"When a soul recognises the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives Himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succour under all circumstances." - Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, March 12, 2018

Recent Reads (vol.11)

I'm well on my way to meeting my reading goal this year, and 5 of those books are on my 2018 book list. I really need to start on my marathon read, Middlemarch, soon....but I'm currently reading 4 books because I am crazy. So maybe once I finish a couple of those, I'll feel better about starting a huge book.

1. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss

This was fascinating - written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. So many good tips on communicating during conflict. It's probably most helpful for business people, but anyone could benefit from the techniques.

2. Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet

Quick, easy, and inspiring read for moms. I recommend especially if you're not familiar with St. Faustina and/or the Divine Mercy devotion.

3. Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly

I honestly was surprised at how much I enjoyed this - I've only read 2 other books by Matthew Kelly and liked one and didn't like the other. It was perfectly-timed for me, so maybe that was part of it. It's a pretty easy read too....short chapters.

4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This took me a bit to get into, but I ended up loving it. I daresay it might be my fave Austen novel! Although I do love Emma and it's been awhile since I've read Jane Austen. But I haven't read Persuasion or Mansfield Park yet, and Hannah tells me that Persuasion is the best.

5. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I kept seeing this recommended everywhere, and I'm a big fan of WWII fiction, so I read this as a little breather from all of my current nonfiction reads. It was an easy read, since it's technically juvenile fiction, but it's got pretty mature content like abuse. I liked it though, and there's a sequel now that I'll probably read eventually too. 

6. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Another kids book, yes, but it was actually my February book for the challenge I do with my friends - the category was a book from the bestseller of the year you were born. And since most of the books in 1986 were Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel, I went the easy route and picked Shel Silverstein. I read it with our big boys and they thought it was hilarious.

What have y'all read lately? Hit me with some recs!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Amazon music, Costco experiment, Lent, and marriage (7QT)

Heeeeeey there. It's been a pretty good week around here (after so many bad weeks!!) so I'm feeling in the mood for some quick takes. Joining Kelly and the gang!

1. Amazon music

YOU GUYS, WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE?? And if you do not know about it, you're welcome. If you're a Prime member, you can create playlists and listen to a bunch of music FOR FREE. There are a select few songs that are not included, which is how they entice you to pay for Amazon Unlimited. I've been tempted. But so far the free stuff has served our dance parties well. .(There's an app, which I have on both my phone and our Kindle fire. And then I hook up device to a bluetooth speaker.)

2. No Costco experiment

We didn't renew our Costco membership in November, even though we REALLY love Costco. It's kind of an experiment to see if we save money on groceries, because it's really hard to spend under $100 every time we go. So far, I'm honestly not sure if we've saved money - except for gas money, because Costco is further from us than every other grocery store. Lots of things are cheaper at Costco but we totally blow through snacks from there quicker (because we have so many! just eat away, kids!) and are more likely to waste food if we get produce. So, I don't know. Lots of factors to consider.

3. Reading journal DIY

I bought this journal last year to keep track of all the books I read, and I really loved it....but it didn't even last a year. So now I'm using Modern Mrs. Darcy's printable reading journal in this cute little binder. (It's free if you subscribe to her emails.) It should last me for several years now! And this is how I keep notes for my Recent Reads posts, in case you were wondering.

4. A month for your marriage

Remember last February when I hosted A Month for Your Marriage? Well, I'm doing it again! The first post/challenge went live yesterday over at Surprised by Marriage. I'd love for you to follow along!

5. Family of five

I said that one of our goals this year is to enjoy our family of five, and we are totally doing that, despite life tempting us otherwise. This is the first time we've had a 20-month old while not also 5-months pregnant, and I have to admit it's nice. I can run around with the boys! We've been spending so much time outside too. Our last trip to the zoo was so much fun!

6. Lent

How's everybody's Lent going? Ours started off pretty dang rough, but it has calmed down a bit, thankfully. The boys have been loving the Jesus tree for the 2nd year in a row, and Logan and I have been doing this awesome marriage devotional. Highly recommend.

7. Lent and marriage

Speaking of Lent, Logan and I made a funny (we think, anyways) video. Here it is! (You might need to click through to the actual post to see it.) 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lent and how my priorities suck (but there is hope)

Whew, Lent just really felt different this year from the very beginning. Yesterday, I was so humbled (and frazzled, to be honest) with how many times I went to check my phone, grab a piece of candy, turn on the TV, etc....just to realize I was not supposed to be doing those things. (To clarify, fasting from screens is not a requirement, just something we choose to do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, at least.)

Fasting is so, so enlightening. It made me realize just how many disordered attachments I have and that was just in the first 6 hours of Lent. At one point, I was contemplating why fasting was feeling so dang hard, and it hit me - this is the first Lent in 7 years that I'm not pregnant or nursing. No wonder it felt so hard - it's been forever!

So that got me thinking. (Here we go, another Jen train of thought! #thoughtsbyjen) It's obviously much easier to be consistent with something. Praying my daily Rosary doesn't feel hard at all anymore because I've been doing it everyday for 3 years now. And it honestly doesn't feel that long at all, yet I don't remember a time that I didn't pray a daily Rosary. It's kind of mind-boggling, really.

Am I making any sense? Meh.

The things that are easy to me are the things I've been really consistent with over the last couple of years - I don't fall (too far) behind on dishes and laundry because I make them a priority. It's not hard finding snippets of time to pray a Rosary because I make it a priority.

I guess I'm trying to just make a point that if there's something really important you know you should be doing and you struggle with doing it, ask yourself: am I doing it consistently? What am I doing instead of the thing I should be doing? How can I make this important thing happen?

I'm just really struggling with fitting in time for writing and being consistent with running. (And cleaning my shower, and mopping my floors...but maybe I shouldn't admit that.) I know I should do these things, and I even want to do them, but I still find it very hard to make time for them because they're not things that have been a priority consistently for the last few years. (Thanks in part to pregnancy - but also laziness, if I'm honest.)

Because I gotta be honest, some days it feels really hard to fit anything else in other than prayer, dishes, and laundry (in addition to eating and taking care of the kiddos, of course). But then I have a day (Ash Wednesday) where I impose rules on myself, like no TV, just checking social media/email twice a day, and focusing on spiritual reading as opposed to "fun" reading, and I'm amazed that I can do dishes, laundry, prayer, and reading - in addition to some decluttering and rearranging furniture because I am that kind of crazy. (And cleaning up puke, because God is funny.)

Obviously my priorities are not right most days. So I think that's what I'm going to focus on this Lent - how does God want me to use my time? What do I need to stop doing (or do less) and what do I need to start doing (or do more)? Hopefully I'll be able to report back with some amazing insights.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On desires, using your gifts, and contentment

A few months ago, my pastor preached about using our gifts and how we will have to answer one day if we don't actually use the gifts God has given us. He wasn't saying it to scare us but to simply tell us how it is. (He's got some mad homily skills and I've been convicted about things through his preaching so many times.)

It really is easy these days to look at other people and notice their gifts and wish we could do what they do. (Social media makes this so tricky, because things are not always as they seem.) Everybody has been blessed with their own gifts. I can look at each of my friends and think of several things they are good at - hospitality, being a patient and loving mother, serving their husband, teaching, praying for others, running a business, creating beautiful things, the list goes on and on.

It's silly for me to wish I could be a public speaker like someone else when that is definitely not one of my gifts. (This is hypothetical. I really don't want to be a public speaker.) (But watch God laugh and say, heeeey Jen!) Could I practice and cultivate those skills though? Absolutely, if I discerned God was calling me to do that. But in the meantime, I need to be using the gifts I currently have...and I suppose writing can be used in the same way as public speaking - to share my experiences and insights in the hopes that it will encourage someone else. So that's why I'll continue to blog in this tiny corner of the Internet (and this one), because God has given me the ability to write and the willingness to share so openly.

Father's homily really got me thinking, though, about what exactly are my gifts - because some are obvious while others are not. And just because I'm using one gift doesn't mean I'm using it to the best of my ability. Yes, I write through my blog, but I honestly could be doing more. I could finally finish a book project or I could actually try to submit blog posts to bigger websites. I shouldn't stay stagnant with the excuse, "But at least I'm using my writing gift in one way!"

I should point out that obviously you need to discern what God is calling you to do. But in this particular instance, I know God has placed a desire on my heart to write a book for a reason. And if I really, really tried, I could write a book. The fact that I just wrote that on the world wide web is terrifying. You know, because, accountability.


For much of my adult life, I've struggled with contentment. When we were childless, all I wanted was a baby. When we're pregnant, all I want is a normal pregnancy. When money is tight, all I want is for Logan to have a better-paying job.

You get the idea.

I probably don't need to tell you that finding contentment is hard. But somehow I've managed to find enough contentment this past year to be, well, content. Here are some things I've learned:

1) The grass is not always greener. Sure, it may seem like all you need for life to be more manageable is a better job, a bigger house, [insert scenario here]...but usually there are more factors at play.

2) There will always be a cross in your life. I'm not trying to be negative Nancy, I promise. But life isn't easy, and we all have crosses - which is why you shouldn't try to get rid of them. As soon as the pain from one cross is lifted, another cross will feel heavier. It's physics, man.

3) Your cross is is not your neighbor's cross, and vice versa. Just like your gifts are not your neighbor's gifts, and vice versa. So stop comparing. God has given us each unique gifts, as well as crosses, because we are all different and require different things. We also learn through different ways.

So, contentment and gifts. I'm not sure how I managed to combine both things in the same post, but somehow I think the two are related. Perhaps the road to contentment starts with using your gifts, and using them well.

I wish I had some nice and tidy way to wrap up this post that is kind of all over the place. I guess if you don't want to take my word for it, though, you can take it from St. Francis de Sales in his Introduction to the Devout Life:
"The enemy often supplies us with great desires for absent things that we will never encounter in order to divert our minds from present things, from which, small as they may be, we might obtain great profit."

And also, this from Matthew Kelly in his book, Resisting Happiness:
"You were made for mission. You were created to serve powerfully. And you will never be truly happy until you find a way to lay down your life for others that engages your talents and abilities." 

Friday, February 2, 2018

The adventure begins

Juuuust in case you haven't heard, Logan and I are stepping outside of our comfort zones a bit (okay, a lot) and starting a marriage-focused blog/video channel.

Yes, you read that right.

Last year, I really felt called to write more about our marriage, both the serious stuff (like disillusionment) and the silly stuff (like Logan picking out my clothes for a week). And honestly, I got more positive feedback from my marriage posts than I did from most of the others. It was actually one of the reasons I took a break in August from everything - I felt a little nudge to start something new but I just really, really didn't want to.

So, long story short, after a few months of praying and discerning, here we are, because God likes to stretch us sometimes. (Maybe I'll blog the whole story one day. Who knows.) Here's the rundown in quick takes:

1. It's called Surprised by Marriage. We've been surprised by the trials in marriage, but we've also been surprised by just how great marriage can be when we're making it a priority.

2. Check out our new blog at SurprisedbyMarriage.com. Yep, we're totally fancy with our own domain. Hollerrrr. You can follow the new blog on Bloglovin'!

3. Like our Facebook page! We will be sharing our videos and blog posts there, as well as other people's work on the topic of marriage.

4. Follow us on Instagram: @surprisedbymarriage

5. Subscribe to our YouTube channel! This is the most nervewracking part. I've never done any videos before this...but thankfully Logan has some mad editing skills.

6. Watch our intro video here. (I promise they won't all be this ridiculous/silly!)

7. And we just put up our second video last night! Check it out.

You can do one or all of those things, or none. Whatevs. We can still be friends!

I'll still be blogging here, although I can't promise it will be as often as I've been doing. But you better believe I will still post my Recent Reads and thoughts on prayer and anything else not marriage-related.

Thank you so much for following along here, because you all were definitely a big part of the journey. And we really hope to see you around Surprised by Marriage!

Go check out Kelly for more quick takes!

Monday, January 29, 2018

What self-care looks like for me these days {five favorites}

One thing I'm learning the more kids we have is that I really need to be intentional about self-care. This fact was confirmed when I realized I'm a highly sensitive person. It's taken me some time to realize what exactly works best as self-care, because some things don't work in some phases of life (i.e. running when I'm pregnant ain't happening, yo). So here's what is currently working for me:

1. Naps. All the naps. I know this sounds crazy because I'm not pregnant or nursing a baby. But my hormones have been craaaazy lately and I just really need extra sleep. Plus baby boy wakes up earlier than the other boys ever did. SO EARLY. Sigh. Obviously, a nap doesn't happen most days, because kids be crazy, but on the days it does miraculously happen? I am refreshed. I can conquer the rest of the day. (And big thanks to Logan for letting me nap on his off days when I desperately need it!)

2. Coloring. This sounds silly, I know. But don't knock it til you try it! Bonus is that the boys can color with me, and we can listen to fun songs (or The Greatest Showman soundtrack, ahem), and our little coloring hour is so peaceful.

3. Reading. Why yes, I'm a nerd if you haven't noticed. I know it's hard to fit in reading some days but it really doesn't take much to feel better about life. 5 minutes in a good book. Or two hours. Whatever. I realized I'm a better person when I'm reading regularly sooo I will continue to read dozens of books every year. Bonus is that my boys love books too because they see me with them all of the time!

4. Adoration. What I really need to do is just sign up for an hour again, but our schedule just doesn't work with that right now. So whenever Logan is off during the week, I try to sneak out for a bit and spend some time with Jesus. My best prayer time is in Adoration, seriously.

5. Get moving. I've always been the athletic type and I'm happiest when I'm doing some kind of regular exercise. Logan can probably confirm that! And it was totally a light-bulb moment when I was feeling SO DANG LAZY last week and finally put the 2 little ones in our double jogger and went for a walk/jog. My first one in almost 2 months! My mindset changed so quickly; it was crazy. I've also been putting on some fun dance music during the day periodically and start dancing. Which is fun when the boys join in. My point is - I need to move.

Okay, that's it for me. Linking up with Ashley at BWF for Five Favorites! She's bringing back her prize pack too, so write a blog post or Instagram post and join in. 😊

 Now tell me, what do you do for self-care these days?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Recent Reads (vol.10)

It's that time again...Jen reads a lot and shares her crazy thoughts. Somehow I managed to read a lot in the last couple of months, probably because of the holidays and sickness, so...sorry. Or you're welcome. Either way. 😉

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

I wish I had read this years ago! It's similar to the original boundaries book but gives many examples of problems in marriage and how to set boundaries with your spouse. It even addressed people's misunderstandings of submission and boundaries, which pleasantly surprised me. A lot of this is stuff I've learned over the last year or two so it was nice to have that confirmed. Highly, highly recommend if you're struggling in your marriage right now. I totally would have a written an entire post about this concept in October if I had read this before then.

A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture by Scott Hahn

If you have any doubts that God loves us, read this book. Dr. Hahn does a great job at explaining the Old Testament, so much so that as I read it now, I'm like, hey, I remember this! And I know what God did through it! This book really makes me appreciate God's plan for salvation so much more than I did before. Humans like to screw everything up but God still manages to use it for good. (It did take me a couple tries to actually get into it, fair warning.)

Be Merry: A Catholic Guide to Avoid Anxiety and Depression During the Holidays by Sterling Jaquith

Quick and easy read that I don't think needs to be read during the holidays, necessarily - it could useful now if you're struggling. For some reason, the subtitle is different on Amazon than it is on Goodreads, FYI...

Potty Training in 3 Days by Brandi Brucks

I feel silly including this, but I just had to because it seriously works if you do what the book says. I was pleasantly surprised! Because let's be real, potty training is the worst. But we survived again and it actually wasn't completely terrible. I came across this at my library (accidentally, but it was perfect timing, really) and it gave me the motivation to just do it. And it's short enough that I was able to skim it again right before we started training. FYI: it's in the Kindle Lending Library or $2.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon.

Anne of the Island (#3) by L. M. Montgomery

Making my way through this series for the first time and loving it. That last chapter, though. Swoon.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron

This kind of blew my mind a little - my life makes sense now! I found the lifestyle strategies very helpful, so if you think you might be a HSP, at least read that chapter. (I should mention that this is a secular and psychology book, so a couple minor things made me go ehhhh.) I got this at my library too, but the Kindle version is only $2.99 at the moment. I plan on reading her book about highly sensitive children, because I'm wondering if at least one of our kids fits that description...

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan

Everytime I went to borrow a book from the Kindle Lending Library, I noticed this was #1. It was rated really well, so I finally read it and wow, it's good. It's based on a true story during WWII, so that makes it a little difficult to read at times because this dude went through some crap. But there are some awesome Catholic characters which was pretty cool, and it takes place in Italy! If you like WWII novels, you should like this one. (But if you don't like violent war stuff, pass on it. Sorry. I had to refrain from visualizing stuff in my head like I usually do while reading because there were some tough moments.) Another FYI: Kindle version is $2.49 right now. (Please don't hate me for making you want to buy all of these books, mmkay??)

Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

This literally took me a year to read but it was worth it. Full of so much wisdom. I'll be referencing it a lot, I'm sure.

Okay, what good books have you read lately??


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