Preparing for Lent – FREE JOURNAL

I feel like I’m just repeating myself, since I said the same thing for Advent, but can you believe we are already getting emails for sign ups for Lent reflections and books!? Personally, I am not a big fan of when Lent and Easter are so early. I feel like I just had a moment to breathe after the holidays and now my next gulp is full of Lenten themes, sacrifices and preparation for Christ’s Passion. He was just born for goodness sake!

But, it’s not up to me and so, like the rest of you, we begin looking ahead to what opportunities Lent will bring to our lives.

It feels like God has been knocking on my heart, especially through my kids. We were at storytime at the library last week for the first time in a while. They have songs, stories and crafts for the kids. This week, they sang a new song which we hadn’t heard before but my kids really liked.

Do as I’m doing

Follow, follow me.

Do as I’m doing

Follow, follow me.

It was a follow-the-leader type song, with clapping or jumping or whatever the kids wanted to follow along to. My kids sang it the rest of the day, so naturally I went to bed with it swirling through my head.

This song is my new motto for our present season in life. My kids are so young still and already they are growing up into unique, individual persons with their own gifts, talents, struggles and temperaments. It is not my or Ben’s job to give them their personality, rather to show them how we use our personalities to their fullest and best. We don’t become saints by becoming someone else, but by becoming the best versions of ourselves. So, if I am striving with all my might to become the best version of myself, I am modeling for my kids how to become the best versions of their selves.

How to put this into practice? How often do I miss the mark?

Well, I’ve noticed that John is starting to talk back. A lot. And with attitude, scowls, did I mention attitude, and sulking. He is 6 for goodness sake! And we are still homeschooling and are mindful about what types of media they are exposed to, where is the coming from? Then I start to hum, do as I’m doing, follow, follow me…...

Rosie is trying so hard to use her words to express her feelings, not her fists. Yet in the process she is screaming her words. A lot. And over-reacting. And so much emotional turmoil and desire to control each moment. Why is she acting like this? Then I hear her singing to herself, do as I’m doing, follow, follow, me…

I probably don’t need to go into detail about my sweet, 3 year old going on 13 year old Clare. By now you get the picture. While yes, each of my children are their own unique selves, so much of their behavior is simply a reflection of what they are observing day in and out from Ben and I. None of us are perfect and praise God the behaviors I just described are not the full picture of who my kids are. They are kind, loving, goofy, sweet, prayerful and active. They say “I love you” and “I’m sorry” with intentionally and passion. They are beautiful, remarkable children and we are so blessed to be gifted with them. And like anyone else, they have things they need to work on (ahem, like a certain blogger you may know).

So here’s the plan for Lent. I’ve created another Lectio Divina Journal just like Advent.

lent 2018 coverI’ve updated the design (only 1 option this time. Lent came up quick!). I kept the blank page for those who wish to select their own passages and also included a Lenten Sacrifice/Commitment tracker. Click on the link above the picture to print and share to your heart’s content.

What will I be doing with it? I think I’m going to try to incorporate the journal into our school day. We start each homeschool day with a prayer and intention. I plan to add lectio to that for Lent. In light of “do as I’m doing” I’m not going to read the passage from the journal. Rather, I’m going to get the hard copy Bible out and thumb through it to find the passages. I read the Bible fairly frequently, but it’s on my phone usually or laptop. The kids don’t know I’m doing it when I’m doing it. How can I teach them the importance of reading the Bible if they don’t see me actively reading it? We will be learning lectio and also engaging with the physical text of the Bible.

This will take some sacrifice. It means starting the school day earlier or recognizing that it will go longer. I won’t be able to be frustrated or upset about that if I don’t get up early enough or plan our day appropriately. I will need more patience, more decisiveness, and perseverance if this is going to work in a positive way. It also means I will need to find a way to carve out time in the mornings (ideally) on non-school days to still practice lectio. Again, do as I’m doing….Maybe (hopefully) the growth I strive for in myself will also be reflected in my kids’ behaviors.

If you’re interested in joining me on this Lenten journey, print the journal. Let’s connect on social media. I’m going to try to be posting either via twitter or the Facebook page what my word is from the day’s lectio. I would love to pray with you. Praying the Scriptures is a practical way to prepare for the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.



Daily Graces.

What NFP is NOT (Part 2)

In case you missed it, here is the first post from a few days ago that sparked this continuation.

At the close of that post I gave a basic definition of NFP (Natural Family Planning) and zeroed in on 3 key points.

  • NFP can be used for both conception and avoiding conception.
  • NFP is practiced by the couple, not the woman by herself
  • NFP is based on the natural cycle of the woman as created by God

These three things are actually the top three reasons why Ben and I have chosen to practice NFP. Thus far in our marriage, we have lived with a few different fertility mindsets. We started out in the “whenever God wants to give us a child/we are newlyweds and don’t know anything about anything” phase and conceived our son within a month of being married. We thought that the natural infertility of breastfeeding would be enough for us, then we conceived our daughter when our son was only 6 months old. Once she was born we wisened up to our fertility and began to seriously practice NFP. We prayerfully discerned when we wanted to have our next child and conceived her on the first try.

Our youngest is 18 months old now and we are back in discernment mode. With each child we’ve grown in maturity as individuals and as a couple. We have created a marriage where we can be open and honest with one another and feel safe sharing our thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns. As NFP kept coming up in the various blogs and social media that I follow, I started talking more about it with Ben.

Through those conversations we stumbled upon something neither of us had really heard before.

NFP is a tool, it is not a lifestyle.

What NFP is NOT: #DailyGraces
bngdesigns (2014) via Pixabay. Public Domain

The way that we understand it, NFP  should be used in support of our lifestyle. It should not become so all-consuming that it is the determining factor of our lifestyle.

For many people, NFP is perceived to be very difficult, something that takes a lot of time, dedication, and above all, sacrifice. In a way, they are right, but not quite in the right way.

Yes, NFP can be very challenging. We’ve encountered situations where Ben has been deployed/away on a long trip and he comes home right in the middle of a fertile cycle. We have a choice to make in that moment.

Yes, NFP takes time. Tracking, waking up to take temperatures and talking about family decisions takes time.

NFP takes dedication. Certainly. If you aren’t consistent in practicing NFP you won’t have a clear picture of your fertility as a couple, thus rendering the system ineffective.

NFP takes sacrifice. Definitely. As I alluded to above, there are times when you have to exercise self control and make the choice to engage with one another in another way – go for a walk, play a game of Risk, make a special dessert or dinner, etc.

Is NFP still worth it? YES!

Because we don’t practice NFP for NFP’s sake. We practice NFP because we believe that it makes us a better couple. We are more aware of our choices, we communicate better, and  we are responsible with our fertility, recognizing that it is a gift to be treasured, not an option to be turned on and off at will. Most importantly for us, NFP keeps us grounded in prayer. The main way that NFP doesn’t become an all-encompassing task-master is to understand it in the light of prayer and discernment as a couple.

Different couples will use NFP in different ways and at different times of life (tool, not lifestyle). Some couples struggle with conception and will necessarily use NFP in a different way than a couple that seems to be abundantly fertile. What is inherently beautiful about NFP is that it keeps in the forefront our understanding that life begins at conception and that each time a couple is intimate they are making a willing choice to participate in a creative act. By educating themselves and remaining dedicated to the practice, they are using the natural cycle of the female body to its fullest potential. When God created Adam and Eve in the garden, He told them to be stewards of the Garden and all things in it. Shouldn’t fertility be one of those things?

A note from my husband who has been so patient as I’ve bounced ideas off him for this and so many other posts: People today are willing to keep track of every bite of food that goes into their mouth. They are willing to keep detailed records of how many minutes they ran, how many pounds they lifted. They are willing to keep track of how many steps they take each day. They are willing to sacrifice carbs, or protein, or drink cleanses, or make smoothies. They are willing to push themselves harder than last time, run further than yesterday. We do these things to ourselves because we believe that the end result is worth it. These are all tools through which we achieve some desired goal.

NFP is no different. For some, the goal is conception. For others, the goal is to avoid conception at this time because of prayerful discernment as a couple. Some couples might choose to stop practicing NFP all together because they are ready to have another child but do not need the additional support NFP can offer for conception.

NFP is work, there’s no getting around that. But, we believe it is well worth the results.

If you are interested in learning more about NFP you are more than welcome to leave a comment or send me an email. Or, below are a couple excellent websites with resources, support and encouragement.

God bless you and your NFP journeys!

Couple to Couple League

United States Council of Catholic Bishops

Creighton Model Fertility Care System (This is what Ben and I practice)