will be in a better headspace.
  • Walking away if you don’t like the way you’re being spoken to. 
  • Telling them that you will not continue the conversation if they continue to disrespect or call you names.
  • Choosing to stay silent, and listen rather than speak.

Although this may not be new information for us, a reminder never hurts. Sometimes it takes more than once to draw your boundary. If we do not show up for ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, we will struggle to show up for the people in our lives – this we know! Be patient with yourself, and above all remember that we love because He first loved us.

Reference

John J. Coughlin, Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 65 (2003-2004). Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/494

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Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments Spiritual Growth Victoria K

Talking About Sin


Endorsing My Sins

Do you talk about your sins?

I think the gut reaction is, “of course not!” At least, that’s what the gut reaction is for me.  But my gut reaction…might have been wrong.

I thought that I was fairly clear-cut about sin. Sins were these evil things I wrestled with in the privacy of my own heart and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Private, tucked away. I would never talk about my sins to others, right?

But then, humility struck (man that pesky litany of humility really does change your life!).  This year, I’m guiding children and their families in preparation for First Reconciliation. It’s made me hyperaware about how I view and talk about sin.

As I endeavor to communicate the concept of sin to second graders, I’ve started to notice something.  I’m talking about my sins a lot more than I thought.

“This is totally gossiping, but…”

“Take one more picture. I know, I’m vain.”

“Maybe it’s gluttonous, but these chocolates are SO good.”

“I know I shouldn’t be complaining about my husband, but…”

“Oh my goodness, back in college, I used to do [insert all the bad tendencies I had before my recommitment to the faith] all the time!” 

Each moment was like a pinprick.  Was I really just openly acknowledging my sins and temptations?  And, on top of that, was I really basically acknowledging and endorsing them?

 

What’s the tone?

Let me get this straight: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever talk about our sins.  There is humility in being able to acknowledge when we’ve fallen short of the glory of God.  

Part of what’s so wonderful about the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ability to admit out loud the brokenness on our hearts.  What’s more, within our relationships and communities it is important to be honest about our shortcomings.

But I do think that sometimes we need to ask ourselves: what is the tone that we convey when we’re talking about sin? 

When I mention a sin I’m struggling with, is it to ask for advice and to be held accountable? Or is it to laugh about it and normalize it?

When I talk about my sins in the past, is it to reveal the glory of God that has worked through my life? Or is it to glorify all of the “cool” or “interesting” or “rebellious” things I did in the past?

The Devil is constantly working to downplay the impact of our sins.  How we talk about our sins can be very revelatory of the work he is doing in this regard. Do we make our sins sound interesting, fun, or just a part of day-to-day life?

What’s more, our sins are places of brokenness.  There are places in which we are in desperate need of healing.  We don’t go to the doctor celebrating the malignant tumor threatening our lives. We celebrate the doctor who works to heal us, and our efforts to aid the doctor in this task. In the same way, we don’t celebrate the fact we were sinners.

 

Conversion Stories

When it comes to the Saints, we obsess over conversion stories.  And rightly so! It is incredible to see the grace of God work in everyone’s life, in all lives.

But we need to be careful that our emphasis isn’t on the sinner, as much as the salvation.

Why is St. Paul’s story compelling? It’s because he preached the Gospel all across the Roman Empire, and was an enduring witness to the Faith. There might be a temptation to relish in his dramatic turn from murderer of Christians to evangelizer.  But St. Paul underscores what’s most important: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Christ’s victory is the focus, not our sins.

Why is St. Augustine’s story compelling? Because he wrote incredible books that are so foundational to our understanding of our Faith. Yes, his back-story reads like a tabloid.  But throughout his Confessions, his finger isn’t pointing at his sin – its God’s work shining through his life. He states in his Confessions: “‘For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?” God is the source of goodness, God our savior is the focus.

Why, on the other hand, do I have students who constantly complain that St. Therese’s story is “boring?”  She was an incredible witness to God’s love, and man, she’s a doctor of the Church with her incredible writings on love, simplicity, trust, devotion.  Honestly, she needs more attention.

 

A Change in Phrasing

So, with the inspiration of the Saints, instead of normalizing my sin, I can say:

“There were a lot of bad things I did in college, but Christ worked through the people around me to help me through it.”

“Let me know if it seems like I’m gossiping.  I need to work on that.”

“Can I share a struggle I’m having? I want to work through it.

And by sharing this, in the right context, with humility, I pray that God will have the triumph in my life.

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Marriage Maurisa Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

That I Might Be Perfected in Him

Oh my, The Pioneer Woman, don’t you just love her?  Her life seems picture perfect.  She lives on a successful ranch with her handsome and adoring husband and their four well-adjusted, amazing children.  She’s a talented photographer, decorator, writer, homeschooler, and cook.  She has a show on the FoodNetwork, a magazine, a popular blog, a line of home and kitchen products, a retail shop, and just recently opened a beautiful lodge. Sigh. She is perfection. I write that with just the slightest tinge of envy.

The Struggle is Real

Like so many women, I’ve struggled with perfectionistic tendencies my entire life.  Growing up, my mother lovingly encouraged me, telling me God had great plans for me.  I believed that with my whole being, but what were His grand plans for me? In reality, He has chipped away at my ideas of greatness and perfection for the better part of 50 years and He continues to chip away.

Early in our marriage, I knew I was being called to let go of grandiose ideas of my own career in sacrifice to the very real demands of being a military wife.  I realized I could not support my husband’s Air Force career adequately if I pursued my chosen career as an educator and school counselor. With the arrival of our first child, I discovered my true vocation as wife and mother.  No problem.  I would be the perfect wife and mother; run the perfect household and raise perfect children.

Ha! Nothing turns a woman’s idyllic vision inside out quite like the gift of free-will given to her children.  Over the course of 18 years we were blessed with seven kids—all of whom were given very strong wills of their own and they wanted nothing of my perfection.  Thank God for them.  I needed that lesson desperately.  I needed to be shown I was not in control and I needed to let go of my idea of perfection.  

A short list of the perfections I’ve had to let go of over the years would include: 

-having a career outside the home in exchange for living in the shadow of my husband’s career and to be a hidden homemaker.

-cloth diapering, ecological breastfeeding, making my own baby food in exchange for convenience and sanity.

-a rock solid K-12th grade homeschool plan in exchange for allowing two of our children to attend high school outside our home.

-a clean and efficiently run home initially in exchange for naps, and books, and snuggling with my babies, and more recently in exchange for teaching our children how to do chores—even if they don’t do them perfectly.

-perfectly prepared and well-balanced meals in exchange for allowing our children to explore their own culinary tastes and talents.

-obedient and faithful children in exchange for strong-willed, independent children who may stray; because even if we parented perfectly, they still have free-will and must choose to follow Christ of their own accord.

-healthy, comfortable relationships with extended family in exchange for accepting and praying through messy, difficult relationships.

He is the Answer

With each case, He gently prodded me into letting go of my vision. Nudging me to lean into Him and to become ever more dependent upon Him and the kind of perfection He is calling me to.

To the best of my ability I try to cultivate the many talents I’ve been given and I’ve become adept at many things—I’m a writer, photographer, homemaker, homeschooler, gardener, etc. but I am not called to be The Pioneer Woman.  Slowly, I’ve handed over my ideas of perfection to God.  It has taken me many years to see, acknowledge, and embrace my littleness; for it is in my littleness that I best serve Him and my family.

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!”—St. Catherine of Siena

Embrace the Littleness

Dear sistas, if we are completely honest, the vast majority of us are called to living out our our time here on earth in littleness.  It is in our hidden lives that we work out our salvation.  It is in quiet, humble, obedient service we can best become the saints we are called to be.  We are called to embrace imperfection and littleness so that we might be ever more perfected in Him. 

“Be patient. God isn’t through with me yet.”

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Alyssa Azul Domestic Church Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Don’t Come In Yet, It’s A Mess!

Photo by Gades Photography on Unsplash

Have you ever had that moment of panic when someone shows up at your door unexpectedly? You invite the guest in- while your eyes and hands move quickly to remove any personal or slightly embarrassing items that may be commented on. You catch the dirty laundry basket in the corner, waiting for the perfect moment to slide it away secretly. You remember the dishes you were meant to clean…two hours ago. What if your guest is someone you you’re rather close to? You can be sure that a parent will always have something to say inside your unfiltered home.

As a young adult who still lives at home, I admit I recoil at the thought of my mom going through my personal stuff. My mother is not afraid to waltz into my room and start picking things up and digging through my closet. You want to put on the appearance that you’ve got everything handled, when in reality you’ve fallen, and are struggling to stay on top of responsibilities.

I’m willing to bet that this is how it feels when God rushes into our messy lives. We’re so used to maintaining our version of an “organized chaos” that we are on guard when someone tries to dip their hands into our business. We hold on tightly to our personal belongings (materials, comforts, sins), negotiating with God to keep some things, and nudging him away from touching others. But like a parent, God rushes in with great love, on His timing, and with the intention to rid the space of things that we don’t need. Things that will cause bigger problems if left untouched. Times passes and that “spring cleaning” reminder has crawled into the winter season, still unchecked. We tell God to help us with our messes, but we still want it cleaned our way. “Lord, throw these things out for me, but let me keep this.” Or “Lord, I’m not ready to give this away yet.” The Lord wants more than our full attention–He wants our surrender and our willingness to give up the mess so that he can do the rest.

I’ll admit, it doesn’t feel all that great when you have someone rummaging through your things without warning. Especially if they are things that you avoided. Sometimes God brings things from the past that you buried long ago. And sisters, it hurts to see those things, it really does. But these things are a part of His process. So your life will feel disturbed, shaken and complicated. But you can trust that it’s a sign God is rummaging through your room. He’s finding the hurts and the joys that you hoarded for years, and he’s taking you back through those journeys.  He’s throwing out the things you thought you couldn’t live without, and dusting off the things you took for granted. He’s looking under your bed for your biggest fears and He’s shining a light on them so that you can finally sleep at night. He’s polishing your windows so that you can see the world clearly again.

I realized how humiliating and purifying it is at the same time. A verse from Corinthians comes to mind:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Sanctification takes a bit of shaking and shattering. We can’t expect the Lord to come into our lives and rebuild a home if we’re still holding on to the broken parts. To our comforts and our worldly desires. True sacrifice is when we surrender the things we value the most.

So next time you hear a knock on your door, perhaps it’s not house, but Heaven-keeping.

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Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Rosary Sacraments

Anxiety is the devil

I’ve battled some serious anxiety in my life. I was diagnosed with extreme anxiety at one point. I suffered from shaky hands, heavy chest, shortness of breath, blisters on my palms, itchy skin and numbness. I know anxiety. The people around me could vouch that I behaved like I was crazy and it scared them.

I also know you can fight back. You should follow your doctor’s orders, I’m not saying anything against meds I know they help many people, but they don’t necessarily fix the entire problem. Sometimes we are feeling things because we need to change, and I know that is what happened to me. Anxiety management meds didn’t help me, it took change in my life to tame my anxiety.

I had to learn to let things go.  I had to learn to trust Jesus especially when the road was hard.  It’s easy to trust Jesus when life is easy.  It’s not when you aren’t sure how you are going to feed your children or keep the power on or if you can keep your children safe.  It’s not easy when your heart is broken and you feel abandoned and lost.

I had to learn to keep close to the sacraments. The sacraments are life giving. The living Jesus is in the sacraments. It’s a gift for us. They are free of charge and available all the time. This mostly meant letting go of my pride; I had to let go of the idea that I should be better than I am. Interestingly enough I also learned that some of the things I felt so much guilt over weren’t worthy of my guilt. I had to hand my broken self over in honesty and humility. I had to realize the world and everything in it wasn’t in my control and much of it wasn’t my concern. I had to realign my focus. My focus was on the fear, but my focus should have been on faith.  

It’s a lie that we have to get ourselves together before we go to Jesus. It’s a lie that we have to put on a pretty face and hide in a painful silence. It’s a lie that we have to maintain a façade of a perfect life that isn’t real. It’s a lie that we should be able to take every hard turn in life and never fall apart. It’s a lie that we shouldn’t have feelings.  

You can’t walk the path of fear and the path of faith at the same time. You have to pick one. The path of faith is the road of humility and love. It’s dying to ourselves and letting Jesus guide us.

If we are clinging to sin we have to let it go. The good news is that Jesus is very patient. He knows our weakness and doesn’t expect anything else. He wants our weakness. I myself have been intertwined in sin that just fell off of me when I accepted grace. Because we have free will we are free to cling to things that bring death. Jesus will help us if we let go, but he won’t force us to let go.

Some of the most powerful moments of my life were moments that I literally threw my hands in the air and yelled out loud for Him to take it. Take the pain and the worry because it was too heavy for me to handle. It was the surrender of my heart that He was after. Surrender brings grace. Trust brings grace. And grace makes everything better.

Praying the rosary regularly was a major game changer for me. I know at first it seems monotonous and boring, but when you get past the original adjustment it opens a wonderful world of meditation. It’s a place of safety to open our hearts to our Mother and Jesus. Those mysteries are really ways of living life. Often while praying my rosary I will remember things and people I needed to be praying for. I’ve often just offered the mysteries to the Mother’s Intentions. She knows who needs what and when.  

The worst part about anxiety for me came at bedtime, when everything was quiet. Unfortunately that’s a great time for all the worries of the world to creep around in our minds. When one loses sleep it’s hard for the body to deal with the physiological side effects of anxiety, so the cycle worsens when we aren’t rested. I found that praying my rosary at bedtime really helped me to fall asleep calmly and quickly.

I strongly encourage anyone dealing with anxiety to seek Jesus. I encourage you to put on a miraculous medal and ask our Mother to pray. Our Mother brings grace.  

It’s a good idea to get as many people in your corner as possible. Be that a priest, a sister, a counselor, family and friends. Anxiety can be very isolating. It’s important to reach out.  

I’m not a doctor or a therapist; I’m just a simple small town mom that doesn’t have anxiety attacks anymore, and I thank Jesus for walking with me. He set me free from so much pain. I just had to reach out to Him. You can reach out to Him too. He loves you so much and doesn’t want you to feel pain. If you are hurting, He’s waiting for you to reach out for him, too. I urge you to trust Him, and take His healing hand. Grace be with you.