NFP: how we do

Wow, how about a really long blog break, with a great re-entry about a topic sure to invigorate the masses? 🙂 You’re welcome in advance!

I’ve been struggling with writing this post all week. If you haven’t heard, it’s NFP awareness week, which means every day this week I’ve been inundated with wonderful posts about the beauty, challenges, struggles, blessings, and reality that NFP is in my oh-so-lovely Catholic blogger world. (That’s sincere, not thinly veiled sarcasm, I really do love all of them. And yes, I read lots of Catholic mom blogs, are you surprised?)

All week I’ve said to myself, Hannah, you should write a post about NFP. It’s just been tugging on my heart. But then I’ll sit down to the computer, stare blankly at my computer screen, and think: what more can I offer to the conversation that hasn’t been said before, and said better?

There’s Rosie’s great post about her struggles and acceptance of NFP, Mandi’s heartfelt honesty about NFP and infertility, Kendra’s reasons for ditching NFP altogether, and (my favorite, if I’m been blatantly honest) Carolyn’s monster of a NFP post that really can’t be blithely summed up for a link.

All of them are honest. And true. And come from their very hearts. And I think to myself, well, I’ve been doing NFP for just about 2.5 years now, but I don’t have a ton of revelatory information to share with you all.

There are a few things I wanted to clear up with you all, though.

1. NFP isn’t easy.

I’m very grateful for my NFP education, but I’ll admit that before we started actually practicing NFP, I had this vision in my head (somewhat instilled by my NFP instructor) that it was going to be basically a cake walk. And then came wonky cycles, postpartum hormones, and all that jazz. For some, sure – it’s easy, and fits into their life like it was meant to be. For others of us that may be outside the “norm,” it’s not so easy.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by women in my life (and yes, also on the internet) that practice NFP, so I’ve got a big “village” supporting me, answering my questions, listening in sympathy, and giving practical advice every way I turn. Not everyone who practices NFP has that, I know! I know. The generous support of my community makes it easier, but it’s still not easy. It requires sacrifice, and time, and a whole lot of prayer.

2. NFP is worth it.

The more and more I read about the horrors of birth control (and that’s just the tip of the very large iceberg), I can’t imagine putting it into my body every single day. And heck, I’m not even one of those people who buys only organic or who worries about hormones in my milk or anything like that. NFP (or even FAM, Fertility Awareness Method, the non-religious name for fertility charting) is natural, doesn’t require buying or getting anything other than a piece of paper and a pen (or a free app – Kindara is my favorite!) and a woman’s body. Totally worth it – for non-religious reasons alone!

3. NFP means being open to life.

And I don’t just mean being open to life as in: accept as many children as your body can physically produce. I mean being open to life – realizing that sex does lead to babies, but that being open to life means that you might have lots of kids, or you might have trouble conceiving, or you might not be able to easily read your signs of fertility and have a hard time charting, or you might have heartbreaking miscarriages, or any sort of thing like that. It’s not an easy concept to come to terms with, but it’s oh-so-true. Being open to life means realizing that our reproductive lives weren’t exempt from the effects of the Fall, and that no person is completely “in control” of their fertility, no matter how they handle it.

I hope this post doesn’t come off as preachy or all-knowing, because like I said, I’ve only been doing NFP for 2.5 years (and I was pregnant/nursing for 1.5 of those!). And NFP is a hard topic to talk about on the internet, because there are always those who struggle and the information doesn’t come out right when you’re reading a blog post. I beg you, if you’re interested in NFP or have more questions, or just want someone to vent to – please email us! Or talk to your parish priest, or message a friend on Facebook who you know is doing NFP. Having a community that supports you is one of the most helpful things you can do if you’re practicing NFP.

And if you’ve got a moment this week, say a prayer for everyone practicing NFP and those trying to spread its message.

Hannah

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MY Newman Center

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis last Sunday, David and I were lucky enough to get to attend the blessing & dedication of the new Newman Center and St. Thomas Aquinas Church at our alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

If you aren’t from around Nebraska, or know me in real life, the Newman Center’s where David and I met during our first week of college. I could give you a hundred different reasons I loved our time at Newman during college. Through the community there I met some of my best friends, went to more social events and group things than I ever would have otherwise (#introvert), and most importantly developed a deep and real love for Christ and His Church because of the people I met there.

Some say the heart of evangelization has to do with all these new forms of reaching people – inviting them to things on Facebook, clever graphics in blog posts about Catholicism, new music, or going to people where they are. But I have to disagree. To me, the New Evangelization, what St. John Paul the Great called us to, is based primarily through relationship.

And that’s what I found at the Newman Center. Not only did I find relationships with other faithful, striving Catholic students, all hoping and striving towards a life with Christ, but I found Him. I found Christ Himself, a true and deep relationship with the God who made me. I fell in love with Him there – in hours of adoration, in late-night Masses, in small visits in between classes, in silent tears after Reconciliation. I was formed into who I am now and who I’ll be in the future there.

And now that Newman Center that I treasured so much – with its vividly blue stained-glass windows, and dramatic Crucifix, and beloved side chapels – is gone. It was torn down back in 2013 (part of the reason David and I weren’t married there – it wasn’t there!). Now in its place stands a brand new, beautiful church and Newman Center.

I’m a nostalgic sort of person. I miss the old building a bit – it was cozy, intimate, and a little outdated. There was only 1 set of bathrooms, and the tile was chipping in places, and students were crammed in for Masses weekend after weekend. (The old church sat 300 – the new now seats 650.) I have so many memories built into the old church – hilarious nights with friends; attending 10 p.m. Mass with my then-boyfriend, now husband; hosting parties and winning chili cook-offs; dances and heart-to-hearts and spiritual growth all wrapped up into one small space.

But this change is one that’s necessary, one needed for generations far beyond my own small contribution. In place of the old building is a new space to love for students for years and years to come. Other hearts besides mine will be changed there. Other future spouses will meet and grow in relationship there together. More trials and growth of souls than I can count will happen in this new church, and for that I am in awe and so very grateful.

David and I sat in the very back of the church during the dedication Mass, and I was in tears multiple times throughout the service. I could at the same time see the old and new churches together – the years and people formed by the old church, willing to put time and effort and money into building a church for the next generations. I could envision students for years to come walking into the same space, finding exactly what they were looking for – and more. Seeing people of all ages, from tiny babies to students, from new parents to grandparents, and every age in between made the timelessness of the moment even more memorable.

I’ve felt beyond blessed to be part of the Newman Center during my time in college (however long ago that may feel to me now…and it’s only been two years!). I know that this new church will serve many more students just like I was – looking for a place to call home, a place to find Him. As we knelt in prayer after the Mass had finished, all I could say to Jesus was thank you.

Please join me in praying for all the students to come for this Newman Center, and by thanking Him, too.

Hannah

Lent. It kinda sucks.

So, I don’t know if you’ve realized it or not, but we’re almost done with Lent.

Crazy, right?

In some sense, it’s kind of nice that the end snuck up on me. It gets me just a little bit closer to eating Raising Cane’s again. (My husband and I gave up going to Raising Cane’s together for our joint penance. I will not disclose how many times I have dreamed about going there since Lent started. It’s a little too embarrassing for the internet.)

Christ on the Cross Rembrandt, 1631

Christ on the Cross
Rembrandt, 1631

But as the Passion of Christ approaches, I’m reminded of one simple fact, over and over again: Lent isn’t supposed to be fun. In fact, it kind of sucks.

I start out each Lent, every single year, with amazingly high hopes. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but they’re never fully realized. I have this idea in my head that I’ll make a complete 180 during these 40 days – every sin I’m falling into will be totally not tempting by the end of Lent. I’ll be so much further in my spiritual life. I’ll have total self-control over myself because I gave up x and y and z. I’ll be so much happier, so much closer to God, so much of a better person.

And without fail: it doesn’t happen.

Why? Oh yeah, because we’re human. Because we’re frail.

Because Lent isn’t about us. Because Lent is about Him.

Sure, we offer small penances, trying our very best frail human tries to unite them to Christ’s suffering on the cross. We attempt to devote our hearts and minds to Him, fasting with Him for 40 days, trying to make the journey to Calvary together.

Every year, without fail, around this time, I’m reminded of how human I really am. I’m disappointed with my “performance” throughout Lent. I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve failed in my Lenten penances. I get discouraged. I try to justify each one, and then I get even more discouraged.

But then Someone nudges me, reminding me: “Hey, it’s not about you. It’s about Him.”

Praise God for that, don’t you agree? Because if Lent was about me, it’d just be a depressing reminder every year of my frailty, my concupiscence, my inability to change at the blink of an eye.

But no. It’s about Him. It’s about His ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. It’s about His unending Love for us, His glorious and limitless mercy, His desire to share in Eternal Life with every single one of us.

That lifts my spirits a little bit.

And helps me resolve to live these last two weeks in pursuit of Him, with the beauty of the cross drawing me towards Him, and the promise of the Resurrection giving me hope.

I pray it does for you, too.

Hannah

Jealous of Nineveh

Sometimes, I feel a little pang of jealousy towards the people of Nineveh.

Today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-10) is the story of Jonah’s travels through the city of Ninevah (before the whole whale-incident). God tells Jonah to go to the city, walk through it (which took 3 whole days of walking, big task in and of itself) and to tell the city to repent of its evil ways. Jonah’s like, okay God, and sets off. He’s only a day’s walk in, proclaiming that the city will be overthrown if they do not repent, when the king hears of Jonah’s proclamation and declares a city-wide fast and repentance.

When I read that, I get a little jealous – perhaps nostalgic is a better word – of the simplicity of that time. In summary, here’s what happens.

People sin —> God sends messenger —> Messenger says repent —> People repent.

What a clear sign from God, right?

When I meditate on this passage, I wish sometimes that my life was that easy. Say I’m stuck in a particular sin. There’s no messenger coming to my door, knocking and saying, “Hey Hannah. God wants you to stop sinning. Okay, bye!” There’s also definitely no immediate reaction of sackcloth + ashes from me. (In addition, there’s not a political ruler telling me to repent, but that’s somewhat beside the point.)

It seems like life would be so much easier if it worked like that nowadays.

No, when I sin, I’m stuck there, without a friendly messenger to prod me along. Perhaps you are, too? You sin, and then keep sinning, and maybe get yourself to confession, and then find yourself falling right back into the same sin. It can be disheartening.

And then I think to myself: well, maybe God is sending me specific signs, telling me to repent. Am I missing them? How do I go about searching for signs from Him, if I don’t even know what I’m looking for? Should I be worried about this? Do other people worry about this?…and on and on it can go.

I do think God is still sending us signs – they’re perhaps just not as blatant as those in Jonah’s time. We might just have to spend a little more time and effort looking for them.

This Lent, I’m trying to do just that. I’m spending more time reading Scripture (the daily readings, which are a very easy place to start!), and more time in mental prayer. I want to know when He is sending me signs, and I also want to not worry about it so gosh-darn much.

God sends us signs in ways appropriate for our day and age – just like Jonah was appropriate for the people of Nineveh. They didn’t have Facebook groups to keep them accountable for Lent. They didn’t have the opportunity to read the Scripture every day, or even have it sent to their email box if they so choose. They didn’t have a Pope, giving recommendations on ways to grow in holiness during Lent, accessible by a simple click. Heck, they didn’t even have the majesty and humility and the grace of Jesus on the cross.

Perhaps my jealousy is a little out of whack. Perhaps it’s time for me to own up to the day and age I live in, and know that God is sending me signs – it’s just a little more my job to look for them.

A miraculous love

In case you missed it, my husband and I had a baby, a beautiful baby girl named Kateri, in May of this year. (Yes, we named her after St. Kateri Tekakwitha, my favorite (now) saint since I was a little girl.) She is a beautiful and super easy baby. Seriously, we have been extremely blessed with how great she is.

Lots of times when I was pregnant I liked to dream about who the little person was growing inside me. What he or she would be when they grew up, what their favorite food was going to be, what he or she would look like. We chose not to find out her gender ahead of time (which is another subject entirely) so we had lots of time and options to guess about what he or she would be like.

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As she was my first baby, I had never experienced the joy and anticipation that comes with being pregnant. It was more fun than anything I could have imagined. Reading updates on how big the baby was week by week, trying to imagine little fingers and toes growing inside my belly – all of it. Kicks and hiccups in utero were surreal – sometimes it felt otherworldly to realize there was a person capable of movement and everyday things like hiccups inside me.

But when she was born it all became clear. Even though I had a devilish hell of a labor and birth experience (and I mean that in the way that women wouldn’t suffer pains with childbirth if it weren’t for the Fall), seeing her face made something instantly click inside me. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself. When I saw her face, held her close, looked into her beautiful blue eyes, and also cried my eyes out (I’m a cry-er, what can I say), it was like Heaven and Earth aligned around this one single moment in my life.

It was so clear in that instant that she – this perfect little person, screaming healthily, with 10 fingers and 10 toes and a newborn scrunched face – was the exact full person who was inside me the whole time. Sometimes while I was still pregnant it was hard to believe there was actually a person in there – a person capable of walking, or singing, or riding a bike. But when she arrived it became an unequivocal fact. It was suddenly so real and so true that she was the one in there the whole time. Of course she was, I said to myself. It all made perfect sense.

While we spent hours admiring her in the weeks after her birth, my husband and I had this discussion many a time. After living through the miracle that is the ability to make a human being, we have a hard time now understanding who can believe that she wasn’t a person the whole time. We had the same conversations when I was still pregnant, but seeing her in the flesh solidified it beyond belief. We both have so much love for her, and are still so in awe that we are graced with the ability to bring this child of God up in the world. How could we ever not believe it was her the whole time? After growing Kateri inside me, how can I ever think she wasn’t who she is, complete and whole from the very beginning?

Being a mother also makes me see lots of things in a completely new way. I have so much more admiration now for single mothers and fathers, whatever their circumstance. Raising a baby is hard. I couldn’t do it without David’s help. I also understand to a greater degree the suffering of couples who struggle with infertility. The blessing of a baby is more than I could have imagined – I can’t comprehend wanting and waiting for such a gift for so long and being saddened and disappointed month after month, or year after year. These thoughts are in my prayers much more than they ever were before I was a mom. Miscarriage, complications at birth, all of those life issues are much more prevalent on my heart than ever.

I am also amazed at how motherhood gives me a much more profound insight into our Father’s love for us. I see how amazing David is with our beautiful baby, and my heart bursts with love when she coos or smiles at me. I cry or cringe with pain when she suffers. And I think, how can there be a love bigger than this? How can anything compare? And then I realize that I love with a human frailty, that I have flaws, and will make mistakes, as all human mothers and fathers do. But our Father loves us with an abiding love that is beyond human comprehension – much deeper and more meaningful and infinitely more powerful than the love I feel for my daughter. He has that love for all of us – for me, my daughter, my neighbor, my enemy. And I am amazed. I can try to comprehend it, but I never will. But now, with just the little more wisdom that motherhood has gifted me with, I am amazed at His love for us.

I guess what I’m trying to say, as disjointed as this post has been, is this: motherhood has changed me in so many ways, and I’m only 3 months in. Life is a much more precious gift than I ever comprehended before. And I am so blessed and grateful to have been given this opportunity to be a mother. Prayers to you and yours.

Pax tecum,

Hannah

 

 

 

In Defense of Kids and Babies (Part 1)

It’s been awhile since Hannah and I tag teamed a post. I was scrolling on facebook when I saw this post from BeliefNet.com, 10 Things to do Before You Have Kids.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this. I was even more surprised that it came from a Christian website and supplied some really lame things to do.

I then participated in an activity that I rarely do online…I read the comments. ACK. They ranged from heretical, ignorant, to down right insulting.

But many readers asked the same questions Hannah and I asked: why are these things so important? Why can’t people do these things after having kids? Why is this Christian website even posting this kind of article?

Since Hannah has a beautiful baby girl, she has provided her rebuttal to each of the 10 things.

Join a Kickball League:

I know plenty of responsible, working, involved parents who are members of sports teams, and it doesn’t seem to distract from their lives in any way. Yes, you might watch some sports when your kids get old enough, but what is a better deal – you having to do all the sweating and working and getting tired and feeling old because you can’t run like you could in college, or watching your kids who have boundless amounts of energy run around like mad men chasing after a soccer ball with no apparent objective in mind? Seems like a clear winner.

Attend Coachella:

It may have always been a dream of mine to go to Coachella. But let me tell you, just because I have a baby now is certainly not the reason I won’t be going anytime soon. Who has the moolah to afford one of these things? Plane fair, lodging, plus the cost of entrance is just a ridiculous total. I’d much rather take my baby to a free outdoor concert, have her sleep through the whole thing, and really get to enjoy it rather than stress about a grocery budget for the next year because I went to Coachella. (And yes, that argument was the same before I had kids. Even more so, perhaps, during the broke-a$$-college-phase).

Travel to a Festival:

The author gives no reason you can’t do this one with your little one(s)…oh wait, maybe because there’s no reason not to bring them! Whether you want to go to Oktoberfest in Germany or perhaps even just the local St. Patty’s day parade in your hometown, kids are pretty much always welcome at festival-like events like these. Why do you think they invented the stroller? Festival-going.

Make Brunch a Weekly Event:

I don’t know about you, but I do love me some breakfast food. I’m pretty sure it’s one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (That and the toothbrush. I’d be happy with just those two for the rest of my life.) Why would you want to deny the deliciousness of brunch to your new favorite people – your kids? Sure, they might not have as intellectual conversations as some people’s friends, but sharing is caring…especially when it comes to breakfast food.

Spend a Good Chunk of Change on Yourself:

To me, this just reads: Be irresponsible because it’s fun, and don’t bother to plan for the future. Now I’m all about treating yourself every once in awhile, because life is meant to be lived, but I will never advocate for fiscal irresponsibility. True story: my parents always encouraged us kids to put half of our earnings from jobs in the bank, and I thank them for that lesson greatly. Fiscal responsibility is important no matter your stage in life.

Save Like There’s No Tomorrow:

Wow, there’s actually some good advice in this list. I agree – if you know you’re having kids in the future, it’s never a bad idea to start saving ahead of time. They are expensive little things – obviously, worth it, but expensive! Saving is good, again, no matter your stage in life.

Add a Pet to Your Family Dynamic:

Now, I don’t totally disagree with this point. Pets are (from what I’ve heard) a great way to practice for the responsibility of parenthood. But let’s be real, the range of what your Golden Retriever can do will only grow so far. A kid, on the other hand (human, not goat) will far surpass a puppy in about 2 years. Want to teach your dog to speak another language? Probably not going to happen…but kids can do that! I’m certainly not advocating against pet-owning though. Pets make great friends for kids! But you don’t HAVE to get one before you have a baby.

Stay out all night:

Who does that? That’s for bored teenagers who have nothing more fun to look forward to the next day that sleeping in til noon. Plus, when you have kids, you get to stay UP all night – or at least some of the nights, probably (unless you have a miracle baby) and what can be more precious than that? And the author says that you’ll want to stay home rather than go out “on the town” when you have kids. But let’s be honest, if you’re reading an article about things to do before you have a baby, you’re probably on your way to a stay-at-homer anyway.

Score your dream job:

Just because you have kids means you lose your entire identity? I know plenty of men and women who were inspired by their children (even at a very young age) and went and found their “dream job” while having kids. Plus I have always believed that the idea of a “dream job” is unrealistic. Anything that you have to work at is going to be frustrating at some point, and will never completely fulfill you emotionally or spiritually…so like, what’s the point in stressing about it?

Write a Letter to Yourself:

Again, this is a good thing that I do not disagree with. I wish I would have thought of it before having K! But then again, I wasn’t trolling the internet looking for a list of things I absolutely-needed-to-do-before-having-kids, because I’m a believer that your life doesn’t change all that much with kids, it only grows and gets better. (Call me crazy if you want. It’s the internet, after all.)

For (in my opinion) better and more exciting posts about kids and babies read: “I’m Not Prejudiced, I Just Don’t Like 25% of Humanity” and Contributing to the Anti-Child Culture.

 

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Look at this mother of one having zero fun.

How to Observe Holy Week

Holy Week is one of those times during the liturgical year that I struggle observing the most.

I don’t have a problem with the last days in Advent, because everything is already so Christmas-y already that I can’t help but be reminded of the day we’re looking forward to at the end.

But Lent is a different story. Perhaps it’s because it’s longer, or because it’s filled with more sacrifices, or maybe just because the spring season is so busy and filled with events all around that the end of it always sneaks up on me.

This year I want to observe Holy Week in the best way I can. So I’ve come up with a list of 5 things I’m going to do to try to observe Holy Week in the best ways I can. If you’re so inclined, feel free to join with me – or give me some suggestions on things I should have included!

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1. Read the Daily Readings

With work and growing a baby, I just know I won’t make it to Mass every day of Holy Week, as much as I’d like to. So this year I’m going to commit to reading the readings every day of Holy Week in preparation for Easter. If you have a subscription to Magnificat, they’re all set up there for you – if not, just click on over to the USCCB website each day and read to your heart’s content. You can also listen to it at work via iTunes or on their website here. If you’ve got a smartphone, download Laudete in your marketplace and the daily readings are the top link in the navigation pane! (Ahh, the age of the internet. Glorious, isn’t it?)

2. Go to Confession

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Holy Week always feels like the best Confession I have all year. Perhaps it’s because it’s a set time that I always go, but more than that I think it’s because Jesus’ suffering and death seem so much closer than during the rest of the year. I always try to go at least twice during Lent, and this is one of the times I make sure to get there. Celebrating Easter Sunday Mass feels extra-special with a squeaky-clean soul. 

3. Pray the Stations of the Cross

If you can squeeze it, try to pray the Stations of the Cross – either at your local parish or by yourself. I have vivid memories praying the Stations of the Cross every Friday afternoon during grade school, but after that they became harder to fit in my schedule. (Yes, I realize that was over 10 years ago…whoops.) But I do always try to pray them during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. Most parishes should have a time on Good Friday where the Stations are prayer together as a community, sometimes in conjunction with a Good Friday Service. If your parish doesn’t have them, no worries! You can find lots of versions online to pray (again, thank you Internetz) – here’s one of my favorites. 

4. Add Some Sacrifices

During Holy Week, I like to pile on the Lenten sacrifices, especially if I’ve failed a few times during the season of Lent (which for me is inevitable). Okay, maybe I don’t pile them on, but I do like to sacrifice a couple of extra things during Holy Week. Sometimes that’s things I was considering giving up for the entirety of Lent, or perhaps it’s just adding some more daily prayer to my schedule. A couple of my favorites for Holy Week are: no TV/radio (or limited), giving up your pillow at night, no snooze button for the week, or praying a rosary every day. Anything works though – I like to think of it as the extra “adrenaline rush” I might need to be prepped for Easter.

5. Think about Holy Week

This seems kind of like a “duh, Hannah” sort of piece of advice – but I find that just reminding myself that it’s Holy Week helps me to remember and appreciate the last days of Lent. If you’re busy like me, maybe set an alarm on your phone that pops up every day of the week that just says “Holy Week!” on it. Or find some other way to remind yourself – put a sticky note on your desk (added bonus of evangelization, maybe?) or a note on your bathroom mirror. Doing all the above-mentioned things might help you to remember more than normal but a little help never hurts.

Hopefully this list helps me remember to observe Holy Week better this year than any other year…there’s always room for improvement, right? What am I missing on the list – how do you observe Holy Week? 

Prayers –

Hannah

Lenten Sacrifice Ideas {right under the wire!}

If you’re like me, Lent completely snuck up on you this year. 

Yes, we’ve been hinting at it in the readings for the past couple weeks, and I had it circled in my calendar, but still — this Sunday’s announcement of Ash Wednesday Mass times at our local parish completely hit me out of nowhere. Something about the shortness of February and the epic cold weather we’re still suffering in Nebraska made it seem impossible that Lent could already be here.

I immediately panicked: oh shoot, what am I gonna do for Lent? Immediately I started sweating, panicky, and realized: my brain is broken. I can’t come up with ANYTHING. I can’t even think of words that relate to Lent, let alone a good couple things to give up and take up during these 40 days of penance.

I’m here to help you out. (Whew! Breathe a sigh of relief now, and maybe go put on more deodorant. Friendly advice.) I’ve collected a list of the blogosphere’s best resources for Lenten sacrifices for your perusal. Click through, weigh your options, and give some love to these bloggers for having great, foreward-thinking posting. 

1. Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (in Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced)

Kendra at Catholic All Year came up with a fantastic, easy-to-read list of ideas for your Lenten sacrifices. And handily enough, you can decide a level for each sacrifice, or even come up with a sort of schedule to increase your difficulty as the season progresses. (You get level-up points if you do it that way, I’m told.) 

2. FOCUS’s Lentsanity app

FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students, aka Caitlin’s employer) has a great solution to your Lenten worries: an app designed specifically for Lent! Called “Lentsanity,” it’s got daily reflections, meat-free recipe ideas, and you can even set reminders before meals on days of fasting and abstinence so you have no excuse to miss out! Go to your fancy marketplace on your smartphone and download it for free, or click to the link above and navigate to “Lentsanity App.”  

3. What to Give Up for Lent: 20 Weird Ideas

LifeTeen’s got a great list of easy-to-implement but definitely grace-inducing ideas for Lenten sacrifices. Each one on their list is guaranteed to make you step back every day and rethink your daily living, refocusing it on Christ.

4. 100 Things to Do for Lent

I read this post last year right before Lent and it’s just as relevant today. The author’s gathered 100 ideas to pick from for sacrifices during Lent — with 100 things to choose from, how can you not find one that fits your spiritual needs?

5. My Lenten Challenge: 40 Days of Living Sacrifice [and] Planning for Lent: How Sacrificing Time for Exercise Can Become a Lifelong Offering of Love

This one is a double-whammy, and I’ve included both of them because they’re motivating me for my own Lenten sacrifices (more on that later). Steph at Little Bit of Paradise has a great (and challenging!) promise for Lent: to exercise once every day for the entire 40 days. Sounds tiring, doesn’t it? Her reasons are beautiful and good and heartening for those of us maybe joining her. And Susan at Sole Searching Mamma makes the same case for recognizing the care of our bodies as a sacrifice for some — one with infinite benefits. Give them both a read!

If you’re Catholic, or happen to have a lot of Catholic friends on Facebook, perhaps you’ve seen these all before — if not, enjoy the list. As for me, I’ll be reading the Gospel of Luke (thanks to Caitlin’s recommendation), working out every day with my husband as our joint sacrifice (which will be harder to do this year seeing as I’m 28 weeks pregnant!), spending 15 minutes of quiet time a day in prayer with Our Lord, and giving up pop. I usually tack on a couple more sacrifices for Holy Week in order to prepare myself for Easter, so I may be back with a follow-up post for that later…if you’re lucky. 

Happy Fat Tuesday, and a prayerful Lent to all of you!

Hannah

A quick summary

We’ve gotten a lot of new followers and lots of traffic recently (which certainly has to do with the fact that we created a Facebook page) so I thought I’d make a quick summary post, a Cliffnotes of the blog so you can catch up if you are new!

First, welcome.

Here is an interview with Hannah.

Here is an interview with Caitlin.

Here is Hannah’s most popular (based on number of views) post.

Here is Caitlin’s most popular (ditto) post.

And finally; the most recent post of Hannah’s, and the most recent post of Caitlin’s.

Or you can just read them all, but there are a lot (we are almost two years old…out of control).

Comment on other posts you think are important for summarizing purposes!

Peace!

Being Married: A Primer on Humility

Okay, so I know I’ve been away from the blogging game recently and Caitlin has been more than compensating with her wonderful writing in my absence, but I’m back with a vengeance and a promise that I’ll be writing more and more in the forseeable future.

As you may or may not know, the primary reason for my absence is that I got married to the most amazing, virtuous, and holy man this summer. June 29, 2013, to be exact. The day was everything I imagined and more, and living my vocation has been such a fulfillment of a lifelong desire I didn’t know I had. Well, more accurately, I didn’t realize how deep that desire went in my heart and in my life in general.

My bridesmaids & I admiring the ring my hubby designed.

My bridesmaids & I admiring the ring my hubby designed.

look! it's me and Caitlin!

look! it’s me and Caitlin!

Suffice it to say marriage has been wonderful – crazy – beautiful – and eye-opening in these first few months. As pretty much any newlywed will tell you, marriage is a completely different experience than the single life. Okay, duh, it’s really really different. But it’s amazing, and I want to share with you one of the things that I’ve realized and learned and hopefully will continue to strive towards in our first few months of marriage.

Humility is, for me, the hardest – but most rewarding – virtue to practice in my daily life. I have a terrible personality flaw in that I think I’m always right, and I don’t like to be told when I’m wrong. (Those of you who know me already know this. I’m just learning it for myself in a much deeper, more impactful way now.) Marriage has thrown my self-importance and my pride outttttttt the window and forced me to examine myself every. single. day. Which is so good for my spiritual development, but really hard to live on a day-to-day basis. I have to be humble in both assessing my successes and my failures in our marriage, and that’s really hard. I hate admitting that I’m wrong – but it happens. Marriage has helped me realize that. I hate being corrected – but I need it, a lot, and my husband does a wonderful job of giving me constructive criticism when I need it. (Let’s be honest – he could probably do it a lot more often and I’d deserve it.)

I could go on and on with things in our marriage that are forcing me to practice humility. But I am just now realizing how rewarding it really is to be humble. To be honestly, truly aware of myself and how little I am in the world and how little I should make myself in our marriage. It has given me a new appreciation for so many things – but the most amazing thing is that every time I force myself to focus on humility, I am a marginally better person. I can feel God’s grace working in me when I focus on humility. I’m happier, more available to my husband, more at peace, less stressed, and more flexible – all things I should be anyway, but focusing on humility produces them as byproducts rather than goals to be checked off a list.

But like I said earlier, learning about my own flaws and growing in humility is noooot easy. Let’s be real, who honestly likes learning about all the ways they are a terrible person? It’s hard, and embarrassing, and difficult to want to do. But it is so worth it. Every time I get irrationally upset that David’s trying to help me, I try to step back and say, okay, Hannah, stop being an idiot. You and he both are new at this, and you are both just trying to help each other get to Heaven. Take a deep breath, say a prayer, and learn from it. I’ve learned that these steps help me immensely in dealing with the situation at hand and also with reminding myself to focus on humility and on the bigger picture. (Props to Fr. Holdren, our priest for marriage prep, for these life-saving tips.)

so so lucky.

so so lucky.

Living husband-and-wife is for real amazing, though. I’m not here to scare you off of marriage – Oh my gosh that one girl on 2CG said it sucked so I’m going to die an old maid!!!~!!@**!!! – but I am here to tell you that it is real and it is worth it. I’m only a baby newlywed but I’m learning so much already that I can’t wait to see where the next 10, 20, 50, and 70 years lead us, together.

I’m going to close with a quote on marriage by Fulton J. Sheen – a quote that keeps popping into my head when I reflect on my marriage, humility, and where I’m going.

“It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty, life is unfinished.” – Fulton J. Sheen.

Peace & love,
Hannah