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Ink Slingers Martina

Creative Ways to Practice the Pause

Being female, first born, and Mexican American, I have plenty of practice in asserting my opinion – and shockingly enough (because I know this will come as a surprise to those who know me IRL), it’s hard to keep my opinion to myself and, instead, pause at times. Unsolicited advice, opinions, theories, reactions…they’re all in my wheelhouse, friends, lol.

But I heard it put so beautifully the other day when I shared on social media about the seeming uselessness of being angry when compared to the thought of dying the next day. Would that anger really matter in the grand scheme of things? One person commented they were trying really hard to “practice the pause.”

“Gold,” I thought. ABSOLUTE GOLD.

How often do we react when we should listen and thoughtfully respond? How quickly do we react? Do we listen to listen or listen to react? Are we listening so that we can craft a response that builds us up or tears others down? What are some strategies we can employ so that we can be a better listener and respond in a way that invites an authentic discussion for both parties? When we make an honest effort to do the following, it can go a long way in curbing the angry response to others.

HOW TO PRACTICE THE PAUSE

Stay close to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I know many of us were kept away from the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a long time due to the shutdown. Staying close to Jesus in the Eucharist is just one way we can ensure our relationships with others are rooted in genuine charity.

Make Reconciliation a regular habit. Once a month is a great goal to have, if not more frequently if you feel God calling you to go more often. Consider going to confession as the pathway to hear the marching orders God has for your life. Kinda hard to hear Him if we’re steeped in sin.

Listen to listen. Have you ever had a conversation with a friend who listened to you? I mean REALLY listened to you? Like…they want to know all about what’s going on with YOU and not just leap in at the end of your sentence to tell you how you should fix your problems.

Extend charity. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Admittedly, this one is hard to put into practice because it requires a lot of looking outside of yourself for perspective.

Remember these are people you are arguing with. This is especially important online when we tend to reduce people to screen names or handles. One good strategy is to ask yourself “would I say this to someone’s face?”

Walk away. Or exit the app or close the laptop. Whatever is robbing your peace, take the wind out of the sails by walking away. That thrill of getting that zinger in will dissipate, leaving you to wonder if you should add that to your confession list – ouch.

Create a list…of things you can do to make walking away easier. Are you at work? Should you be working? If you’re at home, are there chores that you should be doing?

What are some things you would add to this list? Share below in the comments, OR share in a reel on Instagram and tag us – we’ll feature you!

Looking for some similar reads? Check these out:

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Ink Slingers

Even If

“When did I become such a worrier?” I asked my friend as we lamented various circumstances in our lives that were monopolizing our hearts and minds. She shrugged. At one time, in my circle, I was known as the calm, measured one— the one who took challenges as they came and didn’t look back with regret; or forward with worry. “She takes things in stride,” one of my supervisors stated in my employee evaluation when I was fresh out of college and ablaze with enthusiasm for my new career. Nothing seemed to bog me down.

Maybe the worrying habit started when we became parents, my friend and I surmised. Because if you ever had the notion that you had control over your life, that notion goes out the window after you have kids (can I get an Amen?).  Or maybe worry took root when I became a homeowner with a mortgage and unending bills to tackle. Or maybe worry became part of my DNA after my dad died suddenly, or when I had a miscarriage, or when the C-word began lurking in my husband’s medical charts— all times when I found myself on shaky ground that was once solid. I get it. If you have enough of those experiences, you can tend to worry about what’s around the corner. It’s the fear of “what if.”

But this I also know: When I let worry slither in under the door, (or, rather, when I march right up to the door and usher it in with great fanfare), I am turning my back on what the Lord has promised me. And you.

Our loving Lord promises that he will be there, in our tomorrow, just as he is here in our today. In fact, He’s already there! Think about that. He won’t abandon us. He is constant, everlasting, eternal. He is our Rock, our Fortress and our Stronghold! He crushes the “what ifs” with his love and peace and grace.

That means our worry is useless. It is unproductive and unnecessary. It is, dare I say it, worldly.

But, call me human, I still do it. So I need to remind myself (and perhaps you need to remind yourself too?) that even if bad things happen (and they will), Jesus will be there to help us through it. The Holy Spirit will guide us.  Something good will come of it. God will still be on His throne. Even if. Even if real and legitimate concerns arise. Even if a heartbreaking diagnosis is given. Even if a loved one is taken from us in an instant.

Even if.

When I pray during my morning prayer journaling time, I can ask for Jesus to shut down those pesky “what ifs” and instead give me the strength of “even if.” And you know what? That phrase is so much more helpful to have bouncing around in my brain. It establishes a kernel of courage deep within me. It lights a flicker of a flame. It compels me to turn to God and be not afraid. Because, even if, I will have Him. And that is all I need.

“Pray, hope and don’t worry,” said Saint Padre Pio. That’s our command, Sistas.

Even if.

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Ink Slingers

A Deeper Look

My mom and I share an interest in flower gardening. Over the years, she has given me many “starts” from her perennial gardens, and I try my best to keep them alive. Sometimes it works, other times I am forced to take the walk of shame from the flowerbed to the garbage can to toss the feckless, fruitless, failure into the bin.

A few years back she gifted me with one of her “money plants” that grew for years in wispy waves in the flowerbed along her garage. I always admired the cuttings she made from the plants every fall. Delicate, pearlescent silver dollars dangled from tall stems in a vase on her table. No additional flowers were needed to brighten the arrangement— these beauties made a bold enough statement on their own.

With that vision in my head, I planted her silver dollar money plants along my garage too, and took special care not to kill them. Turns out, these plants are hard to kill. In fact, given even slightly reasonable conditions, they will multiply. Massively. Like dirty laundry in the corners of your kids’ rooms. By the following fall, I had more than enough plants to create my own stunning centerpieces.

But there was a problem: My silver dollars weren’t luminous white discs. They were ugly, bumpy and brown! They looked dead. Oh no, I thought. Here comes another shameful trek to the garbage can. Stupid plants. What did I do wrong? I couldn’t figure it out. My money plants all died back over the winter, with no chance to adorn my table.

Calling in the Plant Calvary

The next year, I was determined to do better. The prolific plants doubled in number again! But when the end of summer came along I was in the same frustrating boat, staring with furrowed brow at a sad crop of dry, wrinkly pods. That’s it, I decided. Time to call in the plant cavalry (i.e., my mom).   

What she told me on the phone first made me fall silent. And then it made me smile. And then it made me laugh for a good long time.

I had been missing a very important piece of knowledge. I dashed outside to snag a stem of silver dollars and pinched a pod between my finger and thumb. Then I slid my fingers back and forth, ever so gently, and voila! The unattractive outer layer fell away and revealed the lustrous shiny coin I was yearning for. The ugliness that I had scorned for two seasons was merely a protective covering— a botanical bodyguard— that hid the fragile beauty beneath it.

 

Quick to Judge Instead of Love

Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes, Sistas? I pondered the notion in my prayer journal: We can be so quick to make judgments and come to conclusions that turn out to be so wrong. And I’m not talking just plants here, of course. Whether it’s the mom who is consistently late to her children’s events, or the co-worker who is struggling to stay awake, or the child who is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, we have to remember we are looking only at the unpleasant outer layer. We don’t know if there’s an elderly parent’s care making the mom late, or an abusive spouse situation creating the co-worker’s exhaustion, or a special needs diagnosis causing the child’s behavior. Only the outer layer is visible to us in that moment of time.

God has made us all in his image. We are unique, fabulous creations of His— no two of us are alike! Yet we live in a fallen world with challenges, complexities, and outright sin. These factors can give us an uninviting outer shell and can also hastily cloud our initial perception of others. The foggy glasses of snap judgment can prevent us from seeing the beauty that most certainly exists right below the surface of each one of us. I, for one, don those foggy glasses of snap judgment wayyyy too often.

Saint Mother Teresa teaches us, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” So let’s give each other a break, shall we? We all have struggles, we all have faults, we are all sinners. Let’s look beyond the outer layer, avoid snap judgments and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Better yet, let’s show some love. Let’s vow to save a seat for that latecomer, bring a cup of coffee to that co-worker, and give an empathetic smile to the frazzled mom in the grocery store.

People, like plants, deserve a deeper look.

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Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer

Prayer Spotlight: Litany of Patience

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/watch-timepiece-woman-wearing-828848/

The Litany of Patience has been one of my  favourite and most frequented prayers. It was written by a fellow Catholic blogger Christina Dehan Jaloway (check out The Evangelista).  I used to pray this litany daily during a time of waiting. I find myself visiting it again now, in an effort to let go of my comfort zone. I am currently studying and travelling in South Korea this summer, which is keeping me on my toes for what the Lord has planned for me next. As exciting as it is to immerse myself in a new environment, I find myself overwhelmed in many ways. The noise of this new place has challenged me to find God in spaces I am unfamiliar with, but even more importantly, in stillness.

To recite the entire Litany is in itself a challenge of patience, not because it’s too long, but because each line begs for a pause of reflection or intention. Breath and conviction. I’ll share a few of my favorite lines:

Response: …Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire to control my life.

This desire emcompasses my “default mode”. I am always thinking about how the next month and year is going to pan out, to the extent that my grip on the “Ideal Vision Board for a 20-something year-old” tightens. What am I going to do with my life? Immediately I am zeroing in on opportunities and doors that are within my reach. Overcome with so much worry, my mind is closed to anything that God may have in store for me.

It helps to look into the heart of Mary when God gave her the news that would forever change her life and the lives of everyone forever. She embodies the phrase, Thy will be done. No ifs, ands or buts. A true act of humility to say, “although my will is desirable, I choose Yours”.

From the desire to speak when I need to stay silent…


I enjoy speaking and using words to connect with people and show them who God is. Admittedly, using my mouth improperly is a giant I have yet to conquer. I often speak without thinking first. There are times when it’s too early to speak, but I choose to open my mouth anyways. Gossip is a sin that I have been struggling with. I think it’s a wound that many women carry. Sometimes it’s hard to identify when saying nothing at all is better than saying something. It is very easy to use our voice for selfish reasons. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but realize that our mouths are powerful tools in letting the Word come to life. Let nothing but love come from your lips.


This desire to speak may even apply to our prayer habits. How many of us fill our prayer times with only voice? How often do we sit in silence and listen to what He has to say? Going to adoration regularly has been powerful in many ways. It trains me to sit still for an extended period of time, open to the Spirit and to His word, not mine. I bring in my troubles and intentions for the day, but like an effective relationship, you have to listen and wait for what the other person has to say. How can we ask God for so much and be unable to wait for His next move?


From impatience with my own sins and slow growth in virtue…


Have you ever thought that maybe you exercise impatience the most consistently with yourself? We are not always going to be the best examples of perfect daughters, sisters, mothers, or women of God. Think of how many times you’ve sinned and punished yourself for being too weak or stupid.


Our Father wants us to be patient and more loving to ourselves. How can we give the people around us patience if we are so unforgiving to ourselves when we fail? As much as you may lose patience with your husband, kids, or parents, remember that you are also imperfect and still worthy of their love. He calls us to love who He loves, and we forget that that includes us.


From the temptation to act out of sorrow, discouragement, anxiety, or fear…


This line so beautifully (and painfully) explains where many of our rash reactions to situations are sourced. Who knew that it was a show of impatience to act out of emotions such as these? Acting out of discouragement and fear is a sign that God’s promise has slipped away from our minds and hearts. It’s a sign that we decided to allow other things to replace that promise. Things that are not of Him. As a result, we react in hopes that we can reduce the feelings of uncertainty or minimize the pain we may feel. Without the patience or grace to endure, we end up more disappointed and discouraged.

That I may maintain an eternal perspective in all that I do.


This line echoes a podcast I heard by Matt Smith. From what I remember, he said to act not so much with the end in mind, but with eternity in mind. Having an “eternal perspective” seems so daunting and quite honestly, hard to keep up. When I read these words, I am at the same time asking for maturity in my faith. Like with many things, only through practice and experience can one learn. I feel that my challenge is to really exercise this eternal perspective. To always be reminded that when we seek Him, even if we can’t see clearly through our tears and frustrations, we will ultimately see a greater glory–beyond the troubles of this world. He will open our eyes.


I hope that this powerful prayer is one that can inspire all of you, dear sisters, to exercise enduring patience, move with the Spirit, and surrender your plans to the greatest of them all.

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Ink Slingers

Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” asks Jesus of Mary Magdalen at the tomb.

How often in my life has Jesus asked this very question of me? Woman, why are you weeping? Grieving is necessary and appropriate. If I have not grieved, I would question the authenticity of my passion for a project or an idea or my love of a person or friendship. Grief is needed to process real disappointments and losses. There have been, however, seasons or situations in my life when I have experienced a grief that turned into something else entirely. At times I have gotten quite comfortable with sadness allowing it to cover me, tucking me in for a long nap. And this grief, while keeping me company in the mourning, has in time turned to pity. Pity is dark, cold and slippery. Pity easily gave me permission to wallow in the injustice of my disappointment turning it rapidly into discouragement. Self-pity has taken my sorrow or my suffering, turning it to depression and eventually despair.  I have experienced all these emotions in varying degrees at times in my life. I have had to work hard through therapy and counseling, prayer and proper self-care to better manage my emotions and thoughts. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” It is difficult to know how often I have been unable to see Jesus standing with me in the mess. I am unsure of how many times I have been unable to hear Him asking me, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  

Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!

How often I wonder where God is when I am overwhelmed or suffering. Why God have you allowed this thing to happen to me? Why God does it seem You are not answering my prayers? Why God are You allowing so much suffering to go on? Recently it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t in the why but the how. In imitation of Mary, Our Blessed Mother, maybe I should be asking how is it that I am to carry on Lord. How Lord can I serve you in the suffering? How Lord can I find you in the sorrow? How Lord can I join my sorrows to yours? Because isn’t it true that it is not if I experience tribulations but when? When I find myself asking Lord, where are You, am I not already consumed by my distress? Fear takes over, peace is absent. Where is my Lord? Where has He gone? “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” I am weeping for a variety of reasons; many of them have to do with my perception of what life should look like or feel like in any given situation on any day of the week. I am a perfectionist working on recovery. Messy. Chaotic. Disordered. All of the stuff that is a part of being alive and caring for others is hard on me.  People are messy. Relationships can be as disordered as my emotions. Family life, well, ours can be a rollercoaster ride. And, far too often I forget to remember that this life is not without suffering. This life, if I am trying to live with my heart wide open, is not without pain. This beautiful gift, along with the people God has placed in it, is meant to shape me, refine me, teach me and mold me into the best version of myself God created me to be. “Whom, am I looking for?” Like Mary Magdalen, in the sorrows or frustrations of my everyday life, I want to be looking for Jesus? Am I seeking Him to be my teacher, my guide for this earthly journey? When the reality of life is harsh and heartbreaking I know I need to be running to Him for solace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. -John 14:27

I have found these four practices to be essential to keeping me centered and at peace. They have become incorporated into the routine of my life. In regularly participating in these four practices I have encountered Christ, and I have grown closer to Him. I have become more confident in His promises.  He is with us. Always and all ways.

Daily Morning Prayer. Every morning I get up. Make a cup of coffee and grab my prayer journal along with the daily readings. I open them up and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me in the readings. And, He does! All I must do is show up and pray. This has really changed my relationship with God.

Mass. I try to go daily. I need this to ground me for the day and to feed my spirit. It is what has healed me and sustained me through many a difficult time.

Confession. I know. I have a love-hate thing with this Sacrament. It is so hard to get myself there oftentimes but once there it is such a beautiful healing mercy.

Adoration. The most important regularly scheduled appointment I have on my calendar. Once a week for one hour I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament in quiet. I drop all my stuff right there at the altar. I just leave it and pray, listening for the Comfort of my soul.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.