Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Listen... And ACT in 2015

Just before 2014 began, I realized a pretty obvious truth:  I am not a noun sort of girl.  

I am a do-er.  A verb girl.  

So it was that I found myself nixing all the words I'd been thinking about as a guiding word for 2014 and writing this:

"...I began to listen to the now not-so-small voice inside of me that directed my word for 2014 was to be a verb.
A verb that could encapsulate many of the nouns on the busy collage of words that had popped into my mind and played tug-of-war my with heart over the past few weeks. One that would help me grow as God's child.  As a unique individual.  As a wife.  As a mom.  Even as a homemaker and as a partial provider for our family.  A word that, ironically, the Spirit been trying to reach me with the entire time I had prayed at Adoration and in all the time since.

When I finally heard the word, I laughed.


 Yes, listen.

LISTEN is the word.

Stop thinking.  Cease searching.  Pause praying.  Just listen.  To your children.  To your husband.  To your heart.  To. Your. God.

Today, as I reflect upon 2014 and look forward to 2015, I smile.  

I may not have always stopped thinking, ceased searching and paused praying long enough to truly listen on every occasion I could have in 2014.  But, I listened more often than I had before.

I still may not be the best version of myself that I can be.  In fact,  have plenty of room to grow as a Child of God, wife, mom, homemaker and more.  But, I am growing.

And in 2015 I shall grow more and I continue to listen.

In fact, over the past few weeks, I've become quite proficient at listening through the din of daily thoughts and activities at times.  And, in doing so, I have heard a number of words in my heart and in my mind as possible guiding words for 2015, but it wasn't until today that I heard THE word.  

Yes, today, after prayer and in the midst of typical daily activities, I heard a whisper in my heart, that became an echo in my mind, which stirred an aha in my soul:  ACT!

So often I tell my children that I want them to listen and act.  I know that my Father wants the same of me.  Not just to listen.  Not even just to acknowledge that I have heard.  But to act.  

To act upon each of the roles I am called to in my present existence.  

To act with immediate and intentional choice each time I answer one of my own favorite questions -- "What can I do to make this moment better?" 

To act on the stirrings of soul that I am becoming more and more aware of.  

To act with love, trust, faith, purpose, integrity, virtue...

To listen and to act.  That is my charge in 2015.  What is yours?  What word may guide you to unwrapping a better version of yourself or your life in the coming year?

This post is linked at Schoolhouse Review Crew and  A Glimpse of Our Life, where you will find others' "One Word for 2015".

Monday, December 29, 2014

3 Favorite Resources for First Reconciliation (and One Noteworthy Celebration!)

Guess who received her First Reconciliation at the tail end of Advent?

That's right!  Our Nina.

Among the resources we used to prepare Nina for First Reconciliation were the following:

Please Note: I am providing links for for your convenience.  Some are to Holy heroes and Amazon and are affiliate ones.  Should you choose to click through these to make purchases, we may receive a small amount of income at no extra cost to you.  Thank you.

A Family Favorite Altar Gang CDWe've Been Wronged

Image Credit: Holy Heroes
Image Credit: Holy Heroes

The children received Lumen Entertainment's  three Altar Gang CD's for Easter last year, which they quickly became enamored by.  As Nina prepared for First Reconciliation, We've Been Wronged became regular mini-van listening.  This silly, yet meaningful, audio drama features AJ the Aspergillum, Skiff the Incense Boat and the rest of the Altar Gang in a story - laced with song - that helps children focus on the value of forgiveness and the importance of God's Mercy.

The Super Child-Friendly Living the 10 Commandments for Children

Image Credit: Amazon

Nina and I reviewed parish-provided materials, the classic Lovasik's The Ten Commandments book and more as we prepared for her First Reconciliation.  However, the book that we found most useful in helping her with an Examination of Conscience was Living the 10 Commandments for ChildrenIn fact, Nina chose to bring this sweet, spot-on, child-friendly book with her to the Reconciliation Service, where she ended up sharing it with the teary, nervous little girl who stood behind her in the Reconciliation line.  

Brief, yet thorough explanations, with real-world examples and darling illustrations make Living the 10 Commandments for Children a true favorite for catechesis here.  Truth be told, I even use the book alongside my children sometimes when preparing for Confession.

 A Free Youtube Videos: Sacrament of Reconciliation

We found the frist video last year when Luke was preparing for First Reconciliation and revisited it in Nina's First Holy Communion Prep classes at our parish as well as at home this year.   It's great for children and adults!

I like the second one, too!

Celebrating Nina's First Reconciliation

After all of the First Holy Communion Prep children recevied their sacrament, Luke asked if he could receive, too.  Then, he eagerly gave a family gift to Nina, who was thrilled to a box of GFCF cookies and the book Clare's Costly Cookie from us in addition to the meaningful medal our parish gifted her.

In fact, Nina got a little silly as she stepped outside the church, literally dancing and jumping with excitement over having received both sacrament and gifts.

Then, in true Nina fashion, she promptly opened the box of treats when we got into the car and began sharing cookies with her brothers, Daddy and me.  The cookies lasted but two days in Nina's hands, but the grace of receiving sacraments will last a lifetime, we know!  And, the impact of Clare's Costly Cookie is lasting, too.  The kids and I have been reading chapters of it daily and are finding it absolutely fabulous!
Image Credit: Holy Heroes

Clare's Costly Cookie, available at Amazon or Holy Heroes is tops for teaching children how to pray to Jesus.  In it, nine year old Clare chats with Jesus, revealing spirit and spunk, as she grows in faith.  My children always ask me to read at least two chapters in a sitting, and I gladly agree, as I find the book a "living book" of catechism.  It includes themes such as:

  • resisting temptation
  • humility
  • redemptive suffering
  • the armor of God
  • the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament 
  • the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary

...and more.  It also includes brief stories about saints within Clare's prayer monologues.  Truly, Clare's Costly Cookie is a perfect book for First Holy Communion prep and beyond!

Through reading Clare's Costly Cookie and watching  Inside the Sacraments: The Holy Eucharist DVD (which Nina received for Christmas and which all the kids and I thoroughly enjoyed earlier tonight), I have no doubt that Nina is well on her way to being prepared for her next sacrament.

And, yes, if it is not already obvious: we just love Holy Heroes for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion Preparation materials, as well as for faith-based fun and learning all year long!  Holy Heroes free Mass prep videos and printables, as well as the CD's, books and videos for sale, sometimes as Deals of the Day, enrich our family's faith-based learning and fun so much! 

I am grateful to the Holy Heroes Adventure Guides for helping my kids prepare for their sacraments and more deeply understand the richness of the Catholic faith!

What are some of your go-to resources for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion Preparation?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let Nina Teach You How to Make Play Dough Roses

This morning, my girl came to me and said, "Mommy, we haven't written at Nina Beth Creates in a long time.  Can we?"

I promised her we could and just kept my word.

When we pulled up Nina's blog, I was surprised to see that I have neglected to help her with it for six months and she was disappointed to see no one had visited it since then.  She asked me if I could help make sure someone knew she was posting again.  How could I say no?

Please visit Nina Beth Creates to learn how Nina, her brother and their friends made simple, beautiful play dough roses at a recent Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego gathering.  This simple, hands-on craft can be enjoyed by many ages of children just for fun, as a part of a sensory diet, in honor of Our Lady or Saint Therese, etc.  It would work well with polymer clay to make gifts for Mother's Day.


 What have your children been creating lately and how have you been honoring their requests?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Heartfelt Wishes from Our Imperfect Home...

Getting a decent family shot of me and mine is nearly impossible...

And, apparently, hazardous to trees.

Yes, our youngest actually knocked the tree over in the melee of trying to get one shot for cards before we went to Mass followed by caroling to bring the neighbors homemade cookies. (Luckily, tree decoration happens late on Christmas Eve here!)

So, from our imperfect home to yours:

May your Christmas Eve and Day be full of merry among the mayhem and may your entire Christmas season become resplendent in delight, hope, joy and welcome.  Whatever happens, He has come and we are loved.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Adventures in Christmas Cookie Making (with Free Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Cookie Recipe Printable!)

What's a momma to do when she is sitting in her coat, airing natural gas out of her home, after calling both the gas company and fire departments to make sure things are safe?

Why post about the realities of Christmas cookie baking, of course!

First, A Little History of Our Tradition

Flashback: 2009

Growing up, my mom, siblings and I always enjoyed cookie making.  So, as soon as my children could hold a spoon, they began to help me make Christmas cookies.

The fun, of course, was not just in the making, though.  It was in the sharing.  

Over the years, not only have we made a practice of bundling up as a family to sing a carol or two to neighbors while delivering cookies, but, some years, we have also invited a neighbor in to bake with us.

Flashback: 2010

Through the years, although our tradition of sharing Christmas cookies has persisted, the recipes we use have not remained the same.  As we went gluten- and casein-free, we had to keep adapting recipes, and even found ourselves creating our own.

Last year, we finally hit upon a good mix of intolerance-friendly Christmas cookie recipes that we enjoyed.  As far as we know, our neighbors, did, too.  So, we noted these No-Guilt Christmas (or Anytime!) Cookie recipes down and are sharing them today!

Cookie-Making Wonder and Woes

A Concentrated, Happy Helper

When I went to plan our Advent this year, I asked the kids what books they wanted to be sure to read and what traditions they most wanted to keep up as we prepared hearts and home for Christmas. Nina piped up immediately with two titles about cookies and a desire to bake!

(Note:  Amazon affiliate links follow for you convenience.  Should you click through one to make any purchase, we may receive small income at no cost to you.  Thank you.)

As of yesterday, we were still waiting for a copy of The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus' Birth to come in at our library, but Nina did not want to wait any longer to begin baking.  So, we revisited The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale during our our snuggly morning read-aloud time and commenced with the baking in the evening.

You'd think after years of baking together with the kids, all would go smoothly.

Not so!

All started ideally...

"I'll mix the dry while Jack mixes the wet."

One batch of Easy Almond Bites came out of the oven perfectly!

But, then, excitement, impatience and, perhaps, a bit of over-tiredness had their way with the kiddoes and, by the time we had tasted our yummy Easy Almond Bites, were awaiting Chocolate Brownie Bites to cook and had Luke stirring up some of the ingredients or our Gingerbread Jesus J's on the stove, things got a bit dicey here.  Cookie making had to be called to a halt so that calm down, clean up and bedtime could ensue.

At that point, Luke (I thought) turned off the burner.  Then, once I took Jack off Nina and calmed everyone down, Luke helped me finish up the Gingerbread Jess J's batter to put in the fridge.  From there, it was jammies, teeth, stories and bedtime, with a promise of cutting out the gingerbread cookies and making No-Bake Snowballs and Chocolate Nutbutter Bites in the morning.

So focused on finishing up the gingerbread batter (but not on making sure the stove was off.  Oops!)

Fast forward to the middle of the night:  I awoke to the smell of gas.  

Oh no!

So it is that I now sit, after calling the gas and fire departments, waking everyone to be sure all were lucid, and sitting in the cold with windows and door open for some time, sharing with you in order to pass the time, be honest that many moments aren't picture perfect here even when they might seem so and share some yummy recipes for your family, and any family with with allergies and intolerances you know, to enjoy.

Here's hoping the kids sleep in so I can catch up on sleep once the house is fully aired and gas-free.  And, here's hoping you -- and our neighbors -- enjoy our recipes this year.

Have a happy -- and safe -- final few days of Advent!

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

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: 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 supporting our family and what we share here.

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 Saint Nicholas, The Gift from Saint Nicholas,  A Gift from Saint Nicholas, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving, The Legend of Saint Nicholas, The Legend of 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.


Related Posts with Thumbnails