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Anni Ink Slingers

Physical or Spiritual Imperfections: Which Ones are We Embracing?

Physical or Spiritual Imperfections: Which Ones are We Embracing?

Our culture is saturated with messages that we, as women, are “not enough.” Everywhere we look, there are billboards or commercials advocating weight loss, looking more “youthful,” or even something as simple as, “being more refreshed,” or having our teeth whitened. Eventually, those subtle, and more often than not, blatantly apparent images begin to toy with our psyche, and the focus shifts from a healthy outlook to one that focuses on our imperfections. The messages begin to take root in our souls, and we find ourselves on a slippery slope of chasing untenable perfection, while offering justification for the focus on outward appearance.

St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying, “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” And, when it comes to chasing the outward perfection, how frequently are we stern with ourselves? One can argue we truly are our greatest critic. When we look in the mirror, it is apparent how quick we are to be stern with ourselves. We give ourselves little compassion when we judge our weight, the size of clothes we can no longer fit into (or, the length we will go to stay the exact same size we were in high school), the crow’s feet developing around our eyes, or the gray hairs lining our head. We are quick to reassure our friends how youthful, how slender, how beautiful they look, while in the next breath, bemoaning (whether verbally or not) our own imperfections.

A long while back, I wrote about loving ourselves as Christ loved us. As He hung on the Cross for our sins, He was loving each and every part of us! He despised the sins we would commit, but when it came to our appearance, He lovingly embraced all the warts, all the bumps, all the bruises, all the moles, and all our seeming imperfections. And, the challenge from that particular article, and the series after that, was to encourage each of us to embrace our imperfections, and the ones in others. What we see as a flaw, Christ sees as radiant beauty.

Taking the sternness with ourselves a further step, too often we, as women, have a tendency to fall into thinking our personality is flawed. We are too meek and too mild, or we are too brash and too bold. We critique how we interact with others, we have a tendency to ruminate on conversations long after they have passed, and we are quick to find fault. Usually, that begins to manifest by putting ourselves down – belittling what may, possibly, be some of the greatest gifts we have been given by our Creator. We begin to shrink back from allowing those gifts to fully develop and grow, too hesitant to see how the gifts will manifest in the society around us. We become too concerned with others’ impressions, and in the words of wise St. John Vianney, we forget that God, the angels, and the saints are our public audience. Or, they should be our public.

This past month, I stumbled on a quote by St. Therese of Lisieux. It reads, “It is enough to humble ourselves, to bear patiently our imperfections. There lies true sanctity for us.” That quote embodies the essence of this particular piece.

Christ loved us as we are today while He hung on the Cross for our sins. He loves us as we are today, while He offers us His companionship on the journey of life. Christ loves us as we are today, while He invites each of us gently into a tender relationship with Him, in which only love is tolerated.

God is love. God created each of us, without reservation, out of love. He invites us into a relationship of love and challenges us to extend that love toward others. Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, is remembering to have love toward ourselves.

When we fall into society’s trap of self-love, we begin to lose sight of the unconditional love God offers to each of us. We begin to forget that we are called to love others unconditionally. 

When we are in a healthy romantic relationship with another person, we often want to better ourselves so that we, as a couple, are the best version of “us.”

Yet, how often do we apply that same principle to our relationship with God?

We focus on putting ourselves down, on tackling our physical imperfections, on making our outward appearance look better. Yet, are we truly focusing on the issues of eternity?

Do we recognize the imperfections that we bring to the spiritual table?

The tendency toward greediness;

The tendency toward lust;

The propensity to have pride in ourselves, or the contribution we bring to those around us;

The quickness with which we turn to someone with wrath in our hearts;

The ease with which we enter into envy of neighbors or even family members;

The comfortability of sliding into sloth.

 

And, when we recognize those, what do we do about them?

Are we quick to run to one of our Sacraments of Healing? Do we humble ourselves and turn to Christ in Confession? Do we accept that we are struggling, and truly focus on ways in which we can be stern with ourselves in order to work on these spiritual imperfections?

Or, do we embrace those spiritual imperfections, and instead focus on the physical, outward imperfections that we try so desperately to change for the sake of the peers around us?  Do we become complacent in seeking eternity with God, and allow our interior imperfections to be overshadowed by the exterior flaws so loved by our Creator?

Only perfection can enter Heaven. Yet, contrary to what our society tells us on a daily basis, it’s not physical perfection which will enter Heaven. Instead, it is spiritual perfection.

Those sins that we would rather avoid discussing, facing, or recognizing? Those sins will keep up from God. Yet, as uncomfortable as it may be, when we accept that we are sinners, and we accept the ways in which we sin on a daily basis, we can find motivation for change. We see the true wisdom behind St. Therese of Lisieux’s words, “…humble ourselves, to bear patiently our imperfections…” because when we take account of those spiritual imperfections, we begin to tackle them.

We begin to root them out.

We begin to orient ourselves toward the public that really matters – God, the angels, and the saints.

So, if it’s been a while since you last sat with your spiritual imperfections, I encourage you to join me in sitting with the Ode to Feminine Genius: the Proverbs 31 Catholic Women Introduction, and truly praying through that embedded examination of conscience.

Squirm a little. Humble yourself a little.

Meet Christ confidently in the Confessional. Humble yourself a lot.

And join me in working toward spiritual, rather than physical, perfection.

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Alison W Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Inspiration–Let’s Be It and Receive It!

Why are so many of us are walking around tired and defeated? God did not design us to be tired and defeated! God designed us to know him, love him, and serve him in this life and the next. He designed us to encourage each other and help each other get to heaven. In this overworked and over-stimulated world, we are losing sight of that.

I encourage you to look for inspiration. I think the Holy Spirit is constantly trying to get our attention. Constantly giving consolations and we are missing them. The kind words we hear, the flowers growing out of cracks, the people just suddenly cross our paths, the whistle of the birds, sunsets, the eyes of our children, the food on our table, our jobs, our homes, etc.

We are so blessed to be living in this time when the lives of the greatest saints can be dissected from our phones. Never has it been so easy to find the truth, yet we are also so distracted it’s hard to focus.

It’s so important to carve out time for God–to just be with him, to love him and be loved. It’s important to keep our attention alive. I’ve found journaling and studying to be a great way to find inspiration to be a better follower of Christ. The Church is 2,000 years old, so there is an endless ocean of people and events to study. The times may be different, but God is not. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we are able to receive his love, we are also able to share it.   

I encourage you to be inspiration to others, too. You never know who you are inspiring. 

Some of my inspirations have been right in my own family. For example, my mother never missed Mass.  She dragged three little kids to Mass every Sunday by herself. She needed that strength to keep going and she wanted to be a good example.   

My Aunt Dorothy always kneels after Mass to Jesus for a few more minutes. I found it to be so beautiful when I put it into practice.  

When my Uncle John said the blessing before meals, you could feel the Holy Spirit in the room.

I’ve also witnessed other people being inspired.

My friend, Joseph, had been away from confession for 20 years. Upon watching a teenage boy go to confession, he got the final push to go himself. He was amazed how easy it was to get back in God’s grace.

My friend, Anne, started praying her rosary daily after being encouraged from a friend. She watched sin break away from her and her home became peaceful again. Our Mother has directed us to pray this devotion, and has promised her protection.

There are few stories of my great grandmother that don’t reveal her strength and her faith…strength and faith that is still leading four generations later.

It is up to us to keep this great faith moving forward. It is for us to know it, to love it, and to share it.

The example we give makes a difference to other people, even if they never say anything. Unfortunately, sometimes we give pretty horrible examples, so let’s be intentional about being good examples. Let’s be intentional about letting the Holy Spirit guide our lives and about being in a state of grace. Let’s be intentional about being both inspired and an inspiration on this journey to heaven.

Do you have examples of inspiration in your life? I’d love to hear about them!

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Anni Domestic Church Fatherhood Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Vocations

Love As Christ Loved (Part 3): Recognizing Honor, Dignity, and Beauty of Children

In my first two articles (see: part 1 and part 2) on this subject, I reminded readers we are called to love ourselves as Christ loved us on the Cross, and we are called to love our spouses as Christ loved us on the Cross.

Christ has always been exceptionally clear about His love for all of us. In Matthew 19:14, Christ made it abundantly clear His love extends even to the littlest of us, by instructing His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Everywhere we look, parents are inundated with messages that children should be seen and not heard, and we are expected to complain about parenthood at all times. Being a parent is hard, tiring, and many times feels thankless.

Parenting is also a rewarding path toward sanctification!

Sr. Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries of the apparitions from Our Lady of Fatima cautioned us, “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and family.” Something we overlook in today’s society, though, is not every battle will wage in courtrooms or on the news.

The battles can be waged in each family, as a parent begins to overlook their secondary vocation of parenthood, second only to marriage, and begin to allow bitterness, resentment, and envy to seep into their hearts. As parents begin to view their children in a manner which overlooks the child’s age and development, and overlooking the child’s dignity, parents begin to run the risk of forgetting just how much Christ loved all the children.

God the Father understood that we mere mortals would comprehend the depths of His love for us, when He gave His only Son to be sacrificed for our sins. In fact, perhaps the most memorized Bible passage is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

God knew we would understand the depths of His love for us, through the act of sacrifice of His Son!

As Christ died on the Cross, He despised the abuse that He knew some parents would carry out on their children.

He despised the way society would try to push children to the outer reaches, only wanting to embrace each other as adults.

He despised a culture which would seek to destroy a child’s life – both literally and physically – before that child had an opportunity to live and flourish.

As Christ died on the Cross, he made His sacrifice for our children as much as for ourselves.

As Christ died on the Cross, He loved the beauty and innocence that we see in all small children.

As Christ died on the Cross, He loved the little children.

Pope Francis has reminded parents about placing their children’s needs at the forefront, when he encouraged a breastfeeding mother to feed her young child. He reminded adults that the needs of small children should be met before the physical, social, and emotional needs of any adult.

Our needs, by virtue of parenthood, become secondary to the needs of defenseless, helpless creatures. And, while those small humans don’t remain defenseless and helpless for very long, their brains take longer to grow… meaning, they may look, act, and sound like an adult, but our needs are secondary to those who are still developing into adults.

Which makes the vocation of parenthood long and tedious. It is tough, in the midst of tantrums, in the midst of late nights and long days, in the midst of the latest round of supporting our children as they master their next developmental stage.

Like it or not, parenting is not about adults.

Parenting isn’t even about the children.

Parenting is about God – leading His little children to Him!

Perhaps, the most poignant words on parenting are found by St. Gianna Molla. Her gentle reminder about parenting is profound.

So, the next time you are tempted to lose your temper with your child, the next time you want to run away from your children, and the next time time you begin to doubt whether or not you are cut out for the role of parent, keep in mind St. Gianna’s words. You aren’t looking into the face of your child, or wanting to run away from your child, or doubting your ability to parent your child – you are looking into the face of Christ, wanting to run from Him, and doubting your ability to parent in His stead.

This is not to say there aren’t consequences for their actions!

Even our Ultimate Parent, God, gives consequences to us as petulant children. Instead, this is reminding all of us to approach parenting with a mindset which honors the dignity, worth, and beauty inherent in all children – to honor their worth and beauty…

…and to help it flourish.

Christ loved all of us, but perhaps held the most affection for children. As parents, we are called to remember His love, and to radiate His love for them, to them.

We are called to love our children as Christ loved them on the Cross.

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Anni Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Sacraments Vocations

Love As Christ Loved (Part 2): Recognizing Our Spouse Through the Eyes of Christ

I previously wrote about how we should love ourselves as Christ loved us on the Cross. He recognizes our inherent worth and beauty, over two centuries since His Crucifixion, death, and Resurrection.

Turning the page, we must then begin to analyze what else Christ despised and loved on the Cross.

In today’s society, it is commonplace to find women getting together in groups and the topic inevitably turns toward marriage – whether a group of single women discuss potential partners, or whether married women begin discussing their current husbands.

One need only scroll through popular social media sites, or watch television for a couple hours, to get a sense of the way marriage is portrayed in our culture. Too often, the husbands are portrayed as bumbling oafs, only good for laughs and mockery. The wives are portrayed as the women who have everything put together. Groups of wives, who allow themselves to descend into topics of conversation about their husbands fare little better, getting swept up in complaints about their husbands – whether it’s a perceived personality flaw, a defect in their character, or overall unhappiness in the roles they have assigned in their marriages.

It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of unhappiness as we unburden our frustrations with our girlfriends – we are unhappy about a small thing, we complain, it makes us unhappier, which leads us to further complaints, which makes us even unhappier. Or, we begin to compete with each other as girlfriends – envying the seeming happiness of one woman and her marriage, comparing ourselves and our marriages to her and the marriage she seems to enjoy. We begin to delude ourselves that the grass is greener, others don’t struggle with the same issues, or another couple has all the answers. And, we begin to feel cheated and robbed of a blissful, Hollywood-esque marital existence.

In the midst of this roller coaster of emotions, we forget to consider the words of St. Thomas Aquinas,

As we compare notes, offer sympathy, and commiserate with each other, many times we begin to overlook the redeeming qualities of our husbands. We begin to despise that which Jesus Christ loves.

Christ died for us.

Christ also died for our spouses.

Christ loves us.

Christ also loves our spouses.

Christ believes in us.

Christ also believes in our spouses.

When we are tempted to give in to disparaging remarks about our spouse, we are called, as Catholic Christians, to remember the man we have married. We are called to remember the vows we took, between not just ourselves, but in communion with God.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in 1641, “This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.’” The Catechism also reminds readers in 1642, “Christ is the source of this grace.”

Christ Himself is present in all Sacramental Marriages!

And, we’ve already established, the devil doesn’t like the Triune God! He will try anything to sabotage this holiest of unions.

So, Satan will plant seeds of resentment, he will plant seeds of doubt, he will plant seeds of envy. And, if we are not careful, those seeds will grow.

We are called…

to heed our judgments toward our spouse,

to be vigilant against the feelings of resentment against our spouse,

to banish our envy toward other unions,

to recognize the person we have married, as a person who is loved by Christ,

to view our husband through the eyes of Christ on the Cross.

Through our Sacramental Marriages, we are offered an opportunity to achieve sainthood – as individuals, and as couples. We are offered an opportunity to bring God, and be God, to another in an intimate way. We are also offered an opportunity to build up the Kingdom of God, in the most unique fashion.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself tempted to engage in banter with others about how your spouse is performing as a partner in your marriage, keep in mind it is an opportunity to be charitable.

The opportunity is ripe to guard your tongue against attacks against your husband’s character.

You have been given a chance to be honorable to both your union and God. And to be a shining example of loving as Christ loved on the Cross.

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A Beautiful Woman Anni Feminine Vogue Ink Slingers Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman

Love As Christ Loved (Part 1): Recognizing Our Own Love, Light, and Goodness

Love As Christ Loved (Part 1): Recognizing Our Own Love, Light, and GoodnessGod is Love.

God is Light.

God is Goodness.

God’s arch-enemy, is determined to destroy all of God’s Creation – determined to destroy God’s love, His light, His goodness.

Humans are made in the image and likeness of our Creator. Therefore, it would stand to reason we are Love, we are Light, and we are Goodness.

And, Satan can’t stand that!

So, he’s been busy… trying to send us messages that we aren’t love, we aren’t light, and we aren’t goodness. He tries to convince us we aren’t able to be loved, aren’t able to shine lightness toward others, and that we can’t be good.

Nowhere is this more clear than the covert messages Satan sends women. Using media and social pressures, he tries to convince us that we are no good – to ourselves, to each other, and to our families. He creeps into our psyches, grabs hold of our insecurities, and illuminates them – to others, and more importantly, to ourselves.

We begin to doubt our Love…

 

  … our Light…

  …our Goodness.

We begin to doubt our own self-worth.

In his “Letter to Women” Pope Saint John Paul II stated, “Thank you every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman.” This came after he thanked women in every vocation of life. Pope Saint John Paul II recognized the inherent beauty of all women – the beauty and strength that too often, we have difficulty recognizing on our own.

And, as a culture, we have overlooked these messages of positive qualities women bring to their homes, their families, their lives.

St. Thomas Aquinas is credited with saying,

Love As Christ Loved (Part 1): Recognizing Our Own Love, Light, and Goodness

As Christ hung on the Cross dying, He despised the sin we would be tempted to commit. He despised the choices we would be tempted to make. He despised the messages we would internalize about our self-worth, and our contribution to this world… to our homes, to our families, and to our lives.

He despised how we would doubt, even for a second, His love for us.

As Christ hung on the Cross, dying for our salvation, He was doing so out of love for us.

He was dying for us because

He believed in us;

He had hope in us;

He loved us.

Over two centuries later, He still despises the sins we are tempted to make. He still despises the messages we internalize.

And yet, more than two centuries later,

Love As Christ Loved (Part 1): Recognizing Our Own Love, Light, and Goodness

There is no past-tense with God. Every morning, He begins His love for us fresh and renewed. He eagerly awaits for us to see the beauty He sees in us.

He waits for us to recognize the Love He sees in us.

He waits for us to recognize the Light He sees in us.

He waits for us to recognize the Goodness He sees in us.

We can buy into Satan’s empty promises and his attempts to overlook God’s Love, Light, and Goodness shining through us. We can buy into the messages that we aren’t worthy or good enough for our homes, families, and lives.

Or, every. single. day we can commit to reminding ourselves of a quote often attributed to St. Teresa of Avila – may we trust God that we are where we are meant to be!

We are made to see God’s Love, Light, and Goodness shining in ourselves!

We are also made to take God’s Love, Light, and Goodness to others – to let Him shine through us!

Christ saw our Love, Light, and Goodness shining forth as He gave His life.

So, whenever we are tempted to buy into Satan’s lies that we are not worthy of our homes, of our families, of our lives, remember,

Love As Christ Loved (Part 1): Recognizing Our Own Love, Light, and Goodness

For we are all beloved daughters of a most beautiful, merciful, gracious King… we are all beloved daughters of God!