What does it mean to live the good life? How can I be happy? What choices will get me there? How we answer these questions has everything to do with the voices we choose to listen to. A life is formed through many small, seemingly insignificant decisions. Bit by bit, we become the result of choices that we all too often make without much reflection.
As summer ends, many of us are feeling that our schedules have heated up. We're jumping back in to life with varied degrees of readiness and are determined to start well. Our focus turns to our calendars, and it's tempting to assume that as long as we are checking off everything on the agenda, we're nailing it. But how are our hearts doing in the midst of the increase in activity? Are we riding the rollercoaster of appointments and checklists without making sure our minds and hearts are in the right place?
How our day unfolds and feels has less to do with our circumstances and activities than our mindset. While we can't control which events we'll encounter, we can always decide what our attitude will be. Will we filter everything that happens through a lens of gratitude? Will we be kind to ourselves by seeing ourselves through God's eyes? Will we look at suffering as something that always has purpose?
More and more, I am convinced that getting our attitude in the right place has everything to do with how we start each day.
St. Josemaría Escrivá coined a phrase that I think is so compelling: the heroic minute. He writes,
The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation; a supernatural reflection and…up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God's help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish.
I realize that reading the word mortification probably makes you want to run for the hills. Who wants to start the day with something that sounds unpleasant? But stay with me for a minute. How do you feel when you get up and are behind the eight ball before things have even begun? Your first movements are rushed, requests come at you and require your attention, and all you can think is that you have got to clear your head and get some coffee. It's starting the day reacting instead of responding. It's feeling under siege and not knowing exactly why. It's also entirely avoidable.
Giving God the first minutes of your day will pay dividends later. I promise you He will multiply your time. You'll get more done and have a peaceful heart while doing it.
But it's not just a matter of hauling your body out of bed. Resetting your mind is the critical step if you want your day to be the best it possibly can. Which begs the questions:
Which mindset will best equip me to face the day with inner strength and gratitude?
How do I gain that mindset?
St. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We renew our minds by looking at things from God's perspective. This is something we need to do every day. Otherwise our thoughts and emotions will be in the driver's seat, and the ride will be anything but smooth. The best mindset is God's, and we gain it by listening to Him. While few people hear His audible voice, we all can hear His voice speaking through Scripture.
As you head into this new season, I pray that you will make Scripture reading a high priority in your life. Doing this in the context of authentic community makes it even more transformative. Walking with Purpose Bible studies are formatted to make it easy to read the Bible each day. Instead of opening up to a random verse, you're guided to relevant passages and questions for reflection that help you apply what you've read. The readings give your mind something to chew on for the day. If you actually apply what you read, you will make significant progress in the spiritual life. What I've written relates to the problems, heartaches, and searching that I've experienced over the years. As I've traveled and spoken to thousands of women, I've had the privilege of listening to them unburdening their hearts. I've found that our struggles are universal. We are not alone. My writing aims to touch the heart, strengthen the will, and enlighten the mind. The goal is transformation—that what we read would impact how we live.
But what if you can't start your day this way? No worries. Just look for the first pocket of quiet in your schedule. It always comes, but we usually don't notice because we've fill it with mindless scrolling through our social media feeds or checking our email. What might change if instead of grabbing your phone, you did a short Bible study? It'll just take 15 minutes, but the impact of that choice will be felt throughout the day.
Much of what I've written speaks of God's unconditional love for you, and everything I've written should be filtered through that perspective. When God asks us to get moving, or change a bad habit, or do something that feels out of our comfort zone, it is always because He wants what is best for us. He is not a cosmic kill joy. He is a good Father who wants His children to flourish.
May what you read travel from your mind to your heart, going beyond information to transformation. May you meet Jesus in the pages of His Word, and may your trust in Him grow. “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)
With you on the journey,
 St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way (NY: Doubleday, 1982), 33
This post originally appeared on the WWP blog on August 27, 2019.
Hello, my friend!
Today I'm welcoming one of my favorite people to the WWP blog: Laura Phelps. One of my favorite things about Laura is the way she makes me laugh. She also shares my love for Jesus and women, and I know you'll enjoy her writing. In addition to raising her four children and loving on her husband, she works for WWP as a phenomenal Regional Area Coordinator. Going forward, she'll blog for us once a month, and once a month you'll hear from me. With love, Lisa
Summer, you know, is just a different kind of busy, and as Lisa Brenninkmeyer has said in so many words, if you are not intentional about how you rest, you will most likely not get any rest at all.
I mentioned I was thinking about attending the 6:45AM daily Mass this summer, rather than the 9AM. Because every summer, it seems I need to drive someone somewhere at 9AM. And so I end up taking a vacation from daily Eucharist. Needless to say, this got many gasps. "But it is summer...that is soooo early. I don't think I could do that."
6:45AM is early.
Especially for what is supposed to be vacation.
But I keep thinking about time.
How it moves too quickly, and often what feels like too slowly, and how it is the one thing that everybody in the world gets equal amounts of. At least in a day. 24 hours. We all get it. Now, what we choose to do with it, is another story.
And so I have been thinking about this. As I pack those last lunches, while humming "it's the final countdown,” and as I help to return those missing school items that need to be collected or no cap and gown, time is a theme that plays in the background of it all.
After sending off to school an 11 year old boy, who over a short period of time, has grown in leaps and bounds, physically and more so, emotionally, I checked my Instagram, and read a post from Leticia Adams, a Catholic convert, who drinks and smokes and tells it like it is. She is also a mother who is grieving the son who recently took his own life. As she looks back to the dreadful night she lost him, she writes, "Every Wednesday I look at my clock and ask myself, ‘what was happening right now at this time,'....life is moving on and my son is still dead. Nothing will change that, not staying home, not cake, not vodka, not anything."
And she is right.
There is no going back, only pushing forward.
And that can be so hard.
Actually, not "can.” "Is." It is so hard.
Painfully and dreadfully hard.
Time has a mind of its own, and all we can do is be intentional about how we use the time we are given.
We can't get old time back.
For lots of us, that is one hard truth to swallow and accept.
Because I will bet, there is at least one time in each of our lives we wish we could go back, and change.
Maybe to mend a friendship. To give one more kiss. To take back choice words. To hold longer. To teach better. To see the warning signs. To be stricter. To be more fun. To be more careful. To have more dignity. To do over with grace. To say sorry. To stop the tragedy. To bring someone back to life. To set eyes on a face, just one last time.
Yes, summer is vacation. Vacation from packing lunches. Vacation from early school buses. Vacation from homework. But time is still time, and as I placed what very well might be one of the last brown paper lunch bags on the kitchen table for my high school senior boy, I am realizing that it is not more time that I need, but more gratitude for the time it is right now. Because already, this morning is gone.
You know, this is going to sound incredibly morbid. I warn you now. But since the day of the shooting at my children's elementary school, I have never assumed that when my loved ones leave the house, I will see them alive again. People, and time? They are given to me by God. I have zero control over either. That I learned and that I believe, and good grief, I appreciate them, as best as I can, knowing this mostly beautiful, but sometimes crappy, truth.
Life is moving on.
The lines on my face are proof.
And praise be to God for my aging body, because if that isn't an accurate and beautiful reminder that we are not ageless, timeless, or forever young gods of our own, than what is?
Today is here, ready or not, and yesterday will never return.
And so it is good to start thinking about how we can best use our time.
It is good to start planning to be more intentional with this gift of time we are given.
Because nothing will bring it back.
"Not cake, not vodka, not anything."
And when I do this, suddenly Mass at 6:45AM doesn't feel that early anymore.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/
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