Saints keep trying and sinners give up {with Ignitum Today}

Saints keep trying and sinners give up {with Ignitum Today}

Saints Keep Trying; Sinners Give Up (2)

Confession: I haven’t always lived the shiniest life ever. As Freddie Mercury so emphatically sang, ” … and bad mistakes/I’ve made a few.” Or five hundred.

But since my reversion process began, with many starts and pauses along the way, I’ve really tried to walk as a child of the light, and part of that walk, for me, means taking care of myself by not smoking, not drinking to excess, not using illicit drugs, and staying true to my marriage vows.

Am I perfect? Excuse me while I go laugh myself completely off the page. No. I am absolutely not perfect. Just ask my husband and my children. But I keep trying. And trying. And trying. Ad nauseum. My Mom used to tell me growing up that saints keep trying while sinners give up. Well, I haven’t completely given up yet. I surely have a long way to go, but I hope it’s a shorter climb than it was when I was living as a agnostic hedonist 20 years ago.

And there are plenty of temptations, even as a mostly clean-living person. That used to surprise me: “I’m doing the right things! I love Jesus! I pray! I go to Mass every Sunday! I go to Confession! Why am I still being tempted?!” After some prayerful reflection, however, the ongoing temptations made so much sense: Of course I’m being tempted. Usually the enemy will try to get you where he’s gotten you before, and if you aren’t vigilant, BOOM! You’re taken completely off-guard by temptation that you thought you’d conquered years (or months or days) ago. The enemy of our souls doesn’t want us in the game of life at all, and especially not a life surrendered to Jesus, so he’ll use whatever he possibly can to take us out of the game.

Usually any desire I have to backslide is eventually trumped by my desire for Heaven.

Except. I still struggle. For several years now – maybe even for most of my life – the devil has been doing whatever he can to keep me out of the game using something that we all need to survive: food.

It’s not like there’s something morally wrong with food, as can be argued with other addictions. If someone handed me a bottle of vodka, I could graciously decline by saying, “No thanks, I’m cool.” I don’t NEED alcohol to survive, although after long days with lotsa kids, it surely can feel like it! 😉 But with food, man, it’s hard. We need food to survive. Granted, do I need mint M&Ms and pork rinds and chocolate cake to survive? No. But the stuff that nourishes always seems to be right next to the stuff that doesn’t on the buffet table. And so I take some. And eat it. And then I want more, so I eat more. And then I feel badly. So I eat more again. And on and on it goes.

Not only do I have a hard time with self-control and food choices, I really don’t care for exercise. Like, I hate it. That’s not a good combination. After five pregnancies in nine years, I think I probably could stand to lose about 75 pounds. The extra weight I carry contributes to feelings of depression, anxiety, fatigue, worthlessness … so many things. And yet, I continue to struggle.

IMG_3945
One of my babies accidentally took this picture of me typing at the computer the other day. This is my fat.

For some reason, I especially struggle with keeping sugar at bay. It’s like my kryptonite or something. Seemingly, a pattern was established from early childhood: I remember the neighbor girl taking me across the street to buy sweets at the corner store. I remember using my garage sale money to buy ungodly amounts of candy. I remember my grandmother greeting me with a box of Red Vines whenever we’d visit. I remember going out for ice cream after each band concert, piano recital, play performance …

Last summer, I really and honestly rallied to make a permanent lifestyle change. After the cloud of post-partum depression from my fifth pregnancy finally lifted, I decided I was tired of being a food zombie, mindlessly eating whatever, whenever, and joined a national weight loss program. I lost weight. I stuck to my guns and lost more. I felt really, really good about my progress. Then we were hit by a cloud of stress including a surprising cross-country move and some other really tough things, and the weight started creeping – and then leaping – back on. I tried to go to meetings, but my previous resolve seemed so very far away and outside my ability.

I don’t know if my attachment to food – specifically to sugar – could be classified as an addiction, but maybe? I sometimes feel powerless to its allure. I have all the resolve in the world … until I don’t. I feel empowered … until I don’t. I exercise amazing self-control … until something like this happens on the day I have a Mother’s helper and am supposed to be working on 5,000 words for my end-of-the-month deadline:

kolbe pantry

And then I want to drink all the sugary coffee drinks in the world to make myself feel better.

Yet …  I only feel better for a tiny window of space and time, and then … I don’t. I feel awful. I’ve fallen. Again. It makes me feel so dumb and helpless. I’m a smart person! I love Jesus! I have overcome so. many. things! Why can’t I overcome this??!

I spoke with my Spiritual Director about self-control the other day. It was interesting, because as I lamented how I frequently don’t feel like I have the power within me to say,”no,” he sagely suggested: “Perhaps, Heather, you need to do this for someone other than yourself.” What he was suggesting was that I offer up my cravings and self-discipline in food choices and exercise as a sacrificial prayer for other people, causes, and intentions. He was encouraging me, in essence to nail my temptation to the Cross.

Little did he know, I have attempted this maneuver before. I even wrote about it on this here blog, and it got a bit of a spruce-up for my very first article (just published) for Ignitum Today. <<EXCITING!!!!!

Bottom line? Perhaps, dear readers, it is time for me to pick up my cross and try yet again. Will you please, please pray for me? I would very much like to know how I may pray for you as I’m on this journey. Maybe you’re struggling with something that’s really tough for you, too, and just don’t know how you’re going to overcome it. Maybe you just need to know that you’re not alone. Feel free to be specific or just say “special intention” in the comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you! <3

Oh, and by the way – yes, I did buy that gorgeously blended coffee drink (above) today. But it is sugar-free, half-caffeinated, with non-fat milk. Baby steps, y’all.

Peace,

heather

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These children will be the death of me.

These children will be the death of me.

We’ve been having a difficult time getting going in the morning. It seems like, no matter what I do, somebody (and by somebody, I mean the 3-year-old and/or the 11-year-old) throws a wrench into the flow, everything gets all jacked up, and we’re late for school. Uh-gain.

Anyone who has tried to get more than two people ready and out the door by a certain time each morning knows just how crazy-making it can be. This particular cross is a legit reason, in and of itself, to homsechool, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, in an effort to retain what thread of sanity I have left and to hopefully improve my blood pressure, I’ve been working on streamlining our routine for the past couple of months. Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Clothes are selected, backpacks are packed, lunches are mostly made, and shoes and jackets are located THE NIGHT BEFORE.
  • Breakfast is over at 7 o’clock sharp, unless you’re age 3 and under and just woke up.
  • The three away-from-home school kids each rotate through dressing, teeth-brushing, hair-fixing, and last-minute lunch prep after breakfast. We have a rule that no two kids may be doing the same thing at the same time, because that’s just asking for trouble.
  • I help the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old get breakfast and get dressed, unless, by some miraculous occurrence, I can get one of the older kids to help.

The above plan has been working-ish, but we had a major problem this past Friday morning resulting in me falling on the garage steps and sniffling all the way to school and texting my husband that, yet againSOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!!!!!

After talking it over with my other half, the new routine was implemented today: all schoolkids must be dressed and have their lunches completely made before they eat breakfast. And Mommy is in charge of the babies, as usual. Sounds promising, right?

Except … today our schedule was hijacked because … wait for it … I had to go to the bathroom.

What was I thinking??!

Mere moments after I put the 11-year-old in charge, the 3-year-old was running full tilt up the stairs into my bathroom with her eldest sister in hot pursuit.

Man. Someday I will be able to toilet in peace.

Anyway, I will spare you the gory details, but the end result was me, blood boiling, fake-smiling my way through buckling car seats, and pretty much yelling at the older kids regarding listening and caring and helping. Yeah. I get the irony.

I think I might have asked them if they wanted me to suffer from a heart attack and die. Not my finest moment.

Once the kids were safely off to school (five minutes late, but who’s counting?), I texted my BFF and said, “I never knew how far from holiness I really was ’til I started having kids.”

There’s just nothing like having to wake up early after a restless night’s sleep to feed, clothe, corral, nurse, transport, educate, negotiate, soothe, bathe, train, love, discipline, and nurture five sweet, demanding, unbelievably loud and infinitely beautiful little souls to show you just how doggone self-centered you really still are. Especially when the kid who just had a rough time at the doctor’s office wants your snack. After he’s already eaten his.

But I digress.

Having children is like turning on a ginormous spotlight and putting a big, fat mirror in front of your face while hearing a voice sneer, “Neener-neener! You thought you were getting it all together, but this [insert crazy stressed Mom behavior] is how you really are!!”

Reflecting on the tumult of the morning and my response to it, I thought, “These children will be the death of me.”

I sat with that thought for a moment ” … the death of me …” It sounds simply horrible, doesn’t it? Perfectly wretched! But, upon further reflection, I considered what those words really meant and figured, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.

Anything within me that isn’t love needs to die: the despair; the pride; the selfishness; the anger; the need to control; the fear of failure; the ego-centrism; the entitlement; the lack of gentleness, generosity, and compassion. Just like a really good clearance sale, everything must go.

The Bible tells us that God prunes those whom He loves. And to get to the essence of who I am as His child, to be more a more perfect reflection of Him, I must be pruned. A lot. Which means He must love me an AWFUL lot. Because the pruning? It often feels terribly awful and horrifically painful. Because those who bear the pruning sheers aren’t always gentle, and I’m not always (okay – hardly ever) predisposed to receiving the trimming I need.

But my Heavenly Father knows me well enough to know, as I like to joke, that it would take these five little people to get loud and crazy me to crave silence with Him in Adoration, and to really and truly lean on Him as I’d never leaned before – almost so far that I thought I’d fall over. He knows. Because He knows me. And He loves me. And He’s patiently waiting to see the good fruits that will be borne from this time of pruning as I remain in Him.

I think it’s time to go get some gardening gloves.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in Me, and you will bear much fruit.” -John 15:5

i-am-the-vine

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Lost? Who’s Lost?

Lost? Who’s Lost?

Here’s a sure clue that I’m starting to become overwhelmed: This week I’ve been so busy tending to my family’s needs and  various obligations and responsibilities and my never-ending “to-do” list (and, yes, those multiple haphazard scraps of paper strewn across  kitchen countertop do count as a “to-do” list in my world) — that I missed my favorite television show.

Is it a sure clue that I’m becoming overwhelmed, or that my priorities are finally settling in as they should?

  1. Relationship with God,
  2. spouse,
  3. children,
  4. friends,
  5.  job,
  6. ministry …

… and distant, distant next: everything else, including TV.

Something to think about during this season of detachment.

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The sugar wars – who will win?

The sugar wars – who will win?

A couple months ago, the associate pastor at our church announced that he would be taking three months off to go to Mexico.

Now, before you sigh with envy and work to squelch your urge to covet, Fr. Pablo isn’t off to bask in the luxury of taskless relaxation in Cabo. On the contrary, Fr. Pablo is probably working harder than he ever has, seminary studies included. You see, Fr. Pablo is currently facing his personal struggle with food by participating in a health management boot camp of sorts.

The bulletin announcement, written by Fr. Pablo himself, explained that, during a recent doctor’s visit, the M.D. was coming up with all sorts of excuses for Fr. Pablo’s health concerns. The doctor, in his attempts to be kind and “sensitive” to Fr.’s feelings, failed to address the proverbial elephant in the room, which was Fr. Pablo’s dangerous weight as the cause for his various ailments.

After reading the announcement, I was so proud of Fr. Pablo. Proud of him for confronting his demons. Proud of him for being courageous enough to share his struggles with us. Proud of him for knowing that these struggles, once overcome, would help him to better-attend to his vocation.

I also felt a bit convicted by Fr. Pablo’s forthrightness, to be honest.  You see, God has been talking to me about my health for some time now. While pregnant with and nursing my three children over the past 6 years, I had given myself permission to not monitor my food intake. “Oh, I’m eating for two,” I’d say, rationalizing the extra helping of dessert or bread or whatever. I wasn’t really thinking of the baby’s – or my own – real needs. I was thinking of my how good it felt to eat three or more scoops of ice cream or some other dessert on a regular basis.

Only, it wasn’t really feeling good anymore.  Small allowances became habits, and then cravings. I’d overeat, then hate myself for doing it, then eat to make myself feel better, only to start the cycle all over again. 

This spring, I was hospitalized several times due to complications from kidney stones. I had two procedures and missed about a month of my “regular” life. Mercifully, I was able to recognize these incidences as a gift from God – a clear sign to change  my unhealthy ways. I needed a better diet, more water, and more exercise. Sure, I tried for a while to “do better” (perhaps a week or two), but inevitably, I slipped back to old habits and probably caused God to give Himself an open-palmed slap to the forehead while rolling His eyes.

I saw Fr. Pablo’s commitment as a new opportunity for conversion. I reasoned that if Fr. Pablo could make some changes in his life, so could I. To my husband’s overwhelming delight (he’s been on my case for years), I decided to give up sugar as a sign of solidarity with and support for Fr. Pablo. No sugar means: no dessert, no sugary snacks, no soda, no sugary coffee drinks (AK!), etc.  Every time I think of sugar, desire sugar, am around or in close proximity of sugar, etc., I pray for Fr. Pablo’s success in his endeavor to win his health back. I also pray that with each small “no,” God will help me detach myself from, truly, a relationship that had become disordered.

“Great timing,” an acquaintance said, when I explained my plans. “Do you understand you’ll be going through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas? That means no Halloween candy, no pumpkin or apple pie, no candy canes or sugar cookies or fudge?” She looked at me like I was crazy. She laughed as she added, “Let me remember you the way you were,” implying that there was no way I’d be happy without chocolate.

Well, it’s been 36 days so far. Halloween, with its bowls of Reese’s peanut butter cups and Tootsie rolls has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I wish I could say that saying “no” to sugar has become easier. I wish I could also say that I have lost 20 pounds. I CAN say, though, that I think I have more energy now to chase my kids around. And I think my complexion might have improved. More importantly, I know that with God’s help and by His grace, I can use my small sacrifices to help another. And I CAN overcome anything through Christ who strengthens me – even sugar.

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