As Lent comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what I’ve learned. This year, I chose to not only fast from meat on Fridays, but to follow the stricter fasting rules we observe on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday each Friday during Lent. I’ve never fasted with this kind of regularity before, so when this thought popped into my head a few weeks before Lent began it felt very Spirit-driven.
I knew this kind of intentional fasting would be challenging, and it was! But not always in the ways I thought it would be. Here are some things I learned from my fasting.
A few weeks ago I made a ravioli dish for dinner. Chicken, mozzarella, and rosemary. Now don’t get too impressed, it was frozen from Costco. But good nonetheless. We have made them before and usually I toss them in olive oil. This time, however, I happened to have some basil pesto about and pesto is one of our favorite pasta toppings, especially since we figured out Clare can eat it as well.
As you might have guessed, something went wrong with this meal. Though I love rosemary, and I definitely love basil, for me and my palate the two do not mix well. When I made the choice to use basil pesto I forgot about the rosemary in the ravioli filling. Too focused on the chicken and mozzarella I guess. So when we started eating, there was a war in our mouths between the basil and the rosemary. For those who like to keep tallies, the rosemary won.d
Doesn’t life feel like this sometimes? Especially if you are a family with kids, nights and weekends fill up fast with practices, games, recitals and playdates. How do we pick? How do you choose what activities to participate in, which ones to say no to? How do you prioritize?
We are just entering this stage of parenthood. I know things are going to get busy and I know we are going to have to make tough choices. It’s one of the joys and sorrows of having kids spaced so closely together. They do so much together, which is great, but there are only so many hours in the day when they start doing their own things.
We are going to need to evaluate and reevaluate our priorities each time we add or let go of an activity. The key is striving for balance.
Have you ever noticed how on a teeter-totter there is a center point on which the arm rests? It’s easy to focus on one end or the other, or try to find the exact weight needed to achieve perfect balance. But here’s a secret for you – it will never balance if that center point crumbles or is removed. If our lives are likened to teeter-totters, can you guess what the center point is?
Hopefully that isn’t too big of a surprise. Before we can achieve balance, we need to have a sturdy foundation to balance upon. Mass, prayer (both personal and communal), service, sacrifice, thanksgiving, forgiveness, praise and adoration – all these and more help us to build our relationship with God, the foundation for our lives.
In light of this, one of my goals for our upcoming school year (yikes! it’s August already?) is to attend daily Mass at least once a week and, if things continue to work out, go to Confession every other week/once a month minimum. We are homeschooling, so 1 daily Mass should be well within the realm of possibility. I am so thankful we have found a couple other homeschooling families that also want to attend. The goal is to try to get to Mass early one day every other week or so and take turns watching all the kids so the moms and those kids old enough can go to Confession. It’s happened twice so far and it has made a huge difference in my accountability, my responsibility and how I am going about my day.
Balance. Be it on the plate or in our life, is difficult to achieve. But difficult does not mean impossible and it is certainly worth working toward. How do you achieve balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
In my last post I alluded to a new system I’ve been working with that has been helping my organization and general well being. It’s not super complicated and didn’t cost a bunch of money. A simple planner has completely (maybe not completely completely, but a whole lot) changed the way I am operating.
This decision to embrace a planner was not random. Upon reflection I can see God guiding me toward one for a while. I’ve actually tried to use planners before with limited success. I would forget to bring them with me or leave them in my purse for days. I wouldn’t have a pen or some other excuse. This time is different.
The first step toward the new planner-me was re-discovering the Fly Lady and her methods for keeping your house clean. This new method inspired my whole series of Advent posts. I’ve been tweaking the Fly Lady’s ideas to fit my needs and family’s needs fairly successfully since November. I am a whole new cleaner.
The second step was reading a blog post (I wish I remember whose so I could give credit! Thank you whoever you are) that was about a blogger’s Christmas gift, a new planner. At first I thought, well whatever floats your boat. She had some pictures of the planner and I admit it was very pretty. I decided to click on the link to check it out more since this blogger was so passionate about how wonderful this planner was and how she utilized it in a number of ways – daily tasks, appointments, homeschooling, blogging, cleaning, meal planning – basically all the things I have been trying to keep straight in my head. (I’ll give you a hint – my head isn’t big enough)
Oh how I wanted this planner! It looked beautiful and seemed to be the answer to so many problems. I was so eager as I went through the website, choosing all the extras I thought I would want. Then I saw the prices. Yikes! Beautiful as it was, I knew I had failed with planners before. Until I knew this was something I could stick with, I couldn’t justify spending so much just because it looked nice.
However, my overly positive reaction to using a planner was surprising to me, so I decided to try it out on more of a DIY scale. $10 planner from Target, some washi tape and colorful pens was a much better route. I took some time and invested in “beautifying” my simple planner with the tape and pens. I also made some inserts to hold post-its and a meal planning pad of paper – thank you Pintrest.
I’ve been using this planner since mid-January. It’s only been a month but it has made a huge difference in my life pre and post-Eliza. Here are just some of the ways:
I am keeping a cleaning schedule – and actually accomplishing all the cleaning tasks I set out for the day (and if I don’t I am rolling the task over to the next day). Thanks to the Fly Lady these tasks are realistic, evenly distributed through the house and I try not to put more than 4 a day so I don’t get overwhelmed
I am meal planning in advance, which means I have much more complete grocery lists, which means less trips to the grocery store
I am remembering to write thank-you notes because I have a post-it for that
I am remembering all the things we need to accomplish in these last few weeks before we move because I have a post-it for that too
I will *hopefully* get most of the birthday cards out on time this year because I took the time to write down 2 weeks before each person’s birthday a reminder to buy a card and a few days before their birthday to mail it
Using the planner has also introduced me to bullet journalling which I’m also giving a go. It’s only been a little over two weeks with that though so the jury is still out. So far though I’m loving it
I never, ever thought that a simple planner could hold so much grace for my family. I am more calm, collected and less stressed. Plus, our home is cleaner than it has ever been. I look around (most of the time) with joy at how much more smoothly our family is operating because I am operating more smoothly. So much of our family dynamic is influenced by how well Ben and I are coping with whatever our current life situation is. As we continue in our transitions – moving again plus a new baby while Ben is in training – having one place for me to put basically everything has been game changing.
I wish I had done this sooner. I wish I had dedicated more time in my previous attempts at planners so that it wouldn’t have taken me this long to see how much I needed one. But I am so thankful that I finally got the message and am able to receive all the graces God has waiting for me in its pages.