Search
  • Lisa Popcak

Once heard a priest define God’s grace as, “The gift God makes available to us to help us lean

into our divine nature as His children, and to help us live out all the virtues in a way that is

improbable, if not impossible, without the gift of grace.”


I really appreciated this reflection. When I heard it, it called to my heart. How easy it is in the

non-stop daily life of motherhood to forget that we are given such an amazing gift, that allows us

to move beyond our human limitations, stubbornness, and fears, and allows us to call upon God’s grace at any time?


It’s so important to realize that it really is ANY time. I think many of us think we can only ask for

God’s grace when we are at church or have a special prayer time, or when we are in a terrible

crisis. But we can ask God for His grace at any moment, in any place.


I have learned to do this to keep me calmer, saner, and more capable of being the person, and

the mom, I want to be in all those daily challenges motherhood throws at me.

For me, the prayer usually goes something like this, “Lord, I need your help. This situation is

making me (fill in feeling here: angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, heartbroken, confused, ______).

Please help me be the person you want me to be in this situation. Please show me what to do

and what virtues you want me to practice right now so that I, and the other people in the

situation, feel closer to you and your love.”

Then I take some time to listen and think. Sometimes a fully formed solution will come to mind.

More often, I will just know inside that I have to do one little thing differently, or exercise one

virtue in that moment that I wasn’t in the mood to exercise before I prayed. For instance,

perhaps I suddenly remember to place my child’s well-being before my own frustrations, leading

me to remember to speak more kindly, and work on small steps we can take together to improve

the situation.


Maybe I’m struggling with balancing everyone’s crazy schedules and how overwhelmed I can

feel by having to juggle it all. In that moment I can ask the Creator of the universe, the God who

created the cycles of night and day and the turning of seasons, to lend me a hand in balancing

my life and bringing order and peace to my family life. Getting a God’s eye view of my family’s

scheduling demands gives me a far better perspective and helps me remember that the creator

of everything is also very good at the details. Sometimes this prayer allows me to get my head

around simply taking one thing at a time. Other times God helps me take the initiative to call the

family together to actually map out our schedules and make a plan together to help it all run

more smoothly.


Whatever the situation, when I remember to stay rooted in the grace of God by actually turning

to him and asking for His guidance and help, I am able to exercise virtues and skills that had

previously not been available to me when I was dealing only from a place of overwhelm.

I have often been made aware of others having this experience of grace as well. Countless

times callers to my radio show More2life will begin the call by saying, “This is amazing! I’ve been

going through a tough time, and I told God I needed help. Then I turned on the radio and your

topic today is exactly what I’m needing to hear!


These times are always an amazing blessing to anyone who experiences them. I know

personally that it is possible to experience them more frequently when we practice tuning into

them more by talking to God throughout the day, especially in the mundane times. For instance,

if I am folding laundry and I’m not exactly enthusiastic about one more load, if I just

conversationally admit it to God in my thoughts, I am often suddenly granted the joy of being

grateful for having clothes to fold and loved ones to care for, and then the chore seems easier. I

might consider this smarmy if I was just chastening myself about my attitude. But I’m not. I’m

actually experiencing gratitude bubbling up in me as a gift because God is responding to me

having brought my feelings to Him.


Of course beyond the daily situations, we can all experience truly tragic, difficult times in life. I

am not saying that if we just talk to God we suddenly get the immediate and exact answer to

these kinds of times. But I can say, from many such personal experiences, that when I am

exercising this practice I am much more able to see the small gifts that can console my heart, or

follow promptings that help me take even small steps toward improvement.


The more we root ourselves in talking to God as a constant, compassionate companion, and

tune our awareness to His responses, the more easily we recognize His loving, guiding

response of grace in our lives.

4 views0 comments

Updated: May 13

"You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and

wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

- Psalm 139:13-14.


A new baby is such a gift and delight! It’s so wonderful to simply spend time gazing at a new

baby, finding joy in their tiny fingers and toes, their precious faces, the adorable belly we just

want to kiss while we change their clothes.


Personally, when I am with a baby in our family, I am moved to awe in the presence of such a miracle! It is so easy for me to thank God for all the love and amazing detail He has put into this unique and unrepeatable tiny miracle person.


While I may daydream about all the fun we’ll have together as the child grows and can do many new fun things, or what their favorite interests might be as they grow up, or what contributions

their gifts and talents may bring to the world when they are grown, it never ever occurs to me

say, “I’ll only love and enjoy this baby when they achieve certain things in life.”


Of course I don’t! It would be horrible to cheat myself out of reveling in every moment of this

baby’s life! It would be cruel to the baby. It would be downright sacrilegious not to be filled with

gratitude and wonder in the presence of this new creation of God.


So why do we withhold this same kind of love, joy, and appreciation of ourselves from

ourselves??? Truly why?


Babies can’t DO anything. They can’t walk, talk, wipe themselves, or stop themselves from

drooling. But we look at a baby we love, and we think, “ Oh my goodness! What a perfect little

person!”


But most of us never feel that way about ourselves. We always have something to criticize

about ourselves and it often eclipses everything else we should recognize as good.


We sometimes celebrate the way we are made when it has helped us achieve a goal.

For example, we may appreciate how our bodies are made when we run a 5K or the way our

brains are made when we graduate from an advanced degree program. Most of us only

celebrate the way we are made when we do something we consider extraordinary or others in

our lives validate. Additionally, while a wonderful thing, the achievement of a goal is often

preceded by many moments of running ourselves down as we strive to reach the goal. We

often tell ourselves we’ll be happy with ourselves when we’ve lost a certain number of pounds,

gotten a promotion, completely uncluttered our lives, had a certain number of children, won our

parents’ approval… Fill in your own blank here______.


This focus on achievement can steal so much joy and peace from us as it clouds our vision of

everything else that’s good about us. We may tell ourselves that our criticism is motivating us

toward our goals, when we are actually undermining our emotional and spiritual well-being and

perhaps even feeding feelings of depression or anxiety.


We would benefit greatly by acting toward ourselves as we would a dearly loved baby in our

lives, with love and a sense of awe.


I am not suggesting that we dote on ourselves in a narcissistic way, but instead the very

opposite by following David’s example.


In Psalm 139, David acknowledges God, all-knowing and all-powerful, as his creator, and gives

God all the praise. He takes time alone to focus his heart and mind on who God is and

enumerate His works. We can read moments like this throughout the Psalms.


We need to do the same. We are God’s creation, body, mind, and soul. We need time with God

to contemplate and give thanks for all we are, just as we take time to rejoice in every detail of a

baby we love. Try focusing on one part of your body, any part, your hand for example. Just look

at it. Maybe the first thought that comes to your mind is, “I need a manicure. My nails are looking

bad.” or “My skin is so dry.” Now turn down the volume on that inner critic and look again the

way you would look at the hand of a baby. Admire what God has created. What an amazing

design! All those small bones fitted together for so much movement. The beautiful skin that can

gently caress someone you are caring for, but also stand up to so much hard work. Those nails,

no matter their condition, help and protect you in so many ways. Whether or not your hands

work optimally or not, their design is still amazing. And you know what? You didn’t create them.

God did, as an awe-inspiring gift to you. So when you admire them it isn’t vanity. It is praise unto

God. Just like when we admire a baby. So intentionally direct your thoughts and thanks to Him.


When we do it lifts us out of the mundane, the self-criticism, the pursuit of accomplishment and

then connects back to the divine.


We can cultivate our awareness of God’s divine goodness with other practices such as lifting

our minds out of the daily grind by reading uplifting spiritual books (even a page a day), or by

focusing on any natural beauty around us. Noticing natural wonders such as the ever-changing

colors of the sky, the buds on the trees, and even a dandelion pushing its way through a crack in

a city sidewalk can reawaken our awareness of the glory of God. We can visit an art museum

or gallery and soak in the richness of colors and textures outside of our ordinary surroundings.

One of my favorite experiences is visiting an aquarium and seeing all the beautiful sea creatures

and the intricacies of their colors and shapes that God bothered to create even though they are

not easily seen by the average person. These kinds of moments can fill our hearts with an

appreciation that we can then use as a positive filter for how we see ourselves.


All of these things, just like the beauty of new life, help us acknowledge the goodness and

vastness of the God who decided to create you and me. He created you. He values you. He

loves YOU. Seen in the light of His vast awe-inspiring power, our acknowledgment of how

wonderfully we are made is not vanity. It is gratitude!


Of course, we are called to grow in virtue day by day, but we will do that better by

acknowledging that we are created in His image and by joyfully trying to grow to be more like

Him than we can by running ourselves down for our imperfections. Just like we celebrate our

baby’s skill development step by step, we need to encourage ourselves. If our little one is

working on taking their first step but ends up falling on their bottom, we encourage them to try

again and cheer them on. Only a truly horrible person would yell at them telling them they’ll

never be good enough to walk, so why do we say defeating statements to ourselves when we

are growing and developing new skills and abilities?


When we fall into negative self-defeating patterns, we should do as David did and praise God

that we are wonderfully made, and trustingly ask for the help to grow into the person He created

us to be step by step, day by day, just like our children trust us to help them grow and thrive.

4 views0 comments

How are you feeling about your mothering? Are you having a great day? Are you feeling good? Or are you feeling not so great? No matter how you feel. I'm glad you're here to get a little boost and head in the right direction.


Today we're working on principle number two, which is I'm Proud to Be a Work in Progress.


Are you though? I have a hard time with it. I want to be complete. I want to already be my best self. I don’t want to have to work to improve.


Isn't that true with anything though? It's a little like wanting to hit a goal weight, or wanting to hit that place in our career, or learning a new skill. Whatever it is, we want to be at the finish line. The progress part, not so much.


Frankly, I think it's really, really hard with being a mom because for years, decades, since the advent of the first women's magazines and then TV, we have been handed the idea of maternal perfection constantly.


It isn't entirely bad to want to be an ideal mother. I'm not putting down any of those articles or even those TV shows that often inspired a lot of people. Our children are a gift from God. They deserve our very best. But that ideal can seem ever-changing and unattainable.


In addition to the perceived ideals, there is actually a built-in snag that comes with motherhood itself because by its nature parenting is ever-evolving. We can't just do the same things day after day and have it work perfectly, because our children change daily.


What works on day one with your precious new baby may not work as well, or even at all, on day two because your baby has grown and developed in that 24 hours and has a whole new set of needs and skills. And certainly, those same things definitely won't work when baby is 1100 days old and is a busy three-year-old, and those same parenting strategies that were used on day one, or even on day 1100, are definitely not going to work when your child is fifteen-years-old.


Since our children constantly grow and progress, we as mothers must grow, adapt and change. This can feel very disconcerting, especially in our goal-oriented society. We usually feel better knowing what to expect and having a plan in place. But as moms, we often find that the moment we feel like we've hit our stride and have a real handle on this mom thing, we can pretty much guarantee is the moment that our child will change again and we will have to adapt and change as well. It’s a lot to cope with!


In an attempt to find our footing on this rocking boat of motherhood we often look to our own mothers, our friends, or someone we admire for answers. They have experience or seem to have it together. Maybe if we just do what they do, it'll all click into place for us and then we won't feel so seasick.


Now, we might get some great ideas from these wonderful women, but since none of them has ever parented our exact child at this exact moment, their advice or example will still probably need to be adapted to our personal circumstances or may not work at all in our situation.


So how can we ever know what to do?!


Well, there are two important guideposts that can help us be stable yet adaptive, and help us to be a more ideal mother for our particular child.


These two guideposts are prayer and virtue.


Let's start with first things first. Prayer will save us from so much of the disequilibrium that causes that seasickness of parenting. Certainly, there's the “God help me. I'm losing my mind!” kind of prayer. But beyond that there can be the prayers that acknowledged that each of our children belongs foremost to God. He created them and has a plan for them. He gave them to us to form and raise and he isn't going to abandon us, especially if we make it a practice to come to him each day and ask Him to help us to be the best parent we can be, and to help us be attentive and receptive to His guidance in our parenting. When we do that, we're opening our hearts to parenting together with God and quieting our own egos and fears that so often lead us to say and do things we regret as moms.


Additionally, bringing our daily activities and struggles and joys to God, through short prayers throughout the day with a listening heart, helps us to keep balanced and reassures us that we don't have to do this mom thing all alone. Simple prayers such as, “Lord, this is what I have to get done today. Help me prioritize what you would have me prioritize, and help me to recognize your direction in my day. Help me to love with your love and follow your wisdom.” can bring us so much peace, and help us experience small miracles in our motherhood all day.


Of course, we can also bring our struggles to God immediately as we experience them, even aloud when appropriate. “Lord I'm feeling angry, (exhausted, or concerned), Please help me to know what to do in this situation so that I can be the best mom I can be right now for my child.”


This kind of prayer can change a difficult situation radically, and if your child is there when you're praying, it can allow your child to hear you turn to God for guidance and help when you're struggling, even with difficult feelings. This is wonderful modeling that can help your child learn how to reach out to God in their own lives.


You can also ask your child to pray aloud for you in their own words, if they are able, when you are struggling. Asking your child to ask God to help you to be the best mom you can be when you're struggling can be a beautiful and relationship benefiting experience for you both. It can truly help your child experience their own power in pray when they see their prayers help you parent better in the moment.


We don't have to parent alone. God wants to be there for us and guide us every step of the way. We just have to ask him how.


The second guidepost is identifying and applying virtues.


One of the reasons we can get tossed about when taking in the behaviors or advice of other mothers is because we see something good in their parenting that we wish we had. It can be anything - an orderly home, a child who seems successful or advanced in some way, a child who sleeps through the night, a child that doesn't seem as fussy or frustrating as ours - can all lead us to believe that if we just did what this other mother does, all our problems would be solved.


But again, they are not us. We need to look not at the techniques others use. But instead, ask ourselves what virtues do I need in this situation to help my child and me become more of what I value in what I'm seeing in this other family’s situation?


All our children need guidance and teaching. So we have to ask ourselves:


1) What is it that I find that is good or true or beautiful in this other person's family?


2) Is there a virtue I can practice or practice with my child to bring that goodness into the life of my family?


Let's look at some examples.


Perhaps we're impressed that another mother's child asks for things politely and gratefully instead of being whining and demanding.


First we can thank God for giving us a desire for that by allowing us to see it in this other family. Then we can ask him to show us what virtues we need to practice to help form these skills in our family. Do we need more attentiveness to the first cues of our child, thereby allowing us to attend to their needs and moods before they devolve into demanding whininess? Or maybe more patience, pausing and teaching and practicing with our child how to ask politely for their requests. If we see a more orderly home, do we need more diligence in creating routines for cooperative work rituals so that the family can maintain a tidy peaceful space together? Or perhaps, we need more humility so that we can admit that we need help from family or advice from someone more skilled so that we can achieve that orderly home that we find desirable because it gives us more peace in our family.


Pausing, when we have a frustration or desire to change something, and reflecting on and naming what virtue we need to actively practice in the situation, gives us a much clearer and more powerful direction than randomly acting or trying different techniques based on our feelings.


You can find many ways to use virtues, to become closer to your family members, God, and your best self in my book Parenting Your Kids with Grace in which you’ll find many examples and steps that you can take to address your concerns.


You know, too often society makes us believe that as soon as we're handed our child, we're supposed to be bopped on the head by the “Perfect Mother Fairy” and if we're not perfect from that moment forward that fairy must have passed us by, and we are doomed. Nothing could be further from the truth because when we use prayer and a virtue-based approach for ourselves, and for helping our children develop, we can flow from situation to situation and stage to stage with far less jostling of our sense of self or wellbeing.


If you need more personal guidance feel free to call into More2Life: https://www.christiannetcast.com/listen/player.asp?station=wdeo-fm


For more ongoing coaching for you or your family contact https://catholiccounselors.com


5 views0 comments