Kevin and I were blessed to kick off 2017 with an unexpected financial gift to help us snowball our debts. This generous surprise allowed us to eliminate 8 charge cards. As I wrote out each check and MORE IMPORTANTLY closed each credit card account; I was struck by the amazing way God works in our lives. This compulsion to avoid spending cash and hoarding credit cards has been a part of my life since I turned 18 (in 1986) and could apply for my first card. Recently I was watching a show on the 1980s and how the general mentality of the day was 'spend it now because tomorrow is probably NOT going to come for long'. "The Day After" movie was indicative of the general mindset - that World War III was imminent and with it would be complete nuclear annihilation. If you ever underestimated the power of media just take a peek back at the 1980s and believe!
Our family's road out of debt and into financial freedom has been remarkable - long - but truly a blessing. If you recall, it began at the beginning of 2016 with another gift, the Navigating Your Finances God's Way from my Breadbox Media friends Jon and Evelyn Bean and published through their ministry, Compass Catholic. As I went through the program I documented our progress through a Money Monday: God, Your Money and You blog series. We are still about a year (maybe two) from being credit card debt free but it is WAY CLOSER than we were just two years ago when I wasn't even sure how I would put Thanksgiving Dinner on the table!
A Seeking Heart Interview with Jon & Evelyn Bean
Miraculous March Moment
In January 2017, for the first time, I traveled with my parish to participate in the March for Life in Washington, DC. My general anxiety, made only more severe by my near death experience at the 2013 World Youth Day, has kept me from attending in the past. Sometimes, I am convinced, the Lord allows a veil over our eyes to keep us from really contemplating what will actual happen to move us where He wishes us to be! Pretty sure that is how I ended up at the March for Life this year! Overall the trip was amazing - as an mom, especially an adoptive mom - my heart has a special place for the protection of the unborn. Though this March is for more than just the babies in the womb, but to raise awareness of the respect for life of all from conception to natural death.
Miraculous Moment from my experience at the March for Life
The crowds were crazy (which is good unless you have crowd anxiety) I had many moments of near hyperventilation panic. One such moment included this AMAZING God moment I have to share. At one point we were STUCK in a crowd, not moving and tightly packed. I prayed for God to calm me and let me know HE was near. Important to this story: God has used butterflies OFTEN to help me see his presence. As I prayed for peace - the man behind me says, "OH wow, that looks like a butterfly wing" ... just hearing that 'key' word, my heart overflowed with love and my panic subsided. God is SO near - we just need to ask for him to reveal that to us. He promises not to abandon us! He is truly a faithful and PROMISE keeping kind of Father
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017
The Book I Never Thought I Would Need
Pornography is the one topic I never thought I'd need to read about. Although it was part of my own adolescence and young adulthood, I had assumed my working primarily with women and being ultra vigilant at home made pornography essentially a non-issue in my life. I was wrong. So wrong, that I jumped at the opportunity to review Matt Fradd's new book, The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography. Matt's new book appealed to both my desire to best dialog with the women I am blessed to minister to through Reconciled To You, (because porn is not just an issue concerning men) and also my desire to best guide my children as a mom. After reading Matt's thorough responses to myths and the resources for parents in Appendix, I feel better equipped to discuss pornography now in both my roles.
Some of the Myths that Most Surprised Me:
Click HERE ... to learn more about author, Matt Fradd (including a fantastic video) and to Read the Rest of my Review, The Porn Myth
This month the Catholic Women Bloggers Network is tackling prayer. This is a perfect topic for me to include in the Squirrel and Scripture series as I can not think of anything more difficult for my ADHD brain then sustained focus sometimes required to pray. The good news prayer comes in many forms and these 5 strategies are sure to help - whether you have an attention disorder or not! Here are some of my tried and true methods for conversing with God even when I am completely out of focus.
Walk and Talk
Two Years ago I was struck with this crazy inspiration to get my butt outside to pray the Rosary. Uncomfortable walking the streets alone, I decided to encircle my home. This was made easy, in my mind anyway, because I live on a fork-in-the-road and have a driveway that connects the two streets. I am only on grass when I traverse my backyard. Around and around I go, praying the rosary, talking with God, the Blessed Mother, my Guardian Angel and whoever else in Heaven (or Purgatory) will listen.
The practice has become so much more than I ever anticipated it to be. The exercise has helped me drop some weight. The lack of distractions (ie phone, computer, housework) has made for some of the most connected prayer times ever. There have been more than a few explained "wow" moments involving passing cars, butterflies and even Mack Trucks!
Chores and Pray
Laundry is a drag. Dishes are gross. Vacuuming hurts my back. I am Little Miss Positive! Usually, but not when it comes to housekeeping. Martha of Bethany I am not! However there is one simple change I made many years ago that transformed these disdained tasks to opportunities for grace. While I am folding laundry, I pray for the person who belongs to those pants, onesie or sock. As I fold the 100th towel for the week, I pray in gratitude that I have water with which to shower and the blessing of children and a hubby to use them.
Get Out Your Highlighter
Reading Scripture is a fantastic way to pray. The Psalms lend themselves perfectly to prayer. Sometimes I will just read a chapter until a verse seems to be speaking to me. To help me stay focused on it, I will grab a highlighter or pen and mark my bible. IT is totally not sacrilege to underline your favorite passage or make a note to recall why YOU underlined it! In addition, I usually keep a journal nearby as well. Writing my thoughts during prayer time also works wonders to squelch my wandering attention.
Sacramentals and Statues
Religious paraphernalia gets such a bad rap. Honestly, I do not worship my Pope Francis Bobblehead nor bow before my Padre Pio prayer card. I place various images of my favorite saints, as well as Jesus and Mary, around your home as reminders and as focal points for prayer. Gazing upon the crucifix aids my mind to shut out the world and focus on Jesus.
Bag of Tricks
Perhaps not a bag in my case it is a basket, and not exactly tricks, more like tools. On my coffee table is a basket filled with daily devotionals, prayer cards, and various beads (Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, St. Michael Chaplet). This is left out where it can again serve as a reminder (see a pattern here), as well as provide me plenty of fodder for those days my prayer well has run dry.
Two of my favorite books always residing within this basket are The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion (Ave Maria Press) and Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory (OSV). I am blessed to be a 7-time contributor to the Prayer Companion, along with 80 other talented writers. The reflections are short, insightful and include a question to ponder after my prayer time. Although I did feel a little as if I am talking to myself when it is time for one of my reflections. The other book by the sweet Susan Tassone contains prayers and reflections on Purgatory. When I received the book from Susan last year, I decided to add the name of a deceased person on each day. After a year of praying, I realized not only could I not stop now but I needed to add a second name for each day. What a blessing this practice has been.
Prayer does not need to be long and/or complicated. If we follow St. Paul's advice and pray without ceasing, we will find there are so many opportunities throughout our day to talk with God. That, after all, is what prayer is all about - a conversation with God. It is easy with any conversation to lose track of what is being said or even to grow weary. Yet, with a little creativity and a little extra effort, prayer can be found and sustained in the every day of life.
Catholic Women Bloggers Network - May Blog Hop
So honored to be asked by Jean Heimann to review her new book on the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. Tomorrow, May 13th, will be the 100th anniversary of those world-altering apparitions. While I adored the book, a painful flare of hand eczema has made my waxing on and on about Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World, painfully difficult. As the Spirit would have it, my day for the book launch tour falls on Flashback Friday - so I will happily share with you all the wonderful things OTHERS have had to say!
Excerpt from the Foreword by David M. Carollo, Executive Director, World Apostolate of Fatima USA
Fatima: The Apparition That Changed The World, not only presents the history of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, but addresses what the message is today. The hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s appearances is not only a time for reflection or looking back. It is a time to look ahead and to redouble our efforts in bringing people to live the Fatima message. We must all be dedicated to this cause. Fatima is about more than predictions and warnings. If we look only to these things it is nothing more than a series of historical occurrences. Fatima gives us a prescription for life. Where there is life there is hope, and it is not too late to turn to God and respond generously to His entreaties to follow Him. Our Lady pleads with us to do so. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Book Notes on Catholicmom.com by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This book leaves the reader wondering: how will the world continue to change as a result of the Fatima message? Heimann makes it clear what ordinary Catholics can do to effect change in the world, explaining,
Our Lady’s message was not only relevant for the time period during which it occurred. It is a message that remains relevant for us today. In fact, Pope John Paul II has told us that the message of Fatima is even more relevant for us today than it was when it was first given to the visionaries by Our Lady in 1917.
Sample from Carolyn Astfalk's Insightful Review:
Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World works as a reference book, a coffee table book, a spiritual work, and a primer in history – both ecclesiastical and 20th century world history. One of the most helpful features in the book is a timeline, setting the visions in context with historical events. (It was also a reminder of how slowly the Catholic Church moves, often with good reason.) The timeline is also traced in greater detail through the 20th and 21st century papacies.
Just in time for the centennial of the first apparitions and the canonizations of two of the three visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, later this month, Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World not only educates and edifies, but brings to bear the continuing relevance of Our Lady’s message today.
As private revelation, the apparitions, while approved (meaning that they are supernatural and do not contradict good faith or morals) are not part of the deposit of faith. Even so, this detailed story of Fatima left me in awe of the majesty of God and the significant role Our Lady plays in salvation history.
Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World, Jean Heimann's author Interview with Amazing Catechist founder Lisa Mladnich
TAN Books and author Jean M. Heimann have just released a gorgeous new book, written in honor of the Centenary of Fatima, that helps teens and adults fully grasp the significance and power of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima: the miraculous events of 1916 and 1917, the messages, their meaning, and their impact on souls.
Packed with exquisite full-color and vintage black-and-white photos, and written accessibly in a way that brings this true story vibrantly to life, this must-have resource also lays out the timeline of events, so that readers can easily put the pieces together. What a great tool for parents, catechists, and clergy! The book’s author, Jean M. Heimann, agreed to answer a few questions:
AC: Hi Jean! Tell our readers a little bit about this exciting new work.
JH: Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World is the true story of three shepherd children who, in 1917, had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal and met with her on six different occasions. Our Lady asked them to pray the Rosary daily and to offer penances and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for world peace.
In my book, I present a comprehensive look at the Fatima apparitions, offering a chronological timeline, describing each of the apparitions in detail, tracing the lives of the three visionaries, as well as the death and beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and revealing the ongoing message of Fatima for the past one hundred years. I also share a history of the various popes from 1917 to the present and describe their relationship with Fatima, as well as some of the modern day miracles that have happened since then. In addition, I explain why the Fatima message is relevant to us today and how we can put it into practice.
Read the Rest of the Interview ...
In the early 2000s, when I first began to uncover my own ADHD, I came across an invaluable list of 50 tips for managing Attention Deficit from Drs. Ed Hallowell and John Ratey. I still have my original copy of the list printed off from the World Wide Web (see below), with all my notes jotted along the margins. In today's blog, I am sharing not only their life-changing advice but also my personal experience with Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity disorder and how I used these suggestions to transform my life.
Squirrels and Scripture Series Continues with