Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” That song may be referring to Christmastime, but for some of the Church faithful, that sentiment describes Lent.

 

Maybe it’s just my personality, but I actually look forward to Lent each year. The competitive side of me relishes a challenge, and, every year I challenge myself to either give something up for Lent or add something meaningful to my life during Lent.

 

One of the things that I committed to do during Lent a couple years ago, I’m still doing. I chose to attend Mass two days a week and started going to Mass on Wednesday mornings. I’ve grown to enjoy the smaller, more intimate Mass, where you know most of the people in church. Receiving the body and blood of Christ one extra time each week has been such a blessing, it’s kind of a spiritual booster shot half way through the week.

 

It would be hard to quit going to that Mass since I am now the lector on Wednesday mornings, I take up the gifts, and I’m the back-up rosary leader when the ladies who normally lead it aren’t able to do so. People are depending on me to be there.

 

As someone trying to be the best version of herself, Lent is the ideal time to commit to doing things that will make me a better person. Most years I try to give something up in the food area, such as sugar, desserts, snacking, etc. Then, I also try to find something pro-active to do that will make the season more meaningful for me.

 

Recently, I was introduced to the concept of fasting, from a spiritual perspective, which is something that Jesus spoke of in the Gospels.

 

Mark 9:25-29 And when Jesus saw the multitude running together, he threatened the unclean spirit, saying to him: Deaf and dumb spirit, I command thee, go out of him; and enter not any more into him. And crying out, and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead. But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”

 

(Note: for some reason that majority of Bible editions have omitted the word fasting from that text. It’s not easy to find the original passage.)

 

For the past year, I’ve been dabbling with fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, but hadn’t fully committed to it. Fasting can mean different things to different people, everything from only consuming water, or only bread and water, or just one large meal on a fast day. This year, for Lent, my husband and I chose to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays by consuming only fresh fruits and vegetables on those days.

 

Seeing that I’m not much of a fruit person and probably don’t eat as many vegetables as I should on a daily basis, this will be a decent challenge for me. Generally, during Lent, I’m pretty faithful sticking to my commitments. That extra guilt factor keeps me on track!

 

This year, I’m also committing to doing a couple extra things to boost my faith and spiritual life. I will pray the rosary every day (for a particular special intention) and do one random act of kindness every day (thanks to my friend Marge Steinhage Fenelon, award-winning author of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena and Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace for the suggestion).

 

Day One, Ash Wednesday: so far so good. Keep me in your prayers that I can follow through with these commitments for the next six-and-a-half weeks! You’ll be in my prayers as well!

 

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Yes, No or Not Yet

Last week was quite the week in our household. Well, maybe a lot of households with that whole presidential election thing going on. We, and apparently a whole bunch of other Americans, had no idea how it would turn out, but there was one thing I did know. Regardless of who won the presidential election, several hours after it was finally called, the sun was still going to rise and we’d get back to our regularly scheduled lives.

I called that one right. How nice was it to finally stop obsessing over the polls, YouTube videos, WikiLeaks, the nightly news, and the never-ending arguing on Facebook. Lucky for me, I have a huge project I’m working on to occupy those vacant hours now that I won’t be perusing the Internet day in and day out.

One thought before I go onto the next topic, there were undoubtedly a lot of prayers going up to the heavens the week before the presidential election. Now that it is done and over with, half the people in the United States are filled with gratitude for prayers answered and the other half are probably wondering why their prayers weren’t answered.

From my perspective — no matter what the outcome of the election was, all the prayers were answered. God either answered yes, no or not yet. He sees the big picture — we’re not privy to that. Through the years I’ve read a lot of books on spirituality and religion ranging from Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch to the works of Dynamic Catholic founder Matthew Kelly.

We’re here on the Earth at this place and this time for a reason. The words of Roy Smith sum up it up one way — “We come to earth school to have physical experiences, and from these experiences we learn valuable lessons that enable us to evolve spiritually.”

Matthew Kelly talks about the importance of having the goal while we’re alive to “become the best versions of ourselves.”

As hard as it can be to accept, we grow more from the challenges we face in life than from the times when life was smooth sailing. So no matter how things turned out, this could be the ideal opportunity for us to grow, put our differences aside, and to do what we can to make the best with the hand we’ve been dealt. Everything is happening for a reason, and as they say, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it that makes the difference.

I’m vowing to disengage somewhat from social media and to turn towards other things. One of those things happens to be NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month), the project I referenced earlier. This is a challenge to aspiring authors worldwide to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. That breaks down to writing at least 1,667 words every day for 30 days. This is the third year in a row that I’ve signed on. It’s an arduous task, I’ve been spending up to six hours each day writing so that I stay on pace and hit my personal goal of producing one chapter per day.

Since this book is a sequel to my novel A World Such as Heaven Intended, the plan is to have it published by our same publishing team and released in the first or second quarter of 2017. This writing challenge has been exactly what I needed to get moving forward on this project — otherwise it could have sat on the back burner for months.

To add to the busyness of this month we spent the first two weeks helping our son, daughter-in-law and 11-month-old grandson move from our house, where they’ve been living the last four months, to their new house. It’s been quite the process because there were a number of projects that needed to be done before the actual moving process could happen. We’re going to miss having that sweet little baby around but the good news is they have a beautiful home that’s only 4.9 miles from our house.

We’re looking forward to hosting our first Thanksgiving in several years. It will be a small crowd so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming. There’s nothing like smelling the turkey roasting while we watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade and look at all the ads for Black Friday. By then I will be all done Christmas shopping but it’s always fun to see what the specials are. We’ll be sleeping in when folks are lining up at 4:00 in the morning for the door busters.

The plan is to complete my novel before November 24 so I can really relax and enjoy the holiday. We have so much to be thankful for this year, it will be great to set aside a day to reflect on all of our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Have fun and safe travels!