Abundant Grace for Living Holy
Lent is such an amazing time - it truly is a time of special and abundant grace. When I prayed about what I should focus on this Lent a few years ago - FORGIVENESS - kept emerging. At first, it made very little sense to me, as I feel I'm pretty solid with this subject. I mean, come on, I give retreats on forgiveness for heavens sake! I bare my soul over and over, sharing how I have needed to forgive and howI have needed to be forgiven. In addition I believe in God's mercy and love, and fully accept and cherish His gift of forgiveness.
40 Days of Learning to Forgive
Forgiveness needs to extended because Christ first offered it to us. I especially love how it is given so beautifully in Reconciliation (big, big fan!). So what more could there be? God gave me two CLEAR answers.
Lastly, I pondered the peace inducing insights and inspirations of my favorite book on forgiveness:
2018 Lenten Forgiveness Retreat
We First Perfected Debt
Our money problems did not start overnight. They built overtime. Every decision held a consequence, yet, we were blissfully unaware as we spent and spent with our debt mounting. After the debt had built, we consciously choose to ignore it.
To figure out where we are going, first we need to look at how we got here.
Kevin and I met when we were in high school and began dating his freshmen year in college (my junior year of high school). We were married 5 years later, while I was still in college. We were 21 and 23, and absolutely clueless on how to manage finances (Problem #1). I had embraced the 1980's with great zeal -- amassing over 15 credit cards (mostly of the store variety) by time I was 20 years old (Problem #2). Kevin was unaware of most of them (Problem #3). We were both hard workers but underemployed (Problem #4).
The snowball effect that is so popularly touted for getting yourself out of debt, is sort of how we got into our debt mess -- just in reverse.
Let's recap: We had a wedding - charged whatever our parents were not able to cover. This was added to my already large debt that I came into the marriage with. We rented apartments we could not afford. We bought brand new cars - without considering depreciation, sales or excise tax, or insurance costs. If there were money left in the account (or that old joke about checks left in my checkbook) - we spent it (*correction and to be perfectly fair: I SPENT IT! I am going to try NOT to throw poor Kevin under the bus too much during this blogging our finances series. Although he did have culpability in some of it, ultimately he trusted me. I am the one who abused that trust to get what I wanted / when I wanted it until we were drowning in debt).
Kevin and I took weekends away - all charged. We were eating out constantly (as I despise cooking), and Christmas was always lavishly celebrated. One year I gave 34 people gifts - generous to a fault. It was very Santa-like but without the income to support this expense, it was not very wisemen-like. Although it would be almost 7 years before we welcomed children into our family, we failed to use that double-income lifestyle to rid ourselves of debt and build a nest egg. This would lead us to even more poor decisions in our desire to provide for those kiddos when they came. More on all of this as the weeks progress.
2018 Goals ... as we plug along
In February 2016, Kevin and I started by reading Your Money Counts: God's direction for spending, saving, giving, investing and getying out of debt. (Catholic Edition) by Howard Dayton and Jon & Evelyn Bean, after the amazing Beans were guests on A Seeking Heart. This truly God deemed encounter and their generous offer to share their Navigating Your Finances God's Way Workbook transformed our lives! (**Visit Compass Catholic Ministries to learn more information) .
These were our top 5 take-aways from the book from 2016; along with how we have and will continue to move forward in our financial goals here in 2018:
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras 2016; 2018.
Totally Missing the Point
With my 2006 reversion to the Catholic faith came an acute awareness that for most of my life I had rushed Christmas. I missed out on the beauty and joy of the season of ADVENT! That glorious period of preparing and waiting on the birth of my Lord and Savior on the Feast of the Nativity (aka Christmas) clearly absent from my family's traditions. The irony here? When I do include the celebration of the season of Advent, it actually prolongs that beloved feeling of joy associated with Christmas! So ... from the Saturday after Thanksgiving (although technically Advent begins on December 3, 2017) until the Epiphany (some time in January) this family rocks all the liturgical calendar has to offer.
Catholic Women Bloggers Know How to Advent
My family is changing so quickly. I miss having my little kids eager to celebrate the season with me. However, I do still have an 11 year-old and lots of great memories to sustain me each year. Here are a few Advent memories my family loved.
Advent Calendar of Books
One of my favorite homemade advent calendars included wrapping new (and recycled from our bookshelf) Advent and Christmas themed books. I numbered them and placed them in a basket. Each morning one of my children would unwrap the book; since they were homeschooled by in those days, we'd read it all cuddled up on the couch before beginning our day. This is also a wonderful way to begin to foster morning prayer time.
St. Nicholas, the real Santa
On the special feast days of December (and there are several good ones include Our Lady of Guadalupe) such as St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, the children would have also found their shoes filled with oranges, small trinkets and chocolate. As a germaphobe ... I have to admit this usually involved me buying NEW CHRISTMAS shoes early so we'd be placing those edibles in CLEAN shoes!!
Special Family Moments
My friend, Heidi Bratton shared an amazing tradition when she visited my radio show, A Seeking Heart in 2016 to discuss her then new book - Finding God's Peace in Everyday Challenges (**in which the struggle Faith and I had when first united is featured). During Advent, her family holds candlelit dinners. They start in complete darkness and sing a hymn, then her children take turns each night lighting the Advent wreath. This is probably my favorite part of the tradition-- they would then dine only by that light! I'd be happy these days just to get all three of my children to be together at the TABLE for a meal.
It is simple the ways we can slow the season and be sure to keep Advent...well, Advent. Christmas will be here soon enough! Share you ideas in the comments below; and be sure to visit the other fabulous Advent Traditions My Family Loves posts on this month's Catholic Women Bloggers Network Blog Hop!
HOW TO PARTICIPATE:
Save the above image - and snap a photo according to the days theme (you can find these next to each accompanying Advent date on the graphic).
Then hashtag #SnapAdvent and the theme you are sharing - it is OK if you do multiple days at a time - it is the holidays we WILL all have a day or 2 that we fall behind! DON'T forget to tag me @reconciledtoyou ! You can also tag either of my partner in creating the original ADVENTure SnapAdvent: Laure Lynch @lynchlm
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and SnapChat:
Not on Instagram but still want to participate? Or perhaps just want to post in multiple places - I know I will be. DON'T Forget to tag me @reconciledtoyou (on all social media platforms) and include #SnapAdvent (or #SnapAdvent2017) and a hashtag for the day's theme.
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2016 (reprint 2017)
How Do YOU Advent?
I REALLY dislike the Word - BLOG
In 2009, as my heart was being transformed in ways I had never dreamed through a 'reversion' to the Catholic Church; so was my desire to share that joy with others. Although blogging was already a thing in 2009, my pure disdain for the word kept me from launching my own until April 2012.
Why this change of heart? I saw the potential for engagement with others seeking to know Christ and deepen their faith. I also recognized how powerfully moved one could be when reading about the spiritual journey of others, particularly as it related to their every day ordinary life. My first post (see below) was short and sweet, no images and no hyperlinks. As my kids would say, I was a real newb.
NEW To Reconciled to You -- a blog about Living the Sacraments in our daily lives. This blog will cover reflections on actual sacramental events and the occasional informative post on the Sacraments themselves. These blog entries will come not just from me, but from various sources - since we all make up the body of Christ, it makes only sense that I span out to bring you the broadest picture of Life in the Sacraments.
How Times Change
Five years later, and I AM amazed at how the ministry and my blog has evolved. The Lord has opened up so many doors - starting in June of 2012, with an opportunity to write for Catholicmom.com. This allowed me to share my love of the Catholic faith, my family and writing with even more people like me searching to find God among the hustle and bustle.
My blog has grown to include:
Hate the Word, but LOVE the Action
While I still dislike the word - BLOG (bleck). I have come to absolutely adore blogging. The ability to share how the Holy Spirit continues to inspire me in my prayer life; participation in the Sacraments and through my exploration of Scripture - is such an amazing gift! In addition, the wonderful people God has introduced to me through this and the other blogs I've been blessed to contribute to - has made putting up with this stupid word - absolutely WORTH IT!! I guess, I can't deny what is in my heart - The Blog Life is definitely for me!
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017
I am a horrible friend
Some people appear to have a natural aptitude for being a friend. Me, not so much. I've often said, "I stink as a friend". I don't mean to. My self-centered needs usurps my best of intentions. Aware of my friendship deficit, I was unsure if I possessed the acumen to review Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet's new book. To be honest, when I received my copy of The Friendship Project: The Catholic Women's Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends from Ave Maria Press, I placed it in the "maybe review" pile.
I began my "reading" by exploring Michele and Emily's The Friendship Project website. My history with these two ministry powerhouses afforded a confidence that I'd find a storehouse of rockin' supplemental material. Likewise, I trusted TheFriendshipProject.com to guide my "review or not to review" decision, once I was acquainted with the book and the accompanying group study. After perusing the sample chapter and watching the group study videos, my enthusiasm for the book blossomed but I was still apprehensive about posting a review.
In their introductory video, Michele and Emily beautifully illustrate our shared belief that there are no coincidences in life as they share many moments in their friendship that only the Lord could have orchestrated. I call those "only God could have done this" type of moments a godcidence. My answer as to whether I was qualified to review a book on friendship came as my own godcidence moment. When I received an email graciously invited by my new friends, Michele and Emily, (thanks to gift of social media) inviting me to be a part of The Friendship Project blog tour. Clearly, the Lord knew I (like so many others) would benefit from reading (and sharing) this book. It was also the perfect opportunity to practice the virtues of friendship highlighted in The Friendship Project.
You Had me at No Guilt
The tipping-point came in a simple statement from the authors assuring me there is no guilt within these pages. After hearing that I knew I'd love this new book as much as I did their first, Divine Mercy for Moms. Her words reassured me that I could read this book and feel better (not worse) about my ability to be and accept friends in my life. Women are so hard on themselves. We set these ridiculous goals of perfection and even if we are reaching them never feel good enough.
Thank goodness for the blessing of friendship, beginning with the one God blessed Michele and Emily with, which made this fabulous new book and group study possible.
In The Friendship Project, Michele and Emily explore the cardinal and theological virtues with an eye toward friendship. Focusing on faith, hope, love, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness, they help us answer questions such as, “What does it mean to be women of hope, and how does that change our lives and make us more compassionate friends during difficult times?” and “How does prayerfulness teach us how to listen to and talk with both God and our friends, which helps us reach out to those we love?”
Why Is This Important?
God did not create us in isolation nor to live in isolation. We are created from love, to love and to be loved. God does not ask the impossible of us. He provides all the grace, wisdom and understanding to accomplish his desires for our lives that includes fabulous, faith-filled friends. The Friendship Project offers amazing insights, resources and guides to bring your friendships to a whole new level.
The Author's Introduce the Project
Friends of Virtue
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
Making and keeping friends has been a long standing struggle. I have often felt like a round peg trying to be the square peg to fit in with others. True friendship, I have discovered, comes from being able to be myself - and loved even when I am not being the best me. Wish The Friendship Project existed when I was in my twenties as I began to juggle work and friends; or my thirties as I navigated even bigger strains on my time for friends - marriage and motherhood. The more responsibilities added to my life the less time I found for others.
In 2006, I began attending a weekly faith sharing group. This was a game changer. My relationship with God strengthened but more importantly came an unexpected blessing of the addition of godly friends in my life. Though not without missteps and misunderstandings, my friendships have definitely evolved into sturdy shelters and cherished treasures. The excitement of sharing The Friendship Project with my faith-filled friends envelopes me with a Christmas Morning type anticipation. I can only imagine the soaring heights of joy, peace and hope God has in store for our relationships as we incorporate newly honed virtues into them.
Some of My Sturdy Shelter Posse
Michele and Emily's friendship project not only affirmed the wisdom of the power of friends of faith but also provide much needed guidance in making, building, and maintaining those relationships.
I highly recommend adding The Friendship Project: The Catholic Woman's Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-filled Friends to our reading list. As an advocate for Group Study, I highly recommend reading this with friends as well. God blesses us in many ways while we are upon this earth. One of His special gifts are the people he places in our lives. Let The Friendship Project become your owner's manual to getting the most of this precious present from our Loving Father!
About the Authors:
Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet are busy wives, mothers, and volunteers. They are also friends, Catholic speakers, and the dedicated coauthors of Divine Mercy for Moms, which continues to inspire women to come together to pray, study, and live in friendship around the Divine Mercy devotion. In the midst of their active lives, Faehnle and Jaminet found themselves missing their old friends and searching for new ones. They also realized that they needed to continually work to develop deep, meaningful relationships that would allow them to be themselves, to care for others and be cared for, and to deepen their Catholic faith.
In The Friendship Project, Faehnle and Jaminet explore the cardinal and theological virtues with an eye toward friendship. Focusing on faith, hope, love, prudence, gratitude, loyalty, generosity, and prayerfulness, they help us answer questions such as, “What does it mean to be women of hope, and how does that change our lives and make us more compassionate friends during difficult times?” and “How does prayerfulness teach us how to listen to and talk with both God and our friends, which helps us reach out to those we love?”
Faehnle and Jaminet answer these questions and more by employing Church teaching and telling us stories of their own friendships and those from the lives of saints and biblical women—including the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her sister Servant of God Léonie, and Sts. Perpetua and Felicity. Not only will you be drawn closer to friends both new and old but you’ll also be reminded how these friendships—and the virtues you practice to nurture them—draw you closer to God.
Prayers, discussion questions, and a study guide make this a perfect resource for women’s groups.
(from The Friendship Project product page ~ Ave Maria Press)