Chapter Chats: The Hope of Lent with Pope Francis

coffeebook

When I think of Lent, the word ‘hopeful’ doesn’t come to mind first.  Instead, usually ‘fish,’ ‘sacrifice,’ ‘suffering,’ and ‘pain’ are the first words that I think of.  But in her book, The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis, Diane Houder reminds us that Lent has everything to do with hope.

We hope that we are transformed this Lent into something better, a truer and holier version of ourselves. But we also don’t live Lent just focused on the end goal.  If we did, it would cause us to miss the beauty of the everyday life of Lent.  Eating fish, sacrificing something, joining in Christ’s suffering and pain are things that we do during the season of Lent.  But what is the most beautiful part of the season of Lent is what God does. 

God came down to earth as a vulnerable baby and loved us.  He gave up His life for us in the ultimate sacrifice. And He shows us mercy even while we are still sinners and in desperate need of his compassion.

Pope Francis has made ‘mercy’ an incredible theme of his time as Pope – even naming last year the Year of Mercy.  If you, like me, are missing the Year of Mercy already, check out this book and consider adding it to your Lenten devotions.

Image result for the hope of Lent pope francis franciscan media

The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francisis published by Franciscan Media.  Each day, Houder introduces the time of reflection with the Bible readings of the daily Mass.  Then follows a reflection on the readings by Pope Francis.  Then Houder encourages her readers to do two things:

  • Take the Word to Heart – she reflects on the Pope’s words.
  • Bring the Word to Life – she challenges her readers to an action for the day.

Then each day of reflection ends with a prayer by Pope Francis.  If you’re looking for a daily devotional and a way to grow closer to Christ along with our Holy Father, this is the book for you!

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media
* Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own.
* In exchange for the review of The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope FrancisI received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

 

Chapter Chats: Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

coffeebook

We are exactly one week away from the start of the Lenten season.  Even though Lent is late this year, it still seems like it sneaked up on me.  After all, didn’t we just finish the Christmas season? But ready or not, here it comes. So pour yourself a latte and pull up a chair – let’s have a heart-to-heart.

Every Lent it seems that I resolve to give up something I like (coffee) or put into practice a spiritual habit (getting up in the morning to pray). And each Lent, after about a week, I lose my stamina and the season starts sliding downhill for me.

If you know where I’m coming from and also struggle with this beautiful season of preparation,  there’s hope for us yet.  After all, the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. And this Lent, I’m checking myself in for a serious case of spiritual neglect.

Life has been crazy for the past couple of months, and as things start to settle down, I’ve realized where I can improve.  For me, this Lent provides an opportunity to grow closer to God in conversation and prayer – with an emphasis on my need to develop listening skills in prayer.

So I was excited to receive a book to review for the Lenten season (this is just one of two books I received – watch for another Chapter Chat post soon!)  Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations  by Heidi Hess Saxton could be just what the spiritual doctor ordered.

What I love about daily devotional books like this is that there is a daily appointment. In past years, to avoid the temptation to let the book slip after reading the first day, I place books that I’m reading through Lent on my pillowcase.  Now I can’t go to bed without picking it up and reading a  short meditation.

Image result for lent with saint teresa of calcutta

The book is designed to be read once a day during the 40 days of Lenten preparation. Each day starts with the scripture readings from the daily Mass.  Then, Heidi Saxton pulls a thought out of the readings and highlights it.  For example, this is the scripture passage she selected for Ash Wednesday.

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

After scripture, Heidi reflects on what the passages meant in the life of Saint Teresa herself.  For the Ash Wednesday reflection, Heidi speaks on how we are called to love over and over, to pick up our cross  of love even when it is inconvenient.  Lent is not about posting our #GetYourAshToMass selfie, but about how we live the next forty days without the cross on our forehead to remind us of what this season means. Heidi ends her reflection with a quote from Saint Teresa:

I’m very happy if you can see Jesus in me, because I can see Jesus in you. But holiness is not just for a few people. It’s for everyone, including you…Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason He created us.

Then, Heidi offers moments of reflection. Here’s what the questions for Ash Wednesday look like:

  • Look in the mirror and study the cross on your forehead. What kind of cross were you given to carry? Is it big and bold? Barely visible? What is God saying to you about what He wants for you this Lent?
  • Is it time for you to go to confession? The Church teaches that we need to go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we are conscious of having committed serious sin (CCC 2042). Don’t worry if it’s been a while – God is waiting to meet you there. Don’t settle for ashes alone when you can receive absolution and a fresh start! 

Finally, she ends the devotion of the day with a quick prayer.  Here’s what the Ash Wednesday prayer looks like:

Lord Jesus, as I start my Lenten journey, I confess that I still have far to go on the “road of reconciliation.” Give me the courage I need to follow you, as St. Teresa did, even when the road is hard. Holy Spirit, work in me so that one day I too might be a saint! Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

This is the first Lent that we celebrate with Mother Teresa as a Saint – I can’t think of a better way to get to know her better throughout this Lenten season.

Do you have a favorite book you’re revisiting for Lent? Or perhaps you’ve picked up a new title to discover through this season? Tell me about it in the comments !

You can purchase the book Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations from Franciscan Media here.

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media
* Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own.
* In exchange for the review of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, I received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Why I decided to be a stay-at-home-wife.

If you asked me about my dreams for my life, the list has some big goals on it. I want to write a book.  I want to launch my own website.  I want to be a mom.  I want to give a talk on Theology of the Body.  I want to learn how to make creme brulee with a fire torch.  I want to sleep in the back of a pick up truck and look at the stars.  I want to have my own podcast.

As Joseph and I got to know each other when we were dating, we gradually started talking about a future together.  The dream of that future meant that we would start building dreams with each other in mind.  Only 6 months into our relationship, I sat down for a heart to heart with him at midnight and decided that I wasn’t going to look into getting my doctoral degree in history.  Instead I was going to start a life with him that didn’t require years and years of more school and a move to a city nowhere near him.
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
Through my senior year of college, I started to work at the university library and I loved it.  I loved the research questions, the front desk, and the interaction with fellow students.  It made sense for me to keep fueling my interest in libraries and pursue a master’s in library science (MLS).  Everyone at the library thought it was a great fit for me.  I learned a lot through my time there and, by the end of my college career, I had seen almost every aspect of the library and student success center that was also housed there.  Sometimes I even brought part of the library home with me!

No automatic alt text available.No automatic alt text available.      No automatic alt text available.

Then last summer, I decided that even pursuing a MLS didn’t quite seem to fit into our plans, either.  Most of my colleagues at the library seemed to think I was crazy for not going for that goal.  I was told I was wasting my mind if I didn’t get a higher education past my bachelor’s degree.  Even my professors told me I was ridiculous, marrying young and forgetting about school. But I knew that it was possible to get a job at a library after college without the MLS because of the experience I’d gotten already.  And all the while I kept writing for my own blog, as well as picking up a couple of free-lance opportunities along the way.

I graduated in December and sent in what seemed like an infinite amount of resumes to libraries in Kansas City once Joseph and I knew that was the city that we’d live in.  I went up and visited libraries and discussed their systems with connections from my time at Washburn.  I poured my heart into cover letters and researching about how to answer the interview questions that would lead me to nail the job. And I didn’t hear back. Or, when they did contact me, it was to tell me they’d decided to pursue another candidate. Nothing was working the way I had planned, and it was driving me crazy.


I started to attach my self worth to the job search, and quickly became disappointed.  It felt like I wasn’t useful. Wasn’t worth it. Wasn’t good enough. And the chorus of ‘you’re not good enough’ seemed to follow me and ring in my ears with every rejection e-mail and every time the job was taken off the board without me in the position.

I ignored the small voice in my heart that told me to be still and wait and know He is God. Instead I frantically moved and put in resumes with jobs I didn’t even want.  I had the remnant of a plan left. I was grasping onto it, but it was slipping fast.

Then the answer came to me one night about a month ago, sitting on my bed and flipping through my e-mails.  I’d just had an interview to be a substitute teacher at Catholic school about thirty minutes away from our new home .  They’d offered me the position.  You would think that this meant I was finally at peace.  But I wasn’t.  I sat on my bed and realized that I didn’t want that job.  And I didn’t want the twenty-some other jobs that I’d applied to. The reason I’d applied to them was that I wanted to proudly state that I was employed, as if that added something to my self worth.

What was it that I really wanted? To pursue the thing I was good at, that I enjoyed and that I loved – writing. At that point, I was writing for two different websites, I had my own blog and opportunities to pursue that dream kept falling right into my lap.

So, when Joseph got back from an out of town trip, I asked him if I could have another heart to heart.  I spilled my thoughts to him in a corner booth at Panera.  I didn’t want him to think I was giving up on looking for a job, or being lazy by focusing on my writing instead of the traditional 9-to-5.  But his response was amazing – he said he’d thought I should write too.  I stopped my resume submitting, told the school I’d be unable to substitute for them.  And on Monday I had my first day as a stay-at-home-wife while Joseph went to work.

On this first week of my time as a stay-at-home-wife, I’ve learned quite a few lessons already.  To start the week, I became a little more stay-at-home then I would have liked…the transmission on my car gave out, so I’ve spent a lot of time in Joseph and I’s little apartment.  While that may sound like torture to some, it’s been the perfect environment for me to write and enjoy my time as a wife.  God was just giving me more opportunities to trust Him and be not afraid.

I’ve had family and friends ask me how long I’ll do this, or if I’m looking for another job. Or what my plan is for the next year.  But the reality of my life right now looks like this is going to be something that happens for a while.  And I’m loving it. It is awesome to be able to finally cook.  While some may consider that a chore or burden, I have missed my time in the kitchen so much while in college and living off of leftovers.  And to have dinner ready when Joseph walks in the door? That’s an incredible feeling that I’ve been looking forward to.

It is beautiful to finally have time to read books that have been sitting on a shelf since I graduated from high school.  And I’ve blogged and written more in the past three days than I have been able to for weeks. Who knows…maybe something will happen in the next year or so that will change what my day-to-day look like.  It could be that God opens the door to someplace where He thinks I can better serve Him.  Maybe littles will come along and the job description of stay-at-home-wife and blogger will transition to stay-at-home-mom and blogger.  I don’t know…but I know someone who does.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

He has a plan for me.  It may not look conventional, and it doesn’t look like a thing I had planned.  But I know He has work for me to do.  And if my mission field is here within the walls of this apartment, then His will be done.

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.”  (Saint Teresa of Calcutta)