“40 Ways” to Liven Up Lent

Featured imageThere may be 50 ways to leave your lover but Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio has 40 ways to inspire you to prepare for the Resurrection of the greatest Lover of them all. In 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look At Lent, Dr. D’Ambrosio gives the reader 40 ways to celebrate Lent that are creative, unique and fresh.  Don’t look for a page that’s about giving up chocolate for Lent because you won’t find one.  Instead you’ll find lots of suggestions to enrich your prayer life as well as ways to reach out to others in need.

For example:

  • Day 4-Cut back on purchases of luxuries and give the saved money to the needy.
  • Day 10-Learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Identify one to begin incorporating into your life this Lent.
  • Day 23-Reach out to the least important, least popular, most ignored person at school, home, or work.
  • Day 35-Learn the Prayer of Abandonment of Blessed Charles de Foucald.   Surrender your possessions, your future, and your life to God as you slowly pray it daily.

But this book isn’t just a list of 40 suggestions.  Each day and the idea that goes with it is paired with a meditation or deeper discussion of the day’s idea and it’s meaning and implications.

40 Days doesn’t end with Lent though.  It continues on to guide our thoughts during Holy Week and to help us celebrate the whole season of Easter-not just Easter Sunday.  Add to that the wonderful resources in the back of the book and you’ve got a slim volume that is jam-packed with knowledge, information, inspiration, and guidance all in Dr. D’Ambrosio’s signature accessible writing style.

In a nutshell, if you’re one of those people who struggle to come up with new ideas for your Lenten devotion, look no further.  40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look At Lent will inspire you to dig a little deeper into your spiritual life.  I guarantee you won’t regret the purchase.

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S.

A Little Review of “A Little Game”

In general, a movie about chess would not normally motivate me to write a review.  But, “A Little Game” starring Ralph Macchio, Janeane Garofalo, F. Murray Abraham, and Olympia Dukakis isn’t just about chess.  Released January 20, “A Little Game” is about a girl named Max whose life is filled with changes that she doesn’t want but must learn to accept.  I quickly felt a connection with Max and her attitude toward change.  In our house, we often joke about how “change is bad.”  Of course, we know that’s not really true but sometimes it feels true.  So when Max began to ask questions like, “Why do things have to change?” It was as if someone had bugged our house and decided to make a movie based on what they heard! Max could have been one of my kids.

This gentle story is surprisingly funny given the serious themes and situations that it addresses.  When I sat down to watch it with my fifteen and ten year-old sons, they were less than enthusiastic about the idea.  But it wasn’t long before they started chuckling at the funny parts and commenting on its wisdom.  Believe me, I was as surprised as you are!

At first glance, “A Little Game” is a movie about a girl struggling with the death of her grandmother while trying to fit in at a new school and learning the game of chess from a grumpy old man.  But when you look deeper, themes of love, sacrifice, hope, confidence in yourself, and the importance of relationships become evident.  While not an overtly faith-based movie, I couldn’t help but feel that God was speaking to Max through the people she encountered.  Just like most of us, it takes Max a while to start listening and an even longer time to act on the words she hears.

I truly enjoyed watching “A Little Game” but the biggest compliment I can give it is that the more I reflect on it, the better I like it.  In fact, I want to watch it again to savor the characters and their wisdom.  Who knows?  I might even take up chess!

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S. (The Suburban Saint)

Warning: Listmaking May Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health

I love to make lists.  I’m a list maker. You know, one of those people who write “make a list” at the top of their list so that they can have the pleasure of crossing something off right away.  Yep, that’s me.  I love the feeling of order (real or imagined) and the sense of accomplishment (real or imagined) that I get from writing a to-do list and attacking one item at a time until it’s been whittled away to nothing. Recently though, I’ve noticed a dark side to my list making. It usually reveals itself when I’m listing either my accomplishments or my struggles.

Let’s say I’ve got a speaking engagement and need to send a bio for the introduction, or maybe I’m updating my resume.  When I sit down to make a list of my accomplishments it’s easy to look at the things I’ve achieved and feel a sense of pride.  After all, I’ve worked hard.  And as my grandfather used to say, “He that tooteth not his own horn, the same it shall not be tooted.” But that healthy sense of confidence that comes from looking at that list can quickly turn on me and blossom into full-blown pride.  My inner voice begins to say things like, “Man, I’m awesome! Look at all I’ve done!”  If I’m lucky that inner voice will be quickly silenced by the greater awesomeness of someone else.  If I’m unlucky, it will be silenced by an awesome failure on my part.  Either way, the voice does get silenced but often not as soon as it should.

But it can go the other way too.  Let’s say that things have been stressful in my life; that I’ve really been struggling with things in my personal, professional, or spiritual life.  That’s when I’ll often start another kind of list.  This one isn’t quite as nice as the last one though.  This is the woe-is-me list that I make in my head. This list is the one where I rattle off all the “horrible” things in my life that can range anywhere from health problems to running out of milk.They all get equal treatment.  My stubbed toe will get put on the same list as a family conflict or lost job.  It doesn’t matter at that moment that my toe is a very minor blip on the timeline of my life.  It gets equal billing with “major life crises.” The danger of this kind of list making is that it makes everything sound worse than it really is.  Heck, when faced with a list like that most of us just want to curl up into a fetal position and suck our thumb!

My point is this-the truth about my awesomeness or my trials is somewhere in between pride and despair.  There are a lot of details missing from both-like the time it took me to accomplish all of those awesome things. (Awesomeness doesn’t happen overnight!) Or the fleeting moments of joy I’ve experienced or lessons I’ve learned amidst the struggles.

So, heed my advice and beware of lists.  They may help you get things done but they could also be your undoing.

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S.

Have I got a deal for you!

Today I’m proud to be a part of the Working Mother ebook blog tour at Will Write For Tomato Pie.  See my interview at Will Write For Tomato Pie!

My friend Erin McCole Cupp has written a short but powerful story about the struggle the Holy Family might have had just to survive in a harsh world.

I really enjoyed this short book.  It took me by surprise quite honestly.  Erin has the ability to look beyond the paintings and statues and see the real person along with their very real emotions.

Did I mention that it’s available on Kindle?  And only 99 cents!  You can thank me later.

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S.

Overwhelmed? Congratulations!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Yes, you read that right.  I’m glad you’re overwhelmed.  Heck, I’m overwhelmed too.  After all, it’s a busy time of year with lots of places to go and people to see; plus the shopping, the baking, and the decorating. But that’s not why I’m overwhelmed and that’s not why I want you to be overwhelmed either.

No.  The type of overwhelm that I’m talking about is different.  It’s a good thing actually; something to strive for.- I’m overwhelmed that God chose me.  He chose to love me, to create me, to guide me, and to save me with the gift of His son.  If that doesn’t knock you off your feet in amazement, I’m not sure what would.

If you’ve ever watched a professional sporting event on television, you’ve seen homemade signs with “John 3:16” written on them.  In case that never made you curious enough to go look it up, that’s the verse that says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  That’s an amazing love!  I mean, seriously, how many of us love each other enough to share our money much less our child!

That’s why I’m overwhelmed.  It’s not because my to-do list is long and my time is short although those things are both true.  Just the idea that God loves little ole me enough to send His Son to save me makes my mind go “TILT” like an old pinball machine.

So that’s why I want you to be overwhelmed.  I want you to be so aware of God’s love that your mind can’t process the idea.  Get this, even when we get to the point of being overwhelmed, we’re still only scratching the surface of God’s love for us. *mind blown*

I wish you an overwhelmed Christmas.  You’re welcome.

May your journey be blessed,

S.S.

(Suburban Saint)

You’re Part of the Plan

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  (Sorry I’m a little late.) Sometimes people get a little mixed up with the name of this feast day and think it has to do with Jesus being conceived through the Holy Spirit.  In reality, this feast day is a celebration of Mary being free of original sin by the grace and will of God.  This enabled her to be worthy to carry the Messiah in her womb.  After all, you don’t think God would let His Son be tainted by sin, do you?

As amazing as it is that Mary was spared the stain of original sin, another aspect of the feast day has recently caught my attention.  Have you ever thought about how much thought God put into His plan for salvation?  We’re talking about some serious planning here folks!  God (who, of course, is all-knowing and all-powerful) prepared Mary to be the mother of Christ even before her conception.  He deemed her worthy of the most important role a mortal could play in His plan for salvation, Christ-bearer.

Yet, with all of that advance planning, He still gave her the choice to say “yes” or “no.”  He took a pretty big risk, don’t you think?  What if she had said “no?” I guess God would have had to go back to the drawing board and find someone else worthy of the task.  But, God still gave her the choice.  Of course, He knew she would say “yes.” (See “all-knowing” above.)

So how do we fit into this plan?  What part do we play?

Well, I can’t tell you what your part is in God’s plan, that’s between you and the Big Guy.  But I can assure you that your part is unique AND important. Each of us has a part in God’s plan.  Sure, it won’t be as high-profile as Mary’s part.  Mary definitely got the lead role in that scenario but, in God’s plan, there truly are no small roles, only small actors.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all said yes just like Mary did?  Can you imagine a world full of people doing God’s will? It would be amazing!  Like heaven on earth. To me, that’s what they mean when they say, “Thy Kingdom Come!” So, if that’s what God’s kingdom would look like, sign me up!

May your journey be blessed,

S.S.

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This Just Might Catch On…

They call it “rest” from what I’m told.  Last week while most mothers were frantically planning, cooking, and cleaning I was recuperating from minor surgery. (Emphasis on “minor” with the acknowledgment that the only “minor” surgery is one that happens to someone else.  So, for me, my minor surgery was somewhat significant. Funny how minor surgery can knock you off your feet for a few days!)

Seriously, I haven’t rested this much since my last pregnancy and that’s been almost twelve years ago!  Besides the obvious benefit of the recuperative qualities of resting, I noticed one or two other benefits that aren’t as obvious.

  1. When Momma can’t do everything Momma usually does, someone else has to.  My dear husband took great care of me (as usual) but I tried to direct the majority of my helplessness toward my lovely children.  I was pleasantly surprised how capable and helpful they’ve become!  So–
    • Blessing #1-My children are growing up to be capable and caring individuals.
    • Lesson #1-Since they’re so capable, I need to let them “practice” being capable more often (i.e. Do less for them!)
  2. When it hurts to move or bend you have to sit still.  Sitting still is NOT my strength.  Just ask my dear husband in the evening as I flit from task to task to tie up loose ends before bed.  The poor guy is just trying to sit with his wife for goodness sake! BUT when you’re forced to sit still you can either fight it or embrace it.  The first few days I embraced it and I found that the time we spent as a family was much sweeter, slower, and more relaxed.  We played more board games, watched more movies, and had more silly conversations than we do when I’m completely mobile.
    • Blessing #2-Being off my feet helped me be more present with my family.
    • Lesson #2-Stop rushing around!  Sit down and just hang out.  The to-do list isn’t going anywhere.
  3. When you catch up on rest, it’s amazing how much better you’re able to handle stress.  Suddenly things don’t rattle you as easily and your sense of humor improves immensely.
    • Blessing #3-I feel rested and ready to embrace Advent and the upcoming Christmas season.
    • Lesson #3-I need to make sure that I get enough sleep day-to-day because it DOES affect me even if I don’t want to admit it.

So, in a nutshell-Rest is good.  Get more of it.  It’s good for you and for the people who interact with you. You’ll thank me. They’ll thank me.  We’ll all be happier.  Agreed? Good!  Now, go take a nap!

May your journey be blessed!

S.S.

(The Suburban Saint)

Preparing for the Ultimate Guest During Advent

Find out how your Advent preparations can be like planning a party.  For a fresh perspective on Advent check out my latest post at Catholic Mom!

May Your Advent Journey by Blessed,

S.S. (the Suburban Saint)

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A Portrait of a Saint

Maria_Magdalene_prayingToday is Halloween which means that tomorrow is All Saints Day-a day we celebrate and honor all the holy men and women who are in heaven not just the ones that have the “St.” in front of their names.

Question-When I say the word “saint”, what comes to mind?

There was a time when I would have answered that question with words like: perfect, serious, pious, and righteous.  That was when my mental image of a saint included eyes cast toward heaven, a solemn expression, and hands clasped in prayer.  I guess my idea of sainthood was pretty superficial but it had a lot to do with the images of saints that I had seen throughout my life.  You know the ones-beautiful artists’ renditions from the Renaissance with the same facial expression on most all of them, the same pose, and the same lack of personality.

Don’t get me wrong.  These images are beautiful and are beautiful reminders of members of our Christian family.  I’ve come to really love and cherish many of these images.  In many ways, though, they’re like a family portrait.  When I get my picture taken, it’s rare that it shows me in motion doing the things I do in a normal day.  You don’t see me driving my kids to school, watching TV, working on the computer, washing dishes, cooking dinner, or even helping my kids with their homework.  You don’t see me spending time with my family laughing and joking.  You don’t see me in my struggles.  You just see a very two-dimensional image of me when I was standing still long enough to have my picture taken.

The challenge for me was to get beyond those superficial images and learn about the individuals behind them and their stories; to get to know them.  Those stories are the ones that helped them become saints and inspire me to become one too.  As I started to learn their stories and get to know these amazing people, I began to relate to them and see myself in their personalities and their faith journeys.  For instance, enthusiasm and a tendency to put our foot in our mouths are two qualities that I share with St. Peter!

So now my idea of sainthood has changed.  I don’t see it as an impossible goal anymore.  I see it as an ambitious goal but a very worthy one.  It’s also a goal that I can get a lot of help on from a VERY powerful friend.  I call Him “Lord” but most of the time, He prefers “Jesus.”

May your journey be blessed!

The Suburban Saint

What IS Suburban Sainthood?

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Welcome to Seeking Suburban Sainthood!  S.S.S. is where I’ll be sharing my own struggles to attain holiness in my ordinary, suburban, mini-van-owning, carpool-driving, soccer mom life.  Given the fact that I struggle ALOT in my spiritual life, I have a feeling that there will be plenty to share with you.

But it’s not just about me.  It’s about all of us and the spiritual challenges that come with a suburban lifestyle.  It’s also about a new attitude toward sainthood.  After all, sainthood isn’t just for the dead.  St. Paul called the early Christians “saints” when he addressed them in his epistles.  In his eyes, a saint was merely a follower of Christ.  So if that’s the case, all Christians should consider themselves saints, albeit imperfect ones.

The goal here is to help each other become better saints so that, when the time comes, we’ll be ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven together.  So, here’s the deal-I’ll help you with your sainthood if you help me with mine.  Who’s with me?

May your journey be blessed!

The Suburban Saint (S.S.)

Next Post: What’s a saint supposed to act like?