Catholic Family, Motherhood, Parish Ministry, Uncategorized

Catholic Mom Summit!

I’m so excited to share with you that I’ve teamed up with CatholicMom to present the Catholic Mom Summit.  The (AMAZING!) event is coming up digitally on November 13-15th

And… It’s FREE to register!

The Summit will feature more than sixty well-known and loved Catholic authors and speakers, including Danielle Bean, Katie Prejean McGrady, Mary Lenaburg, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Lisa Cotter, Michele Faehnle, Emily Jaminet, Sonja Corbit, Haley Stewart, Kendra Tierney, Sarah Christmyer, and more!  We’ll be talking about the real issues that moms face every day and the practical steps of how to find the peace and balance we all want.  

I’ll be talking about recalibrating to our vocation —in our women’s ministry groups and in our homes.  I’m looking forward to sharing my heart with you and ask for your prayers as I prepare my talk! 

Register HERE to sign up!

See you at the Summit!
In Christ,
Elizabeth

P.S.Sharing really IS caring!
Please forward this email to all the moms you know and share the link on your social media. Thank you so much!!

woman in white long sleeve shirt holding white flower
Catholic Family, Family Life, Homeschool, Motherhood, Self Care, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

This Fall May be a Season of Pruning and That’s Okay

Late August in my family is usually filled with last-minute beach trips, back to school shopping and sports try-outs.  It’s fun for the kids but hectic for me as I balance leisure time, with the kids’ needs, and my own work.  By September, I relate well to that internet meme where the kids are all lined up at the bus stop with frowny faces, and the mom is jumping for joy at the realization that she gets the house to herself for a few hours.

But that’s not happening this year, is it?  Nope!  Most of our back to school plans have been up-ended as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. My older children began classes digitally, and we have opted to homeschool our rambunctious second grader for the first time. Instead of a quiet September, we’re bumping up the chaos.

My aspirations of autumn “me time” in a quiet café with a pumpkin spice latte are cooling off faster than my re-microwaved home brew.

So how am I finding and balance amid the noise of competing demands and an ever-changing pandemic environment?  Honestly – it’s tough, and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.  But when I do manage find balance, here’s how: 

The name of the game is recalibrating.

friend recently had to abruptly change a plan that we had made together.  In her email, she wrote that we needed to “recalibrate.”  Her word stuck with me because that’s how I’m managing in this pandemic.  I’m constantly recalibrating.   

I’ve seen and read a fair bit of unhappy stuff on social media lately, and I am concerned that a lot of us are facing the fall with other re words. Re-ticence, Re-sentment. Re-servation. Re-calcitrance. Re-sistance.      

As I face this school year, I’m focusing on recalibrating.  Why?  Because back to school days should be a time of re-newal. You see, recalibrating is adjusting to a true and accurate value.  Like orienting a compass toward north, when we recalibrate to the correct value, we get renewal.  This fall, I’m recalibrating life to my Christian vocation. 

Recalibrating to your vocation.

What do I mean by recalibrating to my vocation?  Well, let’s back up.  The word vocation gets tossed around frequently in Christian circles, but what does it mean?  Very broadly, our vocation is how we express our love of God and share the Gospel.  We live our vocation through married life, religious life or holy orders, or singleness, and it’s possible to have more than one vocation. St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example, spoke of her vocation to the religious life and her vocation to start a new religious community to serve the poor as a “vocation within a vocation” or a “call within a call.”

If my life is properly calibrated, each part of my life feels like a “vocation within a vocation” and life makes sense.  Married life dovetails with motherhood, and my job fits within our family dynamic.  When I’m working within my vocation, instead of feeling pulled toward competing priorities and anxious, I feel clarity. 

This doesn’t mean that working within your vocation won’t ever be hard.  Take one look at a crucifix and you’ll be reminded that living our vocation can be extremely challenging.      

But when I feel pulled in all different directions at once and everything in life becomes a chore, that’s when I know it’s time to recalibrate to my vocation because my vocation matters.  The other stuff frankly doesn’t.  I take time to remind myself of what my vocation is, and as importantly, what it is not.  I scrutinize whether the things that demand my time help or hinder my vocation. 

This is a prayerful process through which I’m reminded that that God created me as a finite being with finite capabilities and finite hours in my day.  I’m am not called to do everything.

Holy Pruning.

During this pandemic, God is certainly calling me to focus on my family, keep my children safe, educate them, and catechize them.  This is requiring me to prune things out of my life and make more space for these priorities.  It’s a holy pruning.  Some of the pruning is obvious:  I need to limit the time I spend on Instagram and Netflix, for example.  But I’ve also made some harder decisions to prune away fun social functions and volunteer work that I enjoy, so that I can give more attention and energy to my vocation. 

Navigating this fall’s evolving school schedules and family dynamics will require continued recalibration and pruning, but I find it consoling to remember Jesus’ words that God prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it can bear even more fruit for the kingdom (see Jn 15:2). How are you recalibrating?

Uncategorized

Keep Writing – Especially When It’s Hard

Being a writer can be weird.  Last week I wrote a 700-word piece and it took all my gumption, brain effort, and about 18 hrs of work.  I probably wrote 4,000 words in the process of eeking out a mere 700. By the time I finally hit the “send” button on the mini-project, I was barely moderately happy with the result. It was definitely not the best thing I’d ever written, but I had to stop editing just hit submit.

Fast forward to this week, and in two hours, I just rattled off 700 words that I’m really pleased with. I’m not exactly sure what the difference was between the two projects other than my mojo was working for one and not the other.

But that’s life, right?  

Sometimes things come easy, but sometimes we have to work for them.  The contrast in my easy writing day versus hard writing day is a reminder to me (and hopefully to any writer) to keep working. 

Keep writing even when writing is hard and tedious because the result is at least three-fold –

1. You finish the written product, so your imagined book or blog becomes a reality.

2. You’re building discipline, which will help hard writing days get easier. 

3. You’re building skill in your craft. 

Press on in the tough writing days and be grateful for the easy ones.  You’ll never regret the effort. I’m cheering you on. Cheer me on, too.

Parish Ministry, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

How to Host a Fabulous Virtual Ladies’ Night In

How are you staying connected with your women’s ministry group during these days of quarantine?  This pandemic has caused my community to get creative with how it reaches its current members, and how it welcomes new participants. 

Over the last few weeks, our women’s group has continued our usual schedule of weekly Bible study meetings in a digital format.  But honestly, our women are overwhelmed.  We’re elbow deep in homeschool, dishes, working from home, and stress.  As the weeks go on, fewer and fewer women are attending, and last week, we had only four women present.  What’s more none of the attendees had actually completed the reading – not even the facilitators!  And that’s OK.

If this is happening in your group, you might feel discouraged, but please don’t!  These women who show up unprepared are being honest and communicating their immediate needs.  They need a break from home and homework, and just want to connect, socialize, and be encouraged.  They don’t have time or the mental energy to do homework.  So let’s take the homework out of it from time to time!

That’s where fellowship through a Virtual Ladies’ Night In is a great way to help your group remain connected without adding additional to-dos or preparations.  This is also a very easy way to welcome new people. Here are some steps to get started on your virtual ladies’ night in:  

  1. Make the invitation. Make a broad invitation to your community inviting people to the event, using email, word of mouth, and social media.  If there will be a theme or activity, share that.  If the ladies will need supplies, make sure to post that information in advance. 
  2. Select a platform. Use a reliable platform like Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams to invite your community into a closed gathering online. Use a password or waiting room to keep your meeting secure.  
  3. Communicate the start and end time. Publish a start and end time for your ladies’ night. I recommend about 1.5 to 2 hours.  This gives you time to settle in, but it’s still short enough so that people can work it into their busy days.  If you’re having a great time, you can keep the party going, but a published end time allows people an opportunity to sign off without feeling awkward.
  4. Introductions. Make time for introductions so that new people feel welcomed and comfortable and so that people who have not participated in a while feel included.
  5. What to do? Facilitate an activity.  While conversation is essential to your gathering, it’s nice to have an activity as well. The activity could be as simple as a few icebreakers, or as complex as a cooking class.  
  6. Door prizes! If you have a game or friendly competition, think of delivering a door prize to the winner’s house or dropping a prize in the mail.
  7. Thank you. Thank people for attending and encourage them to bring a friend to your next gathering.  
  8. Renew the invitation. If possible, let participants know when your next gathering will be. This is a great opportunity to publicize other parish opportunities, such as virtual or parking lot Mass, drive-by confession, or Bible study opportunities.
  9. Build curiosity. Take a screenshot or a few pictures during the event and post them online for your community to see.  This will help generate curiosity for people who were not able to attend. If you made a craft or cooked something together, share some pictures of your masterpieces on social media.
  10. Connect with new people after the event. If new ladies join the gathering, be sure to reach out to them personally afterward to welcome them to the community.  
  11. Keep it light. We have enough stress. Keep things fun. Steer the conversation away from hot button issues or negativity. If the conversation starts to skew negative, ask each person to share one positive things from the week.  
  12. Recruit a new host. A ladies’ night is a great way to invite people to step up and offer their gifts to lead an event. Often, people just need to be asked to take on a more active role in a ministry. Encourage a pair of participants to co-host the next ladies’ night, so that you can relax and enjoy.

Ladies’ Night is is all about fun and fellowship. Feel free to adjust this framework above to meet your community’s needs and interests. What’s your community doing to stay connected?

Generosity, Spiritual Friends, Uncategorized

Joyful Woman Crush Wednesday

I have been sharing #joyfulwcw (Joyful Woman Crush Wednesday) on my social media in recent weeks to highlight the lovely, generous ways that sisters in Christ are encouraging and serving one another. I hope you’ll join me on your social media and share your #joyfulwcw, too!

One of the things that has stuck out to me, in a good way, about Covid-19 is that people are really stretching out to help each other. An author friend told me yesterday that someone anonymously gifted her family a grocery store gift card to help them bridge the gap between their family’s needs and the anticipated arrivals of stimulus and unemployment checks. Another friend has been accepting donations in exchange for handcrafted face masks and using the donations to bless friends in need with gift cards.

When I met on Zoom with my Bible study group this week, we read about the widow in Mark’s Gospel who “gave from her poverty” (Mk 12:44). Generosity is one of those attributes that just shines from others. Maybe that’s why Jesus noticed the widow’s mere two cents from the opposite side of the treasury.

I wonder if that widow would have considered herself to be poor?

Thinking on this theme of generosity, I want to share my #JoyfulWCW with you. Her name is Brenda, and she is a pray warrior. With Brenda’s permission, I share that two years ago, she went to the doctor for a routine mammogram was stunned to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Brenda endured a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and a reconstructive process that took over a year because her insurance would not approve the surgery. Throughout the entire process, whenever I called Brenda, I would say, “How are you?” and she would respond, “I am blessed!” From there we’d chat on for hours.

When Brenda reported to the hospital each week for her chemo infusions, she packed rosary making supplies with her and crafted rosaries for dozens of people while praying her way through treatment. By the end of her chemo, Brenda gifted each woman in our ministry group a rosary. I tuck this rosary in my pocket and pray it often while walking in the woods.

My rosary from Brenda.

Brenda, I’m glad to report, is cancer-free and restored to health! I thought of Brenda this week as a woman who gave during her poverty of health. At a time when she could have curled into herself, she shared her spiritual wealth with all who surrounded her. Two years later, she still inspires me, and I continue to prosper from the simple threaded rosary that she gifted me.

Who has served you generously either during the Covid-19 days or before? Make that person your #joyfulwcw. You don’t have to name them publicly, but consider sharing the story or let that person know how much they blessed you.

Uncategorized

Ten Ideas to Walk through Lent with your Women’s Group

Today is fat Tuesday, and Lent begins tomorrow.  During this liturgical season, we faithful are asked to seek the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to practice self-control through fasting, and to serve by giving alms.

              Lent is an ideal season to travel through with your parish’s women’s group because when we partner with friends in praying, fasting, and alms giving, we keep each other on track, bear each other’s burdens, and deepen our faith and friendships.  Even if you don’t have a women’s group at your parish, Lent is a great time to reach out to a sister in Christ and invite her to accompany you through Lent. 

St. Teresa of Ávila wrote that “Men of learning seem to get theology without much effort. But we women need to take it all in slowly and muse on it.  We need to feel it.”  What’s more, we need to experience the Christian life with the companionship of other women.  There are many ways to experience Lent, but here are ten ideas for joining with other women in your community and to emulate the early disciples on the road to Emmaus – they accompanied each other as they came to recognize Christ in their midst. If we walk through Lent with sisters in Christ, we’re bound to help each other through this journey.  Think about incorporating one of these ideas into your community. 

  1. Learn and practice a new devotion together. Perhaps your group could learn about the Seven Sorrows Rosary, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or the Angelus. Devotions are a great way to learn a new way to meditate on the life of Jesus – often through the eyes of Our Blessed Mother or a saint.
  2. Make a pilgrimage to a nearby shrine or basilica. If you are a US reader, here are some Catholic Shrines and churches to explore stateside.  In making a pilgrimage, you will have time to get to know sisters in Christ and have some dedicated time for prayer and contemplation.
  3. Participate in Stations of the Cross each Friday.  During Lent, we remember Christ’s walk to the site of his crucifixion.  The meditation helps us to understand the depth of Christ’s love for us. These Scriptural Stations of the Cross are a deep reflection on Christ’s passion.  Some communities pair Friday stations of the cross with a soup dinner.  This would be a great way not only to pray and break bread together, but it is also an opportunity to make an invitation for others to join in your fellowship. For my Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA readers, check out the Military Way of the Cross by Anni Harry at Beautiful Camouflage
  4. Host a recipe exchange of meatless recipes.  This will help everyone remember to abstain from meat on Fridays.  I recently gave a talk on my book Joyful Momentum to the Catholic women’s group at Ft. Meade, Maryland.  After the talk, they presented me with a Lenten recipe book of meatless dishes that included everything from a hearty kale soup, to a “lent-shi” (sushi) roll.  I’m grateful for the new ideas and my kids will be happy to have something more interesting that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
  5. Make a decision in your women’s group to give something up together.  Does your women’s group love gathering over a cup of coffee?  What if you decided to give up the comfort of coffee as a Lenten fast?  (I know, I know.  I can hear the groaning.)  But think how good that coffee talk will be during the first week of Easter!
  6. Instead of ladies’ night out, meet for a holy hour.  Fasting during Lent should include abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it can also involve refraining from doing enjoyable activities as a sacrifice.  Swapping out ladies’ night out for a holy hour together is a fast and a prayer that can help your community re-focus on the foundational relationship that you have with Jesus.
  7. Pray for the seminarians in your diocese on “Seminarian Saturday.”  Each Saturday, the women’s ministry that I work with, the Military Council of Catholic Women, has “Seminarian Saturday” when we post the name a picture of one of our archdiocese’s seminarians on our social media and collectively pray for that man’s formation and priesthood.  Being “Seminarian Saturday” in your women’s group and pray for the seminarians in your diocese.     
  8. Feed the hungry.  Reach out to a local food pantry, Catholic charity, or homeless shelter and serve a meal to the hungry each week during Lent.  Pope Francis says that “Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ.”
  9. Take up a collection.  If your women’s group meets weekly, consider taking up a collection at your gatherings and donating the collection to your parish, the bishop’s Lenten appeal, or another Catholic charity.
  10. Make blessing bags for the needy.  Often when I’m in my car at a red light, a homeless person will approach me and ask for food or money.  Make “blessing bags” to give to those in need.  They could be simple ziplock bags with toiletries, gloves, socks, granola bars, or a few dollars to keep in your car so that you can quickly help someone in need. 

If your women’s group prays, fasts, and gives alms together this Lent, you may find that your group wants to continue doing some of this Lenten work throughout the year.  Be open to where the Holy Spirit may be prompting your group.  How is your women’s group walking through Lent together?