Running After Peace

I mentioned in my One Word for 2013 post that my quickly forgotten word for 2012 was “Peace.”  As I’ve thought back on it, I’m astounded at how the Holy Spirit stuck with my word, even when I forgot all about it.  The Spirit, of course, knew how very much I needed it.

Many times in 2012 I listened to the song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” on Youtube.  In the fall, I found a plaque of that same Prayer of St. Francis and hung it in my kitchen, right next to the sink.  My most stressful, non-peaceful moments come when I am scurrying about, trying to get dinner ready with one child doing homework, another singing and dancing and annoying the one doing homework, a four-year-old begging to watch Thomas videos on my phone, and a two-year-old throwing a fit because she wants candy.  That song and that plaque have been a remarkable blessing, keeping me focused on Peace when all I really wanted to do was throw the dishes on the floor and scream at the top of my lungs.  (No, I have never done this.  But I have pounded a Pyrex measuring cup on the linoleum, as if taking out my frustration on these two objects might ease my pent-up stress.  It didn’t work, needless to say, and left me feeling like an out of control moronic psycho.)

OK, pretend you didn’t read that last bit. Continuing on with my growth toward Peace…

In the fall, I made up a fake business card, to help keep me focused on what I believe God is calling me to do.  I posted it where I see it every time I sit at my computer.  You may laugh and think I’m foolish, but it’s been a very effective tool in keeping me on target.  The card reads,

Stephanie Engelman
Peacemaker
Wife and Mom Extraordinaire
Author of Children’s Books and Bible Studies
For speaking engagements call 1-800-234-5678

 

Peacemaker… I can never be “Wife and Mom Extraordinaire” without PEACE.  I certainly can’t write Bible Studies without PEACE.  And I’d surely be a hypocrite if I tried to  speak publicly without PEACE.

To that end, the Holy Spirit performed its greatest coup d’etat toward the peace of my soul and my family late in the summer, when I shared some struggles that Ray and I were having with my wonderful, Godly walking buddy.

Colleen took out her phone and looked up a verse. As we walked, she read 1 Pet 3:8-11 to me:

Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.  Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit blessing,  for:

Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep the tongue from evil
and the lips from speaking deceit,
must turn from evil and do good,
seek peace and follow after it.

Actually, that’s the New American translation.  What Colleen read was from The Message translation. The words that I italicized above, in The Message, are stated,

“Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.”

and

“…run after peace for all you’re worth.”

And that’s just what I’m trying to do.  Run after PEACE for all I’m worth.  The Spirit helped me establish the beginnings of a foundation in 2012.  In 2013, it continues to build on that foundation, this time using Self-Discipline for the mortar, that holds the bricks, made of The Rock, together.

Do you see me?  I’m running.

 

Conversion

I was the first to spot them – the Catholic school kids walking past our playground on their way home from school.  I knew nothing of these kids, only that the girls wore red plaid skirts and that they were different in some way.

We must have been learning about the Revolutionary War in social studies class.  I led the charge: “The British are coming! The British are coming!”  Several classmates joined in, running along the fence line and teasing the passing children.

The tables have turned… Bonita on her first day of Kindergarten.

I wonder what those kids thought, how they felt, and what they told their parents when they got home.  I wonder how their parents responded?

I wonder if one of those families had the kindness and charity to pray for me and my misguided friends?  I wonder if my conversion to the Catholic Church, my conversion to Child of God, can be attributed to the prayers of those persecuted children and their parents?

And so the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul has me thinking of my own conversion.  A conversion from the person that I was, long ago, in elementary school, to the person I became in high school, college, professional life, newly married, newly mommied, newly catechized, newly confirmed.  The conversion is far from complete and I have a long way to go to completely overcome the person I was and become the person I’m meant to be.   But with God’s grace, I can decide, every moment of every day, to make choices that keep me moving in the right direction, baby step by baby step, toward Him and His love.

Today’s Feast also has me thinking about the people who remain misguided and misinformed.  Coinciding with the March for Life, it reminds me to pray for the conversion of those who support abortion, those who are considering abortion, and those who actively take part in the abortion industry.

Just as Saul persecuted the Christians, just as I persecuted those Catholic school children, so today we Catholics and Christians are experiencing persecution.  And so I am reminded to pray for an end to the HHS mandate, for the judges and justices who will determine the outcome of the lawsuits, and for the organizations that are practicing civil disobedience in obedience to God.

Those who advocate abortion and the destruction of our religious freedoms will probably never experience what Paul experienced – Jesus, standing before him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  But through our prayers and fasting, our willingness to stand up for what we believe in and to share the Truth, these people can come to recognize their status as children of God.  In so doing, they will recognize the earliest life as a child of God, and the Church as a blessed assembly of us all.

Image courtesy www.liveaction.org

To see last year’s reflection on the Conversion of St. Paul, click here.

Aimless

Back pain and sick kids sent my self-discipline flying out the window.  To be expected, I suppose, but now I’m struggling to refresh the vigor and excitement I was feeling a week ago.

Having done very little for the past few days, today’s to-do list quickly outgrew its allocated space.  And then, instead of finishing the project I’d already started – reorganizing the big closet in the laundry room – I started a new project – organizing nine years’ worth of photos.

I stopped myself just in time to leave a huge pile of Snapfish and Lifetouch envelopes scattered all over the dining room table.  I took a look at my to-do list and got a few things done… and now find myself again wandering from one task to the next with no real direction.  A moment ago, I even caught myself staring at the grime on my wedding ring.

The good news is that writing a blog post is on my list of “dires” for the day, since I haven’t been so hot about posting these last couple of weeks.  So I can sit here and write about my lack of direction and actually be able to cross something off of my list when I’m done.

If I can focus for long enough to finish, edit, and actually post this puppy.

Maybe I should just stop here?

No, I’d really like to say something meaningful.  I’m just not sure what.

Maybe I should share that I recognized (or remembered) another flaw in myself over the last few days.  Pain makes me irritable and short tempered.  My poor children must feel like they’re living with Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde (I’m sure I’ve mispelled at least one of those, but if I go look it up I’ll get distracted again so please just accept the fact that I’ve never read the book and don’t know the spelling.).

Or perhaps I should write about the power of offering up our pain for special prayer intentions – when we actually remember to do that instead of just whining and moaning that it hurts and we can’t do anything.

Certainly I should be thinking about how God offers me this pain as a much needed opportunity to grow.

I could write about how sweet my kids are when mama’s in pain.  The Dude has given me countless spontaneous hugs over the last few days, and Boo came to me twice and said, “Mommy, your back hurt?  I kiss it.”  She then proceeded to kiss my belly.

But I’m not going to write about any of those things because I waited too long to sit down at my desk, and must go get the kids from the bus stop in a few minutes.

The good news is that – thank God – the kids are healthy again and my back is at least 97%.  Is it perverse that I am kind of wishing I could have the pain back so that I can handle it better this time?

ChristCarryingCrossBoschMadridVersion

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Humor for a Down Day – a 7 QT Post

The Dude and Bonita both came down with the flu last night.  Meanwhile, I’m immobilized by a back injury sustained by foolishly picking up nine year old Dude to dance with him on Friday night.

So it seems like a good time for some humor.  Kids (well, healthy ones, at least) are always ripe with humor.

  1. Boo (2) and Bear (4) enjoyed several spoonfuls of their favorite treat, Nutella.  I took one look at them and said, “Wow, what messy faces!”  Boo piped up, “I wan see!  I wan see my messy faces!”  A trip to the bathroom to look in the mirror was required.  For several days after, every time she walked into the bathroom she would pull the stool to the sink to look in the mirror.  “I wan see my faces!!”

    Bear’s Messy Face. He refused to have his photo taken with Boo, and insists on making scary faces for every photo. Silly boy.

 

Boo’s “messy faces”

2. The Dude writes some great thank you letters.  Last year, after his first communion, he wrote, “Dear Aunt Marilyn, Thank you for the money.  I could really use some.”  This year, after his birthday party, he wrote:

Ah, sibling love.

3.) Ray was tucking Bear into bed one night.

Ray: I need a hug.
Bear: I gave one to Mommy.
Ray: But I need a hug.
Bear: I don’t have any hugs.
Ray: But Mommy just gave you a hug.
Bear: I gave it to Mommy.
Ray: I know.  I’ll give you a hug and then you’ll have one to give to me.
(hug)
Ray: OK.  Now I need a hug.
Bear: But I don’t have any.

4.) Boo really enjoyed having our priest for dinner for the first time a few months back.  For several weeks afterward, when he walked into Mass, she would exclaim, “Faddah!  Faddah!  HI, FADDAH!”  and then await his response. Imagine her disappointment when he managed to successfully ignore her.

5.) Boo’s favorite bedtime book is “Goodnight, Moon.”  One evening, she picked up our children’s saints book and started leafing through it.  Seeing all the pictures of saints adorned in robes, she assumed they must all be priests.  As she flipped each page, she waved and said, “Nigh, nigh, Faddah!  Nigh, nigh, Faddah!”

6.) Her favorite perch is the porcelain throne.  Whether she really needs to sit there for long or not, she often asks for a book and will hang out for fifteen to twenty minutes.  Each time I open the door, I’m greeted with “Pwivacy!  Pwivacy, Mommy!  I need pwivacy!”  Of course, the moment she’s done, she starts screaming as though I’ve been terribly negligent in leaving her in there alone for so long.  Mind you, when Mommy would like a little privacy, she will have no part of it.  Instead, she offers to get the “twola pala” (her very screwed up version of toilet paper) and enjoys narrating exactly what she thinks is going on.

7.) Last but not least, a word of caution to those limited in crafting ability.  Be careful what you make, and how you label it.  When the kids were decorating gourdes I thought mine looked like an expectant mother.  Without realizing the consequences of such a label, I declared her the Blessed Mother.  Now, I feel guilty throwing her away.  But let’s face it.   This gourde does not do the Blessed Mother justice.

 

New-Trition Update

Lots of friends have asked how my new diet is going.  Here’s an update.

First, let me tell you: This diet is apparently the super hero of nutritional plans – faster than chemotherapy, able to destroy mutant cells in a single week, more powerful than an antibiotic!  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no! It’s SUPER DIET!!!!

In fact, when I told the healthiest person I know what I was eating, she looked at me in shock and said, “That’s my diet.”  Clearly, she did not think someone as undisciplined as myself would ever undertake such a nutrition plan. 🙂

Of course, this “diet” was never meant to be a “diet” in the most commonly used form of the word, but a natural way to return my system to health.  That being said, I knew immediately that I would lose weight if I could actually stick to the plan.  And I have, on both counts.  In less than eight weeks, I’ve lost nine pounds.  Tell me how many people you know who’ve lost weight in the last eight weeks??

I am pleased to announce that I am down to my “wedding weight”.  Sadly, I’m lacking the awesome arms and abs I had for my wedding.  Surely that will come when and if I ever have all of the children in school and actually have time to go to the gym?

There are other benefits, too.  My cholesterol, which was 236 in college, is now a healthy 180.  I have more energy and my mind seems clearer.  My immune system – which had gotten weak in the last six months – seems to be running at full strength again.  I am sleeping better and my temperament is more even-keeled.

Healthy weight, healthy cholesterol, healthy mind… these are reason enough for me to hope to adopt this as my life-long diet.

Adding to my resolve to stick to it are the side effects to cheating.  I made the mistake of drinking two glasses of wine on a girls’ night out, and the following day suffered debilitating stomach cramps, followed by other unmentionables.  Not something I wish to experience again.

The diet in a nutshell:

Lots of “no’s”: No meat, refined sugar, flour, dairy, or vinegar

But, more “yes’s” than “no’s”:  Fruits, veggies, goat’s milk and goat’s cheese (preferably raw, but that’s crazy hard to find), eggs, nuts, Ezekial bread, beans.  I’m also supposed to juice (haven’t bought a juicer yet) and take pancreatic enzymes that would run me over $300 per month.  No can do.  I am taking CoQ10, Vitamin D, Juice Plus capsules, and raw cod liver oil.  Read that again. Raw cod liver oil.  Yummy.  My consistency on that is less than 100%.

Shockingly, I don’t feel like I’m starving myself.  I’m actually pleasantly full most of the time, but never uncomfortably stuffed.  Getting through the holidays without a single moment of holding my stomach and groaning that I ate too much was quite a remarkable – and rewarding – experience.

The hardest part is rarely being able to eat what I prepare for the family.  I end up making myself a completely separate meal quite often, but I just keep my meals very simple.  It would be easier if I could put the whole family on the new-trition plan, but I believe I’d wind up a divorced mother of four emaciated children.  So, two meals it is.

One of my new favorite meals, steamed brocolli with spaghetti sauce and goat cheese. An easy alternative when I make spaghetti for the family.

Somewhat Healthy, Totally Heavenly Nachos

The other night I made nachos for the kids and tried a little experiment for myself.  Honestly, I anticipated throwing it in the trash.  However, it was actually quite delicious and felt very indulgent.  In fact, I made a second helping and had more the next day for lunch. If you want to try it, here’s what I did:

Using blue corn organic chips, I added refried beans and then topped those with the black beans I had made the week before (I’ve never had canned black beans but I imagine those would work fine.)  I topped each chip with a jalapeño, and then crumbled goat cheese on top.  I baked them at 350 for about ten minutes – until the goat cheese started to turn golden.  I then topped them with lettuce, onion, tomato, cilantro, and avocado.  Heavenly.

I’m not saying kids will enjoy this, mind you.  I’m just saying if you’re making nachos for your kids and want to give this a shot, you won’t regret it.  It would also make a nice munchie for the big game, if you want to add a little so-fist-e-cation to your wings and pizza.

Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan

I learned this phrase during my years in network marketing.  Sadly, I learned the phrase, but never put it into practice effectively.

I believe “planning my work and working my plan” will be essential to achieving self-discipline in the year to come, and so I downloaded this daily planner – “The Day’s Draft” – from A Holy Experience.  It’s beautiful, covers all the major points I’d like it to cover, and best of all – it’s FREE!  Each night, I lay out my plan for the next day.  I love the fact that there’s even space to pencil in when you’re going to do each thing, totally encouraging me to… plan my work and work my plan.

Thus far, I have been much more productive, and much less frustrated.  I am doing far better at setting my priorities and putting first things first.  I’ve had days where I got nearly everything on my plan done, and I’ve had days where life happened and I got almost nothing on my plan done.  But that was OK, because I made a conscious decision to set my plan aside and rearrange priorities for that day.

Here are a few other disciplines that I am implementing for 2013, which having my “plan” is helping with immensely so far:

One Hour Personal Development Reading Each Day

Historically, I start non-fiction books, get about a third of the way through them, and never finish.  Guess what?  I finished one book on Saturday, and am well into three new books (you can see the list at the side.)  Once I have read something educational for an hour, I reward myself with reading a “fun” book, which right now happens to be a 900 page historical fantasy novel.  That one might take a while.

Showing Gratitude

I love Ann Voskamp’s idea of recording three things each day, and adding them up to over one thousand things you are thankful for by the end of the year.  She has a great download that gives three things to look for each day, so you’re always recording something different.  My list of gratitude is much more thoughtful, poetic, and  meaningful because I’m seeking out those three things. Today, I’ve found “dusky light” and “surprising reflection,” but I’m still searching for “beautiful shadow.”

Meditate on the Daily Mass Readings

This is the first of Bishop Coyne’s resolutions that I’ve decided to tackle, since growth in the Christian life must be based in God’s Word.  The hardest part of this for me is waking up early enough to do this before the craziness of the day begins.  If I don’t wake early, I am likely to read the daily Mass readings, but chances that I will actually meditate on them are slim to none.  Funny thing about reading without meditation.  The words tend to fall on barren ground, and are eaten up by little birdies, ages 2, 4, 6, 9, and 40.   Or perhaps the roast that I’m cooking for dinner drops on those words and drowns them.  Or they get all tangled up in four loads of laundry, or obscured by the dust on the dining room table… which leads me to a fourth new discipline:

Wake Early

I mapped it all out, and to accomplish all I want to accomplish before getting the kids off to school, I need to wake at 4:20.  I’ll be happy with 5, thank you.

New Years Resolutions Suggested by a Catholic Bishop

I just read these on Let Us Walk Together, the blog of Bishop Christopher Coyne, Auxilary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  Too good not to share.  Imagine a world where every Catholic adopted these as their New Year’s Resolutions.

As the new year begins, we often make resolutions and so, I offer the following possible new year’s resolutions to consider if one is going to be serious about being an evangelizer. I offer them for myself as well as for those readers who chose to follow my advice. Many of these resolutions are already part of my life: confession, pray, etc.. My hope is that anyone of us who is serious about following Christ as a Catholic Christian and an evangelizer will be able to see oneself in some of these propositions.

And so, As a Catholic Christian committed to the Church and the work of the new evangelization, I resolve with the love of Christ in my heart and the guidance of the Holy Spirit: –

    • to strive to grow in my love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church everyday. 
    • to be someone who seeks opportunities to invite others to faith in Jesus Christ and then seizes those opportunities when they come.
    • to try and talk about Jesus Christ and my faith to someone at least once a day.
    • to strive to live as someone who seeks to love God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and to love my neighbor as I would seek to be loved.
    • everyday to wake up in the morning, put my feet on the floor, and before I stand up, bow my head in praise to God for all that he has done for me.
    • everyday as I prepare for bed, to sit or kneel at my bedside and thank God for the blessings of the day and seek His forgiveness for any of my human transgressions.
    • to attend Sunday Mass every week, arriving at least 15 minutes before Mass starts so I can properly prepare myself to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
    • every time I eat, regardless of where I am, to give thanks to God for the food I am about to receive.
    • to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation at least once a month or more as needed.
    • to meditate on the daily Mass readings. 
    • to pray the Rosary once a day.
    • to be someone who seeks to judge less and understand more.
    • to remember that,”It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.” (Blessed Mother Teresa)
    • to balance the way I talk about the Church. If I have to complain about something I do not agree with or like about the Church, I will remember to say something about what I love about the Church, especially around others who may not believe as I do.
    • to chose one night per week in which I will not watch TV, use my computer, play on my phone, laptop, or tablet, text, tweet, or FB or anything like that. Instead, I will become involved: involved with my church, a charity, a neighbor, whatever the opportunity and the desire leads me.
    • to “tithe” some part of myself (time, treasure, and talent) to furthering God’s kingdom in this world.
    • to meditate seriously on the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy and to strive to live them.
    • to be meek but not “milquetoast.”
    • to comfort those who mourn.
    • to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
    • to be pure of heart in thought, word, and deed.
    • to be merciful.
    • to be a peacemaker but to also be courageous.
    • to be righteous before God and others.
    • I resolve to be a child of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

A long list, and a tall order.  I don’t think any of us can take this list, swallow it in one big gulp, and suddenly fulfill every resolution, or even any one of these resolutions.  I resolve (me, Stephanie Engelman, of great Self-Discipline in 2013) to take a look at each of these points in the year to come.  To try to do them and report back to you, my readers and (if you don’t mind) my accountability partners.  Please chime in if you want to join me!

Another resolution that I just read on Shoved to Them is

“Pray more with my friends.  I’ve done 2 novenas in the last few months over the phone with friends.  It’s been an amazing experience.  I need to pray with them more often.  It just makes me happy.”

Doing a novena over the phone with a friend… the thought had never occurred to me.  I love it.  I’m gonna try that one too.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

My One Word for 2013

I adopted one word for 2012.  But I never wrote it down, and never fully committed.  So I suppose you might say that I didn’t fully “adopt” that word. I took it under my foster-care for a brief period of time.

I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me the past twenty-four hours to even remember what that one word was.

Finally, this morning, I woke with it on the tip of my consciousness.  Ironically, on a morning where the night before found me dealing – not so well – with a two-year-old who refused to sleep between two and four A.M.  A night distinctly lacking in 2012’s word.

I reached deep into my foggy brain, felt around, fingertips brushing on that word. It slithered away, so I reached a little deeper…

And finally I grasped it.  2012’s word was PEACE.  Looking back, through the grace of God, I do believe that 2012 was a more peaceful year than years past.  I learned to “accept the things I cannot change;” to analyze my tendency to anger before letting the anger build; the value of music to change my mood; and I learned to pray, pray, pray when I begin to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.  I’m far from perfect on any of these counts, but I’m a darn sight better than I was a year ago.

As I look forward to 2013, I believe that I need to get to the root of the matter, to an issue that’s been needling at me for many years.

This is a trait that I continually fall short on, that somehow I never learned as a child.  It has led to habitual tardiness, frequent eating binges, emotional outbursts, and countless unfinished projects.  It’s left us mired in debt.  It has prevented me from achieving my goals, and from becoming the wife, mother, friend, daughter, and servant of God that I know I am called to be.

Have you guessed it?

The Biblical term is self-control.  To me, though, “self-control” speaks strongly of desires of the flesh.  I’ve certainly had my struggles with those, but between practicing NFP and sticking to this crazy diet, I think I’ve got those typical fleshly desires pretty well under control.

So my word for 2013 is SELF-DISCIPLINE.

It’s not as beautiful or romantic as joy, brave, trust, charity, or peace, or many of the other words you’ll find at the One Word Community.  It’s utilitarian and not a whole lot of fun.  But I believe that it will provide a strong foundation for building and focusing on those other things as well.

Self-discipline will get me up early in the morning.

Self-discipline will establish a strong foundation of prayer, scripture study, and taking time to listen.

Self-discipline will finish the book I’ve been working on for five years and – God willing – find it a publisher.

Self-discipline will write the Bible study I’ve had in my head for two years.

Self-discipline will find me sitting with my children each day to read them a book or play a game.

Self-discipline will show others that I respect them by showing up on time to our engagements.

Self-discipline will cause me to finally create and stick to a budget, and we will finally have financial freedom on our horizon.

Self-discipline will leave me living life with intention. And my intention is to

Put first things first

To serve God in all I do

And become the woman he made me to be.

“Athletes exercise self-[discipline] in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath,
but we an imperishable one.” 1 Cor 9:25

(Huge thanks go out to Melanie at www.OnlyABreath.com for the free one word button.  Isn’t it cool?  Now I just have to figure out how to add it to my site!)

Potato Soup… The Perfect Comfort Food

With a housefull of sick people, potato soup was just the ticket last night.  Easy to make, enjoyed by the whole family, and, as an added bonus, I was able to adapt it to make it “Stephanie friendly” (meaning no wheat, dairy, meat, etc.).  Over the years, I’ve played around with my mother-in-law’s recipe and made it my own, adding carrots and rosemary for a more flavorful soup, and this time removing the milk so that I could eat it too. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

6 unpeeled potatoes, cut to small cubes
1/2 C celery, chopped
1/2 C carrots, chopped
1/4 C white onion, chopped
1/2 stick butter (or earth butter for vegan)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 tsp crushed rosemary (optional)
Toppings:
bacon
chopped green onion
shredded cheddar cheese

 

In a medium sized pan, cover potatoes, onion, celery, and carrots with water, and bring to a boil.
Simmer gently until potatoes are extremely soft.
Add seasonings and butter and simmer ten minutes.
Add more water (or milk) if desired.
Serve topped with chopped bacon, shredded cheese, and chopped green onion.