Four Tips for Unsquishing Your Life + Join Us in Bend!

Four Tips for Unsquishing Your Life + Join Us in Bend!

Last night, as I was compiling today’s to-do list, I noticed that things on my calendar are looking a bit, um, squishy again, which means I am trying to shoehorn too many things into not enough time and it’s getting pretty … uncomfortable. I suppose juggling multiple obligations for multiple family members, end-of-school year stuff, traveling (for super happy reasons!!), writing and speaking gigs, and, oh, a MOVE (!!) can do that to a person.

{{{S Q U I S H}}}

= life without abundance; life not centered upon Jesus Christ

Thanks be to God, squishiness is no longer my preferred state of being, especially since I’ve realized: a) it’s completely unhealthy for me and, by extension, my family; and b) with God’s help, I can prevent the squish from taking over.

What I’m learning from this side of my epiphany is this: To remain un-squished, one must be mindful and intentional about remaining un-squished. Somebody embroider that gem on a pillow!! LOL

I don’t know about you, but I desire a more abundant life. I don’t want to live in the squishiness that feels full, but is really only full of lack. I don’t want to feel as though life is bearing down on me, threatening to squeeze the life out of me and my family at any given moment. I want to be whole, healthy, and healed.

We all need time away to reflect, replenish, and renew, regardless our station and season in life. It’s okay to recognize our need to put some distance between ourselves and our “squishiness” (whatever that means to you) and connect with our Heavenly Father. Even Jesus Christ (Who–spoiler alert–was actually God) spent regular time alone in prayer. Last time I looked, I am not God. So … why do I think I am better than He? Why do I think I can just keep striving and rolling and trying … and not take time to simply be with Him?

Here are some ways I conscientiously work toward unsquishifying my life, in no particular order:

1) Prayer

Instead of rewarding myself with chips or brownies (heyyy–don’t judge), I’ve been trying to take a moment to hang out with God instead. It may sound silly, but that little bit of time in prayer gives me something those extra calories and fat grams never could–communion with the One Who made me, sees me, knows me, loves me, and Who will never, ever leave me feeling shame, regret, or isolated, unlike an empty bag of potato chips. The great thing about prayer? It comes in many forms, and can be done pretty much anywhere I am.

2) Silence + Adoration

I realize silence can be super difficult for some, especially if you’re knee-deep in the throes of family life, or struggle with Constant Brain Swirling-itis, like I do. Lately, I’ve been slipping away to spend regular quality time with Jesus in the silence (well, usually) of the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Sometimes I pray the rosary or a chaplet; sometimes I thank Him for my blessings; sometimes I wrestle with a problem or ten … it honestly doesn’t matter if I don’t say or do anything; what matters is that He is there, and, in the silence, He is able to speak to my soul. Whether I only have five minutes or (preferably) an hour or more for silence, it always leaves me feeling more peaceful, more joyful, more wellness in my soul.

3) Sacraments

There’s nothing like a big (or little) splotch of sin to make me feel squishy. I don’t care how much vacation time you’ve earned, or how big that bonus check was, or how clean and tidy your house is, or how many 5ks you’ve run. Sin = squish. It’s a different kind of squish, sure, but praise God if sin makes you feel even the slightest bit squishy; that means your conscience is working! Get thee to the Confessional–stat! A good Confession is a sure path toward unsquishification.

How long has it been since you worthily received Jesus Christ–Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity–in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist? Receiving Jesus = instant unsquishification. Will you still have problems when you’re worthily and regularly pariticpating in the Sacraments of the Church? Well, sure. But your perspective will change. And your priorities might, too. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself if you aren’t already.

4) Retreat + Conferences

I’ve written about the amazingness of retreats before, but it bears repeating: take some time away for God to refresh your soul. Whether it’s just you and the Big Guy on a self-directed silent retreat or you and 400+ of your closest friends at an annual conference, we were made for communion. A retreat or conference is a wonderful way to reconnect with Creator and faith community.

Which leads me to an important invitation: Will you join us this June? 

NW Catholic Women's Conference logo

The first-ever Northwest Catholic Women’s Conference is happening in just a few short weeks near beautiful Bend, Oregon.

Women from all over the Pacific Northwest (and beyond!) are welcome to grow in our beautiful Catholic sisterhood June 23-24 at the Diocese of Baker Retreat Center in Powell Butte. Make friends, be with Jesus, and get a spiritual jump start to your summer!

You’re invited to join me, Kelly Wahlquist, and Sr. Maria Gemma as we share on the conference theme: Abundant Life in Christ. Adoration, Holy Mass with Bishop Liam Cary, and ample opportunity for Confession round out the schedule. Several awesome vendors will be on-site, providing resources and material to assist you in your faith journey. Three meals are provided with your registration fee.

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Check out the gorgeous grounds of the retreat center! It’s located right under the Three Sisters Mountains, appropriately named Faith, Hope, and Charity. Limited on-site lodging is still currently available, as are nearby hotel options.

Photo credit: Kristen Carter Nez
Photo credit: Kristen Carter Nerz

Registration is limited, and closes soooooon (June 20, 2017), so reserve your spot (and one for your sister, your friend, your neighbor, your aunt, your niece, and your other friend) TODAY!NW Catholic Women's Conference logo

It would be soooo wonderful to see you in Bend this Summer! You’ve been warned, though–I’m a hugger, but I will settle for a hearty handshake. 😉 So, my friends, until Bend, I’d love to hear from you in the combox: What are your go-to tips for “unsquishifying” your life?

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Why I can’t quit

Why I can’t quit

Recently, people have noticed that I’m sort of, um, preoccupied, with the upcoming women’s conference. Have you heard about it?? No?? Well, it’s going to be fantastic!

The fifth annual Catholic Women Rejoice conference is happening Saturday, August 20 (that’s in, um, TWO weeks) with Author and blogger Hallie Lord, blogger Mary Lenaburg, Blessed is She Founder Jenna Guizar, best-selling Author, Blogger, and The Visitation Project co-host Rebecca Frech, and Archbishop Alexander K. Sample. All the cool kids will be there! Register today! End commercial.

Anyway, the bags under my eyes are carrying their own luggage these days, and I’m not quite my usual perky self. The to-do lists have birthed multiple longer to-do lists, and while the work is beyond plentiful, the laborers are excruciatingly few. 

Over the years, people have peppered me with questions about my involvement with this event:

“Are you getting enough sleep?” No.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” Because.
“You have young kids at home!” Yep.
“It’s so much work.” Amen.

“Women are too busy to go to something like this, anyway.” Um, really?

“Why don’t you just give up?“

Why, indeed.

FULL STOP.

My friends, the very best reason to do something is because God asks you to do it. A close second is because the devil doesn’t want you to do it and whispers in your ear that what you’re doing isn’t worth it, and you’re not worth it, and the women who will be served aren’t worth it, and it’s just a big hassle, and you’re underqualified and crazy and you should just give up.

Apparently God made me extraordinarily stubborn for such a time as this, because I will NOT quit, and I will NOT give up.

Time after time, God has shown me that women absolutely do need opportunities like this. They need space for community, for fellowship, for encounter. For praise. And, like the little boy giving Jesus what he had to help feed the crowds, I believe God can take what precious little I give and use it to bless and heal women, their families, whole communities, and our broken and beautiful world, all for His greater glory.

Sr. Miriam 2013

What we Catholic women are doing – trying to live faithfully and joyfully – is an utterly counter-cultural existence. That’s right – we’re rebels. The Pacific NW, where I live, is consistently cited as one of the most unchurched areas in the nation, with Catholics as the crystal-clear minority or minorities. And we can feel it. We hear:

“You know what causes that, don’t you?” as we shop with our children in the grocery store.

“How come you let a bunch of old men in Rome to tell you what to do?” as we engage in the workplace.

“Why aren’t you taking more time for yourself and going on some exotic vacation?” as we pursue social media.

“Why do you need to confess your sins to a priest?” as we chat with our friends.

“Isn’t it enough to just be a good person?” as we talk with our neighbors.

“Live and let live, man,” as we’re told by our legislature.

Time after time our culture tells us: “That may be your truth, but it’s not my truth,” and, my favorite: “Be more tolerant,” as society drifts further and further away from the actual Truth.

Between you and me, as a Catholic woman, I have felt very alone in our society. I have felt isolated. I have felt extremely discouraged. I have believed the lie that I am the only one trying to do this work – this beautiful, difficult, amazing work – that Catholic women do. I have cried myself to sleep, wondering *where my people* were, and whether I would ever find them.

Eventually, though, I decided to quit complaining and do something. Since there wasn’t anything happening in my area where a big group of Catholic women could get together and be joyful about being Catholic women, I was going to start something. And so, with no money, no location scouted, and no speakers booked, I began planning the first general Catholic women’s conference in the Pacific Northwest with nothing but faith, hope, and a telephone.

I didn’t know if anyone would show. But they did. And they kept coming back.

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CWR13

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Catholic Women Rejoice and other conferences like it exist because someone decided to take a chance on the idea that women need a place (even if it’s only once a year) to gather together outside of Sunday Mass and know that we are most certainly not alone, that who we are as women matters, and that the gift of our common Catholic faith is something for which we should rejoice!

Now, there’s nothing wrong with connecting with other women online – in fact, it’s probably where I connect with friends most consistently, because that’s the season of life in which I find myself. But there is something about seeing other women – being in their presence – looking into their eyes and seeing the underlying compassion and deep understanding that transcends spoken language: “You get it.” 

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At a typical Catholic women’s conference, participants are free to be fully themselves without fear or worry. A woman can bless herself and her food before eating and no one will give it a second thought. Another can nurse her baby while enjoying a conversation. Someone can be comforted in her struggles with infertility. Another can discuss the Pope’s latest encyclical, or the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning. Still another can steal away to the Adoration Chapel for a few quiet, distraction-free moments with Jesus.

No one will be accused of being a Papist. Or a bigot. Or an idol-worshipper. Or a hater. Or a breeder. Or a weirdo. We can celebrate Mass, go to confession, and pray. We can sing, laugh, and praise. We can ask Mary and the saints and each other to pray for our needs. We can eat good food that is still warm that we didn’t have to prepare ourselves. And, you know what? We can have FUN. You know, like, smiling ’til your face hurts, laughing ’til you can’t breathe anymore, fun.

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I honestly believe that Catholic conferences and events uplift women and reinvigorate them to go back into the world and do God’s will through their individual vocation*, whatever it may be. They remind us that we are not alone in this work. They remind us that we are Catholic. And that we are strong, resilient women – wonderfully, fearfully, and beautifully made. And because of these things, we are free to truly rejoice.

And so, as I continue to wade through my myriad to-do lists, I am praying for all the women who will come to Catholic Women Rejoice, or any other conference, for that matter, that in that time and space with their sisters in Christ, they will encounter Jesus and emerge renewed and transformed. And after that? After that I’ll sleep.

Even if women’s conferences aren’t your “thing” or you can’t attend or organize one this year for whatever reason, you could donate to  our scholarship fund, sponsoring another woman to attend, contact me about putting an ad in our program or supporting us as an underwriter, or – most importantly – we are so grateful for your prayers! And I will keep praying for you. ❤️

*Whether a woman is a stay-at-home Mom, a career woman, a single woman, a religious, a work-inside-or-outside-the-home Mom, discerning her vocation, not a Mom, retired, a full-time volunteer, an Auntie, Grandma, high school student, college student, or any other iteration of Catholic woman of goodwill, she is welcome at Catholic Women Rejoice.

Grandma A

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Dear Lonely Mom: you are not alone

woman-looking-at-forest-at-dawn

I have been a lonely Mom.

But first, a little context.

As the eldest child with only one sibling five years my junior, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with babies or younger children growing up. I was too busy with my own activities and interests and friends. Sure, I babysat on occasion, but at the time, I was way more interested in making some sweet cash than practicing for any future vocation with my small charges.

Vocation? What’s that? Like, a misspelled vacation? Wait – isn’t a vocation what priests and nuns have?

I didn’t know that marriage and motherhood actually was a vocation. I didn’t know that marriage and motherhood would be my path – my call – to holiness.

I figured I would go to college, have an amazing career traveling the globe, fall in love, and get married at some point. As I learned more about my Catholic faith, I figured being married meant that I would have kids. I mean, I didn’t plan to not have children, but it was more of a default reality that I took completely for granted – you get married, you have kids. Eventually. That’s what most people do, right?

So I skipped the fabulous globe-trotting career and fell in love and got married. And then the babies started coming. And coming. And I really had no idea what I was doing. And I got overwhelmed.

And I got very, very lonely. And severely depressed.

I knew that these little lives were good, marvelous, beautiful (!!) blessings, but I didn’t quite know how to navigate the sheer upheaval in my life – changing body, hormones, responsibilities, identity, sleep – once they arrived.

I knew I needed to find people [yet] going somewhere — anywhere — felt like an impossible undertaking most days. Attending the moms’ group, the playdate, or the meet-up meant the little people and I had to be presentable, likable, and relatable. All at the same time. It seemed like an awful lot of ‘ables’ for someone who often felt like she was drowning in a sea of inability.

->Read the rest of my latest Mea Maxima Cuppa column – – over at the Catholic Sentinel.

So, how did I break through my feelings of loneliness and isolation? I wish I could tell you I had some sort of a magic formula I followed that would work for you, too. If I did, I would surely whip it up and airmail it to you if you lived far away or drive it over to your place if you lived close by.

Here are some things, though, that (eventually) helped me:

  1. Admitting I needed help. It took a while before I could swallow my stubborn pride and admit that whatever I was doing as a new Mom (or a Mom with littles) wasn’t working for me and that I really needed some help. At first, I wasn’t even sure what anyone could do to help me, but I knew something had to change. There is no shame in asking friends, family, neighbors, parishioners, and/or medical professionals for assistance when you need it. None. God isn’t calling us to go crazy because of our vocations! Once I admitted I needed help, it was easier (not easy, but easier) for me to actually seek out the help I needed.
  2. Maintaining a schedule. Moms with littles might look at the word ‘schedule’ and be tempted to roll their eyes to China. “Schedule?! Ha!!” And I know it’s true. I found that I’d roll out of bed after another sleepless night and try to leave the house only to have someone poop all over themselves or me and by the time we were all ready to get back in the car again, the activity we’d been headed to would be 75% over. Not worth it. But as much as I could, I tried to wake up, get dressed into something other than what I slept in (even if it was yoga pants and a t-shirt), brush my hair, and if I was really feeling lucky and motivated, take a shower before my husband went to work. Adding in the things that I knew I had to do – meals, laundry (oh, Lord – the laundry with spitty babies!), naps, etc. helped me to try to find some rhythm in my day.
  3. Nurturing my spiritual life. Our youngest is almost three and a half, and I’m just now starting to feel like I might have actually attended Mass on Sundays.  I remember many, many, MANY times when I felt like even attending Mass was an exercise in futility. What was the First Reading about? I couldn’t even hear Father’s homily! Did we just receive the Eucharist? So. many. distractions. But as time went on, I realized that there had to be some grace available to me just for attempting, right??! So we kept going. Every Sunday. And things have honestly gotten easier. Additionally, I think my prayer life has improved significantly since I became a Mom, simply due to necessity! I know that I need Jesus. Like woah. So, I pray. A lot. I pray for myself. I pray for my kids. I pray for my husband. I don’t always get the super high-quality before-they’re-awake-quiet-meditation-with-Jesus time in, but I am often praying throughout my day – as I scrub the bathroom floor, as I change the laundry over, as I’m chopping onions, as I’m cleaning up yet another mess – it’s there. And He’s there with me. IIn the noise. In the chaos. In the mess. And it has changed me.
  4. Quit worrying so much. I used to worry that I didn’t have my make-up on and my kids’ shoes didn’t match and I didn’t have a Pinterest-worthy snack ready before I’d head off to the moms’ group or play date. But you know what? Those worries were keeping me away from community and vital friendships. We were not meant to do this thing called ‘life’ alone, but how often do we convince ourselves that we’re not worthy of community? We are worthy! I’m not sure exactly when I stopped caring so much, but these days, I’m much more likely to be out the door with my hair in a pony tail and the kids usually wind up with some sort of shoe-like things on their feet. We might pick up donut holes from the drive-thu and are on our way. That’s where we are these days, and I’m okay with that.

So, from one lonely Mama to another – I’ve been where you are, friend. Loneliness in the trenches of motherhood can be a very deep, dark place. It can threaten to swallow you whole – I know, because I’ve been stuck looking down over the precipice myself more times than I care to recall. But I also know that you don’t have to remain in that place of isolation and anxiety; you really don’t. There are sisters and brothers who want to help you and know you and be your friend. Will you allow them to help you? Will you let Jesus in?

I would really love to hear from you – have you ever felt alone, isolated, or lonely? What do you do to re-connect with “the outside world” and to not feel alone in your vocation? Please let me know in the combox.

God bless y’all.

heather

Photo via VisualHunt.com

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Membership has its privileges

Membership has its privileges

Membership photo

It’s not every day that a person gets the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of something special – something anointed – something Holy Spirit driven.

About two years ago, the call went forth from the heart of Jenna Guizar: It’s time, her message seemed to say. It’s time to strengthen women in the Word. It’s time for us to seek and find Him. And each other. It’s time for building community. It’s time for Blessed is She.

Although I’ve written recently about saying, “no” to various tasks, ministries, and projects, I don’t make it a habit of saying, “no” to Blessed is She.

Why? You might ask. What makes BIS so special? 

So many things, my friend. So. many. But, in a nutshell, I stick with this ministry, this community, this God-shaped mission because, above all else,

Blessed is She is good.

It is true.

And it is beautiful.

Not familiar with Blessed is She? No worries! Please take a moment to familiarize yourself – and perhaps even more importantly, sign up for the daily devotions – each day’s Scripture verses and a beautiful reflection delivered 365 days to your inbox – for free.

Don’t worry – I’ll wait.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, they totally did. Blessed is She is proud to announce an amazing new membership option.

  • Monthly workshops offered by speakers teaching on matters of faith, life, prayer, Church teaching, and more. My good friend and The Visitation Project Co-Host Bonnie Engstrom will be giving the next workshop, on Forming Intentional Community July 22, and I am on tap to give a workshop in the Fall – stay tuned!
  • The popular Lent journal auto-shipped to your door
  • The popular Advent journal auto-shipped to your door

Priced separately, workshops are $15 apiece and journals are $20 each, so your membership fee of $9.99/month or $99/year means you’ll save at least $100 each year!

journal-on-table-2-1  virtual workshops

If I seem a teensy bit excited about the BIS Membership option, well, it’s because I am excited! Women striving to learn, know, and live our faith, steeped in the Word of God and the love of Jesus is something I can get behind. I hope you will, too.

Blessed is She has provided untold blessings in my life, and I can’t wait to dive into the latest offerings. Subscribe today, friends. I promise you won’t regret this “yes”!

God bless y’all,

heather

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New! Blessed is She Study Guide

New! Blessed is She Study Guide

BiS Study Guide

You’ve heard about Blessed is She, right? If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know it’s a ministry near and dear to my heart and has brought thousands of women closer to Our Lord through Sacred Scripture. Well, my friends – something super exciting is now available for you and your friends through this amazing apostolate: the very first Blessed is She study guide!

Intended for personal or small group use, the guide contains Scripture, devotions, questions for study/meditation, space to journal, pray, reflect, and dream … it’s beautiful, and it’s totally free! And check out this sweet line-up of contributors:

Emily Wilson on Faith

Yours truly on Hope

Audrey Assad on Love

Bonnie Engstrom on Mercy

Questions or comments about Blessed is She or the guide? Share away in the combox! Ready to dive more deeply and be nourished by the Word of God? Sign up here. I promise you won’t regret it.

God bless you!

heather

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