Overwhelmed? Do Things in Part Acts

When I was in high school, I spent many hours in the big theatre room there, preparing for performances. I loved how much live theatre had the ability to make people smile and laugh. I had the blessing and opportunity to be a part of the cast for The Music Man, Grease, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and many other fun shows.

One thing I learned as an actress, was that the flow of the shows were carefully broken down into parts, and then scenes, and then sections, and then individual lines. This helps both the director of the show and the performers, right? Because they can focus in on one line, or one section, or one scene, or they can say something like, “Alright, everybody let’s take it from the top of Act II!”

And then you rehearse, and you rehearse, and you memorize all of your lines, and you memorize your dance steps, and you memorize the lyrics to each song, and then one day, before you know it, you’re able to speak “off book.” Which means you’ve memorized all your lines! You’re getting closer to the performance! You’re almost ready now!

But life? Life is so much different than the theatre…

…or is it? Does it have to be?

I recently started reading a book full of quotations by Dr. Abraham Low, called The Wisdom of Dr. Low: Words to Live By. He founded a really cool program that helps people through anxiety, depression, and anger struggles called Recovery International.

One of the tools of this program, one of their suggestions to people when they are feeling overwhelmed, is to “do things in part acts.” That means, you do one thing at a time, and you focus on doing it well.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try not to think big picture all the time. Very likely, there are very real things that you are dealing with that could cause you anxiety at any time. But are you directly dealing with those events or situations in your day at this moment? All the time? Or are those concerns best handled in a different scene of your day? A different act or part?

Sometimes, the best place for focusing on your anxieties and troubles mentally is going to be during a little meditation/prayer slot in your morning or mid-day. At other times, you might need to face your anxieties head on as you approach an uncomfortable, inevitable situation, or a conversation that needs to happen right away.

But if we do things in part acts, if we do things one thing at a time, we can better focus on each individual “line” or phrase that comes out of our mouths.

There is no reason to rush through the performance of your day. No reason to rush through the whole show.

One thing at a time. One line at a time. One scene at a time. One act at a time.

And then, you can give each moment your best, and “break a leg.” Just maybe not literally…

The Kindness of a Stranger: Our First Time Back in a Restaurant

The other day, my children and I found ourselves parked outside of a Cracker Barrel. We were traveling and needed a place to rest for awhile, so we pulled into the parking lot.

I noticed a sign that said, “Dining Room Open,” and I was shocked. I hadn’t seen a restaurant dining room open in months.

We needed to be at this exit for about an hour and a half until my parents arrived to meet us, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else to eat in the world that could possibly take up so much of our time. So, we decided to pull out our lovely Cracker Barrel gift cards from Christmas, and we headed inside for a warm meal in real, wooden chairs, next to a real, wood-burning fireplace.

It honestly felt like a little piece of Heaven after months of not sitting anywhere in public.

I helped our three little children into their chairs and buckled our fourth little one into her highchair. There weren’t any peg toys on the table, or crayons to color with, so I whipped out a few pens and we colored on napkins while we waited for our menus.

I was very aware that when my littlest one started crying, people seemed happy with this… it was almost like everyone had been hidden away in their homes for a few months or something.

Everyone seemed so happy to see and hear babies and children loudly expressing themselves again. (This is not always our typical experience in public. Side note – as my Dad has said before, my son would make an excellent auctioneer.)

I ordered a giant lemonade for us to split, and quickly realized that a single pancake on the children’s menu cost $4.00, which is fine – but meanwhile, an $8.00 adult meal provided 3 pancakes, scrambled eggs, and 3 slices of bacon… so that’s a no-brainer, right?

We asked for a couple of extra plates & ordered meals from the big menu to share.

Well, all this time, there was an elderly man sitting a couple tables away from us. The table between us was closed so that everyone could be spaced far apart in the dining room. So his seat directly faced where we sat.

After he finished his meal, the man came over and told me, “You sure have your hands full.”

It’s sometimes hard to tell at this point whether someone is happy to see us all together as a family, or annoyed that we’re standing in the way of their shopping cart or something.

I’ve learned to just smile.

So, I smiled, and said my typical response these days… that yes, I do have my hands full, and we also have another baby coming in a few months!

This is where people usually make some odd comment about how we must be Mormon or something (we’re Catholic), or they will make a face, or walk away.

But this man just smiled, and he looked at all of my children seated at the table together surrounding me. And I saw his eyes starting to tear up.

“You guys remind me of my family growing up,” he said. “Of all of us when we used to sit and eat with my Mother… and I just want you to know I’m paying for your meal. And the tip, and everything.”

And as he started to cry just a little bit, he walked away.

“Thank you so much!” I said. “You don’t have to do that, but thank you very much. That’s very kind of you!”

He turned back, and I asked him if he had a lot of brothers and sisters.

“Nine,” he said. And he smiled a very big smile, and his eyes welled up with tears as he left.

I pictured him sitting at the table as a little boy, one of ten children, with a mother serving them meals on ten little plates, pouring drinks, and tending to their needs.

Now time had sped forward, and he was all grown up. And now, here I was, a mother, with little ones surrounding me, and one more growing within.

This man was well-loved as a child. And he knew it.

He was probably in his late 70s, so I would bet that not all of his brothers and sisters are still living – his parents, too.

Do we know how good we have it, guys? Do we realize the blessings all around us? The babies crying, the straws falling on the floor, the spilled drinks, the chaos of raising children – one, or two, or ten?

I was completely in awe of the kindness of this stranger.

And now, it’s our turn, to pass it on…

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When satan Stole Easter (a parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”)

It was quarter past dawn, as he pondered the facets,

Of this feast day called Easter, and he couldn’t get past it.

All the Whos in their beds, though he wished they were caskets,

All the Whos still a-snooze when he packed up his basket,

Packed it up with their fried fish! Their chocolates! Their hymns!

Packed it up with their honey ham! Their repentance from sin!

Six thousand feet down! Where no one could return it,

He rode with his load where the fire would burn it.

“Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” he was devlishly humming.

“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming!”

“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!”

“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,

Then the Whos of the whole world will all cry Boo Hoo!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the devil, “that I simply must hear!”

So he paused. And then satan put his hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising up loud and clear.

At first it was soft, but it grew as he’d feared.

But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!

It couldn’t be so! But it was merry! Very!

He stared down at the world, and the devil popped his eyes!

Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who of the world, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without churches open at all!

He hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And then satan, all sad, with his tail drooping low,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”

“It came without fish frys! All their churches closed, too!”

“It came without choirs! It came with empty pews!”

“It came without Confession to cleanse them of sins!”

“It came without parking lots filled to the brim!”

“It came even with governors taking license plates down,

Of any Who who attended a church service in town!”

“The Walmarts were open, but I made sure they’d decide,

That the Church is not essential, and that sacraments would be denied.”

And he puzzled six hours, ’til his puzzler was fried.

Then satan thought of something that wounded his pride.

“Maybe Easter,” he thought, “is a day I must hide.”

“For Christ is their victor, and they know He’s coming.”

“And the Saint Michael prayer through the decades is drumming,

Which means that my hourglass swiftly is running.”

“But alas! If there’s a next time, I’ll be even more cunning!”

And what happened then? Well… on earth the Whos rave,

That Christ is the victor who conquered the grave!

And they say He’ll return in the way He departed,

So there’s no longer a reason to be heavy-hearted.

Christ is risen! Allelujia! Come along to the feast!

For the Savior is merciful, and He’s defeated the beast!

by Kaitlyn Clare Mason, for Easter 2020 (with help from Dr. Seuss)

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A Little Prayer for When You’re Feeling Anxious

Alright, my site just deleted my first version of this post, and then it timed out on me multiple times, which is a decent indication for me as a writer, that what I’m about to share with you is golden.

Because is there anyone out there who absolutely hates when we find peace and calm in the midst of an anxious world who also has some creepy grip on technology? And who might have something to do with my technology acting up most right when I’m advocating strongly for pro-life causes or peace?

Ah yes, it’s satan. (Well good morning satan, get behind me, I’m sharing this prayer with my friends today anyway. 😉 )

I honestly do not know who wrote this prayer, and cannot remember when or where I found it exactly. I only remember that one day I found a slip of paper with a little black and white leaf border around the edges, and this prayer was typed inside.

It is a beautiful little prayer that I keep with an image of the Divine Mercy, as a reminder to humbly and continually turn my anxieties over to God in exchange for the peace that only He can give.

Are you feeling a little anxious or frazzled these days?

Well, that’s understandable.

As I write these words, our world is battling so much fear and anxiety.

So, here is a little invitation to pray. May this prayer calm your heart and replace any anxieties you may be experiencing with confidence, faith, and light.

Come, Holy Spirit, replace the tension within us with a holy relaxation.

Replace the turbulence within us with a sacred calm.

Replace the anxiety within us with a quiet confidence.

Replace the fear within us with a strong faith.

Replace the bitterness within us with the sweetness of grace.

Replace the darkness within us with a gentle light.

Replace the coldness within us with a loving warmth.

Replace the winter within us with your spring.

Straighten our crookedness; Fill our emptiness;

Dull the edge of our pride; Sharpen the edge of our humility; Light the fires of our love; Quench the flames of our lust;

Let us see ourselves as You see us; That we may see You as You have promised; “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”

Can we just talk about this picture?

Hi, friends! Yes, there’s been a little radio silence from this blog, and I know, I know. You’ve just been waiting on pins and needles for what I’ve been about to share, right? “Oh please, Kaitlyn, I need more things to read online, please keep writing!” I get those emails every day. 😉

But life has settled into a new routine over at the Mason house, so here’s to a fresh start writing again!

And… can we just talk about this picture?

One of the themes I’ve been mulling over in the past few weeks and months and years, is this idea of serving the world through your home. Mother Teresa is the one who told us that if you want world peace, go home and love your family.

Here she is in this picture doing exactly that – being at home, loving her family. Her home was the streets of Calcutta. Her family was the whole world.

And those she felt called to embrace? The dying, the destitute, the diseased, the impoverished. Mother Teresa said it herself, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

“I see Jesus in every human being,” she said. “I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

So let us not be ashamed now in our time. Let us not be slow to do the humble work set before us.

Go home and love your family. See Christ in every person you encounter there. But remember that your home is not just your 4 walls and a roof. Your family is not just those to whom you are related by blood or by adoption or by the covenant of marriage.

Our home is the whole world. Our family is every person on this earth.

And we are merely pilgrims passing through this life. So let us be bold now and go to serve the Christ Child however we can.

When You Feel Discouraged as a Parent… read this

Once during the building of a giant cathedral, an artist high on the scaffolding intricately carved a bird into the stone of the structure.

A man down below looked up at him, and questioned why he was spending so much time there. “They’re about to cover that part up,” he said. “No one’s ever going to see that bird.”

“But God will see,” said the artist.

And so he went on creating.

Why do we spend so much time in the quiet of our homes, intricately preparing little souls to comprehend the great mysteries of creation?

Why do we spend so much time folding the laundry just so, wiping little noses (when our children allow it), drying the dishes, and sending children back into the time out corner until they finally apologize?

Dear mother, dear father, you are an artist. You are creating a masterpiece.

Sometimes it is messy. Often times you will feel unknown. Maybe the work isn’t turning out as you expected. Or you’re waiting for a child, or waiting for instructions about what you’re supposed to do when you feel called to create and when the painting seems to crumble. Perhaps the painting isn’t ready to be unveiled yet.

But in the midst of your work, you are known. You are loved beyond measure.

And God sees.

And every moment that you spend carving out time for your family, crafting memories, whittling away at imperfections, blending together virtues – every moment that you spend creating the masterpiece of your family in the darkness when no one seems to notice…

It will all be worth it. There is no greater work of art than to create a family.

Just look up at the beauty right in front of you. Look at the art God is creating with you, right before your eyes. That’s what really matters tonight.

*One last thing! I’d love to serve you with a tiny email on Fridays, full of tips for sharing love & mercy with the world. Sign up here so I’ll know where to send it.

3 Little Ways to Open Your Home this Season

What is it about this time of year that makes our hearts ache? That makes us yearn for something more?

Is it a loved one you’re missing? An old friend? An old place you used to visit?

Is there a memory on your heart this year, in this season, that you keep revisiting? Why might that particular memory or person or place be on your heart this year?

There are so many people out there who are hurting, who are aching, and who are yearning for something more.

And in this Advent season, in this time of great waiting, when the whole world is in one giant crescendo leading up to that big day when Christ finally enters into the world… we know that there is something more.

In just a few short days, Christmas will come and go.

Will we be left with the same ache and yearning on the days that follow Christmas Day? Or will we find our heart’s desire in the Christmas manger, and be finally satisfied of our hunger?

One thing is guaranteed. It’s easier to hold on to Christ’s presence when we share the present of Christ with another.

Every one of us carries something weighing heavily on our hearts in this season of waiting. The question is – will we carry Christ to every one? Will we be Christ to every one?

Because if we choose to do this, if we choose to live with our homes and hearts wide open in this Advent and in the coming Christmas season, then we can help each other to know and to understand that there is truly something more. And it is Christ.

So how do we do this? How can we open our homes and hearts this season?

Here are three little ways that can have a big impact:

1. Ask & listen.

When you ask people what they’re going to be doing for Christmas and New Years, listen to their reply. Do they have family nearby? Would they appreciate an invitation to your family’s table?

2. Look up.

When we look up from our phones, and look out at the people surrounding us, we can take notice of little things.

Is there an elderly person who’s coming to church alone? Is there a neighbor whose car is rarely leaving the driveway? How can we serve those who are lonely?

Well, first we have to take notice, and then extend an invitation. Invite the person over for tea. (Seriously – or coffee or wine or whatever, but invite them over!) See if your family could come over to read stories together at their home sometime. Look up and see who might be lonely, and find a creative way to bring them into your life.

3. Keep events open.

Encourage your guests to all bring a friend to your home when they visit.

Invite people to join you who might not often be invited to dinners and events. Invite those who are new to town, and those who are poor and may be unable to repay you.

By keeping an attitude of “the more, the merrier,” we can extend Christ’s love to many without ever having to say a word.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

It’s easier to hold on to Christ’s presence when we share the present of Christ with another.

Let’s not miss Christ this Christmas.

*Are you getting my tiny Friday emails full of tips for sharing love & mercy with the world? Sign up here so I’ll know where to send them!

Giving Yourself Permission to Rest

Take a breath. In and out.

This is a busy time of year, yes. But it’s also a beautiful time of year.

A time of anticipation. A time of joy-filled wonder, and icing-covered cookies.

A time of cold, starry nights and warm, tightly-stitched quilts.

A time when the wood stove is filled with crackling logs, and when mugs are filled with piping hot cider.

And have we given ourselves permission yet to rest?

Today our school day consisted of snuggling up under a blanket and reading our family read aloud book together. And it was lovely.

Granted, the baby was toddling around and playing on the floor with her klip klop horse princesses, and two children were climbing all over the furniture. So please don’t think of a Hallmark card when I tell you that we read a book together.

If you’ve been caught up in the black Fridays and green Mondays, and yellow Tuesdays of the frenzied hulabaloo of the season, perhaps you’ve been secretly waiting for a little invitation to pause. To savor. To sip. To flip through the pages of a great book. To cozy up on the couch and just sit. And ponder. And reflect on God’s goodness, and on the blessings all around us.

It only takes a moment to go from thankful at Thanksgiving to rushing through the motions of the Christmas countdown.

Consider this your invitation to take the slow route – all the way to Christmas morning.

I promise you that Christmas will arrive just the same.

But if you rest in this season of Advent, and really take some time to look around you, to light a candle, to whisper a prayer, and to watch the horizon for the coming of Christmas morn, we can come away from this season refreshed and rejuvenated for the surprises of a beautiful year ahead, just waiting to be unwrapped.

We are confident each day that the sun will rise in the morning. Let us be equally confident that the Son will rise in his own time, and may he find us watching and awaiting his return, with peaceful and joy-filled hearts, resting in the confidence of His forever love.

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How to be Kind and Merciful to Yourself in 5 Steps

Someone recently published a little poll, asking people what they thought about the words “self-care.” I think this is a dangerous word in our world today. While we certainly need to take care of ourselves, far too often, I think we are quick as a society to justify comfort and luxury items in the name of “self-care.”

What does it mean then to take care of ourselves? In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reminds us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

But what does this even mean if we don’t have self-respect and if we don’t have an understanding of our own self-worth? If we don’t love ourselves or respect ourselves first, then it isn’t asking very much of us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, is it?

We have to understand our worth and our dignity before we can help others to see their own worth and dignity. We have to treat ourselves with kindness and mercy first.

In other words, we can’t give from what we don’t have in the first place. It’s like the old analogy that in an airplane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else with their mask. Otherwise, you’re going down. And you’re certainly not going to be breathing well enough to help others.

Now, if you know me well, you probably know that I’m pretty hard on myself. From this, flows the fact that I can be pretty hard on others, too. Guys, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It’s just a matter of fact. So, we have to be patient with ourselves and with each other. We have to pray for ourselves and for each other.

Here are a few little reminders that have been on my heart. These are little ways that I often forget to be kind and merciful to myself. I’m sharing them here just in case someone else can benefit from this little reminder tonight. And also so I can refer back to this as needed in the future. You can call it spiritual self-care, you can call it kindness and mercy – call it whatever you’d like. But remember… (ahem… I’m talking to you, Kaitlyn Clare Mason…)

  • Don’t forget to pray for yourself. You need grace, and you need to grow in virtue. So don’t forget to ask for help with this continually.
  • When you mess up, forgive yourself. Don’t withhold forgiveness from yourself. It just gives the devil a foothold, and it’s not going to do you any favors. Give yourself space to make mistakes. Then, when you do, forgive yourself, (go to Confession if you’ve really messed up), and then just move on. Otherwise, this is what you’re doing to yourself…
  • Allow yourself every possible opportunity to read Scripture, to pray the rosary, to visit the sacraments. Remember the words of the great Father Kauth, that “you are never shirking your motherhood responsibilities by taking your children to Mass.” Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t get to all of this every day, but make a sincere effort to stay close to the Word of God every day – in all the ways you can.
  • Be patient with yourself. Remember that you are learning how to be kind and merciful. You’re not at the finish line. You’re only at mile-marker 32. Stay strong. Stay in the race. Be patient. Pace yourself.
  • Don’t look back, keep your eyes fixed on Christ. Remember that looking back didn’t work out very well for Lot’s wife. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26). Eyes fixed on Christ!

God loves you and He is Merciful! So love yourself and be merciful to yourself! And then pass it on…

5 Quick Ways to Kick Anxiety to the Curb (without chocolate…)

We are currently potty training with our 3-year old, and I keep heading to the pantry to eat some of the m&m reward candy, so I’m writing this as a reminder for myself today just as much as for anyone else!

Anxiety is no joke. Sometimes we don’t even realize how tense and uptight we are until it’s too late. We might snap or respond to someone in a way that’s less than loving, start to arrive late, miss appointments or bills, or we may even begin to feel the physical affects of pent up discomfort.

Regular tasks can become extremely difficult when we’re feeling anxious. I remember one day when I was struggling with post-partum anxiety, I found it extremely difficult to even make a sandwich. But I called someone. On that day, I called my Dad. I found my strength, and pressed on through the monotony. And you can, too.

Here are five quick ways to kick anxiety to the curb and keep moving forward when you’re struggling:

1. Phone a friend.

Not a text, not an email, not a Facebook message. Pick up the phone and call someone. If they don’t answer, you will likely hear their voice on the recording, and the sound of the voice of another kind person who you love will be soothing and helpful, too. Or if they do answer, have a conversation and find out what’s going on in their world. Talking to someone in real time is incredibly helpful. Fear hates friendship.

2. Offer a prayer.

You may know by now that my “go to” prayer is, “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” When feeling anxious, you can say these words out loud, in a whisper, or in your head. Or say another little prayer like, “Lord have mercy…” “Come Holy Spirit…” or just share what’s troubling you and what’s on your heart. Take a deep breath and remember that you are not in control, and that is a good thing.

3. Pour yourself a cup of tea, pick up a book, and sit down for at least 5 minutes.

Maybe you prefer coffee or hot apple cider, and that’s just fine. But don’t rush rest time, and be sure to schedule it in… When I was reading about Mother Teresa’s schedule for her Sisters of Charity in a book recently, it struck me that she had tea at 3:15pm every afternoon. There’s something very calming about sitting down with a cup of tea. Even Mother Teresa made time to sit down to tea each day! Give yourself a minute to read, reflect, and get out of your own head for a minute. And do this on a regular basis. My days go a lot better when I remember that I’m here to serve others, and that I need to take time to serve myself so I have strength to heed that calling.

4. Step outside & if you can, stay outside.

Modern housework and desk jobs tend to keep us cooped up inside a lot, but I find that it’s easier to be at peace outside in the breeze. Get outside, take a walk, and get some fresh air.

5. Light a candle.

A candle serves as a visible reminder that we are continually in the presence of God.

And yes, I think sitting down to tea is a healthier and more relaxing habit than pantry m&ms… agreed? What helps you kick anxiety to the curb?

If you’d like to learn more about kicking anxiety to the curb, click here to receive your free copy of 5 Keys to Moving from Fear to Freedom, based on my own journey of overcoming anxiety. Many people are finding this helpful, and I’d love for it to help you, too!