Mary, our Mother



A beautiful reflection, even a prayer, on the Mary as our Immaculate Mother, shining with Christ’s own pure light, by St. Maximilian Kolbe:

So you, my child, must love her as your mother with all the generosity of your heart. She loved you enough to sacrifice God’s Son for you. In the Annunciation she welcomed you with all graciousness as her child. She will make you like herself, will make you ever more immaculate, will nourish you with the milk of her grace. Just let yourself be guided by her; let yourself be ever more willingly shaped by her. Watch over the purity of your conscience; purify it in her love. Do not get discouraged, even if you sin seriously, repeatedly. An act of perfect love will purify you again. You belong to her as her property. Let her do with you what she wishes. Do not let her feel herself bound by any restrictions flowing from the obligations a mother has towards her own child.

Be hers – her property. Let her make free use of you and dispose of you without any limits for whatever purpose she wishes. Let her be your owner, your Lady and absolute Queen. A servant sells his labor. You, on the contrary, offer yours as a gift: your fatigue, your suffering, all that is yours. Beg her not to pay attention to your free will, but to act towards you always as she desires in full liberty. Be her child, her servant, her slave of love in every way and under whatever formulation yet devised or which can be devised now or in the future. In a word, be all hers.

Be hers to the point of being her soldier, so that others may become ever more perfectly hers, like you yourself and even more than you; so that all those who live and will live all over the world may work together with her in her struggle against the infernal serpent. Belong to the Immaculata so that your conscience, becoming ever purer, may be purified still more; become immaculate, as she is for Jesus, so you, too, may become a mother and conqueror of hearts for her.

Mother of Mercy, pray for us! Teach us to become like little children so that you can lead us to the heart of your Son.

Weeknight Staple Recipes: Greater Tuna Salad on Cranberry Whole-wheat Bread

Lately, we’ve been trying to live both more healthily AND more frugally (and besides, we’re totally broke and can’t afford to do anything else! lol). My husband has had great results with a low-carb diet (that is, a diet low in carbs, not a crazy-strict system of food denial), I think largely due to his particular body type, and it’s always good for me to cut back on them.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

However, a low-carb menu is generally a high-meat menu, and in our grain-subsidized economy that is not always a cheap feat. The problem, also, is that I am currently 7 months pregnant and generally wiped out by the process of getting through life with two preschoolers and a ridiculously large bump! So we put our heads together and worked out a weekly meal plan that is not only low-carb and low-cost, but also simple, easy-to-cook, and more likely to actually happen!

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you the meal plan we worked out, as well as the recipes for the dishes. Today (because that’s what I just made — just ignore the date), I’m sharing our Friday dish.

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A Sacred Heart Litany for Mercy

Divine Mercy

I mean to post this on Divine Mercy Sunday, but you know how these things get away from us…! But I think our Good Shepherd has carved some time out for me today, to help me post it on Good Shepherd Sunday — and Mother’s day! Our Lady is always quietly helping us along…

A devotion that I have been trying to keep up some months now, inspired by a close relative who is in great need, is to pray every day at 3:00pm, the Hour of Mercy. I try to at least pray for 5 minutes, and even that is sometimes difficult! (I make no e-pretenses to piety!) In my efforts to hold out the whole five minutes, I’ve found having some set prayers on my smartphone (in an Evernote note posted to the main page) makes it so easy I have no excuses.

I have been praying this prayer at the Hour of Mercy, a Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and a prayer to my patron St. Joseph. But I found that on my bad days — you know the kind — the great tumult of “have mercy on us” in the litany was almost unbearable to get through. I don’t mean to slight the prayer by any means — I just found that, with my particular failings and melancholic tendencies, I found myself so often praying it in the wrong spirit, rather than the spirit intended.

Divine Mercy

I value the prayer, “Have mercy on us,” so much, especially as St. Faustina and her visions of Mercy (and her/our great need of it) was instrumental to my early growth in faith. But I found myself time and time again, at the end of prayer, in a spirit of self-condemnation, rather than trusting humility. It was as if, the more I said “Have mercy on us,” the less I believed He would — or rather, that I was worthy of accepting it. And without realizing it, I wasn’t accepting that mercy. I was wrapped up in a feeling of self-despair, and consequently a lack of faith in God and His infinite mercy.

And the more I thought about it, the more I think that this might be the particular temptation of our age: self-condemnation, and lack of trust. After all, that was the specific message Our Lord gave to St. Faustina to spread in the 20th Century: Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint Joseph Morning Offering

st joseph

He is Risen, Alleluia! He is truly risen, Alleluia, alleluia!

To celebrate, I wanted to share a prayer with you.

st josephIn so many ways, Saint Joseph has been calling to me lately.

In a winding path, as they always are, of joy and sudden sorrow, he reached out to me lately as a special patron over me and my family.

One of my Lenten devotions (warning: low bar this year!) was to be sure to say a morning prayer or offering each day, and I decided to include a daily prayer to St. Joseph to make my devotion more concrete.

After all, there’s nothing like total silence to wither a blossoming relationship, and I am nothing if not a creature of habit. Got to plan these things into my day or I just never get to them.

Unfortunately, so many prayers to Saint Joseph focus entirely on purity, or having a well-confessed death.

All good things, but I wanted my morning focus to be on the promise and challenges of the day ahead.

So I adapted a lovely one I found online somewhere, and ended up with this.

O Glorious Saint Joseph, I choose you today for my special patron in life and at the hour of my death. Preserve and increase in me the spirit of prayer and fervor in the service of God. Remove far from me every kind of sin, and obtain for me a holy and contrite death.

Protect my soul and my family from the snares of the Enemy, and provide us a home in which our love for God increases daily. Hold me fast to your Son all my days, so that when my race is run I may breathe forth my soul with joy into the hands of Jesus and Mary.


Clean Eating Weekly Meal Plan


So, after some health issues and tips from my crunchy healthcare provider, plus having made a decision to cut some of the massive time commitments in my life, I’ve finally decided to become more responsible for our family meals (goodbye fast food circuit!), and go “clean” while we’re at it. And to give myself some accountability, I’ve decided to share my meal plans with you, dear internet! Plus, they may be useful to anyone trying to eat less processed foods, fewer carbs, more veggies, or just get on the ball and plan some meals.

I also recently “contributed” to (not “purchased” or “ordered,” they insist) a giant basket of fruits and veggies from a co-op in my area, Bountiful Baskets. They’re in a lot of states all over the U.S., so if you’re interested at all, I’d encourage you to check them out and “contribute to” a basket. There’s no weekly commitment–you just have to jump on the “contribution” site the second they go up (Monday mornings) so you can get the good ones before they run out–so it’s easy to try. You get a TON of fruits and veggies for a grand total of …. wait for it … $15.00. Such a steal! And if we’re ever more flush (haha), I’ll pay an extra $10 for organics.

What I love about the co-op (I swear I’m not a paid advertiser! In fact, no one’s paid; it’s entirely volunteer-run) is that 1) it’s cheap!, 2) it gives me a set number of healthy fruits & veggies to plan meals around and easily force good foods into my diet, 3) the co-op orders as local as it can, from small farmers rather than giant conglomerates, and skims all the supermarket-overhead off the whole business, and 4) it cuts out all the big-company drama to put the transactions (and food!) back in the hands of consumers and farmers! :)

And did I mention cheap? For $15 I got a laundry basket-full of: 1 Romain lettuce head (bunch? I’m so veggie-ignorant), 1 bunch of spinach, 1 bunch asparagus,  1 bunch broccoli, 3 hugely long cucumbers, 1 bag of peppers (multi-colored? no idea what kind), 1 box mini organic heirloom tomatoes (SOOO delicious!), 4 giant pears, 7 oranges, 9 apples, 1 bunch bananas, and 1 acorn squash. I also paid $12 for an “add-on” of 5 loaves of organic multi-grain bread (which tastes like a nutty little slice of heaven!).

Of course, Thing 1 and Thing 2 had consumed all the apples and bananas by the next day! But then I made a list, and this morning I sat down to the computer (pinterest, mostly, of course!) and made a meal plan for the week. I only planned the dinners, except for when I’ll have to remember to pack sandwiches; mostly the tater tots and I will just eat leftovers or something scrambled up from the fridge.

I used my Weekly Meal Plan sheet that I made and printed out: first I filled in the “groceries” side with my Bountiful Basket bounty, plus whatever meats and grains I had on hand. Then I hit the internets to find recipes that fit the bill. Not easy, with set ingredients and a “clean eating” requirement!

If you’d like to whip up your own meal plan from what you have on hand, go ahead and download my free Weekly Meal Plan. The sites I mainly browsed are my pinterest “Clean Eating” board, The Gracious Pantry, and He and She Eat Clean.

Sooo, without further ado, here’s my dinner plan for the week:

Monday:Weeknight Spaghetti

Tuesday: Coconut Almond Cranberry Chicken with Parmesan Broccoli

Wednesday: Greek Chicken with this Cucumber salad (or this one)

Thursday: Fromage burgers and Salad from mixed greens and mini heirloom tomatoes

Friday: Cheese tortellini (already in fridge) with zucchini or spinach (whatever’s left by then!) and herby creamy sauce (improv-style)

Saturday: Parmesan chicken with Romaine lettuce

Sunday: Taco [and Quinoa] stuffed acorn squash with oven-roasted asparagus

Snacks: oranges (sliced)

pears (fresh, sliced and dipped like french fries, or oven-baked with cinnamon sprinkled on top)

cucumber slices and hummus

Clean Eating Pear Oatmeal Cookies

That’s it! Hope you (and my fam) enjoy!

The Brazeness of Prayer

How to get your kids to pray - MarianMartha

If you grew up reciting prayers, or even offering off-the-cuff prayers, holding hands, in the Protestant tradition, you may be so used to prayer that it doesn’t strike you how incredibly bold — forthright even — prayer is.

Then again, I don’t think it really hit me until after I had a three-year-old (now a four-year-old AND a three-year-old who mimics her brother’s every move!) to try to teach manners.

“I want mac-and-cheese.” “Give me your soda.” “I want my bedtime song now” (after half an hour of kicking and screaming). Or, of course, the classic FIT. It’s like babies (who can’t help it), but with rational words. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

So what do we say when we speak to our Father in Heaven?

Well, sure, we start off good —  “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” Nice and polite.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Very appropriate, very true. Humbling thoughts.

But next…?

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

My goodness, that could be a high-minded paraphrase of my kids at breakfast this morning. But what’s more–

“And forgive us our trespasses.”

WHAT! Not even a please? Not even a QUESTION?!

Sure, we temper it with a good caveat, “…as we forgive those who trespass against us,” but that’s all too easy to overlook, as we head off to the next demand…

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Boy, we don’t ask much, do we? And all with such frankness, so little meekness, it seems. We don’t even ASK, we just demand.

I actually struggled with this, for a while, after my conversion. Sin (and redemption!) is a tricky and thorny thing for anyone to comprehend, I think, and for someone raised in a secular mindset it’s hard to find anything in your imagination between innocence and damnation. Either you’re good, or you’re bad, and everyone else’s job is to cast you out of society. If you’re good, it means you try and mean well, and don’t screw up so bad that you need to be put in jail. Anything that you do, if you’re “good,” is therefore to be overlooked.

So coming to terms with myself as a person who sins and can be — is — forgiven, well that’s been a trick. I’m still learning, and I think we all are.

So I go to the church, the Bible, the writings of Saints and communities of Christians to try to find out how I, a person with such a debt forgiven (and being forgiven daily), could appeal to the God Almighty? How can I bring my small wishes and earthly needs before my Savior? How can I ask him to give me anything?

Well, they told me, you just tell Him to.

You just ask.

It’s incredible, as incredible as salvation itself, but it’s true. That crazy story He was telling people about whenever you knock in the middle of the night, when any sane person would call you crazy and send you home, the Father will open the door … it’s so hard to imagine, but it’s just the way it is.

And not like a story, like aww, how sweet, let’s put it in a Hallmark card.

Like, Give us this day our daily bread, cuz you’re our Daddy and that’s your job.

That’s the position He put Himself in with us — he said, Call me Daddy, because I’m going take care of you like my little children, everything a parent is obligated to do,

even though I’m not obligated but choose to make you my own. Choose to make myself yours.

Call me Father, and ask me for things like your kids ask you:

Our Father, who art in Heaven…

Give us Your mercy!

Because I will.

Best weeknight throw-together meal ever: Easy Stir-Fry Recipe


I haven’t posted here in ages, so I’ll make it short and sweet to encourage myself about how easy it is!

Tonight I had an amazing experience, which happens to me so rarely (culinary success!) that I thought the whole internet should know. I was overtired, my hub was stuck in traffic as usual, and I completely forgot to make dinner until 7pm (about 1/2 hour before Bedtime)! At that point, when my husband got home, I suddenly realized I needed to do something, before those kids discovered a grown-up sweets stash and made that their dinner while I wasn’t looking.

The trouble was, I had no real protein in the house. Just eggs. I’ve frittata’d my way out of that situation many a time, but this time I had no time, and I had something else: the big pot of rice leftover from last night that we never finished off. Again. I’ve thrown away too many giant tubs of unfinished rice from my over-ambitious little rice cooking heart.

Never again, I tell you.

I did a quick google, and my world was opened up (this is probably news to no one but me): Fried rice!

So, so easy. I had some almost-spoiled fresh broccoli in the fridge, and it was fantastic just thrown in the pan early on, cooked but with a nice crunch.

My four-year old even scarfed down four bowls of the stuff. He’s a carb-eater, so it was nice to sneak in protein with the eggs hidden in the rice. He even ate up all the broccoli “trees” with delight!

So, here’s the “recipe”:


Whatever’s on hand! I used:

  • 2-3 cups day-old cooked rice
  • 2-3 tsp pre-chopped garlic
  • 1 fresh broccoli head, chopped into bite-size florets
  • 3 eggs, scrambled
  • ginger, salt, garlic salt, pepper to taste
  • Soy sauce to taste (I did one good sprinkling, which was delish; I added another later and it was too much for us)

What do to

  1. Heat up a big wok pan on the stove
  2. Add oil, garlic and sauté a minute or so, while you chop broccoli
  3. Add broccoli and sauté about five minutes
  4. Add rice, more oil, and soy sauce if desired. Keep stirring to mix and fry. Season as desired.
  5. Judge by your rice, but when you’re almost done, make a hole in the middle and pour in scrambled eggs. Let set a bit then scramble into the rice, stirring until all of it is cooked and distributed throughout.
  6. If desired, add seasonings and let them cook in just a bit, then (if wild animals are leaping at your elbows, demanding supper) serve!

I LOVE recipes like this that you can throw together from whatever’s in your fridge!

Again, I’m sure I’m the last person to discover this, but the great thing about the internet is someone is always discovering something entirely new to them that the rest of the internet seems up to its neck in!

But if anyone stumbles across this blog who’s done this for ages, let me know what variations you do! I’d love to add them to our repetoire — I think this is going to be a regular, day-after-chicken-and-rice meal!

Because Jesus Is There


I wanted to share something that happened with the kidlets the other day, one of those “from the mouths of babes” moments that awe and humble us best. Proof, once again, that kids are way smarter than the rest of us.

In the effort to make some connections, get the kids (and me) some social time and not go crazy, we recently joined a local playdate “meetup” group.  The first meetup we went to was at a library singing-and-dancing story time we hadn’t known about (which, by the way, is the SMARTEST. THING. EVER. Whoever thought up the idea of quiet library story times for large groups of 1- to 4-year-olds was just trying to torture parents and innocent library patrons alike!)

So, the singing-dancing story time was a big hit with my two. It was fun to watch their different personalities, as Rocky ran out to the front of the group and started acting out the motions with big-armed gusto, while Rosie hung back in the great crowd of wiggling kids and gravitated to my lap.

At the beginning (as we now know well), the children’s librarian who leads it always starts with a “Hello” song, and at the beginning she calls out, “Everybody turn to somebody you love and give them a big hug!” Well, Rocky, being way up ahead of Rosie and I, turns and looks around himself for a minute as the kids around him run to the sides to hug their moms (and one dad ;). Then he runs up to the front and hugs the librarian (a perfect stranger) by the leg, catching her by surprise just as she’s turning away.

I thought it was so cute, I told his dad about it after we got home. Kind of surprised, he turned to Rocky and asked him about it. “When she said to hug somebody you love, you hugged the librarian?” And Rocky’s response was, “Yeah!”

“Why?” Dad asked.

“Well… because Jesus was there!”

And bam. You’re officially in one of those parent moments when you realize you’ve been visited with unadulterated truth from the mouths of babes, and you really haven’t been living up to something that is completely obvious to a three-year-old.

Well, of course she was somebody he loved.

She’s the image and likeness of God. She bears Jesus in her heart, in her body, in her soul.

What’s not to love?

All I can say is, thank you, God, for reminding me how much more loving this heart needs to be doing. And for blessing these babes with such a lovely view of You!

How to Get Your Kids to Pray in One Easy Step!


You guys are going to love this–my hubby discovered this one night last week, as we were launching into the most recent prayer-time battle before putting the kids to bed. (You think we’d have noticed our major family prayer time always happens right before bedtime, that most delightful of times for toddlers! But no.)

So what is the one surefire way to get your kids to pray? Don’t tell them to!

I know, I know … what is this, the height of passive parenting? But hear me out. Ever since I became a Catholic — and a Christian mother — I’ve heard the question go around: How can we help our kids grow up loving Christ and the Church while they grow up in a world set against them? How can we show them the beauty of these things that our culture hates?

I have to admit, as a convert, the anxiety somewhat mystifies me. After all, I grew up planted smack-dab in the middle of that world, and I grew to love Him more than any of it. But when I look at the families of Catholics and Christians I know, and see the struggles of those that have fallen away, I recognize the importance of my job as a parent.

But, looking at my experience and those of folks I know, I’ve decided there’s one thing I need to do to guide my children toward the Lord: Get out of the way!

In so many instances, when people have been pushed away from the Church, you can see how they’re reacting against some behavior of Christians. Obviously, the person who turns away from Christ is himself to blame for his actions, but it is easy to see where a pushy mom, or a controlling dad, becomes a stumbling block to a young person.

And often, our very anxiety about our job as Christian parents becomes our biggest difficulty, which can lead us to guilt trips and excessive expectations. We feel like we need to do something when we can’t see our kids growing in prayer life as we expect them to, and when we feel that pressure we pass it on to them, and they reject it. Who wouldn’t? They can’t sort out the piety from the pressure, and they just want out.

Which leads me to Exibit A: my son. (No, not really the kid in the picture — mine’s only 3!  ;)

We had been having a short family prayer in the kids’ room just before putting them to bed. Nothing fancy, no rosaries for the under-three set, but kneeling down before a picture of Jesus and Mary on their wall and telling Jesus we love Him and thanking Him for things they enjoyed that day.

Well, little Rocky, 3, usually got into it, while Rosie, 2, ran around being oblivious. But all of a sudden, Rocky slammed on the brakes. One night, as Dad turned to him and said, “What do you want to pray for?” he clammed up, and wouldn’t say anything. Next night, he was falling all over us and mooning about the room worse than the two-year-old.

So Dad and I found ourselves getting more and more pushy, surprised at this sudden shift in a kid who loved to pray so much before. “Come on, Rocky, it’s your turn to pray now.” “Okay, what do you want to say to Jesus?” “You need to thank Jesus, Rocky!” To the point where we would demand that he say something before we could officially “end” prayertime. But we felt it getting out of hand.

After about a week of this, Dad suddenly turns to me and says, “You know what? We’re putting all the pressure on him, even though it’s something he likes to do. We need to back off the pressure, and he’ll come around.”

So that night, as we knelt down for prayertime and the shenanigans started up, we said to him, “Okay, Rocky, now Mommy and Daddy are going to pray, but you don’t have to say anything. Don’t pray. Today just mommy and daddy are going to pray.” And immediately he perked up, stopped rolling around the floor and climbing under furniture, and listened to us while we prayed. It was beautiful!

The next night, he knelt down next to us as we underscored the same concept. And the next night, he interrupted us as we were saying the sign of the cross at the end of the prayer to say, “But I want to say something, too!” :)

How to get your kids to pray - MarianMartha

We were so thrilled. We were so proud of him, and he could tell, and he was so proud of himself. For days after that, he had an explosion of prayer, asking that we kneel down and pray at all sorts of times, about all different things! It was amazing.

So, that’s my advice for whenever you get worried about your kids’ praying habits: consider their age, and whatever you are worried they’re not doing, back off. Take a deep breath, get out of the way, and set the example — kids are beautiful, they’ll just coming running along up behind you and keep running out beyond you! Sometimes we have to make ourselves remember, Jesus didn’t say, “And make sure to shove those crazy kids into the door of the church so they can hear about me!” He said,

Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” — Matt 19:14

If I have any readers out there, what has been your experience? Has something like this ever happened to you?

Corpus Christi Prayer for Offering


Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

It occurred to me, so I thought I would post this little prayer for offering up our sufferings to God. And today seems like a perfect day for revisiting our devotion to the sacrifice of Christ and our need to unite our suffering to His perfect sacrifice! I have not been very good at it lately (am I ever?) and in Mass today this prayer came to me so I want to share it before I forget it! And hopefully that way I will remember to pray it myself…

I’m not sure if he has a post about it yet on his own blog, but my husband, Joseph, often thinks about the necessity of offering our sufferings up to God, as well as the impossibility of our doing it on our own. We need to beg for the graces to offer them up, since Christ is the only perfect sacrifice.,_Athens_-_Crucifixion_-_15th_century_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto,_Nov_12_2009.jpg/400px-1986_-_Byzantine_Museum,_Athens_-_Crucifixion_-_15th_century_-_Photo_by_Giovanni_Dall%27Orto,_Nov_12_2009.jpg

I don’t know about you, but how true that is for me! I have such a hard time offering up my sufferings, when they’re really tough ones. I want to hold on so hard to the frustration, to the begrudging anger at a person or myself or — yes, though I hate to admit it — God, for allowing or doing or saying such a thing.

So today in Mass, I received the grace of this little prayer — the grace in fact to even realize I should say a prayer to help me be more willing in my sacrifices! More and more in my Christian life I’m learning how we don’t need to have these good thoughts/desires/actions blooming in us to begin with — since they never come from us to begin with, but through the grace of God alone! — and I’m learning how to ask for the grace to want to pray and do good.

Quite a revelation for someone who grew up in a mindset of self-reliance! But from what I’ve seen of those raised in Christianity, as well, it’s quite a revelation for all of us.

But at any rate, here’s the prayer:

Most Sorrowful Jesus, please unite my sorrows to your most holy wounds, and offer them to your Father for the sake of us poor sinners. I abandon all my anxiety and frustration to you, most perfect Sacrifice; please make of me a fragrant offering to the Lord and keep me forever in your most Sacred Heart. Amen.