Sunday, December 14, 2014

Is This Message for You?

I wanted to write last night or this morning, but never had the chance to do so.

Now, as I finally sit down at my keyboard, what I feel compelled to write about has changed.  

Since it is Guadete Sunday, I had intended to share a few snippets of the joy that my family has experienced so far this Advent.  

Instead, though, I find myself compelled to share message meant for somebody.  I don't know who.  I don't even know if the message will come out with clarity, for I am tired tonight after a full day of many ups, a few downs and a sprinkling of challenges.  

Whoever the message is for, though, I suspect, had a day with far more challenges than any day that I have known of late.  A day that was laced with pain.  Pain that makes you feel so alone.

And therein lies the message I feel compelled to pass on tonight:

You may feel alone.  But you are not.  Even if, physically, no one is there to hold you, you are not alone.

  You are loved. 

Your burden, as unbearable as it seems, is shared.  

A plan for healing exists.  A time is coming...

Just hold on with faith. 

Trust.  Expect.  Await.

This moment may seem dark and ever so unreasonable, but there IS a reason for this season and a HOPE through every season of life.  My prayer tonight is that you grasp that hope and just hold on.

Darkness may be all about you, but the truth is that even the tiniest flicker of light dispels darkness.  Let it be so for you  Look for light that it may it shine for you, in you and through you.  Trust.  It is there.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Picture Books + Wise Men + Service = One Grand New Advent Tradition Idea!

Good morning and happy Second Week of Advent!

It has been such a full week of discipline, delight and living life throughout this early Advent season that I have yet to be able to carve out much blog-writing time.  Thus, I have yet to put together the mega-list of Advent and Christmas picture books that I had hoped to share this week (and had said that I would share when I offered a free printable of our 2014 Advent Plans last week sans mega-booklist.  Please accept my apologies, then, for not doing so yet.)

Today, instead of trying to race to write a mega-booklist while my children slumber, I am going to share some of the titles we have read this past week along with ideas which have me excited!

What Idea Has Me So Excited?

As we enjoy a number of our annual Advent transitions this year, I am already thinking ahead to next year with joyful anticipation!  You see, ideas have been percolating in my brain all week about a way I might reintroduce some of my children's favorite seasonal read aloud to them next year in a new way a la the tradition of "Elf on the Shelf", "Kindness Elves" or "Three Wise Kings Searching".

Yes, three of our learning shelves are PACKED with Advent and Christmas read alouds that we own or have borrowed from our local library!  (I am not kidding about how we love to peruse picture books during this season!)

One morning this past week, after I saw a friend's Kindness Elf post, the kids ran to the living room to take down a link from our our annual Advent chain.  Then, we all snuggled together to read The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood and the idea came to me: Next year, we might add the Wise Men tradition to our family alongside reading our favorite seasonal picture books and doing service.  

Since that moment, I have been holding myself back from making the idea a reality this year (because we already have so much going on!) and simply storing away notes for next year's fun.  Today, I thought I'd share those notes with you as...

Part One of Our Mega Advent and Christmas Read Aloud List!

NOTE: Henceforth, this post contains some affiliate links to Amazon for your convenience.  As with all affiliate links, if you click on one to make any purchase, it will not cost you anything extra, but we may receive a small payment.  We thank you for helping our family in this way.  

One morning, my children might find the Wise Men sifting through a pile of coats with The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood buried inside it.  We'll read the book aloud and then sort out our outgrown coats to donate.  Who knows?  We may even count coats as we go to tie the exercise together with our now annual Count, Pray and Give campaign! 

On another day, early in Advent, when Mom is still busy prepping other things and won't have a lot of time for Wise Men set ups, since we own a copy of Joy to the World! already the children might find the Wise Men rifling through a stack of construction paper, markers, scissors glue and the book.  Their service project would be to create torn-and-cut-paper collages or artwork, modeled after the style of the illustrations on the book, to make something to gift another, thereby sharing joy.

Another day, they might find the Wise Men with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a box that contains our largest Nativity set and some printed images of the nativity.  Their job would be to unwrap our Nativity, put the shepherds, sheep and angel on our living room shelf; place Mary, Joseph and the donkey figurines in one bedroom, set to travel each week to another room until Christmas; leave the Baby Jesus figurine in the box until Christmas morning; and re-wrap the Wise Men in the box for use between Christmas and Epiphany.  Then, they'd use the images of the nativity to make thinking-of-you cards to send to someone we know who has lost a loved one in the prior year.

Keeping with the letter-writing theme.  Another morning, the children might find the Wise Men searching through stickies, stationary and writing utensils as well as a copy of If He Had Not Come.  After reading the story, they would write "If He Had Not Come" on stickies and race to put them on things around our house that would not exist if our Lord had not come to earth so long ago.  Then, we'd write letters to folks whose jobs exist because He did come, thanking those people for sharing His love with us and others!

Then, one day, they might find the Wise Men with The First Christmas Stocking and some yarn, thread, needles, their plastic knitting circle, cloth, etc.  Their job would be to hand craft a gift for someone else.

On the day they found The Christmas Knight, they would discover the Wise Men leading all our plastic knight figurines marching towards a food cupboard.  That day, we'd pick out some food to give to our pantry.

Then, one day, they'd find our plastic war guys facing off on either side of the Three Wise Men alongside a copy of Christmas in the Trenches and print outs of Silent Night.  We'd practice the song for the evening we go caroling to bring cookies and cheer to neighbors.

One morning, the children might find the Wise Men wading through straw with a manger and Marta and the Manger Straw nearby.  On that day, we'd begin making soft the bedding for baby Jesus with our home manger and also make straw ornaments to gift someone who may not be expecting a gift.  Alternately, we might choose something we have only a little of that we could pass on to another as  a sacrifice.


Then, of course, before St. Nicholas day, the children would find the Wise Men atop a stack of supplies that includes The Legend of Saint Nicholas, The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving, The Legend of Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicholas, or portions of Legends of the Saints, a basket, some food stuffs, white paper (for snowflakes), scissors and a printable about the tradition of secretly leaving baskets of food for a neighbor. 

Another Book We've Been Loving

For the record, we've also been loving reading Tabitha's Travels: A Family Story for Advent next to our Advent Wreath each night and hope to get a copy of Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Adventfor next year!  If we do, on the first day of Advent, the Wise Men will be climbing the kids' annual Advent chain, filled with their own service ideas ready to be acted upon, with the book and our Advent wreath nearby.

Can you tell I am excited for next year even as I enjoy the precious present of this year?  Just - shhhhh!  Please don't share this idea with my children. 

I pray your Advent is filled with eager anticipation, too!

If you leave a link to a faith formation idea or a reflection relevant to raising young children in the faith in a comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Get Your Free, Printable St. Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer Rebus Bookmark {Plus Resource Roundup}

We've been using Christmas Prayer Rebus Book Marks to pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena this year and it has been so successful for the past few days that I wanted to share the bookmarks I made in case they might help others!

Why bookmarks?  

Because our Advent plans include a ton of reading and I loved the St. Joseph novena bookmarks that my friend Karen brought to a St. Joseph playdate that we enjoyed together. Plus, bookmarks are longer than prayer cards and can include more rebus pictures?

Why rebus pictures?    

Because as I viewed the many beautiful St. Andrew Christmas Prayer printables that already exist online, I realized that none of them would work for my children this year.  My pre-reader prefers multiple picture cues when following along with repetitive prayers.  My developing reader also benefits from picture cues and does best with large, simple fonts.  My other reader appreciates when Mom takes the time to make something especially for him and his siblings.  Thus, to meet my children's needs and wants - as well as my own desire to introduce our family to the St. Andrew Christmas Novena this year - rebus pictures it became.

What Is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena?

The St. Andrew Christmas Novena is an Advent tradition that, unlike most novenas which are prayed for nine days, has many folks praying from St. Andrew's Feast Day on November 30 all the way through Christmas.  

Despite its name, the prayer is not addressed as an intercessory prayer to St. Andrew.  Rather, it is prayed directly to God Himself, asking Him to grant a specific request in honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas.  Because many begin the prayer on St. Andrew's feast day, it is often called the St. Andrew Novena.  Others, however, pray it as a literal novena, beginning it nine days prior to Christmas and calling it a Christmas Novena or Christmas Anticipation Prayer.

No matter what you call the prayer or how long you pray it for, it is a beautiful prayer tradition worth beginning.  

Resoeuce Roundup of Other St. Andrew Christmas Novena Printables, Reflections, Etc.

Many folks have shared their ideas, hard work and creativity online in order to inspire others (like my children and me!) to begin a St. Andrew Christmas Novena prayer tradition.  Perhaps you'll find the perfect tool or idea for helping you and yours among these helpful posts:

  • Family in Feast and Feria shares a different look at how a prayer card and beads might turn out, as well as a link to Sacrifice Bead instructions

  •  Michele Quigley offers a simple printable with the prayer that can be posted all over your house to remind you to pray.

I'd love to hear about your favorite St. Andrew Christmas Prayer testimonies, tools and reflections.  Please share them in a comment!


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