Posted in Faith, Marian Consecration

Day 21-24 of 33: Done

Hiding from God is just another form of denial.

Ever since the days of Adam man has been hiding from God and saying God is hard to find. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

There’s this nasty habit I have: when I start to succeed, I sabotage myself. I run away. I fail, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, make excuses, and hide myself from people, from myself, and from God. I feel shame when I see anything that reminds me of God. I get angry when anyone so much as smiles at me. I’m on a hair trigger. I’m impossible to deal with, I imagine.

I’m getting there again. Right when I have been cultivating a relationship with Our Lady, I’ve pulled away from her and from God. I’m in denial and ignoring them until I feel ready to start again. I don’t know if this time it’s because I was succeeding or because my life got exponentially harder lately due to health reasons in the family. All I know is it feels like an arid desert, a Dark Night of the Soul, right in the middle of my preparation for consecration to Mary. Good timing, eh?

I know Saint Teresa of Calcutta would empathize. The last half of her life she struggled intensely with her own Dark Night:

The longing for God is terribly painful and yet the darkness is becoming greater. What contradiction there is in my soul. The pain within is so great… Please ask Our Lady to be my Mother in this darkness. – St. Teresa of Calcutta

What a remarkable woman! And yet even she felt this pain. What did she do about it? She faithfully kept on, trusting that God was there even when she didn’t feel Him. And she asked Our Lady for help. She was particularly devoted to Mary, who I imagine was a great consolation to Teresa as she wants to be to all of us.

I’m tempted to put off my consecration until a “better time” when I’m devoutly completing the checklist of prayers and alone time with God. But I’m not so sure I’m ready to give up yet. Perhaps perfection isn’t what is being required of me. Perhaps the checklist and schedule isn’t what God is asking for. Perhaps this Dark Night is in fact preparing me for the gifts I am about to receive if I faithfully continue. I don’t have to have the perfect preparation in order to consecrate myself. I can let go and trust the process the Spirit is working in me. I still want to belong to Mary. No darkness can overshadow the light of Heaven, even when I doubt that fact in my worst moments.

Please pray for me, friends. Let us never give up. Not today, Satan!

Posted in Faith

Konmari Your Soul

(Enjoy this well-written post by Pollyannie!)

I’m sure you have heard about Marie Kondoby now and her Konmari method. Well, I’m here to talk about applying her methods to tidying your soul. Chances are, if you think your soul is in a pristine state, you probably have just become used to all of the clutter. 

Matthew Kelly talks about our souls being like a car that we need to clean out, as this post mentions:

“We lose our sensitivity to sin in exactly the same way because after a while, a big self-destructive behavior doesn’t look that bad amongst all those little ones, does it? That’s how it works. You go to Confession and when you come out you are sensitive about the things that have stopped you from becoming the best version of yourself, just like when you wash your car and you are sensitive about the things that make your car dirty. “

Matthew Kelly

So why should we Konmari our soul? Do we even need to? What would be the benefit of doing this? And how can we do it in an honest way?

Provide a Dwelling Place

We need to examine our souls the same way we would examine our belongings. We must ask ourselves, does this behavior spark joy in my life? If not, I need to let it go. As a Catholic, I have found there is power in going to a priest who is representing Christ and confessing your sins. When you discard all that doesn’t spark joy, you make room for the things that do like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, forgiveness, understanding, gentleness, and self-control – the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we hold on to our junk, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We have to tidy things up on a regular basis to give the Holy Spirit a home that sparks joy.

A Long Way to Go

More and more I am realizing that the closer I get to God, the further I have to go in my spiritual life. I feel very good about myself when I am not examining my conscience. It’s very humbling when I take the time to reflect on where I have strayed. . I need God. I need His grace. One way I realize how much I need God’s grace and forgiveness is when I haven’t been to confession in a long time and the difference it makes afterward. All of the sudden my reserves of patience have been restored – whereas before I would be ready to snap with the next spill, or scream, or whatever accident life throws at me.

No Stone to Throw

We are all very good at recognizing the sins of others, amen? I think we would all benefit from examining our own shortcomings and making amends. I am reminded of these Bible verses and a quote from Leo Buscaglia:

“You hypocrite! First, remove thebeam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove thespeck out of your brother’s eye. “

Matthew 7:5

“He who is without sin can cast the first stone.”

John 8:7

“Individuals are incensed when it is suggested that they could, under certain situations and circumstances, be a part of any behavior harmful toward their fellow human beings. Yet, innocently, they do so every day. They ignore antipollution laws, refuse to accept responsibility for inferior education, world hunger, the loneliness of their neighbors, the ill-treatment of children and the elderly. They are only too ready to condemn the politicians, the activists, the Communists, or anyone else rather than accept their own thoughtlessness. They are too caught up in the self to evaluate their own prejudicial, hurtful, negative attitudes. If we are perceptive we will find that either by choice or unconsciously each of us engage, almost daily, in some wrongdoing. But this does not mean that we are evil, that we lose our worth as loving human beings. One act is not sufficient reason to devalue a person.”

Leo Buscaglia

Powerful, right? Indeed we are all hypocrites because we are all human. None of us are in a position to cast any stones. This is why we need to continually tidy up our souls. Not to make us feel guilty and worthless, but for us to practice empathy and keep us humble.

Honest Konmari-ing

We can all agree how beautiful a tidy home looks…but what about a tidy soul? And how will you know if something is a sin or not? Does a specific behavior spark joy? Or does it bring about more anger, despair, grief, or destruction? It’s so easy to justify and rationalize our behavior in a way that suits us best. But how can we konmari our soul in an honest way? The good news is the Catholic Church has already done the work in regard to which behaviors do and do not spark joy and it’s called an examination of conscience, and it is not intended as a set of rules to control you, but to help you. The only way to test if abiding by these guidelines sparks joy is by trying to live them. Until you truly try, you cannot give a testimony one way or the other. That is the way spiritual truth is discovered. As G.K. Chesterton said, 

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried. “

G.K. Chesterton

Have you tried living a life of Christian virtue? I mean, really tried. Not just follow the morality that suits you, but tried living according to all of the moral teachings of the Church. Did you find that it brought more order, peace and joy in your life?

One of my favorite bloggers/authors/radio hosts said in regard to her conversion from atheism:

“When I started living my life according to Catholic teaching the proof was, as they say, in the pudding. It worked. It worked better than I could have ever guessed it would. And since I’ve been able to receive what they say is really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, my soul, my entire life, has changed profoundly. “

Jennifer Fulwiler

Posted in Faith

Kondo-ing My Soul

Keep only that which sparks true joy.

 Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!

Padre Pio on Confession

KonMari has become a phenomenon worldwide, thanks to the kind wisdom of Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant. Normally, her method of organizing is applied to material things in the home, but I can see it being applied to cleaning up our souls as well. Here’s how to apply it spiritually:

Step 1: Tidy Through Examination of Conscience

Set aside some time for solitary prayer. Perhaps have a candle and a journal with you. Open yourself to God’s voice and ask for clarity to see His presence in your life and to see where you have been shutting Him out in sin. The goal is to unburden yourself onto the page. Here is a good list of questions to guide your thinking. Take note of anything that is making you unclean that you need to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Step 2: Imagine Yourself Clean

While in prayer, meditate with a vision of yourself standing with Mary at the foot of the cross, where Jesus is looking down at you with love. Let Him show you how dearly He loves you and wishes to wash your soul clean with His blood. Imagine what this would feel like to be freed from everything that keeps you depressed, discouraged, and apart from Him. Imagine what it would be like to be holier, to be the self God created you to be.

Step 3: Decide What Truly “Sparks Joy”

Take an inventory of your life on a sheet of paper. Take stock of your relationships, your routines, your possessions, your habits. Examine them courageously with Jesus, asking Him to show you what is guiding you to Him and what is guiding you away. The things that bring you spiritual health are the things that will truly “spark joy.” Get rid of anything that takes you away from the person you want to be.

Step 4: Confession

Take your list from the examination of conscience and anything you noticed in your “Spark Joy” exercise and go to Confession. I know it can sound scary, but trust me, do NOT delay in receiving this Sacrament. It cleanses you in a way that makes your steps lighter, your choices smarter, your heart more receptive, your mind more still, and your soul freed indeed. It is incredibly worth it. I recommend going weekly!

Step 5: Eucharist

Once you have done a little spring cleaning in your soul with God, receive Holy Communion. Ask Jesus to dwell within you, literally, and keep you clean. Savor it!

Do This Often!

Once isn’t enough! We acquire so much “junk” and “dust” builds up faster than you realize. Doing this regularly will change your life and bring you true joy.

Posted in Faith

KonMarie Your Soul, Step 1

(Enjoy this beautiful guest post by Maggie o’ the Valley)

Remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The one that changed pop culture and contemporary vernacular forever when Willow used the word “Google” as a verb for the very first time ever?

Now we say we “Google’d” this and “Google’d” that. We’re googling all over the place.

I think something similar has happened with organization phenom Marie Kondo.

If I were to tell you I’d miss getting together on the weekend because I needed to spend some time KonMarie-ing my bedroom closet, you’d know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

Some folks are saying Americans are getting hooked on the KonMarie Method because there’s something about it that makes us admit:

We got too much stuff.

Our souls need orderliness too.

I am all for an organized closet (and I daydream often about the perfect pantry), but also I think this goes deeper. This need for peace, order, meaning, beauty…it’s deeper than an Insta-worthy pic of your underwear drawer.

At a spiritual level, we long for tranquility. 
At a soul level, we long for peace.
But you know what gets in the way?

Even in our souls,
we got too much stuff.

I bet you could tell me exactly which kids gave you a hard time and/or were disliked by you in first grade. I know happy people in simple cluttered homes. I know miserable people in beautiful furnished homes. I bet you don’t remember the best thing your boss ever taught you, but I KNOW you could tell me all about the worst, most evil boss you ever had. Every breakup, every bully, every time you encountered an unruly person in a drive-thru!

I know these things because I carry them too. I struggle with them often, and if I don’t consciously get myself into a different mindset, my brain will replay stories of bad stuff happening on a constant never-ending loop.

Do you think maybe it’s possible that no matter what kind of house we live in, we really aren’t going to feel better until we

Let stuff go?

So how do we do that? Well, that’s an answer that I don’t really like.


I don’t like it because it’s tough for me, and I have to practice it, like a muscle. Sometimes I don’t wanna. Really REEEEEEAAAALLY don’t wanna.

Here’s the answer. We have to practice forgiveness.

This post is close to me because honestly, it’s written more as a reminder to me than to anyone else. Very often I need to think about things and events for a long time in order to understand them….but once I’ve gotten clarity, it’s time to take those lessons and throw the rest out the spiritual window.

My sister said something amazing recently:

You won’t have room for love until you get rid of the hate. They simply can’t exist together.

The thing is, I think we as Americans have a much different understanding of what it means when something “sparks joy” (Kondo’s qualifier for whether or not an item or routine stays a part of your life). I think we mistake sparking joy with sparking pleasure.

Joy is the job, not justice. Time to get to work.

But there is joy in forgiveness; there’s joy in letting stuff go. Yes, that means the most horrible, awful thing that has ever happened to you, the one that you didn’t deserve or ask for, the one that wasn’t at all your fault, the one that really just rocked you. That was painful enough. And again, you didn’t deserve it. Are you ever going to find pleasure in that situation? No. No, probably not ever. That situation–the one you didn’t deserve–has no pleasure in it for you. Not even if you got revenge–and you know that’s true.

So, the idea of pleasure has to be completely removed from the situation. I’m talking about joy. There is joy in freedom from the burden of having to ruminate things over and over and over…there is joy in having toxicity plucked from your life. There’s even more joy in kicking toxicity right out the door.

There is joy in being free of the responsibility of being the sole dispenser of justice. You aren’t in charge of justice. If you were, whatever hurt you wouldn’t have happened in the first place, because it wasn’t just, or fair. Whether you should be in charge of justice or not doesn’t actually matter. Because at the end of the day, you’re still not in charge of justice.

It stinks to write. It isn’t what I want to read, and I’m sure it’s tough for you to read too, depending on your situation. Just know that I struggle with this.

I love you, whoever you are.

But I also know that there is freedom waiting on the other side of hurt. There is freedom after letting go. Is it life-changing to let go of stuff? Well, yeah, I think so.

But don’t ever forget: You are so much more than “stuff” and your neuro-chemical reactions to said stuff. (Is neuro-chemical a word?) Anyway, my point is:

You have a soul. It’s yours. And it was fashioned to be uniquely yours. No one else could ever have a soul like you. 

If I could hug you, I would. I don’t want either of us to suffer from keeping around baggage in our souls for too long.

I’m so sorry you were hurt. I wish that had never happened. Please think about finding your way back to joy. Not because a situation doesn’t deserve justice, oh no, I’m not saying that.

I’m saying I love you, and I see you, and you’ve suffered enough.

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do you wrong.
Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

But trust in the Lord and do good
that you may dwell in the land and live secure.
Find your delight in the Lord
who will give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will act
And make your righteousness shine like the dawn
your justice like noonday.

Psalm 37: 1-6 NAB, revised edition
Posted in Faith

Day 20 of 33: Friends

Left to right: myself, Maggie o’ the Valley, and Pollyannie.

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people! – St. Teresa of Avila

I am blessed to call these two extraordinary women my friends: Molly and Annie. They are my rocks, my spiritual sisters, my breath of fresh air. They challenge me and support me, and they help me attain more health in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. May God place people in your life like them! Seek health and holiness in your relationships as well as your life, and you will thrive.

Allow me to introduce them:

Molly abounds in wonder. She loves to learn and turns her inquisitive mind to the good things in life, like the beauty of nature, a good book, delicious food, friendship, and Catholicism itself. She has been through hell, but she has persevered with so much wisdom that she is happy to share. A talented musician and writer, I can’t recommend enough her books:

  • The Ten Minute Quit, which focuses on how to quit smoking in a beautifully inspiring way, but I have applied it to other habits I want to kick such as overeating, pessimism, and anxiety
  • The Young Musician’s Practice Log, a joyful way to get organized and journal music lessons
  • Check out her blog at Maggie o’ the Valley for all kinds of goodies, a friend to encourage you, and a celebration of learning

Annie is a whip-smart mother of two who just gets women. Her intuitive nature and authenticity have much to teach me. She is truly the coolest, most stylish woman I know! She is always able to make me laugh. Somehow she is able to put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling and thinking as I go about my daily life. She reminds me of the importance of leisure, forgiving myself, freeing myself from worrying what others think, and gives me a new perspective so that I can live my best life. Her blog will help you do the same.

  • Her Redbubble page, where you can purchase all sorts of items with her beautiful art on them
  • Check out her blog at Pollyannie for inspiration and support from someone who has been there. Grow alongside her into the woman you want to be

I am proud to partner with them today on posts about applying the concepts of KonMari to our very souls. I will post my own take on it, then I will post theirs here. Please give them a read as well, and visit their sites! You will be changed as a result, as I have been!

Posted in Faith

Day 19 of 33: Stillness

In the quiet, we can listen better.

Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be. – St. Patrick

It’s much easier for me to talk than to listen. It’s much easier for me to get lost in the busyness of my day and set God aside until I feel like talking to Him (usually to ask for something). But all that taking doesn’t make a real relationship. That doesn’t make for a happy, holy life as a child of the God Who has given me His heart, only asking for mine in return.

I’ve been doing mindfulness meditations with my roommate Anna. She lives with Lyme disease, so mindfulness helps her get calm when her body is wrecked in a storm of symptoms. To my surprise, I’m benefiting from it, too. Not only am I more conscious of my body, I release tension I didn’t know I was carrying, and I get to enjoy some peace and quiet.

The quiet times are also when my mind wanders. They’re when I appreciate the beauty of my sleeping son, cookies baking in the oven, a violin singing, or waves crashing on the beach. They’re when I give to a stranger in need, light a candle, or receive a phone call from a friend at just the right time. Those are the times I am most attuned to God and my Holy Mother. Finally I send them gratitude and praise instead of requests and demands to know whether they are listening (which they always are). Finally I turn my thoughts to that which is good instead of the day-to-day hurdles I obsess over.

It’s so important to just listen. When you pray, leave room for some silence to hear any response they may want to give you in that moment. You may not always hear something, but at least give them the chance. Allow yourself to be still and enveloped in God’s love for you. I’m going to practice doing the same!

Posted in Faith, Marian Consecration

Day 18 of 33: Teaching

We are always learning.

Gentle woman, quiet light, morning star 
so strong and bright, 
gentle mother peaceful dove 
teach us wisdom; teach us love.

Haily Mary, Gentle Woman Hymn

There was a meeting today at my son’s new charter school where us parents selected the various curriculum we would use in the upcoming school year. It was almost overwhelming, as there are so many choices out there, but it was also exciting! I love teaching, and I love learning. It was easy to be stoked about what my son would be learning in his Kindergarten class.

My favorite curriculum employed the Developmental style. Its lessons are based on where the children are developmentally, taking into consideration what they are capable of at their specific age, and how they learn. Kids aren’t forced to learn anything they aren’t yet ready for.

God does the same for us, doesn’t He?

He never gives us more than we can handle, and He never forces us to learn spiritual concepts beyond our understanding. He gives us exactly what we need exactly where we are, but He also never ceases inviting us to the next level. Once our children master sharing, we teach them generosity, for example. It is the same with us, as God’s children being home-schooled in holiness.

God has made the curriculum and provided us with the materials and capacity to learn. Jesus is our teacher, and I see Mary as our guide and tutor. As someone who loves anything having to do with education, I found this an interesting and helpful train of thought today.

Mary is with me every step of the way, always inspiring me to greater heights of holiness. She wants to do the same with you, with all of her children. Let’s see what we can learn under her tutelage the rest of the month.