How will you use the gift of Lent?

It’s easy for little kids to have the wrong impression of Lent. It can seem link it’s all about punishment and guilt. When I was a kid, teachers would tell us to give something up as penance for our sins.  Since Jesus could resist temptation while fasting in the desert for forty days I can’t have chocolate. Imagine me as an eight-year-old bookworm who loves the epic tragedy of the story of Jesus, but still doesn’t see the point. I thought:

  • If you don’t have to claim ownership of wrong-doing, why would you?
  • If Jesus loves me he doesn’t want me to make myself sad over something trivial like chocolate. We pray “lead me not into temptation”, right?
  • Authority figures placing seemingly meaningless limits on me offended my strong-will.
  • People are boasting and competing. Which penance is most restrictive? Do you make it all the way through Lent?

Ugh. That’s why I’m not mentioning the self-deprivation aspect of Lent to my six-year-old daughter. Instead, she’s hearing the Easter story, feasting on cookies and turkey and getting an Easter basket. (If you’re curious about what’s in the basket check out my Easter gift guide.)

Kids like me, with confusing church experiences, box up their Catholic life as soon as they are able. Then, they stuff that box in the back of the closet. Maybe they never get around to sorting it out.

Friends, has that ever been you?

As a result, this is my first Lent as a member of a church since the nineties. Though I now see this season as the gift that it is, when I say the word Lent I still hear resentment in my voice. Probably, if it wasn’t for my husband, I’d let it pass this year just like all the others, but he’s becoming Catholic this Easter and he wants to give up snack food.

I’m surprised that he wants to do this before he’s even Catholic. A slideshow of a dozen junior high girls in headbands with starchy bangs flew by and I heard snarky voices chiming, “I’m giving up snack food for Lent, what are you giving up?” Taking it in, I swallow my negativity and tell him that I will support him. Twenty seconds later, as casually as one can spit out one’s pride, I say that I will join him.

Why is Lent a gift? What do I expect to gain from observing Lent?

It’s an opportunity to follow Jesus and understand him better.

As Christians we try to live like Jesus did. He became human to experience everything that we do, but He keeps His promises and doesn’t give in to temptation. While fasting, we’re hungry or craving chocolate or caffeine and thinking about how easy it would be to make just one cup of coffee or eat just one square of chocolate. In doing that we can join in Jesus’ suffering, remembering also that he made his life a sacrifice, to teach us and ultimately die for us.

It’s a chance to practice self-discipline.

As a blogger my Facebook is full of people promising to coach me to be better at blogging, writing, exercising, and more. You name it, there’s a coach for it. Just about everyone of the webinars and courses is really about practicing discipline. People are paying other people to hold them accountable or to train them to have self-discipline so that they can meet their goals. Relying on ourselves or someone else will never be as effective as relying on God. Lent is the season set aside for us to pray for the gift of self-discipline. We can use this as a chance to practice so that we can accomplish what God wants us to do in our lives.

Grieving and letting go is a learned skill.

As people experience losses in their lives they get better at accepting changes, making the most of what they still have, rebuilding, and mourning with authenticity. For many Christians, the Easter story is the first story of loss that our parents tell us. It’s not just about what Jesus did for us. Also, it’s the story of what we can expect in life. We can expect to experience suffering, grief and eventually death and Jesus is our first example of how to live and die. Like a family saying goodbye to a loved one, while fasting during Lent we learn to accept loss, treasure what we have, rejoice after mourning, and hold onto hope for the future.

We need to be empty in order to be filled up.

So many times I sit down at the end of a long day with my blanket and a cup of tea in front of the television and try to forget that I’m tired, cranky and uncomfortable. I’ve trained myself to be content with soft fabric, hot refreshments and funny stories. If I didn’t run to those things for comfort could I learn to run to Jesus instead? Everyone that I know who has seen the Holy Spirit work in their lives says that it happened for the first time when they felt empty in some way. Fasting gives us an opportunity to feel emptiness and to test our boundaries. How much need must experience before we see that we need God?

How will you be using the gift of Lent this year?

I’m linking up with other bloggers to talk about Lent at the CWBN Blog Hop.

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Christian Books for Your Easter Gift Basket

We’re excited about Easter this year. My husband wants to give up snack food for Lent. My parents will be here on Easter weekend for the turkey dinner and to babysit while I go to my husband’s Sacrament of Confirmation at the Easter Vigil. In past years, we’ve put chocolate candies in plastic eggs and hid them around the house. This year I’d like to put together an Easter basket like I had growing up. To help with your own Easter basket for the kids or grandkids, check out these suggestions available at

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Good Night, Baby Animals is the Cutest New Children’s Book

Bedtime is still a production at our house. Our every night routine includes bargaining and stomping, yelling and hopping. Sometimes even the six-year-old loses her temper! Bedtime stories are important to us. Though we’re phasing out the stack of picture books in favour of classics like Little House on the Prairie, we remember the ones that we read hundreds of times fondly.

That’s why it’s so nice to have a variety of good books to read at bedtime. Bonus if they’re books about bedtime! I jumped at the chance to review Good Night, Baby Animals You’ve Had a Busy Day: A Treasury of Six Original Stories by Karen B. Winnick. I received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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My Word of the Year is Fidelity

If you miss The Zelie Group’s JEI Linkup, Alicia decided to make it biweekly and host it on her own blog. So head over to Sweeping Up Joy to see what she wrote this week.

1. What is one small thing, if you accomplish it in 2017, that will make you feel successful?

I don’t think that there is any one thing, especially not a small thing, that would make me feel successful this year. I feel pretty lucky when we’re all together and healthy year after year. I would really love to see some regular traffic to this blog, though!

2. Have you picked a word of the year or patron saint of the year?

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Get Absorbed in a Creative New Devotional this Easter

There was a cold snap this week. Despite the cold, the sun is out later in the evening, reminding me that the winter is not so long. Have you started thinking about Easter yet? What will you be doing to mark Christ’s resurrection this year? How will you make it holy? How will you deepen your relationship with Christ?

I had the opportunity to read Walk in Her Sandals, a cross between an Easter devotional and historical fiction, edited by Kelly Wahlquist. I received a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

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5 Steps to the Best Daily Schedule for You

There is something about becoming a mother, or maybe it’s reaching my late thirties, that made me really start to value my time. Motherhood is such a full time of life. Your time needs to include your kids and all their stuff, like cleaning, cooking, crafting, climbing, and snuggling. You need time for the rest of your family, your work and hobbies, self-care and prayer. Finding a place in your life for everything takes some planning.

Scheduling is the solution and there are lots of planners available to help you with your strategy, but I didn’t make a schedule for a long time for all these reasons:

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Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms

This post contains affiliate links and advertisements. When you use them I receive a small payment (at no cost to you) that helps support my family and this blog. Click to read more.
I wanted to read Shaken because one of the speakers at Alpha, our adult faith formation group, quoted it. I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t speak to me. I was really looking for something to recommend to my husband.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. To be honest, I started it and didn’t give it a fair chance. It’s riddled with football statistics, jargon and references that I didn’t understand. I’m not a fan of football and I live in Canada. Fortunately, I picked it up again in the quiet of January and read it all. Tim Tebow is an athlete, but that isn’t his first calling. He’s first and foremost a follower of Jesus. He wants to go where Jesus would want him to go. He encourages us to see ourselves the way God sees us and live the life that we were meant to live.

The book isn’t just about sports. Tebow tells us the humble details of the ups and downs of his career and the enlightenment that he has gained through his ministry. We accompany him as he uplifts the sick and marginalised at home) and abroad. Other inspirational people, with stories that support Tebow’s experiences, appear throughout the book.

Shaken (Shop Amazon CAN | US) is a good read for men, teen boys, and football fans. It will pull you out of your slump and set you on a path to success in Jesus. It’s humble and honest. Charming and funny at times. If you’re not a sports fan, but you are looking for a Christian book with an unusual perspective, give this one a try.

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{Getting To Know Us} The Quiet Rest of Adoration

This post contains affiliate links and advertisements. When you use them I receive a small payment (at no cost to you) that helps support my family and this blog. Click to read more.
It’s January. The carols have stopped. The voices and laughter of guests has faded away. The twittering and squeals of happy kids with new toys has slowed and stopped. It’s quiet. The winter is really just beginning. The cold and snow is sure to come, if it hasn’t already. Life is slower until the summer comes. Whether we want to or not, it is a time to rest.

January 2016 Quiet

image source Jill111 at

Living in an apartment, next to new construction with a homeschooled six year old means that it is rarely quiet. When it is, it seems to happen without warning. I notice all at once that there’s not a sound and I revel momentarily in the novelty. Then…I fill the space. The kettle boiling. Music streaming. Someone is live on Facebook. Peace and quiet is an invitation to springboard into the next thing.

How long can you sit with silence? Most people find it hard.

In meditation instruction they call this the monkey mind, because our minds are always in motion, always curious, always trying to get our attention. Most of us don’t do much to train ourselves to rest. Particularly, we don’t place much value on resting our minds. When we say that we need rest, we really mean that we need recreation or sleep.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 (WEB)

Even as a cradle Catholic, I had not heard of Eucharistic Adoration until I returned to the church last year. It’s Catholic meditation, where you adore Jesus in the form of the blessed Communion. The host is a little wafer mounted in a stately holder for the day. People can come and spend time with Him. Some people sit or kneel and pray. Others read devotional books.

Learn more about Adoration with this title from
177773: Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?: How to Cultivate a Deeper Relationship with the Lord through Eucharistic Adoration
Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?:
How to Cultivate a Deeper Relationship with the Lord through Eucharistic Adoration

By Florian Racine / Ignatius Press

In the Eastern tradition of meditation and yoga you train your mind to let go of all the busyness. Imagine your mind is like a train station at Christmas time and the passengers are the thoughts. The goal is to usher those thoughts (passengers) on to their destinations so efficiently that it’s as if they weren’t even there. Through practice you can do it so effortlessly that your mind (the station) is still and you can experience peace, enlightenment, your true self.

In adoration we meet Jesus in the crowded station and He fills us up and comforts us, transforming our relationship with ourselves and others. Instead of working with the silence or filling it up with noise, in adoration I can fill it with Jesus and my conversation with Him.

In this quiet time of year, when we find ourselves still and before we hurry on to the next thing, let’s take a moment to sit with Jesus and allow him to fill us up with his presence.
This is my first post for The Zelie Group’s new link-up, “Getting To Know Us”. We invite you to write a blog post (or two!) or post on social media about what “Quiet” means to you during the month of January. Link up at the bottom of this post and use the hashtags #thezeliegroup, #tzg_quiet and #tzg_gettingtoknowus to connect with us.
Check out these titles (and more!) at to learn more about Adoration and Christian meditation.

171025: Eucharistic Adoration Coloring Book
Eucharistic Adoration Coloring Book
By Katerine Sotnik / Ignatius Press

307607: Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation
By Martin Laird / Oxford University Press

{Library Haul} or When did I borrow these?


If you follow The Zelie Group blogs you get the idea that Christmas is ideally a time of thoughtful preparation…it’s pensive, even. I have a confession to make. Around the 20th my holiday train started to careen out of control. Making meal plans, cleaning the house, preparing for our Daniel Plan diet, wrapping gifts, planning my 2017 blog. Add in traffic getting heavy with holiday shoppers, bad weather, opening hours getting erratic…I don’t even remember requesting half of the library books in my house.

But, still there are some things to share with you.

My daughter loves playing with playdough, but ends up crumbling it into tiny pieces, one canister at a time. She needs direction, so that I can consider it productive. This book is easy to follow and is a great introduction to getting more creative with clay. (Shop Amazon CAN | US)

My daughter picked this one out the last time we were in the library. I think it was the peacock. In this book a grandfather takes his grandson to a Remembrance Day ceremony. They talk about how it feels to be in a war, using animal metaphors and illustrations. It’s a gentle, sweet book. (Shop Amazon CAN | US).

This book about earthquakes is a great introduction for young kids. The explanation is complete and introduces lots of new vocabulary, but it’s also brief and simple. It’s colourful, with big text and has a hands on demonstration that little kids can do. (Shop Amazon CAN | US)

Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers linking up at Sweeping Up Joy.

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