Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Top Ten Posts of 2019

No. 10 Stop Bothering God! 

A little story from my daily life, one that seems almost insignificant now reached the position of tenth most-read in the last year. I wouldn't have expected it to be that interesting to anyone else, but I guess real life stories are always more interesting than the most well-crafted theoretical writing. I know I'm more likely to read a story than a homily. Go ahead and give it a read if you missed it.

No. 9 Thoughts of a Typical Catholic at Sunday Mass aka Sixty Minutes of Daydreaming

This is one of those funny and perhaps a little too relatable to too many Catholics (to our shame). It was fun to write and fun to re-read. I still giggle every time I look at the memes I crated for the post. Too real. It was actually meant to be an introduction to a series on the real meaning of the different parts of the Mass, and hot to connect and focus during Mass, but I didn't get down to doing the necessary study and so those posts still aren't written. Should I work on them in the new year?

No. 8 The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3) 

This was an unusual kind of blog post, more of an interview-style or a magazine article. I primarily shared other women's stories and experiences, and put in very few of my own opinions. I think it got so many readers because one of the moms who shared her story shared it on her Facebook and a lot of people were very interested in her life and family. Should I write more articles like this - sharing other people's stories?

No. 7 Ten Catholic Trivia Questions Most Indian Catholics Will Get Wrong

This was another unusual one - it was actually a quiz that I created and embedded into the post. I had seen some of these quizzes before that were ridiculously easy and seemed to be created just in order to make people feel good about themselves. I confess I went a little bit in the opposite direction, making it so tough that almost no one scored full marks. Full disclosure: Even I didn't really score full marks because I found out only after creating the quiz that I had wrongly assumed something about canon law. Also confession: I didn't write all the follow up posts explaining each question. I wrote three, got distracted and then started writing about something else. Did anyone notice? Anyone still waiting for answers or clarity on some of the quiz questions?

No. 6 The Time I Confronted a Priest

Just the name of this post sounds kind of attention-seeking, but I promise it was a real and thoughtful encounter, and one of the most crucial ways in which God allowed me to grow. The post is more about how to confront someone in a Christian way, an area I think every parish and Christian organization needs to train their members and leaders in. Seminaries, are you teaching this? Once again there was a follow-up post I haven't written yet - Receiving Correction Graciously. When should I get to that?

No. 5 You Are Delightful 

I'm so glad this one reached the Top Five, because it is one of my personal favourites, and I think I need to re-read it again and again. If you haven't read it yet, please do! Sometimes God clearly speaks His truths through my writing (other times it's just me being boring), and this is one of those posts that has God's fingerprints all over it.

No. 4 Divine Renovation: Practical Ways to Renew Your Parish

This was a cross between a book review and a list of tips to renew your parish with excerpts and ideas from Fr. James Mallon's book, Divine Renovation. Imagine my excitement when I saw Fr. James retweeted my blog post. (Yes, I'm on Twitter: @SueZanna86). So that's probably why it reached the Top 4. I'm sure Fr. Mallon was happy for the publicity, and I was happy to publicize a worthwhile and helpful book. I still hope parish priests read it. Maybe you should send them my blog post? And gift them a copy of the book? Do it!

No. 3 Valentine’s Day Special: What It Is Like To Have a Catholic Boyfriend

Of course the post with the words VALENTINE'S DAY and BOYFRIEND was the third most read post of 2019, possibly also because it was a relationship announcement, and I've been the Single Cat Lady TM for so long that I have years' worth of posts on being single. Come to think of it, I would read random acquaintances' love stories if only they would write about them. Come on, guys. Share your lives! (P.s. I DID get it passed by Joel before I shared it.)

No. 2 Quick Thoughts on the New Graham Staines Movie

This was just a movie review, but it was about a movie that not many people were writing about. My husband has been encouraging me to write more about the current day intersection between faith and culture, and about modern-day issues that Catholics are trying to figure out, I think I'd like to, but it means being disciplined enough to write fast, and not wait for months by which time the issue has faded from people's minds. That is the kind of writing I would like to read - informed and faith-filled Indian Catholics writing about Indian issues. American Catholics have plenty of those kind of articles, but we seem to be lacking in our social media presence.

No. 1 The Wedding Chronicles: God Designed My Wedding Dress

This one actually reached my all time top ten most-read posts. then again, it does have the words WEDDING and WEDDING DRESS in the title, so is that even surprising? But you know what, this story deserves to be read, because it was written by God, and I need to do better at retelling the cool stories he writes in my life.

That's all, folks! Thank you, faithful blog readers and especially patrons for reading, commenting, sharing and donating. On the days when I don't feel motivated to write, I remember some stray feedback from someone, and I realize that perhaps God IS using this blog, and I should push myself to start writing again. Happy New Year, dear readers!

If you enjoy reading my blog, consider becoming a patron for just Rs 100 or $1 a month. Patrons receive a weekly behind-the-scenes video made by me! Email me on solosenilejive@gmail.com or visit my Patreon page to become a patron.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Wedding Chronicles: The Secret to a Peaceful Bride

I don't really like weddings. Well, in theory they sound exciting and fun, but in reality they're usually overwhelming and just too much... and that's just as a guest. If you ask a bride and groom to be honest about the wedding, it's much worse. All that planning and organization, all the expectations thrown at you by everybody, all the people to meet and greet and take care of, all the little details that can go wrong... it's a recipe for anxiety.

I was worried about the wedding from the beginning. "What if I don't sleep well the night before? I know what a mess I am when I'm tired. How do I smile for 700 guests and the photographer? I can't smile on demand. How do I even relate to 700 people? How do introverts survive their own weddings?"

Many months before Joel and I had prayed about it, and I felt the Lord asking me to surrender having the wedding in my own hometown, and having it in Joel's village instead. There were a variety of reasons, but in the end, the Lord told me clearly to give up my attachments to my plan.

The week before the wedding I read a bible passage during my prayer time:

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12: 24-25

I love my comfort zone, doing things the safe way, the predictable way. But God was telling me again that if I wanted to grow, to be fruitful, to be happy,  I had to stop clinging to comfort and to safety and to the things that I thought would make me safe and happy, and allow HIM to be in charge of both my peace and my happiness.

We had a crazy wedding day. There were completely unexpected heavy rains in the weeks leading up to the wedding, and despite the prayers, it rained heavily the day before the wedding. There was no alternate reception venue indoors because of the numbers, so we stuck to the grounds where we originally planned to have it, but large parts of the ground were marshy and wet. The weather was sweltering and humid. I was mopping up sweat under my veil during the Mass.

The priests didn't enter as we expected, so our entrance hymn which we both had looked forward to was cancelled. Our caterer and decorator turned out to be inept and messed up most of the things we asked him to take care of. The centerpieces I planned didn't happen, there were no fairy lights, the stage was rickety, people toasted us in plastic cups, the sound stopped working intermittently. I could go on, but I should stop.

In the midst of all this chaos, was I an anxious, angry wreck? Praise be to God, we were both happy and peaceful. It was the Miracle of the Wedding at Vasai.

Because of an attitude of abandonment and trust, we prayed our way through every struggle that came up. The day before the wedding we were not supposed to see each other, and in fact, were supposed to remain in our respective homes. Instead, Joel and I together with my maid of honour headed out for Confession, spent time at an Adoration chapel, and had lunch together. In the evening after the wedding rehearsal, we had a time of quiet prayer with some of our family and friends in Adoration.

Fr. Jacques Philippe says, ''Any reasons to lose your peace are bad reasons."

Though so many things went wrong that day, I received so many gifts I would have missed if I had been anxious or controlling.

- There was peace and perfect harmony between Joel and me and our immediate families throughout.

- I slept NINE hours the night before the wedding and was peaceful and relaxed even when I kept hearing about things going wrong. In fact, Joel had left me a letter to be opened IN CASE I felt anxious... and I didn't need to open it at all.

- The church looked beautiful and was packed. One of my desires was that I had a full church at my wedding, in opposition to the common practice many guests have of skipping the wedding Mass and coming for the reception.

- My sweet bridegroom actually did cry as I walked up the aisle to him. He said he was able to fully enter into the liturgy and received a lot, which was one of our prayers beforehand.

- So many of my friends and family travelled all the way (some from out of the country) to be with me on this important day, and even though I couldn't spend much time with most of them, it blessed my heart that they loved me enough to be present.

- In the moments of realizing the imperfections around me, and beginning to get stressed out, the Lord sent me my little niece who stuck to me through most of the reception.

- We had some fun moments with the wedding march and a group dance we call the Belgian dance that lots of guests joined in.

- There were many touches of beauty that soothed my heart - my aunt put together gorgeous bouquets, my mum created the wedding cake, the stage backdrop was exactly what I asked for, my bridesmaids'outfits that I had envisioned looked beautiful (I had picked very unusual outfits for them so I wasn't sure how it would all work), my hair and makeup done by my cousin and friend survived the humidity, and of course you read about the dress.

By the end of the reception though, I was hungry, tired, and totally done. I actually burst into tears and told my new husband I wanted to go home. The next morning we had to go for 7 am Mass (I was dressed in the traditional shalu) and then there was a bangle ceremony at his home. I was exhausted, but I made it through all the traditions and expectations (a very toned down version of typical weddings in his culture).

A few days later we returned to Pune for a small party with my family and some friends, and my cousins and friends went out of their way to make sure the party was beautifully decorated. I finally got my fairy lights and centerpieces!

Being a bride was definitely not a fairy tale, and I don't think it is for most women. At the end of the wedding celebrations, I was exhausted, and ready to return to a life of introversion. But my heart was at peace, because I knew I had married the right man, and was able to start my life together with him. I could have missed out on the joy of marriage if I had allowed the fear of discomfort to control me.

So what was the secret to a peaceful bride?

An attitude of abandonment and trust, and detachment from the perfect wedding. God didn't promise us that everything would be perfect, but He did promise us His presence and His peace if we were willing to accept it... and He kept His promise.

Related Reading

The Secret to Peace, Lent and Everything

The Wedding Chronicles: God Designed My Wedding Dress

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The Advent To-Do List

So it's already Day 3 of Advent, and if you, like me, have been procrastinating on making some Advent decisions, this post is here to help you out! It's so easy to get bogged down by searching for the perfect Advent discipline (apt enough, not too hard, not too easy, unique enough) and never get down to making some concrete decisions. Not that different from New Year's Resolutions and Lenten penances.

Here's the thing though. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to happen. Do something.

I'm not going to give you a bunch of options in case you have a hard time choosing between them. Just follow this calendar, and make sure you don't stop. (If you already have something you've decided on, awesome! Let me know in the comments.) If you miss a day, just keep going, and do it another day if possible. If a particular task is not possible one day, switch it with another day. Read your task a day before, so you can add it to your schedule.

Day 3 of 24
Tuesday, 3rd December, 2019

Read this post about Advent and spend five minutes in silence asking God for the grace to make space for Him in your heart this month. [10 minutes]

Day 4 of 24
Wednesday, 4th December, 2019
Listen to the latest Abiding Together podcast: The Light Shines in the Darkness and journal: How is Satan is using fear to keep me away from God? [45 minutes]

Day 5 of 24
Thursday, 5th December, 2019
Before going to bed, do an Examen. Reflect on your day, and where you encountered God. Thank Him for the times you responded to His love, and ask forgiveness for the times you did not. Make a decision for tomorrow. [15 minutes]

Day 6 of 24
Friday, 6th December, 2019
Go for Mass. Journal: What is one thing God said to me during Mass today? [1 hour]

Day 7 of 24
Saturday, 7th December, 2019
Visit an Adoration chapel and tell Him about a problem you don't know how to solve. Try to be quiet and open to His response. [30 minutes]

Day 8 of 24
Sunday, 8th December 2019
It's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pray a Memorare or nine Memorares for the intention of someone who is suffering in some way (infertility, physical sickness, mental health, grief). The Memorare is not magic, but a powerful prayer calling out to a powerful intercessor. [15 minutes.]

Day 9 of 24
Monday, 9th December, 2019
Read Isaiah 40:11 several times slowly.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, 
Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.
Imagine God holding you close to his heart. Stay in His embrace for a while.Then go and give someone a hug and remind them that God loves them. [20 minutes.]

Day 10 of 24
Tuesday, 10th December, 2019
Sing a worship song out loud. Even if you feel stupid singing by yourself. Sacrifice your dignity and receive His freedom in exchange. [15 minutes.]

Day 11 of 24
Wednesday, 11th December. 2019
Read Matthew 11: 28-30. Write down the list of burdens you are handing over to God. [20 minutes.]

Day 12 of 24
Thursday, 12th December, 2019
Read about Our Lady of Guadalupe and pray a Rosary for all nations to come to know Jesus. [30 minutes.]

Day 13 of 24
Friday, 13th December, 2019
Go for Mass. Read Psalm 1 slowly before you go. [45 minutes]

Day 14 of 24
Saturday, 14th December, 2019
Think about someone who has hurt your feelings or offended you recently. Ask God for the grace to forgive them from the heart, and to give up all thoughts of blame, accusation and resentment. Pray for that person's needs. [30 minutes.]

Day 15 of 24
Sunday, 15th December, 2019
It's Gaudete Sunday - share the joy of Christ by texting, calling or visiting someone you had been estranged from (could be yesterday's person). [5 minutes - 1 hour]

Day 16 of 24
Monday, 16th December, 2019
Pray the Divine Office today. [30 minutes]

Day 17 of 24
Tuesday, 17th December, 2019
Make a plan with your family or a group of friends to reach out personally to someone in need this month. [1 hour]

Day 18 of 24
Wednesday, 18th December, 2019
Buy a gift for someone you know who is likely to be in need. Think especially of domestic workers and their children, big families, and people who have lost their jobs recently. If you don't know anyone like that, ask your parish priest. [30 minutes]

Day 19 of 24
Thursday, 19th December, 2019
Wake up in the morning and before touching your phone, give thanks to God for ten blessings. [10  minutes.]

Day 20 of 24
Friday, 20th December. 2019
Go to Mass and visit an Adoration chapel. Invite a friend who wouldn't usually do that to accompany you. [1 hour]

Day 21 of 24
Saturday, 21st December, 2019
Make a morning offering. Through the day, remember to say "I'm doing this for You, Jesus'" as you run errands and get things done. [5 minutes]

Day 22 of 24
Sunday, 22nd December, 2019
Read Eight Tips to Surviving Christmas and make a plan for Christmas week that incorporates the tips. [30 minutes]

Day 23 of 24
Monday, 23rd December, 2019
Visit an Adoration Chapel and re-surrender everything on your mind and heart, especially family tensions and unfulfilled desires. [45  minutes.]

Day 24 of 24
Tuesday, 24th December, 2019
Read Matthew 1: 18 -25. Draw a sketch and place yourself in the Christmas story. Listen to Wonder by Bethel. [45 minutes]

Let me know if you are using this calendar, and if you'd like me to create a printable pdf version. Have a Holy Advent!

Related Reading

Hey, It’s Not Christmas Yet!

On Waiting

Changing My Christmas Wish List

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Wedding Chronicles: God Designed My Wedding Dress

Full disclosure: It was on the 11th of December last year, before Joel had even proposed that I started texting my maid of honour, Teresa, about wedding dress options. I knew I was going to marry this guy. I had already decided I didn’t want to buy a dress, and wanted to borrow one from another mutual friend. I had attended her wedding a few years ago, and LOVED her dress, and had hoped I could use it since then since we were of a similar build. The mutual friend agreed, and in February, I had a wedding dress! As Joel and I struggled through making headway with the rest of wedding planning, I would joke, “At least I have a dress! The essentials are in place.”

Unfortunately two months before the wedding I came to the realization that the minor adjustments I thought I needed to make were not so minor. I was (gasp) a little broader than the owner of the dress. I very, very regretfully, urged on by my mother, tailor and fiancé, gave up the idea of wearing that particular dress.

Two months to the wedding, and no dress! Wouldn’t that be a valid reason for a Bridezilla meltdown? Okay, I’ll admit I shed a few tears, but since the Lord had been training me for a while to be detached from ‘stuff’, I was able to let go.

“You could buy a dress, you know,” my fiancĂ© suggested.

“But I don’t want to. I’m sure the Lord will provide something. I’ll ask around.”

So I asked around. I sent out discreet messages though different friends who were likely to know recent brides. My good friend, Adele, called back.

“SUZIE!!! God has a plan for your wedding dress!!!”

She told me that she shared my message on her ministry team group, and to her surprise, a young unmarried man contacted her.

“I have some wedding dress material, enough to make a dress, to give away.”

What was a bachelor doing with wedding dress material?? Apparently a relative of his had ordered the material from Dubai for her own wedding dress, but it hadn’t arrived in time, so she bought another dress to use, and told him to give away this material to anyone who needed it.

Adele was beside herself with excitement, while I was, as is my wont, skeptical. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it’s the type of material I would like. I couldn't tell from the picture. Anyway, it is extremely expensive to get a dress stitched from scratch, so I was still hoping for a ready-made dress that would somehow miraculously fit me and be the style I wanted. But her excitement made me feel like I should at least give this free material a chance. I arranged with the guy who had it to pick it up from him on my next trip to Mumbai.

Meanwhile I asked another close friend if I could use her dress, as I was sure it would fit. It wasn’t exactly the style I wanted, but in the end a wedding dress is just a white dress, right? I picked up her dress the same weekend I was supposed to go to Mumbai, but didn’t try it on. When I picked up the material, I still couldn’t tell if I really liked the style. It was some kind of net with heavy embroidery and beading all over it, and there was a LOT of material. I took it back home with me to get my mum’s opinion.

I returned from that trip and finally tried on my friend’s dress. It fit perfectly, like it had been made for me.

“Well, I guess I have a dress!”I told my mum.

“Let’s just look at the material too,” she said.

We opened it up and held it against the satin of the skirt of the dress. To our surprise, it looked beautiful over the satin. We looked more closely, and suddenly realized that the existing bead work on the bodice of my friend’s dress matched the material from Dubai exactly! I realized we wouldn’t have to make a dress from scratch, just find a tailor willing to add the material to the skirt and make sleeves for the dress too. I did find a tailor willing to do it within my budget, and willing to have it ready two weeks before the wedding. My aunt made a veil for me, and edged it with the same material as the skirt and sleeves.

The dress was beautiful. I felt beautiful in it. It was modest, old-fashioned, and almost regal. I had a couple of little girls fascinated with my dress, who would just come up and stroke it. I grabbed the opportunity to wear it twice – once on my wedding day, and a few days later at a smaller party in my hometown. When I wrote about a friend’s wedding dress miracle a few years ago, I didn’t realize I would get my own too. Although God isn’t a magician or a genie who appears to grant our every wish, He is a Father who loves to surprise and delight His children with his unexpected gifts. Although not every detail of my wedding went the way I would have preferred, I was surprised, delighted and blessed by a beautiful wedding dress.

Ps. My sister-in-law, sister and I came up with a cool idea. We want to create a database of wedding dresses that women are willing to lend new brides in Pune and Mumbai. The new bride would look through the pictures of dresses, contact the owner of the one she likes, try it on, pay a deposit, use it, dry clean it and return it. It would save new brides a lot of money and be a small way for brides to bless other brides. Who is in?

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Wedding Month Break

Much as I love you guys, and much as I am committed to this blog, and especially my patrons, there comes a time in every blogger's life where she must take a break and disappear from the online world so she can be fully present to her REAL LIFE OF GETTING MARRIED AND GOING ON A HONEYMOON AND MOVING TO A NEW HOME AND CITY WITH HER HUSBAND!

So goodbye for a month! I'll see you all in December hopefully with socially awkward wedding stories and pics. Meanwhile, I leave you with these wonderful wedding memes.

I sent this to Joel. Way to spoil an actual emotional moment :-) Now he'll remember this when I'm walking down the aisle, and have to work on not laughing instead.

Reminder to everyone: It's not 'the bride's day'. 

And everything else the bride chooses. Also, pro-tip, once something is bought, hold back that honest opinion, and find something nice to say. 

 Seriously, Indian weddings are just a whole different level of intense. Another way my family was different - all my siblings had 200 or less guests at their wedding. Mine... will be different.

Indian insider joke: Typically caterers are paid per plate, even if you put almost nothing on the plate. So for goodness sake, guests, don't take a separate plate for your two year old! And don't take a second plate for yourself because you changed your mind and want more food. 

That's all folks! Pray for us!

Related Reading

The Strange Effect Weddings Have on Me 

When Your Facebook Feed Explodes with Weddings 

Why I Can’t Stand Marriage Jokes

Misconceptions: Marriage is Just a Piece of Paper

Monday, 21 October 2019

A Little Story on World Mission Sunday

About a month ago, my fiance, my parents and my ten year old niece went on a little mini-vacation to the hills, a couple of hours out of the big city. We often retreat there, but not typically in the monsoons. It was cold and rainy, and we stayed indoors most of the time, but it was still a special time (is every shared holiday special when you're in love?) apart from my niece sticking to us like a leech because she had been secretly enlisted as a chaperone by my mum and my other niece, and she took her responsibility VERY seriously.

One day we went out for a meal to the town. Joel and I remembered some yummy bhakri (a kind of local bread) and chicken curry from our trip in January, so we took my parents and niece out to share our experience. We found a restaurant willing to make us hot, fresh bhakris, perfect for a rainy day.

As we waited for our meal, my mother suggested that we each share a story of some time in our life that we experienced God's presence or miracles. Typical of  my mum, finding a way to bring Jesus into a conversation. We were all happy to share, though I had to search my memory for a story I hadn't shared with them before. (I am a notorious chatterbox and sharer in my family, they've never had to complain they don't know what's going on in my life. Lucky them.)

I told a story from my time in the Philippines, Joel shared his own conversion story from medical college, and even my ten year old niece shared a little story from her own life. My parents shared too, and then the waiter, a young man with a simple, honest face, brought out our steaming and delicious-smelling meal. We made the sign of the Cross, blessed the food, and began our meal. It was as tasty as we had hoped.

As we ended our meal, and walked out of the restaurant,  we thanked the waiter. To our utter surprise, he smiled and said, "Praise the Lord." We smiled back and headed out to the car. "I guess he is a Christian!" The reason why we were so surprised is because Christians are a small minority in India, and in our city, usually a very specific socio-economic group - educated, English-speakers, often from Goa and Mumbai. This young man was obviously a local Marathi-speaker. We were surprised and curious.

A couple of days later, Joel and I returned to the restaurant, partly for the bhakri and chicken curry, and partly to talk to the young man. He seemed happy to see us, and after the meal, Joel, who is a native Marathi-speaker himself, had a long conversation with the young man.

It turned out he had come to faith through another relative who had become a Christian, and was obviously very committed to Jesus. He said he woke up every morning and read the bible for two hours before coming to work and working all day until late in the night. He didn't have a day off at his job, and so he hadn't found a church to go to, but he used to attend a church in his hometown.

"How did you know we were Christians?" we asked him. "I understand a lot of English, even though I can't speak it, and I heard you all talking about Jesus," he replied in Marathi. We hadn't even realized he was there when we were sharing, much less that he could understand us.

"Is your bible a Marathi bible?" I nudged Joel to ask him.

"No, it's Hindi."

"Would you like a Marathi one?"

He said he would, so we took down his name and number, and told him we would find one to send him later. After we said goodbye, I suddenly remembered that a friend had told me he was sending me two Marathi bibles to use in my ministry, except that I had no idea what to do with them. I guess God knew what I could do with them.

It was such a short and simple encounter, but it blessed me so much. Today is World Mission Sunday, and in his message, Pope Francis wrote:

'This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant.'

I was reminded of the need to notice and connect with the people around me, something that it's easy for introverts to forget to do. Even though talking to strangers may not be something I do as easily as others, God can still use me if I allow Him to.

'This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation.'

I was reminded that God does not exclude anyone, and that neither should I. Jesus didn't come only for people who look like me, or talk like me, or who speak only the same language as I do. His love goes beyond the walls and boundaries I build in my own mind. As I have experienced freedom and mercy through my relationship with Him, so too have others from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. As I need His grace for my bad days and difficult relationships and sinful inclinations, so do they.

It's not always easy to know how to practically share BOTH the truth and the mercy of Jesus in a sensitive but effective way. But that doesn't mean it's not possible. I think it starts with an awareness of my own privilege (my treasure!), an openness to encounter, a desire to see people become who they were meant to be, and a sincere invitation to the Holy Spirit to guide me and use me every day. The harvest is plentiful, willing laborers are few. Come. Holy Spirit!

Related Reading

Full Message for World Mission Sunday

Should Conversions Be Illegal?

Non-Christians in Heaven: Ten Catholic Teaching Most Indian Catholics Get Wrong

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Seven Conversations To Have Before Deciding to Marry Someone

"True Words"by pxlline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As you might have noticed, I love giving romance and relationship advice, despite the fact that I entered my first and only relationship at the wise and mature age of 32. Does that stop me? No way! I have written about arranged marriages, stages of a relationship, reasons to get married, what not to look for in an Indian spouse, and a lot more.

I currently have a few friends who are in serious relationships. They are intentionally trying to get to know the other person in order to discern whether or not God is calling them to a lifelong commitment. 

The thing is, it's hard to REALLY get to know someone, especially when you don't have good guidance, tools, or anyone walking you through the process. Ideally, it would be good to have a spiritual director or mentor who you can talk to about your discernment. But sometimes those people may not themselves have a good idea of what to ask. "Is he a good boy? No bad habits? God-fearing? Well-settled? Go for it! You can't wait forever!" That's not very helpful. 

So here a few ideas for topics to broach before you make that final decision:

1. Do you or have you ever struggled with pornography use or any kind of sexual sin? How long ago? Are you trying to stop, and how can I support you in this? Not exactly first date conversation starters, but it needs to be talked about once you are getting serious. These are the kind of things that you must talk about honestly, or it will come up and sabotage your relationship*. You need to be honest about your own struggles too. 

Red flags: Behaving as if porn and masturbation are no big deal, no real repentance, being disgusted or repelled by hearing about your struggles with sin.

2. If you had to choose between your parents' wishes and mine, which would you choose? In India, this question seems almost unfair. Why should you make someone choose between their parents and you? It doesn't have to be one or the other, does it?

Well, it kind of does, to some extent. In the bible it says, 'Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father, and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' (Eph 5:31) There is a necessary leaving (emotional and often physical) that must happen in order for a new unit and family to be created.

This isn't easy for either man or woman who are attached to their parents and family and childhood home. It isn't easy for the parents either. But we have seen what happens when this leaving doesn't happen. Marriages are torn apart by divided loyalties, by men unwilling to stand up to their parents, or women who run home to mama every time they're having a fight. This does NOT mean it's ever okay to treat one's parents with disrespect. 

Red flags: Expecting you to 'adjust' every time the parents ask or expect something, ignoring your reservations or boundaries

3. Are you willing to care for my parents if and when they are old, sick, or need us? This is the flip side to the same question, and not something everyone thinks about in the midst of romance and dating. Making a lifelong commitment to someone means helping them carry their burdens, sharing their struggles and difficulties and responsibilities in life too. This goes for both sets of parents. 

Red flags: Avoiding answering the question, assuming someone else will do it or it won't be necessary.

4. Do you tend towards depression, anxiety, anger, suicidal thoughts, isolation, or anything else that affects your normal functioning and relationships? How bad has it been? Have you been through any major trauma in your life? How have you been dealing with it? Are you open to going to counselling? Some of these things may have come up already, you may have seen signs of it. Most people do or will struggle with one or other of these things to some extent. There is no shame in having struggles. The problem is when people are not willing to get the help they need. 

Red flags: Denying there is a problem, blaming everyone else, thinking counselling is not for them. On the flip side, telling you to be positive or just get over it when you share your ongoing struggles

5. Do you have other healthy friendships and relationships in your life? Does the other person have friends who they are able to talk to about deep stuff? Do they have mentor figures in their life? Are they open to advice and correction? If you are their everything, you will have no support system when the two of you have problems. 

Red flags: Having no friends, unwilling to seek out friends or mentors

6. Do you have any disordered attachments or addictions? How do you deal with them? It could be anything from being unable to go a few seconds without checking the phone, addictions to food, shopping, staying up late, being a workaholic, being a control freak or obsessive about cleanliness. It could be needing to constantly buy the latest phone, motorcycle or fashion styles. It could be video games, all-night DOTA sessions, constant Netflix binges.

There's nothing wrong with hobbies, leisure activities or enjoying the good things in life. But you will know it is an unhealthy attachment if your partner CAN'T do without it, gets angry or irritable if he or she can't have it, or if it regularly interferes with their normal duties and responsibilities, and with their relationship with you and with God.

Red flags: Refusal to acknowledge an attachment is out of control, or needs to be worked on, no plan to grow in this area

7. Do you have a prayer life? This goes beyond being 'god-fearing', willing to go to Mass, and fulfill basic obligations. It goes beyond praying the Rosary every day too, even thought that is a good practice. When the storms of life come, and they will, you both need to be rooted in something bigger than yourself.

God is the firmest foundation for a marriage, and the best way to build your life on that foundation is by setting aside time to seek Him every day. It is in honest regular daily prayer that God convicts, guides, strengthens, heals, and does the work in our partner that we cannot do. It doesn't mean that we have the 'perfect' prayer life, but that both are willing to make it a priority.

Red flags: Unwillingness to commit to prayer, suggestion that you can be the 'spiritual' one in the relationship

What other crucial conversations would you advise dating couples to have?

*Check out Fight The New Drug for more information about why pornography use hurts relationships.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The SAHM Series: Tips and Advice from Stay-At-Home-Mums (Part 3 of 3)

We heard the why and the how over the last two weeks. What’s next? Well, choosing to stay at home or work from home is a pretty big decision for most couples, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not everyone is in a position to make that choice. There may be some families who are managing to balance work, home and family time well, with both parents working outside the home. But for those who are feeling a tug towards SAHM life, but are not sure how to make the decision, here is some advice from those who are already doing it.

Anna* (mother of a 6yo and 1yo) encourages moms to try being a SAHM for the first five years of their children’s lives. 

- “Financial commitments keep most moms working. But I’d suggest that if you can manage to make ends meet on your husband's salary, please give up your job and cherish these years when your kids are growing. They need you in the first five years of their life, perhaps more than in their teens. We as moms can always get back to working after a gap as many companies are realising the fact that children need their mothers.

 - “Also, once they are a bit grown up, start off with a part time job as it's always good to be there for your child. Work from home is a good option but getting a part-time job is better as it gives you the freedom when you move out and also help you socialize and keep in touch with the world.”

After being primarily at home for the past five years, Anna is exploring the option of giving French tuitions this year. Anna’s passion is Finance and she would love to get back to that as long as she has work hours that allow her to get home at the same time as her kids return from school.

Among other tips, Jeanne* (mother of a 2yo & 9mo) encourages SAHMs to seek the active support of their husbands:

- "Pray about it if you're undecided."

- "Don't lose your close girl friends (even the single ones)."

- "Find time each week to do things that make you feel fulfilled."

- "Ask your husband to consciously appreciate you and the work you are doing."

Kiersten (mother of a 5mo) reminds SAHMs that life will not always go according to plan, and they need to prioritize self-care:

- “Know that being a SAHM is challenging and incredibly rewarding, sometimes in unexpected ways. Mommy bloggers and Pinterest boards sometimes make it seem like it’s easy and that all you need is a routine and ‘These Top 5 Tips’. But children, and infants especially, don’t always operate according to plan.”

For Kiersten, there were days when she couldn’t shower because she was just too tired. In the early days especially, when her child took a nap, she often had to choose between feeding herself, showering, and napping. But she reminds SAHMs that self-care is important too.

- “Listen to your body and do what it needs. Drink lots of water.”

- “It is easy to put your own needs on the backburner when you’re caring for someone else. But you have to remember to take care of yourself, too. Otherwise you will burn out.”

 - “Remember that you are a person in your own right. Being a wife and/or mother is only part of your identity, and all parts of you deserve to be cared for.”

- “You have to know yourself. I’m an introvert, so staying home all day doesn’t bother me on most days. If you’re an extreme extrovert and thrive on interaction with other people, being a stay at home mom may not be the best choice for you. Or, maybe you’ll be more motivated than I am to get out and about with kid/s in tow and it will be awesome! Either way, that’s okay.”

- “Only you and your partner can decide what’s best for your family. Other people will have opinions, but that doesn’t mean you have to make your decisions based on what they think you should do. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want and work together to achieve that.” 

Kiersten wants women to remember that whatever they choose to do, there will be both good days and less than good days. Society places a lot of pressure on moms to always do the “right thing.” But most people may feel like they don’t know what they’re doing most of the time.

 -“Trust your intuition. It’s amazing how much your gut and heart know, things that your brain hasn’t figured out yet. Most of all, give yourself grace. Being a mom is hard, but so incredibly worth it.”

Adele advises a deeper rooting of one’s identity in the unchanging reality of God’s love: 

- “Count the cost - the emotional cost, not just the financial cost.”

 - “Be sure of who you are in Christ before making any huge life changes like getting pregnant/starting/ending a job/relocation, etc. The world is very, very quick to pull you down when you don't earn money /not contributing to the GDP. Once you know you're worth in Christ, you can stand firm in Him and be peaceful, safe and happy wherever He asks you to go.”

Venora (mother of a 6yo, 4yo and 10mo) was hesitant to give over-specific advice to young moms. “It's difficult to give advice to give since not everyone's circumstances are the same. But I'd say this-”

- “Don't let your fears stop you from fulfilling what God has placed on your heart. If He needs you to be an instrument as a stay at home parent, he will enable you, provide for you and the reward is far too great to comprehend. It also does not mean you will never go back to work later or that you will not use all your talents for the glory of God.”

- “Go forth in trust. I have found that God delights in those who obey His will.”

*Names changed

Recommended Reading 

The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3)

The SAHM Series: Are Stay-at-Home-Mums Happy? (Part 2 of 3)

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler

21 Tips for Survival Mode

Can Ambitious Women Be Happy at Home? (Comment thread)

The Anonymous Stay-at-Home Mom

Don't Carpe Diem

To The Mother with Only One Child

“Have You Ever Felt Like Being a Mother Has Ruined You?”

I Took a Month Off from Being a SAHM. Here’s What I Learned.

Monday, 30 September 2019

The SAHM Series: Are Stay-at-Home-Mums Happy? (Part 2 of 3)

Last week we heard from five women who chose to become stay-at-home-mums (or work-from-home-mums) because they believed it was the best decision for their families. They faced misunderstanding and criticism, but that didn't stop them.

But we've all heard plenty of stories about the struggles and challenges of full-time motherhood. Isn't it boring, tedious, frustrating, mind-numbing? How could anyone be happy when they have the option of living like a grown-up outside the home, relating to other adults, instead of cleaning up after toddlers for the hundredth time? Do they regret the decision made in a more idealistic frame of mind? How do they survive the hard days?

Let's hear from the mamas.

Anna*, mother of two (6yo and 1yo), says 'bored' is the wrong word, when there is always one more thing to accomplish to make a house a home. But she acknowledges that not all days are not happy or easy.

"There are plenty of frustrations I have to deal with: my younger one can cry her lungs out till she gets her way, my older one has never been so stubborn, he just doesn't want to do anything on his own, so I'm trying to feed, bathe, and do many more things for both of them."

"However, thanks to the support of my family I have survived quite well. Many hard days are wiped away with a smile, hug and kiss from my kids. All the painful days are just a blur and the happy memories are the ones that I believe will stay with me for a lifetime. I am so happy I took the decision to be a full time mom. I never had the joy of seeing my older son grow up. I only got to see the photos and videos. But now with my younger one I get to see each day as she discovers new things, tastes new food, does her first of everything. This joy is unimaginable."

Kiersten (mother of a 5mo) shares that her expectations of productivity had to change once she became a SAHM.

“I have to remember it’s okay if I don’t get everything (or anything) marked off my to-do list. I don’t like to be idle or feel unproductive so I make a list of things I can do during the day to keep the house running. But taking care of a child is a full-time job already. Some days she requires more attention than others, which means I don’t always accomplish everything I set out to do."

Another struggle for SAHMs is that it can get a bit lonely sometimes. Kiersten experiences this but is trying find ways to meet that need. "I try to make sure to call my friends and family when getting out of the house isn’t possible."

She realizes that it's easier on both her and her baby when she just stays at home most days. "My daughter is starting to establish a nap/feeding schedule, and when it gets disrupted by errands, the rest of the day is difficult. So, I honestly don’t go out often during the day because it’s just easier to meet her needs at home (and take a nap myself, if I’m lucky!) I’m never bored, though. There is always something to do, and I find so much joy in teaching my daughter about the world and watching her learn and explore.”

Adele, mother of two (6yo and 8yo), shares, "On good days, I'm very happy with my decision. On bad days, I sometimes allow myself the momentary illusion that everyone would be happier if I was out of the house and out of their hair and we had more money to go to nicer holidays. But then I immediately remember that that's not true at all. Break over, back to mommying."

For Venora, mother of three (6yo, 4yo and 10mo) too, there are mostly ups, and occasional downs and moments of doubt. "I am happy on most days. Yes, there are days when I see my former colleagues in VP roles and settled abroad or at fancy holiday destinations and I wonder - 'what if it had been me'. But the next moment I look at all the small hands and feet around me, the fun they're having, their angel-like innocence and happy faces and then, I don't regret anything!"

But the struggles are real. "The struggles are plenty especially on sick days. My husband and I live alone with the kids. So when he leaves for work in the morning, it's all me."

How does she survive?

"Crying to Jesus! Prayer, worship, praying in tongues, more prayer. My kids have seen me break down and cry out in the spirit.. They have seen me at my most vulnerable and they know they should do the same - turn to Jesus. Now I couldn't guarantee that they'd have learnt this if I was someplace working dawn to dusk just to earn a fat salary and not be physically around them to show them how life must be lived for real."

Venora feels that her full-time presence with her two older sons until the age of 5 has made them great examples for their new baby sister. They are happy to entertain her if Venora is not around for a couple of hours. She also feels having several children has made SAHM life more fruitful, beautiful and even fun.

"My friends fear that having more kids means dividing your time but that's not true. You don't take away individual time from each one, you multiply love! Because look at the amount of love each one is receiving now! There's more to love, help around and yes how can I forget - the advice! The kids love to give advice and it's all mostly great!"

Jeanne* (mother of a 2yo and 9mo) is happy with her decisions because she feels that she knows her kids best. "I try to raise them as best I can. No one other than me (or my husband) is going to be this invested in them. And I love watching them grow, experience the world, and delight in little things. I used to get bored and frustrated when I didn't have time for myself. My husband and I instituted 'me time' once a week (or so) where I do the creative things I love to do and which make me feel fulfilled, or make an effort and go out and meet a friend for coffee or dinner (which feels great but happens a lot less often because it takes mental energy to make plans and decide to dress up and go out). Also, being a part of my Christian community draws on other talents and fulfils other needs."

One of the big unacknowledged struggles of SAHMs is that the work they do is not considered as valuable by society as other work because it is unpaid. Subconsciously, most people need to attach a monetary value to anything to believe that it is worth it. The more one is paid, the more important one is deemed in the eyes of society. Where does that leave 24 hour working moms who don't get paid, and in fact, need their spouses to be the earning member of the family? Or the work-from-home mums who take a significant pay cut in order to be at home?

SAHMs and their spouses need to develop a thick skin and a willingness to be counter-cultural.

Jeanne says, "I struggle with feeling valued when most people I know consider working mothers the norm, and don't think about why you may not want to return to work six months or a year after having a baby. But my Christian community and my family keep me grounded."

There is no doubt that being a SAHM is in many ways a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice freely chosen and made sweet by the knowledge that it is bearing fruit in the life of the family. Like Mother Teresa, these moms could say, 'I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.'

*Names changed.

Related Reading

The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3)

The SAHM Series: Tips and Advice from Stay-At-Home-Mums (Part 3 of 3)

All posts tagged 'Family'

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3)

A generation or two ago in India, most mothers were stay-at-home-mothers (aka SAHMs). It was the exception for women to work in an office or workplace after being married. In fact, even today, many Indian women don’t have the option of work outside the home, and are expected to cut short their studies or not have any career goals or dreams because the only permissible role of a woman is that of a wife and mother.

But in many cities nowadays, the reverse is true. It is no longer socially acceptable in many circles for an educated woman to leave her full-time job and be at home with her children. It is seen as backward and a waste of potential, especially since a double income brings with it a sense of financial security in an expensive world. With grandparents usually offering free childcare in India, it seems logical to have both spouses working full-time outside the home.

In many households, women are expected to be up early to handle all the household chores, cooking and cleaning, before leaving for work, and then to return home and continue the routine. ‘A woman’s work is never done’ is never truer in such homes. In other homes, especially in the upper middle class, families are able to afford a maid, and spouses are learning to share the remaining chores and parenting responsibilities.

In the current climate, there are still some women who have chosen to leave their jobs and work part-time from home or focus fully on their home and young children. I have interviewed five young women to hear more about their motivation and stories.

Jeanne* worked as an interior designer at an architecture firm for over five years. She and her husband hope to have several children, and they did in fact have two daughters (2yo and 9mo) within their first three years of marriage. Jeanne realized pretty soon that she didn’t want to be away from her children when they were very young, so together with her husband, she made the decision to leave her job.

Few people seemed to understand her decision. “The world isn't very appreciative of stay-at-home mothers. I get support from family, my Christian community and close friends. From everyone else, there is a lack of understanding. “She's small now, you'll go back to work when she's older of course.” “You're wasting your talents.” “Don't you get bored sitting at home?”

Anna*, mother of two (6yo and 1yo), worked as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). After finishing her studies, her only dream was to work with the best finance companies in the world. She achieved her dream, and worked for eight years at a very demanding job with client calls starting late evening and going into the night. “I never thought that I would give it all up to care for my children. It took me some time to realize that I had my life figured out all wrong. It was the toughest decision I have ever taken. Some may assume I don't have motherly feelings, but after I had studied so hard, managed to get a good finance job and risen to a good position, it was really hard to let go.”

But Anna was not happy. She could see her son for only an hour on weekdays, her parents were getting burnt out, and she was conscious of the fact that he was her child, not theirs, to care for. Her son would sit outside the bathroom when she went to freshen up after returning from work. She had no time to take him down to play and no time to spend with her spouse. All these factors finally mattered much more than her professional achievements.

It was a personal decision that Anna and her husband made together, after careful considering their financial commitments. They felt that if they could sacrifice a few pleasures and manage to make ends meet, having more time for their home and kids made it worth it. Her decision was reinforced by her Christian faith and certain bible verses, as well as the encouragement of other mothers who shared their personal experiences of how their home was more organized and the kids were happier since they chose to be at home.

Everyone had an opinion about Anna’s decision. “Putting down my papers didn't come without its share of criticism. Right from my maid (she was afraid she would lose her job) to my managers, everyone had something to say. I got the most enticing offers. ‘Oh, why don't you take a two or three month break in service, or you can work from home for a few months?’ I didn't get these offers when I had to leave baby and join work full-time. I had people even asking me if I was mad to give up everything at this stage after achieving so much.”

Venora, now mother of three (6yo, 4yo and 10mo), quit her full time job as a learning and development professional while expecting her first baby. “My mother was a SAHM and I think that played a pivotal role in my wanting to be at home to see all my child's firsts.”

She continues to freelance professionally and take up part-time projects when possible, keeping the kids' schedule in mind. “I decided to take up training projects when my second son was about six months old. I remember taking him with me to Dubai for a two week training once. The Lord provided for a baby sitter there and gave me the courage to leave him with a lovely aunty every morning. But it broke my heart because I could hear him cry till I got to the main road every day. His teary eyes would greet me on my return. Those two weeks were traumatic on a personal front yet fulfilling professionally. My husband and his parents cared for my older son at home, and we would video chat every day. But I didn't want to go through that very often.”

Venora and her husband were able to make the decision for her to be a SAHM because they have also chosen to live very minimalist lives. “Whenever we needed extra cash, either one of us landed an extra project or there's been some opportunity or another. God provides.”

Initially as they prioritized family life, Venora and her husband had more critics than supporters, but by the time their third child came along, they had more admirers. They met people who told them they decided to have a second baby only because they had their third.

Adele, mother of two (6yo and 8yo), worked in the NGO sector. She left her full-time job even before she had kids, not because anyone asked or expected her to, but because she believed that was what God was calling her to do so. She chose not to return to full-time paid work in order to prioritise the spiritual and emotional needs of her family. “In my opinion, my family’s needs can't be met by delegating care-giving to a paid employee, however skilled or experienced they might be.”

Reactions varied from judgmental silence, to weird assumptions or questions, as well as the glorification of being a full time mother. Adele would just laugh them off and get on with living her life.

Kiersten (mother of a 5mo) is the only American I interviewed, and in many ways the situation seems very different for her. She received support and encouragement from her social circles to give up her freelance work as videographer/editor/public relations assistant after the birth of her baby. It made more sense financially for her to be at home as childcare in her part of the US is expensive. “My husband is my biggest champion and always lets me know that if I change my mind and want to go back to work, he is absolutely on board.”

*Names changed.

Related Reading

The SAHM Series: Are Stay-at-Home-Mums Happy? (Part 2 of 3)

The SAHM Series: Tips and Advice from Stay-At-Home-Mums (Part 3 of 3)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Twenty Secret Tests to Give Your Boyfriend

So you're dating, but you're not sure whether this guy is husband material? Fear not, there is a way to find out what he's really made of. Spend the rest of your relationship laying secret tests for him to decide whether to move to the next level.*

1. The Judgy McJudgy Test: Tell him your worst sins and watch for the telltale silence and withdrawal.

2. The Slob Test: Leave a dirty dish in his sink and see how long it lies there.

3. The One-upmanship Test: Mention your past achievements and see if he interrupts to insert his own.

4. The Perfectionist Test: Sing a love song to him really loud and off-tune to see if he’s tactful and kind enough not to stop you immediately or to stick his fingers in his ears.

5. The Handkerchief Test: Break into tears or better yet, get a heavy cold to find out if he’s a true gentleman who carries clean handkerchiefs with him to offer those in need.

6. The Patience Test: Make him wait while you change your outfit five times while telling him 'Just two more minutes' multiple times.

7. The Chauvinist Test: Ask him to make you a sandwich and check if he seems surprised or outraged.

8. The Shallow Test: Never wear make-up to find out if he thinks you're beautiful just the way you are.

9. The Phone Test: Hide his phone for a few hours to see if he is addicted.

10. The Fatherhood Test: Thrust a crying baby into his arms unexpectedly to see if he’ll be an amazing father.

11. The Fortune Hunter Test: Tell him you won the lottery and you haven't made a will. Check how fast he proposes.

12. The Gullible Test: Tell him you gave it all away to the first person who asked. If he believes you, either he doesn't know you very well, or you're a saint. Oh wait, saints don't lie about lotteries.

13. The Temper Test: Trip a server at a restaurant so that he/she drops food all over his favourite shirt to see if he has a bad temper.

14. The Anti-Science Test: Casually point out your baby vaccination marks on your shoulder to find out if he is an anti-vaxxer.

15. The Conspiracy Theorist Test: Mention that you’d like to ‘travel around the world’ to check if he’s secretly a flat-earth conspiracy theorist.

16. The Vampire Test: Cook him a great Italian meal, add a lot of garlic to everything and sprinkle holy water in his drink. Also gift him a crucifix and see if he recoils.

17. The Mass Murderer Test: Search his room for a bag of mementos or newspaper clippings to rule out the possibility of him being a serial killer.

18. The James Bond Test: Take apart his watch to find out if it's really a high-tech communication system he uses to facilitate his double life as a secret agent with a license to kill.

19. The Superman Test: Look at him with and without glasses to ensure he is not a secret superhero in disguise.

20. The Survivor Test: Steal his wallet, cards, keys and vehicle and leave him stranded in the middle of nowhere to see if he knows how to survive in the wild (essential husband and father skills).

*Are you crazy? What kind of manipulative person are you anyhow? Stop laying traps. Instead be honest and communicate. Although there's nothing wrong with being observant, while keeping in mind that nobody is perfect. Also, if you think this is funny, imagine how you'd fare if someone gave YOU these tests. Yeah, not so cocky now, are you, Ms. Impatient Vampire Slob?

Click on this link for more lighthearted posts from the past seven years.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Burdens God Didn’t Ask You to Carry

"Woman carries bundle on her back in Nepal" by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1. Constant self-doubt:The unexamined life is not worth living.’ It is good to pause and take stock of one’s life regularly, holding it up to the light of God, and making changes when necessary. But living in a constant state of unsureness, second guessing every decision, wondering if there’s another life you should be living, comparing your life to others’, this is the devil’s tactic to prevent you from ever fully living the life you have been given. This is it. This life right now, these people, the tasks of this day. Throw away the self-doubt and embrace this life.

2. Unforgiveness: I asked people on Facebook, “What’s one thing you believe strongly but find difficult to live out yourself?” Surprisingly, many answered ‘Forgiveness’. In some way, holding on to anger and resentment can feel like justice. Being asked to forgive may feel like being asked to deny the guilt of the other person, or the seriousness of their offence. But forgiveness is not saying that.

Forgiveness is the freedom for YOU to move on. Unforgiveness and resentment is a burden that will not only slow you down but eventually consume you. You can draw boundaries so the other person doesn’t have room to hurt you again, but you can rid yourself of the bitterness by praying for them and surrendering them to the mercy and justice of God every time you think of them.

3. Other people’s bad decisions: Do you REALLY love someone if you don’t stay awake worrying about their life, decisions and weaknesses? Hi, that’s not real love. It’s normal to be concerned, but then discern if you are being asked to do something about it. Talk to them, listen to them, give some judicious advice and then realise they have been given freedom and the responsibility to make their own choices. You are not their saviour or fixer. Pray fervently for them, offer up your sufferings or sacrifices for them, and entrust them to God.
4. The fate of the country/ Church/ world: Now I’m not saying you don’t have your role to play. I’m not advocating apathy or despair or blame-shifting. But your role and responsibility encompasses only the things that are actually under your control. Often it means being faithful in little things, being the change you want to see, and praying a LOT. But that’s it.

The Holy Spirit may prompt you to start something new, do something different, but guess what He’s NOT asking you to do? He’s not asking you to do everything, change everything, and then stress out because you suddenly realise you CAN’T do everything and change everything.

5. Having your life together all the time: Everybody has bad days. You are not the only one who wasted hours binge-watching Netflix, eating junk food, staying up too late and procrastinating on your very urgent tasks after a bad mood/PMS/family fight/uncovered old wound/loneliness. Pick yourself up and start again.

You’re not the only one who has acted bad-tempered or irritable all day, or found yourself in the middle of a gossip session before you knew it, or started crying for no good reason, or been a far less than cheerful giver, or made a less than tactful comment. Apologize, and move on.

If your life is NEVER in order, then it may be good to talk to someone, go to a counselor, or get a spiritual director, and make some major lifestyle changes. But once in a while is not the end of the world.

Okay, so which of these burdens are you carrying? Hand them over and start a new day with freedom and a lighter step. God’s strong shoulders are willing and able to carry them, but it’s your job to let them go.

Related Reading

The Antidotes to Anxiety