Choosing our Feelings & A New Method of Fasting

Lent is on the way. I know this because my fingers have been frantically typing to finish up the Lenten Lectio Divina journal for this year. It ought to be ready and posted by this weekend, so for anyone who is looking for it, it’s on the way! 

I had a revelation a few days ago that I wanted to share. A little update first. As I sit here typing, I am almost 35 weeks pregnant with #6. My sister-in-law and I have been walking the pregnancy journey together, which has been so much fun. She, however, is a bit further along than I am and that day I spent thinking she was at the hospital getting ready to meet her first child. I was so happy for my brother and his wife. This is their first baby and has been a long journey. Pregnancy and pandemic are not the easiest combination.

And yet, while I was genuinely happy and excited for them, I felt off all day. I blamed it on ligament pain, general pregnancy stuff, etc. But as I woke up the following morning (it turned out I had it wrong and this was the day of the inducement) I was struck by this rather ugly thought:

“Yesterday I was jealous that she was going to have her baby and I’m not there yet.”

It hit me hard too. All day, I was harboring this jealously so tightly within me that it’s tendrils reached out to effect my entire day. I wasn’t patient, I struggled with motivation, I didn’t even want to cook dinner or plan out the meals for the week because it involved too much work. I felt exhausted even though I hadn’t done much. I was frustrated with myself for my failings and that surely didn’t do anyone in the house any good. 

Because of this revelation, the actual day of the birth of my very first nephew, was noticeably different. I still had the same ligament pain, same pregnancy stuff. But I acknowledged this struggle I am having, prayed about it and it makes all the difference. While writing this, two of the girls asked me to play a game with them. I very much wanted to get it finished this afternoon during the few precious hours of quiet time while Gabriel, now 18 months, is asleep. The day before, I would have probably snapped at them for interrupting me and sent them to play on their own. This day, I closed my laptop and played Go Fish. 

Instead of letting my jealously rule me, I chose to rule it.

Any program for addiction will tell you that you have to own the feelings and thoughts you are having. You have to acknowledge you need help, that you can’t go it alone. By naming how we are feeling, we are acknowledging the feelings for what they are. From that place, we can choose to indulge them, dismiss them, or change them. I am so thankful that God revealed to me my jealous heart so that I could greet my new nephew with a heart full of joy and love.

With Lent coming up, this is a great time to consider what feelings we are ruling, and which ones we are allowing to rule us. What actions or activities do we feel we cannot live without, and what can we let go of without too much complaint?

Since the start of the year, I have been trying something new. Instead of one big New Year’s resolution (which I usually fail at by now) I have chosen a weekly fast that changes with each week. Sundays are “off” days and simultaneously discernment days. No fasting, but discerning the upcoming week to see what I will be fasting from. Some things I’ve fasted from already include:

  • Desserts
  • Instagram
  • Social media scrolling (I check in once a day because important announcements for Ben’s squadron are often posted on Facebook but I did not allow myself to sit and scroll the newsfeeds)
  • Games on my phone

I have repeated a few and have found some to be harder than others. Desserts were hard all week long and I found myself reluctant to bake anything because I couldn’t have it. This is something to work on for sure since my whole family wasn’t fasting from dessert, just me. Social media wasn’t as hard as I expected, though I did notice that I just played more solitaire or word searches so it wasn’t necessarily a reduction in screen time. I plan to fast at some point from using my phone after the kids are in bed, like a digital sunset if you’ve heard of that. This week happens to be phone games and I am noticing a reduction in screen time. There’s only so much Instagram scrolling I’m willing to do, which is new information for me about my phone tolerances and habits.

Usually for Lent we choose one thing to fast from. I’d like to offer an alternative, especially if you were planning on fasting from something you habitually do each year, like pop or chocolate. Take some time and look at your calendar for Lent. What might you fast from each week that would bring either meaningful change to that week, or could reveal meaningful information about you, your habits and feelings? Maybe you only pick two things and switch back and forth (there are 6 weeks including Holy Week so you would fast an even number of times). Each time you revisit the fast you could tweak it, adjust it, so that you continue to grow and stretch yourself. Here’s an example:

Week 1: Fast from saying “I want.”

Week 2: Fast from chocolate.

Week 3: Continue your fast from Week 1 and include delayed gratification practices. If there is something you want to do, buy, eat, etc., wait a specific amount of time before doing the activity (Personally, I would not count main meals in the “I want” category.) 

Week 4: Continue your fast from Week 2 and include no desserts of any kind.

Week 5: Continue your fast from Weeks 1 and 3. Challenge yourself to fast from whatever was the hardest thing to wait for in the previous weeks.

Week 6: Continue your fast from Weeks 2 and 4. Challenge yourself to eat no dessert or snack between meals.

Do you see how the fasts grow upon one another, building your stamina over the course of the whole Lenten journey? This is just one idea of course, there are so many good practices and methods of fasting. 

What are you planning on fasting from? What do you think of the idea of trying a gradually building fast over the course of Lent? 

Don’t forget, the free Lenten Lectio Divina journal for this Lent will be out by this weekend! This is a totally free resources to download, please feel free to share the blog post link when it is up.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Bringing Our Best

As we continue to move closer to Christmas, I find that more and more of our focus turns toward Mary. This makes sense in many ways, she is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. Her “yes” to God’s plan is one of the main reasons we are all here, all waiting the blessed day of our Savior’s birth. However, I happen to be in a unique season of life that has me thinking a lot about St. Joseph and the sacrifices he had to make in this adventure.

We are a military family and as it happens, the military has planned for us to transition to a new state in the early weeks of January. Our holiday season has already looked a lot different (even outside of the coronavirus limitations and sacrifices). We don’t have a Christmas tree this year, we have really only put up Advent decorations and minimal Christmas ones. We have had to ask our family to refrain from sending their gifts until after we move so that we don’t end up losing critical LEGO pieces or doll accessories between Christmas Day and a few days later when the serious pack out begins.

I am both a preparer and a celebrator. I like to make plans, get gifts early, make lots of cookies, decorate and leave everything up for the fullness of the Christmas season. This whole notion of emptying the freezer so it can thaw instead of filling it up is very backwards in my frame of mind for this time of year. Though we know little of St. Joseph’s personality from the few passages he is in in the Bible, I believe he and I have some things in common, our affinity for preparation for one.

When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy, he immediately set out with plans — plans which would have protected Mary to the best of his ability. When the angel appeared to him, his plans clearly changed. But I believe his instinct to protect Mary, and by extension her baby, would have carried on and he would have immediately began planning for this new child. Imagine the cradle a carpenter would make for his son or daughter. Imagine the little stool or bench by the door sized for his toddler. Imagine the toys, trinkets or other baubles he would have made in the evenings by firelight as he awaited the birth of his child.

Now, imagine the pain he must have felt when they received word about the census and he calculated the timing. All of these things he had lovingly and carefully prepared had to be left behind. Imagine how his pain increased when the angel again appeared and told him not to return home to the home he had built, but to flee to Egypt. Sacrifice topped on top of sacrifice. But just because what he had built with his hands had to be left, didn’t mean that Joseph didn’t bring his best along for the journey. Joseph brought his love, his protection, his faithfulness, and his steadfastness.

This year has been fundamentally different. It was not what we planned. Sacrifice on top of sacrifice has brought us to this Advent season. However, we have been gifted an opportunity to choose to approach the coming days with the same spirit of St. Joseph. Christmas Day might not look like what we had planned, but that doesn’t mean we are bringing less than our best. Regardless of how many people are around our table, the child Jesus is with us. No matter how we find ourselves, in our pjs all day or Sunday best, Mary invites us to come and worship her newborn babe. And, regardless of our location, St. Joseph is among us, reminding us that it matters not what we brought or bought. The spirit of Christmas lies in the manger, awaiting not our gifts but our love, our faithfulness, and our devotion.

This post was published first at CatholicMom.com

Merry Mighty Christmas

I recently received an email from a dear church friend who, like many friends, I have only had the briefest of exchanges with these past months. We were catching up with each other – I with our plans for the upcoming move, she sharing her remembrances of working with Air Force families as they transitioned and encouragement for Ben and I as we walk through this transitory period with each other and with the kids. We are exchanging good mailing addresses and confirming our phone numbers won’t be changing. She concluded her latest email as follows:

Merry – Mighty Christmas! The Savior Comes!

I LOVE this! Christmas holds this incredible tension that I don’t think we fully appreciate. God, our Creator, is becoming created. The sky filled with angel choirs – not one angel or two, but hundreds – all singing thunderous praise to God for this mighty miracle.

In any other story, you would expect the angels to part and the god figure to come marching down between the rank and file, perhaps on some kind of noble steed with robes flowing behind and rays of light shooting from his hair. A mighty entrance for the mighty god.

But no, no friends! And this is the (well one of the) wondrous things about our God. While the angels announce His coming, He enters our world in the arms of a simple mother, whose only cradle is small manger for animals. This weak, innocent and helpless baby is the Savior of the world. The whole world was forever changed and continues to be changed by this moment.

Photo credit: Ben Taliaferro 2020

Christmas is merry, it is a time of joyful giving and receiving, a time of spreading love and cheer. It is a season of hope, of what is to come. But Christmas is also mighty, and can inspire us to do mighty things. This Christmas, more unique than most for today’s generations, is an opportunity for such a mighty Christmas.

I’ll just give one example, because I think it is one of the most beautiful and personal for myself and my family. My dad’s mother, fondly called Grandma J, presently lives in an independent living community that is attached to an assisted living and nursing home. As you can imagine, her community has undergone some of the strictest lockdown measures and there was a period of months that she was unable to see any of her family. As the summer moved into fall, the facility began allowing for visitors, under very strict rules and always outdoors. Winter has put a damper on this visiting situation and they have struggled to find a safe way for families to visit their loved ones.

Grandma J

The staff have been so good and have managed to find an indoor space with enough distance and safety measures so that families (a maximum of 2 people at a time) can come visit for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, it’s only one space and the time slots are 45 minutes. Naturally, the spots are filling up quickly.

My grandmother had 2 choices. She could have, and rightfully so, frantically called each of her 5 local children to grab whatever they could so she could see someone on this holiday. It would have brought her cheer and joy to have even a little bit of family come to celebrate her.

She, however, made the mighty decision. When the visiting option was announced, she did call everyone. She called them to say to NOT take those precious few visiting spots on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. She said that there are so many residents whose families in a more normal year would only come on Christmas. If this was their one chance to see their children or grandchildren, they should have every opportunity. She has been so blessed by children who do come to visit regularly, she can sacrifice visits on these special days so someone else can enjoy them.

This is love. This is love for others, even others you may not know. Grandma J is 90+ years old. Even if Covid wasn’t a thing, this could very well be her last Christmas. She knows it, we know it. And still, she chose the hard but mighty Christmas. What an incredible inspiration she is, for me and for our whole family. I hope for you as well.

I’d like to wish each of you, dear readers, a Merry and a Mighty Christmas.