Saturday, 11 November 2017

Launchin'

Okay, have you all forgiven me for my 28 days of posting experiment? I had mercy! I ended early!


Okay...
If you haven't given up on me I would like to invite you to check out my brand new home on the web.

Introducing... JenniferFabrizi.com!

I've been really focussing on getting more of my writing published and honing my writing. I am exceedingly grateful for the encouragement, feedback, and support all of you friends have given me.
Please do me the kindness of subscribing to emails at my new website. There's a sign up form at the VERY bottom of every page and also on the right hand side on the blog pages.

Hey, tomorrow morning if you go here my latest article will be up.   If you subscribe to jenniferfabrizi.com you can save yourself the trouble, and I'll send it to you myself.

Seriously, guys, thanks. You're the best.

Oh, and this song suddenly popped into my head today. Picture my four kids, (unfortunate) puppy, and myself singing and dancing around the kitchen in the most epic display you've never seen... if you don't already know this song: you're welcome. Gents, sing it to your ladies, I promise they'll swoon!

Cheers,

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Days 11-28

Okay, I'm calling a hiatus on this post a day thing. I am still resolved to write every day, but behind the scenes working on some better, publishable stuff actually worth reading, rather than rushing. I will come back shortly with a consistent, once-a-weeker.and possibly launching a new blog.

God love you, dear readers!

Day 10: baby steps


A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus.  “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 

Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 

The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”

 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

I was pondering this passage earlier this week, trying to dive deeper into it. Because, you know, it sounds so lovely: loving God completely, loving your neighbour as yourself. Yes, so lovely, I tell myself nodding my head. I loved it so much I had it written on my classroom wall last year. But, if we want to move from the sentimental notion of how wonderful it is to love God and our neighbour, and actually buckle down and start acting with love towards God and our neighbour, all of a sudden I realize how sorely inadequate I am at actually loving Him.

If you're like me -- a head-dwelling thinker type -- you can easily start to believe that all your thinking about God and love is the same as actually loving God.  Thinking is important, of course! Diving deep into prayer and spending reflecting on Scripture and spiritual reading to discern what God is calling you to do in this day is so necessary.  But, again, if you're like me, you might be too inclined to rest in those thoughts and not actually make a resolution for action and put it into practice.  I know this and yet I fail to do this over and over again.

God asks us to love Him with everything, true, but He specifically says to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So since I've been discerning so much about working my determination muscles, I asked myself, how can I practice determination in how I use that heart, soul, mind, and strength I've been given?  

I can't expect to receive the martyr's crown if I don't have the courage to speak up for God with my own loved ones.  Little acts of virtue beget the virtue itself.  Likewise, I can't reasonably expect to love God with ALL of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, if I can't do it in part.  

So, while I certainly don't consider my following suggestion as an end in itself, I do humbly offer it as a practical way to begin disciplining all of our self to His service.

Consider the heart. Is anger, irritability, impatience a far-too frequent part of my day? What parent hasn't confessed one or all of those things (like, every single time)? What is one concrete resolution I can make to curb that?  For example, if there is one particular trigger that sets you off, resolve to work on that one little thing.

Consider the mind.  You're a smarty pants. Are you using that brain for good? Are you wasting way too much time in that vortex called Facebook? (Guilty!) Could you be using that time to grow in more, ahem, important knowledge instead? Could you commit to spiritual reading or taking a course that will challenge you to think and express yourself more cogently?   Choose something and just do it.

Consider your soul. How's your prayer life going? Doesn't matter if you're enjoying it or not, but are you showing up? Are you praying every day no matter what? If you're struggling to be consistent, my confessor suggested a few things to make this a habit that sticks: pick a time and place (doesn't have to be a clock time; maybe as soon as the baby begins his nap is more realistic than 7:00 a.m. would be); choose something you can reasonably do in one place at one time.  Don't commit to a 20 decade rosary every day if you're only certain you can find fifteen minutes of silence to pray.  That doesn't mean you can't work up to that, but if you're struggling to establish a routine, start small, but do start!

Consider your body.  Does this need strengthening? Are you taking the best care of it that you can?  Are you eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising?  Are you indulging in too much caffeine, sugar, or alcohol and thus affecting how well your body can perform?  When you're feeling optimally, it's so much easier to work hard for others.  Are you doing the best you can to optimize the use of your body? What is one thing you can do right now?

Of course, take this to prayer. Let God help you see where to start, but if something is blinkingly obvious, you know, that's a good place to begin.  But, don't fall into the trap on inaction either. Waiting on the Lord is good, but sitting on the fence making excuses is not the same thing. Know which one you're doing.

Little by little, these resolutions will become habits, and these habits will become virtue.  By God's grace and our free-will decision to make an effort in these areas, we will come closer to the goal of fulfilling the great commandment.  "And [we] shall live."


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Day 9: My Review of the Catholic Children's Bible

Today's post is a link to another article I've had published.  Someone spotted my endorsement of this children's Bible in a Facebook group and asked me to consider submitting it as a full-length review. Here's the final product, and yes, it really is a great choice for a children's Bible!
***

I fondly recall my beautiful 1970s-era Golden Children’s Bible. As a child I was drawn to the gorgeous, life-like pictures and I devoured the stories. I can still vividly picture the giant hand, writing on the wall of a banquet room, and the terrified onlookers from the Book of Daniel. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize with disappointment that my Bible was incomplete. I graduated to more traditional Bibles: the little red Gideon’s and the Good News version of the Gospel of Matthew that were given out in school. I remember that I eagerly dove into both of these but as a youngster I found the font too small and the text difficult to read, so they remained permanently tucked into my bookshelf.
Fast forward a couple of decades: after a wedding, the birth of my first three children...

To continue reading, please go to the Aleteia website.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Day 8: Eight is Great!

http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/asl-number-eight
This is the eighth day of my writing spree and frankly, I've got nothing to say. So,  I thought I'd talk about the number 8!

Eight fun facts for you:

1) Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture because it has a pronunciation similar to that of the term for making a fortune.  The first time I heard about this was from my best friend in high school whose parents had been born in China.   Her phone number had a lot of 8's in it and she was telling me how lucky her parents thought that was.  She also told me about the number four being dreaded.  It sounds like the word for death.  In the same way that many buildings don't have thirteenth floors, in China and other cities with a large Chinese population, like my hometown Toronto, there are some condos that skip all the floors that have a number four in them... and apparently eighth floor apartments sell at a premium too.

Only related by a thread, but this reminds me of an incident with hurtful homophones that happened when I was teaching French class to the grade twos and threes.  One of the students (my son) was named Sean.  I was teaching them the name of various articles of clothing and the word for sweater is "chandail". In New Brunswick French, "chandail" is often used for any shirt that's not a tee.  For example, the golf shirts the kids wore as part of the uniform. We must have used the word "chandail" a hundred times.  At one point one of the kids gasped: "Are you telling SEAN to DIE?" Sean got so upset with ME for saying "chandail" and half the kids would toss him a wide-eyed sympathy glance every time the word was used. Oh, brother.  Suffice to say, I see now how uncomfortable you  could be with a totally innocuous word if it reminds you of something like death.  So, no more talk of "chandails" for Sean, no fourth floor for those who think it sounds like death floor.

2) In the Bible, the number eight represents resurrection and new beginning.

3) Jesus rose on the eighth day after His entry into Jerusalem.

4) The Bible accounts for Jesus appearing eight times after the resurrection; there are eight beatitudes.

5) Jesus, as was Jewish tradition, would have been circumcised at eight days of age.

6) The Lord's day is considered the eighth day, which is why most baptismal fonts -- if they're not round -- are octagonal.

7) Eight is a cubic number (2x2x2=8) and a Fibonacci number. It's the only cubic number in the Fibonacci sequence other than the number one.  It's also the first non-prime number in the Fibonacci sequence (again, other than one which is considered to be not a prime, but is not considered a compound number either; actually zero isn't a prime number either as all prime numbers must be whole numbers and zero is not part of the set of whole numbers, which start at one).  The Fibonacci sequence is: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21.36...  you get the next number by adding the previous two numbers. The Fibonacci sequence, along with the similar Lucas sequence) actually appears over and over again in nature wherever you see spirals and whorls, such as the curvature of a snail shell or the branching pattern of plants, or the budding pattern of petals and leaves.  So amazing!

8)  In nature, many creatures have sets of eight parts:
- All arachnids have eight legs.
- Cctopuses and some other cepaholopods (which means legs n' brains) have eight arms
- When Ascomycete fungi sporulate, the ascus (which is basically a narrow sack of a stack of spores) contains eight ascospores.  By popping those asci (plural or ascus) open, geneticists would carefully separate the spores, keeping them in the order in which they formed and by looking at which traits appeared in which spores, they were able to learn a lot about fungal genetics and even the relative positioning of genes on the chromosomes for various traits. So fun!
- Adult humans have eight teeth in four quadrants (think upper and lower, left and right sides), of which the eighth tooth in each quadrant is the wisdom tooth
- We have eight cervical nerves on each side of our brain. So do most mammals.

Well, there you go. Eight is great! And I suddenly miss being a mycologist.






sources:
http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/8.html
https://www.osv.com/Article/TabId/493/ArtMID/13569/ArticleID/9411/The-Bible-by-the-Numbers-.aspx
http://blog.tutorming.com/expats/lucky-and-unlucky-chinese-numbers
http://informedsharing.com/eight-fun-facts-number-8/
http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/hosted-sites/R.Knott/Fibonacci/lucasNbs.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Day 7: On Determination

First of all, a huge thank you to all of you who have been faithfully checking in to read my blog as I crank out all kinds of crazy in my quest to publish daily for four weeks.  After today, week one is in the bag... only 3 weeks to go! I promised today will be better... I cried writing it, so those ones are always fun to read, right?

A bit of background
Yesterday I began my thoughts on "determination"... something I'd never had much of.

I wrote:
"I am an expert excuse maker. I was a bright kid and many things came easily to me. I was lauded and I loved it. Impressing and pleasing people in the hopes they would like me was critically important to me.  And I could not tolerate the embarrassment of failure, of putting in hard work and coming up short.  I was very good at just not trying at all if I thought I would fail.  I considered myself a perfectionist, prided myself on it! I have since learned that perfectionism is anything but perfect, is actually fear-based inaction.  Funny how I convinced myself that failing to act at all was somehow nobler than try, try, trying again."

At the same time, all my life I had been somebody who, if she got really excited about something, especially if I had some intitial success, would embrace it wholeheartedly... until doing so got hard or I had a set back or I got bored or someone mocked me about my enthusiasm (which hurts the worst).  Then I'd wind up crumpled and feeling so defeated and often humiliated (whether that was real or just perceived) and I wouldn't know what to do next. 

After my faith-awakening it was really hard for me to not be bothered by the fact that people close to me treated me like this was just another one of my fads that would soon pass. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt me that they wouldn't take me seriously; at first it really did; but moreso I felt like a failure to God... like I was the worst possible evangelist because no one was ever going to take me seriously, believe that I had really changed, that a life transformed by grace was not in the least akin to a life motivated by any transient interest. 

But God is good and He has humbled me a lot through this experience and this has only strengthened my assurance in His steadfast, persevering goodness.  Many times, if it weren't for His grace, I would have caved and given into my desire to be admired and approved of instead of clinging to my faith.  That kind of resolve simply does not come from someone like me.  I feel like this has only thrown me deeper into His arms.  So grateful. I was also grateful that he gave me beautiful Christian sisters and brothers in my small group (or home church as we called it) who stood in the gap for a person who felt so overwhelmingly alone and sad inside.I don't know if they realize how much they kept me going through at that time. CQ: I know you read this blog, and I will thank God forever for how much you loved me!!  Long story, but  I then moved to another church that was also lovely but so much smaller.  They welcomed me and my family immediately. 

The seemingly random events that began to nudge me into considering, and eventually bowled me over into returning Catholicism is hard to chronicle.  But, when I finally became convinced that this was what God was calling me to it meant I had to walk away from my beloved church family in which everyone was known and loved and people were so enthusiastic about Jesus and how they could serve Him better. 

I was so happy there, but I knew God had an even greater happiness in store in the Catholic Church because of the Eucharist.    Because I believed in its authority I concurred that it had the fullness of truth.  So I left.  And I thought it would kill me.  I felt awful about it in a way that still churns my stomach.

But again, I hung in there, and again, I know that has only been possible because of God's grace.  Just a few months after my return to the Catholic Church we moved across the country. This had not been on the radar at the time; I would have been saying goodbye to my old church community anyway but minus all the uncomfortable feelings.   I see now that God used that discomfort to strengthen my faith, my trust, and to weaken my desperate attachment to approval from others. 

But is it determination or grace?

Let's recap: I was never much for following through on what I started until I surrendered myself to God.  After that, any success in perseverance was something I completely attributed to grace, considering myself completely lacking in determination and (I see now) believing (the lie) that I couldn't grow in determination, nor did I need to.  Furthermore, just like before, when the passion I had for any project eventually fizzled out, I assumed it was "meant to be" or it was proof that I was too attached to this project, placing too much importance on it, and that God was helping me to become detached -- saving me from myself --  by extinguishing the flame of excitement.  I don't know. Maybe in some cases He was, but probably not always, probably not even usually. Now, I wasn't this way about everything in life. If I was sick in bed, I was still determined that my children somehow get fed.  If we had a foot of snow overnight I was still determined to get the driveway cleaned out so that we would get to Church or school in the morning, but again, I saw that God gave me the grace to muster what had to be done. 

No, specifically, this repulsion towards determination was always about the things I was passionate about.  I had a lot of hurt feelings and fears about being rejected for doing the things that captivate me and fill me with joy. I was embarrassed that I was a passionate person. I had a lot of doubts about my own ability to discern whether something was good or not. Join all those factors with a lack of practice in the fine art of perseverance, and I was too quick to abandon these things.

I was very passive in the face of a challenge and felt very safe in that rut I was creating. I realize now that I was always fearful that I was fighting God's grace if I were to keep trying, rather than accepting my initial setbacks as an indicator of His will.  

I realize that I was pitting determination (my efforts) against God's grace.

My priest often says "grace builds on nature" in encouraging me to use routines and to make healthy choices to make it easier for me to make a life that keeps me from the near-occasions of sin (think, freaking out and sreaming at everyone because I'm frustrated that I can't find anything in the mess that I neglected to clean up).  Meanwhile I have a dear, wise, friend who often says "May God help you to discover the person He made you to be."  My response to him is usually, "Okay" but in my head I'm flummoxed.  This is who I am, I think.  There's nothing more than this. What does this even mean?    

 A case study

Then, a couple things happened that really called into question my understanding of how my determination actually works together with God's grace.  I still don't know the answer, and I'm not entirely comfortable picking this apart here, but here goes.


In the last year or so I gained quite a bit of weight for me, really ever since turning forty I began to put weight on-- at the beginning of the summer I was weighing as much as I did when I was 9 months pregnant 13 years ago. I've never really been one to struggle with weight even though I ate junk all the time, but I have always had a hard time with that junk: I was so sensitive to sugar, my heart would race, I would crash, I was constantly hungry and eating all day, feeling like that wasn't enough...since i was a kid! I would get headaches so often from different foods, My skin was always inflamed and prone to infections that would always be worse as my sugar consumption went up.  Many family members have been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes and I was always worried I would be next.   My eyes had big black rings under them, almost every meal made me want to take a nap. I kept getting cysts and was having to have surgery. I could barely muster the motivation to walk a block. Sweets would wreck me, and In the last year it seemed like every meal was becoming a sugar crash even if it wasn't sugary per se. My mood was awful. I thought I was having a mid-life crisis, that I was burnt out for some reason.  Meanwhile I had been developing cysts that required surgery and I just wasn't feeling great.   Also my joints were very sore, my hip and knee on one leg were causing me a lot of pain and I was noticing that my motion was getting somewhat limited.   

Everything I read linked all these symptoms to either inflammation or insulin resistance, both caused by too much sugar and refined starches.  I had tried every wacky eating out there over the years in the hopes of finding food that didn't make me feel awful.  I tried a low-carb, high-fat diet a couple years ago; twice in fact. I didn't embrace it enthusiastically, and before long, though it made me feel better at the time, I just gave up.  Finally this summer, I decided to look into this again and gave it a week.

This time, I was ruthless about cutting out anything and everything sweet or made mostly of carbohydrates.  It was amazing beyond amazing.  My cravings for junk food disappeared in days.   For the first time in ages I could eat a meal without feeling like I needed to nap, I didn't feel panicky from hunger between meals anymore and to my surprise I had so much energy I was crawling the walls looking for a way to burn it off. So that is why I started running. I don't have to force myself to run, I am longing to run now. This is completely foreign to me! 

As I wrote earlier this week, running has become such a source of joy for me, and I've been able to progress from mostly walking to running straight through.   

What I didn't write about was how many setbacks I had in running and how surprised I am that I managed to stick to it.  In fact, I was so grateful for the setbacks because being able to get back on track felt so satisfying -- and again, so foreign to me! 


But here is the part that really threw me for a loop: I expected it would take superhuman determination or a miracle for me to get into great health -- but it was actually surprisingly easy, and I don't think this passes the miracle sniff test by a long shot. 

So why was I able to succeed at this? Where did my determination suddenly come from?

Back to grace perfecting nature. 

I have been constantly astounded by how strongly this way of eating and understanding the role of insulin sensitivity has altered my previous understanding -- which matches the dominant cultural understanding-- of why we gain weight, why so many of us feel listless, moody, helpless, and like moral failures when we can't take back control of our health despite grand, and exhausting efforts. When I got off carbs and onto this diet I suddenly realized: this is not about willpower! This is not about weakness! This is about relief from the chronic stress I've been putting on my body all my life. One of my first reactions was to be angry at the purveyors of the mainstream dietary advice which has duped us and, in my opinion, has damaged many people emotionally, especially those who have been treated as less than equal, or morally deficient because of their obesity.

Suddenly, I have just a lot more energy to get through the day, which makes a huge difference, and in that case, it feels so much less monumental to stay determined.  Also, I've read a lot about the effect of blood sugar on moods and depression. Maybe my determination is easier to muster in a brain that's swimming in happy juices? 

From day one, I've always used my running time to pray, and one day I was astounded to find myself crying out in prayer, awakening that dormant cryptic message from my friend, "God who am I?'  Sudden awareness that He has more planned for me than just getting by. That it's not impossible for me to follow my passions, that setbacks are just that, not dead-ends.  That my determination isn't competing with God but necessary for His will to be fulfilled, but that He still supplies so much grace to see me through.  

More proof that He has given us the dignity to be c0-labourers with Him.

I'm still working this one out, folks. I really still feel like such an immature person, and I would really, truly appreciate any insight you could give.  Feel free to comment below, or email me using the link at the right.  






Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Day 6: laundry list of thoughts

I said I'd publish something each day. I'm writing as I fold laundry on my bed using my phone. Ughhhhhhhhhhh... Which brings me to the quote I've had on my mind:

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing." Abraham Lincoln

I have two competing short term resolutions for this evening: to get the loads of laundry folded and put away before my husband gets home so he can flop down in our bed, and to get today's post written.

News flash: he's home early.
News flash two: laundry completed!

Now back to writing...

I am an expert excuse maker. I was a bright kids and many things came easily to me. I was lauded and I loved it. Impressing and pleasing people in the hopes they would like me was critically important to me.  And I could not tolerate the embraced of failure, of putting in hard work and coming up short.  I was very good at just not trying at all if I thought I would fail.  I considered myself a perfectionist, prided myself on it! I have since learned that perfectionism is anything but perfect, is actually fear-based inaction.  Funny how I convinced myself that failing to act at all was somehow nobler than try, try, trying again.

A couple things come to mind:
Jesus carrying his Cross and falling and getting back up repeatedly

Perfect love casts out fear

Fear of damaging my pride and vanity were stopping me from acting on good things. 

Today's first reading from Mass says:


Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies
so that you obey their desires.  

Wow.

So many thoughts on determination and how we persevere, thoughts on self-discipline and motivation, thoughts on grace, thoughts on gifts, thoughts on virtue. How much is God's role and how much is mine? Can you be a little soul and also magnanimous?.

This is going to have to be a two-parter because

News flash #3: I found another load of laundry, and
News flash #4: I just remembered a coffee date I have to leave for in ten minutes. Ulp!!

Okay, last thought, and I'll delve into tying this altogether tomorrow: my priest often says: "grace builds on nature"... I will leave it there!

PS be sure to subscribe by email if you want to read the second half of this post...I promise, where I'm going with this is gonna be good!

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