Faith, Fitness, and Food: Three Quarantine Necessities

So here we are, about six weeks into this very strange time of Covid-19 quarantine, and I am a little embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying myself, thanks primarily to faith, fitness, and food.

Alliteration is great for blog titles, but I didn’t have to work hard to come up with that one. It really describes my life for the past six weeks, and for this introvert, it’s all been good.

What I HAVEN’t found myself doing, surprisingly, is writing blog posts. And maybe that invites some contemplation on my part. But let me tell you what I have been doing instead to pass the time.

FAITH

We can’t go to Mass and that hurts.  I miss that more than anything.  But there are lots of other ways to practice our faith and I have doubled down on them all.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a whole prayer room, which is a great blessing all the time and especially now.  So I start off every morning there, and I spend an hour there every evening.   On Sunday mornings, I watch my parish‘s live-streamed Mass.  The rest of the family gets their “church” in the afternoon.  We read the readings, and since our pastor generously provides us with a copy of his homily and the week’s Universal Prayer, we read those as well. We recite the creed, say the spiritual communion prayer, sing the Regina Caeli (because Easter) and finish up with the Prayer to Saint Michael.

I take advantage of a ton of resources to make this time meaningful for me, many of which I have written about here and here.  I use Hallow and Pray as You Go daily.  I enjoyed the Pray More Lenten Retreat and the Be Not Afraid conference, which is still online and available.  And I’ve signed up for several other free Catholic conferences.

FITNESS

I wasn’t kidding myself in the past when I said I didn’t have time for exercise.  But I have time now and I am using it.  I was already pursuing some fitness goals when this started, going to the gym three days a week and walking 45 minutes most days.  Now, with the gym closed, I am doing the Jane Fonda workout (yes, the one from 1982) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  I borrowed some weights from my next door neighbor and I do a little with those and also do some squats and push ups (girl push ups, and not very well) on what would normally have been gym days.

But what I really love to do is walk, and there is a flat paved loop trail at the park a two-minute drive away (and before you ask, there is no safe way to walk there, which is stupid).  I walk for an hour every morning after breakfast if it does not rain. (When it rains, I suffer.) To pass the time while walking loops I listen to Hallow or Pray as You Go or a Catholic talk or podcast.  On Saturdays I switch it up by walking at the track on the All Saints Parish campus while saying the Rosary.  Every afternoon at five, my next door neighbor and I do loops around the bottom half of our street (socially distanced from one another and passers-by). All told, I am averaging over 11,000 steps and almost five miles each day.  Since 10,000 steps was the goal I had set for myself, I am pleased.

FOOD

It was Lent when all this began, as you will recall, and one of my Lenten disciplines was to do a modified Whole 30.  Thus I was unable to bake tasty treats (well I could have, but I didn’t want to bake things and not be able to eat them!) until after Easter. That was a huge blessing, because by then I had developed such healthy habits that I really didn’t feel like over-indulging on chocolate and such for more than a couple of days.  I KNOW I would have turned to food for comfort if I hadn’t been so limited in what I could eat.

But here’s the thing, limited or not, I (and my family) still had to eat.  And the fact is that I had gotten WAY out of the habit of preparing seven dinners a week (let alone all those lunches and breakfasts).  I mean, I don’t think I’ve done that since about 2009 and that is no exaggeration.  John and I go out Monday nights; Lorelei has youth group at our downtown parish on Wednesdays and so we all go our own ways for dinner; and I hang out at Panera Bread alone every Friday evening.  So that leaves four dinners a week for me to come up with, tops, and there are always other things going on that lead us to eat out, or grab fast food, or order in . . . I’m sure lots of you can relate.

But for the past six weeks we’ve eaten together, at the same time every night, primarily meals that I’ve cooked, sometimes with Lorelei and/or Emily’s assistance.  I start by doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and I really take my time and enjoy the process.  We use Blue Apron and Hello Fresh so two nights a week the meals are planned for me, and that has been a huge blessing as far as not having to worry about having all the ingredients on hand as well.  I also schedule a regular shipment of produce from Misfits Market.  It has still been challenging to come up with a variety of meals that people will enjoy.  We have only had takeout a couple of times due to reduced income at the moment.  But despite the challenge and doing some complaining about it because it is yet another big responsibility that falls on mostly me, I am also enjoying it and don’t want to go back to how we did things before.

My faith, fitness, and food quarantine coping strategies have something in common and that is ROUTINE.  I have developed daily and weekly routines that I stick to that give a rhythm to the day. This is very satisfying and keeps me on track, not to mention sane.  I get up early every morning (although no longer before dark, which I have always hated).  I do the same things in the same order at more or less the same time every day, and because there are no longer outside commitments that schedule doesn’t get interrupted which is comforting.  I’ve created a nice balance of exercise and office work, personal pursuits and homemaking, relaxation and prayer.  This is something else that I hope I can hold onto.

As I planned this post I noticed the overlap among faith, fitness, and food.  What I am eating contributes to my fitness and my desire for fitness influences what I cook–and don’t cook–for my family.  An hour of my fitness time each day doubles as faith time.  And of course the time I spend specifically on faith in my prayer room grounds me and helps me to do all the rest of it.

I would love to hear how the rest of you are doing in quarantine.  Do you like it? Hate it? Both? Have you developed a routine or are you winging it? Is there anything you’e started to do that you want to continue when we get back to “normal”? Let me know in the comments.

How to Fit Regular Prayer into Your Busy Life: It’s Not What You Think

For most of my adulthood, my prayer life has consisted of Mass on Sunday, various random calls on God on the saints as necessary throughout the day, and petitions in bed at night–if I did not fall asleep first.  I would marvel at folks who attended Mass daily, or said the rosary regularly, or woke up early for quiet time with God.  How on earth did they find the time?

Over the past few years I have experienced a real longing for holiness, a desire to spend more intentional time in prayer.  And I’ve had some limited success, with help from prayer journaling, a schedule that facilitated weekday Mass attendance, and even Facebook!  A schedule change this year, though, meant I had no reason to leave the house until afternoon.  And without that little boost, and with always so much work to do at home, I just haven’t been able to make myself go to morning Mass even though I really enjoyed it.

Every article about having a regular prayer life says to schedule time with God:  have a prayer appointment at the same time each day.  So I tried.  First I got up earlier in the morning to pray, but fell asleep in my chair the first few mornings and started hitting the snooze button instead.  I tried praying every night before bed (not IN bed!), and I fell asleep then too.  I considered scheduling prayer time mid-morning once I was good and awake, but I just couldn’t make myself go back upstairs (where my prayer space is located) once I had already gotten involved in my work.

As I type all that it sounds pathetic, but I am just being honest!  And this post does have a happy ending (at least for now!).  Here’s what I did:

  • I let go of last year’s schedule.  Just because I had a great thing going last year doesn’t mean it works this year, and that is okay.  Next school year will be different and maybe morning Mass will work for me again.
  • I made a commitment to FIT PRAYER IN.  I chose certain practices, and promised myself I would do them every day, but not necessarily on a particular schedule or at the same time every day.
  • I found tools to make regular prayer as easy as possible.  You can read about them here.
  • I found accountability partners.  Right now I’m participating in the 33 Days of Merciful Love challenge with Catholic Fit Moms for Life.  Regular prayer is one of my goals for the challenge, and the challenge itself includes spiritual reading and journaling.  I am registered for the Pray More Advent Retreat, which will overlap just a bit and then take me all the way to Christmas.

So what does this look like right now?  Once I’m alone in the house, I will usually do my journaling for the 33 Days challenge.  Then I will work for awhile before taking a break to say what I think of as my morning prayers, which I have saved on my phone so I don’t even have to leave my desk.  I listen to Pray As You Go in the car on the way to pick up the kids.  After dinner, when I used to sit on the porch and read, I now retire to my prayer space and do my reading for the challenge and use Hallow to meditate.  And I still say those bedtime prayers.  And if I don’t get to do all those things on a given day, I don’t feel worried or guilty, I just resume on the following day.

And you know what? By my prioritizing fitting prayer in somewhere, somehow, rather than attempting to schedule it, a schedule more or less naturally fell into place on its own!

So if you are a busy person who wants to pray more, and a prayer schedule hasn’t worked for you, try just committing to fitting it in and see how that works for you!

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray

If you are busy like I am (and who isn’t busy these days), daily dedicated prayer time may seem out of reach.  And yet we NEED daily prayer to help us cope with our overwhelming, stressful, too-busy lives.  As Saint Francis de Sales famously said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”

For the past year or so I have struggled to develop a prayer routine that works for me.  I tried getting up earlier in the morning, which I know works well for many people; but I often fell asleep while trying to pray, or hit the snooze button instead of getting up.  The spirit may be willing but the flesh is indeed weak.

I tried other times of day too, but my schedule is unpredictable, and nothing seemed to stick for long.  Even my twice-weekly Mass and rosary walk that I kept up for an entire school year became a thing of the past once I no longer had a child in school right across the street from the church.

I realized that the best way for me to work prayer into my daily schedule was NOT to assign a definite time and place to it, but rather to make sure I fit it in any way I can.  I found some apps that are helping me do that and I wanted to share them with you.

MARY APP

You may be familiar with the practice of Marian Consecration.  I recently completed Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory program for the second time.  I wanted to pray a short consecration prayer every morning, and I keep this app open to the one I want to say.

PRAYER 2000+

This is the ultimate prayer app with just about every Catholic prayer you can imagine.  What I love about it is that you can make a favorites list and then put it in the order you want.  Here I have the next three prayers I want to say each day, and I will probably add more over time.  For now, I say the Morning Offering, the Litany of Humility, and the Prayer for Generosity.

HOLY ROSARY

There are many rosary apps available, of course.  And ideally I’d rather use an actual rosary anyway.  But I can play this one and pray along while my hands are busy doing other things.  I like that this one automatically opens up to the proper mysteries for the day, and I like that I can increase the replay speed a bit.

PRAY AS YOU GO

I have actually been using this for over a year.  I start it as I pull out of the driveway to pick up my kids from school, and it is just about the perfect length for the ten-minute drive.  This is a daily session based on Ignatian spirituality including music, scripture, reflection, and prayer.

HALLOW

This is a Catholic meditation app, and introduces you to different types of prayer, like Lectio Divina or the Examen.  I use this in the evening after dinner when I typically sit out on the front porch for some alone time.  I love that you can choose five, ten, or fifteen minute guided mediation and prayer sessions.

With the help of these apps, I find I am able to meet my prayer goals most days.  All told, I am consistently praying over 30 minutes a day now and I feel hopeful that I will be able to add more over time and will be able to continue this routine.

Have you used these apps? Do you have any other favorite prayer apps?

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Merry Christmas! I have a gift for all my readers, a book of reflections to help you focus on continuing the Christmas celebration for all twelve days.

Based on an almost certainly inaccurate but still fun interpretation of the traditional carol’s lyrics, this eBook contains reflections and prayers written by members of Everyday Ediths (I am one of them and have submissions therein) and compiled by Anni Harry.

You are free to download this, print it, and pass it around any way you like. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading Life in Every Limb.

Download your copy HERE.

Check out the contributors’ Facebook pages below:

Sweeping Up Joy
A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life
Not So Formulaic by Ginny Kochis
Pinot Noir and Prayers
Under Thy Roof
A Drop in the Ocean
Life in Every Limb

Sackcloth and Ashes: A Movement of Laypeople Praying for Our Church

In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; On their housetops and in their squares.  Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears. ~ Isaiah 15:13
If you are a Catholic who follows any Catholic pages on Facebook, I’m guessing you have seen this graphic, because it is everywhere right now.
sackcloth 6
Spearheaded by Kendra and Bonnie, it started as a way for Catholics with a platform to DO SOMETHING about the current scandal in our Church.  Here’s the pledge:
sackcloth 1
Now, when I first saw friends talking about the campaign on Facebook,  I had a knee jerk reaction that went like this:  Why should I pray and sacrifice?  I haven’t done anything wrong! This is just like the laity being forced to take all those safe environment classes when we weren’t the ones who molested anyone.  
I’m far from being the only person who felt that way.  Eventually I decided to join in for a few reasons.

  • I know many of you are tired of hearing folks offering thoughts and prayers whenever there is anything bad happening in the world.  I agree that when people who have the ability to act ONLY offer prayers, that’s an insult to God, who gave us brains and hands and blessings in order that we would cooperate with Him in bringing about good in the world.  But that doesn’t mean prayers are useless!
  • I AM acting–to the best of my limited ability–in using my platform to write about the scandal, but as a Catholic layperson in an institution run by a hierarchy, my powers are limited.  THIS I can do!
  • I felt called to do something, and I feel like this is a moment when the efforts of the laity are definitely called for.

And it also helped when I got a better understanding of what it means to pray in reparation, which you can read about right here:
sackcloth 7
And then Pope Francis even suggested we should be doing this!  That’s quite the endorsement!
So for the next 40 days, starting today, I’ll be praying more and making small sacrifices each day.  If you’d like to join in, here’s a good prayer you could say first thing every morning:
sackcloth 2
Or you could say this beautiful Litany for the Church in Crisis–there’s a printable available and I am keeping mine on my desk.
You can also use your rosary to say a Chaplet of Reparation:
sackcloth 5
If you want to make a sacrifice you should know that it doesn’t have to mean giving up food.  Anni has some great suggestions here.
And you could share this post, or the images from it, to let more people know, because the more of us who are praying the better.
In their streets they have girded themselves with sackcloth; On their housetops and in their squares. Everyone is wailing, dissolved in tears. _ Isaiah 15_13
 

Sacrificing Lent

Maybe the problem is that I have always enjoyed Lent just a little too much.  I’ve actually looked forward to it with excitement, thought of it as a challenge, taken on some serious disciplines and stuck to them.
But it was last year at this time that I realized that Lent wasn’t meant to be an endurance test, that unless I offered up my sacrifices in prayer, they weren’t helping me grow in holiness.
It was a lesson learned the hard way, as the Lent I wanted fell prey to the Lent God sent me.
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths.

Praying as a Family

Catholic blogger fail confession time–we are not That Catholic Family that does a  morning blessing, says grace before every meal, and prays a nightly rosary.   Not even close.
It’s not that we haven’t had good intentions.  We’ve tried off and on over the many, many years (26 and counting, y’all) of having kids to come up with a family prayer routine that stuck.  But to everything there is a season, and some of our seasons have been more fruitful in this area than others.
Every morning, John prays with William in the car on the way to school.  And he did this with the big kids from the time they were little kids.  I love that he does this.  And right now we are rocking the family evening prayer because Advent.  But we need to do better and I found something that might help.
CFBP-cover-1
 
Gracewatch Media has just published a lovely book by Jerry Windley-Daoust of Peanut Butter and GraceThe Catholic Family Book of Prayers is available for preview and/or purchase in a variety of formats right here.  I was provided with a free copy in exchange for my honest review, and I am going to cherish it always because it is a beautiful book that every Catholic family should have it their library.
Seriously, before I go any further I suggest you buy this book right now if you need a wedding gift, a new baby or baptism gift, or an RCIA gift (or of course a Christmas gift for the Catholic families you know!).
The book is aptly subtitled A Treasury of Prayers and Meditations for Families to Pray Together because it really is a treasure.  The content alone–basically every important Catholic prayer–would be enough to give it this status but this little volume packs in so much more:  illustrations varying in style but all beautiful, explanations of prayers and traditions along with support from the Catechism, suggestions of different ways to pray, and inspirational quotations on prayer from the saints are just some of what you will find within.
I hope this book will help me to continue our family’s evening prayer routine once Advent comes to a close.  Please do your family a favor and buy a copy!
the catholic family book of prayers

“The best form of prayer is one that . . . makes space for the presence of God within us.”

~ Saint Basil the Great

How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less

Until very recently, worry and anxiety have not been challenges for me.  I have the kind of mind that just doesn’t hold on the those kinds of things.  Unlike my husband, who is consumed with worry pretty much all the time, making him miserable, I have always been able to put problems aside to deal with whatever is right in front of me.
Lately, I’ve suffered from anxiety of the free-floating variety.  Because it isn’t rational, it doesn’t respond to rational techniques.  I tend to treat it by whiffing essential oils or going outside to sit in the sun.  What’s worse is when it attaches itself to legitimate areas of worry that I would have been able to put out of my mind in the past.  When that happens, and chanting my usual mantra (Cast your cares on God; that anchor holds.) isn’t working, there is one Scripture passage I turn to.
You know the jokes about Catholics–we don’t read our Bibles and we can’t quote chapter and verse like our Protestant brethren.  Of course that’s not true of all Catholics, and the fact is that most of us are exposed to a lot of Scripture via the Mass readings.  According to this source, a Catholic who attends Mass on Sundays and major feasts will hear about 41% of the New Testament and 4% of the Old (that doesn’t count the Psalms), even if they never crack open a Bible at home or in a study group.
So I know lots of Scripture, even if I don’t always know exactly where to find it.  But I always remember that the passage about anxiety is in the book of Matthew, Chapter 6:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
Even if I have trouble believing it right in the moment, I know that if Jesus said it, it must be true.  Even if I can’t see how, I know He is working all things out for my good.  Even though I can’t always manage it, I want to live as though I really, REALLY believe these words all the time.
And thanks to a new prayer practice I adopted this Lent, I am growing in this area.  More than once, after I have shared my anxieties with God in my prayer journal, insight, answers, and comfort have followed within days.  I find my thoughts turning toward journaling when I am facing a knotty problem in my life or when I am overcome with worries and anxiety.  I find myself really trusting that it is all in God’s hands.
 
This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more articles on faith and worry, click below.
How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less
 

Can We Learn to Listen?

Flipping through the monthly missalette to pass the time, back in the days when I was a child and Mass seemed to last forever, I’d sing the songs in my head and read the prayers on the back.  One prayer struck me so much that I committed it to memory.

I haven’t thought of it much in recent years but it came to me suddenly today–perhaps through the prompting of the Holy Spirit?  It’s a prayer we could all use in these troubled times.

prayer-to-be-a-better-listenerwe-do-not-really-listen-to-each-other-god-at-least-not-all-the-time-instead-of-true-dialogue-we-carry-on-two-parallel-monologues-i-talk-my-companion-talks-but-what

When I think of conversations nowadays online interactions come to mind.  Much of our discourse on important matters is virtual now.  We listen with our eyes and minds and not our ears as we read the posts and comments and articles in our feeds.  But don’t we still fall prey to the same errors the prayer mentions?  Haven’t we all read something too quickly and made uncharitable assumptions in our rush to respond?  Have we thought about the feelings of the person reading our witty, snarky comebacks?  Are we listening and trying to learn or simply planning our next salvo?  Are we having conversations–exchanges of ideas–or are we fighting battles with words as our weapons?

God comes to us through the souls we encounter–this we know.  And they encounter Him through us.  Are we allowing ourselves to be channels of His peace, or of something else?

For my part, I am going to say this prayer every morning before I fire up Facebook.  Will you join me?

Walk in Her Sandals: A Path to Greater Holiness

Don’t laugh, but high up there on my list of personal goals is a desire for greater holiness.  I’ve known a few holy people in my life–have you?  They radiate peace and God’s love and you feel blessed to be in their presence.  I’d like to be one of those people, but they are rare.

I’d also like to be the kind of person with a prayer routine, or the kind who keeps a prayer journal, or attends daily Mass and/or adoration, or has a spiritual director.  While other women are envious of the well-kept houses and perfectly behaved children they see on Facebook and Pinterest, I’m jealous of the spirituality of the Catholic women I have encountered online.

Wow, how messed up does that sound?

As a someone who delights in reading and learning, you would think that at least I could manage some regular spiritual reading.  Yet the inspirational books with scriptural reflections for each day lie unopened on my nightstand, and my pile of unread religious books grows ever higher.  Whenever I manage to open one of those books, I fall asleep within minutes.

Life is busy and life is hard, and most of the time I have to content myself with at least the notion that I am living my faith through my actions instead of devoting time to prayer and spiritual reading.  I think that’s a bit of a cop out, though, and that’s one reason I was grateful for the opportunity I was given to read A Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women.

In exchange for my honest reflections and as part of my participation in the Siena Sisters blog hop, I received an advance copy of this creative take on the Passion of Jesus.  One thing I AM good with is deadlines so I was able to make time to read this book so I could share it with you.

Not that it was a big sacrifice.  I really enjoyed reading it, and I stayed awake too.  Written in sections by a team of ten Catholic women, this book is meant to be used as a Lenten study, either for an individual or a small group.  It is divided into six chapters, each showcasing a spiritual gift unique to women with accompanying scripture and exegesis, personal reflections, suggestions for prayer, questions for group discussion, and guidance for evangelization.

The heart of the book for me, though, were the stories that make up an imaginative thread that gives the book its title and its life.  Each chapter introduces us to some of the women who knew Jesus or his disciples, and invites us to experience the events of Holy Week through their eyes.  I’ve read things like this before, and they can easily seem a little too precious, but these stories were well done, the women carefully characterized, the narrative compelling and moving as each woman encountered Jesus and His message in her own way.  I just loved these stories.  They really brought the scripture, which  I of course have heard hundreds of times, to life in a new and exciting way for me.

I recommend you go here and order Walk in Her Sandals before Lent.  I plan to read it again myself at that time, and maybe I will be able to move a little further down that road to holiness by Easter.

This post is part of the CWBN Siena Sisters Blog Hop.  Click the picture below to see what everyone else had to say about Walk in Her Sandals.

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