Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy Christmas season!

We had a lovely Christmas and pray you did, too.

Now, on this sixth day of Christmas, I had hoped to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family with food and family time much like we did last year.

Instead, I've been sequestered in my bedroom in an effort to keep a surprise bug that hit me last night from infecting anyone else in our home while I (hopefully) make a quick recovery from it.

So, time together?  Nope.

Feasting together?  Not happening.

Yet, being grateful for the healthy, whole-food smoothies and lemon-ginger tea that my daughter and husband have kindly been bringing me?  Most certainly!

Delighted by my youngest popping in to give me a quick, hearty hug and sweet smile because he is missing me and, later, being silly with a stealth belly crawl to come in to check on me again?  Absolutely!

Giving thanks that my family is enjoying a simple, slow day at home after my husband got everyone out to Mass?  You bet! 

There is testimony in my husband and kids stepping in to prep meals... 

in the aroma of my daughter's baking experiments... 

in the clap of the front door as children go in and out play and to care for our chickens... 

in the cold and soothing hand a child placed on my head when checking on me after coming in... 

in the rhythm of a the sewing machine as a child teaches herself to sew... 

in the groans and cheers of my husband and boys as they watch their favorite football team... 

in the boisterous moments, the purposeful moments, and the quiet moments of my family living life.

Caring. Creativity. Kindness. Love. Relationship.

All are present.

All are blessings.

Today, I give thanks, once again, for my family, and pray that all families model themselves after the love and faith of the Holy Family.

I marvel at the blessing and the responsibility given to my husband and me in our three children, and I pray for the strength and grace to parent them well.

I also pray the Holy Family Prayer as found on at Missionaries of the Holy Family:

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth. 
MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys. 
JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety. 
HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.
I pray for your family, too.  On this Feast of the Holy Family, may all families - large or small, together or apart - live with peace, love, and faith, strengthened by grace.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Not Ready? It's Okay. Jesus Comes Anyway!

If you, too, are finding yourself woefully behind where you'd hoped to be closing out this third week of Advent, may you be able to pause in a quiet moment to remember what really matters, as I did this morning, and have written about in poetic form here.

'Tis three days until Christmas.
We don't have a tree!
Someone was sick on Guadete Sunday.  

That someone was me.

A belly bug hit

And threw Advent prep askew,
Leaving us now
With far too much to do.

So many traditions never happened.
So many preparations are left undone.
And the house? Disaster in every room.
Seriously, each and every one. 

So, what shall we do? Shall we make a huge final push?
Nope.  For if we did,
My brain would be utter mush.

With task list in hand,

And "let's do this" on my lips,
I'd have us running so crazy...
No, we just must come to grips.

It's okay if this year is different,
If many things are amiss.
Because one thing is just right
And that one thing is this:

Jesus comes anyway.
He comes in His time.
To bless us with His presence -
So joy-filled and sublime.

He made a mere manger wondrous.
He turned despair to hope.
He transformed sinners,

Lost souls, and misanthropes.

He came to us humbly

as a baby born in a stable.
And He comes daily through grace

To those who are able

To simply say, "Yes.
Let His will be done"
Today and every day until

Once again to earth He comes. 

So decorations, traditions,
gifts, cleaning, and baking,

All the things we typically do
To prepare for merry making,

All we usually partake in
As we wait in joyful anticipation
Truly, they can be set aside
For there still is jubilation:

A Savior was born.
Let. that. sink. in.
Joy comes not from tasks completed.
It comes from Him.

Wherever you are at this moment, may your Christmas be filled with joy!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sick on Guadete Sunday

Guadete Sunday.  The Sunday of joy, bambinelli blessings, rejoicing... or, in our case, sickness bringing us to a halt.

Yes, this year, God blessed my family (we pray) with not being sick on Christmas, by, instead, gifting me a rather intense, but - praise God - relatively short-lived norovirus on the third Sunday of Advent as a reminder to slow down, give thanks, and spend time at home. For there are always reminders, opportunities, and blessings, right? Even in sickness.

Now, having had plenty of time to lay around feeling physically awful, I am recognizing how my time being sick perhaps, has better prepared me spiritually for Christmas than a weekend of attending traditions and tasks might have done.

For as I dealt with sickness, I recalled that the first Christmas very likely was not the picture of warm glowing happiness and perfection that we so often picture it as on greeting cards, but, rather, it was most likely one of radiant joy brought by grace amidst very human mess and challenge.

I mean, Joseph and Mary traveled a long way. There was no room for them in the inn. Mary had Baby Jesus in a stable, with a manger for a bed. 

These were not what we humans would normally consider ideal conditions.

And yet they were.

They were the ideal conditions for God's plan for salvation history to unfold. 
The ideal - and unexpected - way for prophesies to be fulfilled and promises to be kept. 
Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and so many more were amidst the muck and mayhem of life as it was, yet they were also basking in grace.


They said, "yes" to God's promptings. They surrendered themselves to His will. They allowed love to overcome everything else, and, in doing so, were able to see the face of God in His human form.

Today, as I witness my husband caring for our children while I am sick, smile as my daughter checks in on me and makes food for the rest of the family, gladly accept hugs and encouragement from my youngest, and know my oldest is doing his best to keep things quiet and calm around here, I am filled with gratitude. 

I see each person in my home choosing love as we look toward the celebration of Christ's coming.

It is a beautiful thing.

Wherever you are at this Guadete Sunday - prepared or plodding along, joyful or just getting by - may you be able to pause and look around to see grace unfolding about you.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

8 Picture Books to Inspire Advent Service and Traditions

Happy second week of Advent!

If you enjoy seasonal picture books as much as we do, please enjoy coming along on a look back of our first week of Works of Mercy Wise Men adventures from the first week of Advent.

As is our tradition here, we've been journeying along through Advent with our Works of Mercy Wisemen getting into picture books and reminding us each day of ways we might prepare our hearts and homes for Jesus, sometimes through choosing Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy to act upon and sometimes by living our own family traditions. 

{Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.  Should you click through them to make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.}

On the first day of Advent, our Wise Men sat atop our copy of  If He Had not Come.  They had some purple markers and papers with them there at our Happy New Liturgical year breakfast table. Thus, we decided that they were hinting that we might each reflect upon our own shortcomings, think of ways we might improve ourselves in the new liturgical year, and write a commitment down.  So, we did!

On the second day of Advent, our Wise Men were rifling through our box of Jesse Tree ornaments and looking at a page iKristoph and the First Christmas Tree

We decided that they were reminding us that, due to snafus the day before, we had never picked out a branch in the woods to set up as our Jesse Tree and, therefore, had not been hanging our ornaments and praying for those that made them for us.  So, after lessons and work, we made time to go find a branch just before dark.

On the third and fourth days of Advent, some crazy life happenings took over and an overnight at Grammy and Grampy's happened, so our Wise Men opted to get into our keys instead of a book, reminding us to pray for the living and the dead as we took care of commitments and quelled the rising chaos of life.

On the fifth day of Advent, it was St. Nicholas' feast day, and the children awoke to two new books and a CD set for our home library along with some small treats in their shoes.

Excited by the new books, our Wise Men decided to make up for missing the third and fourth days of Advent, and, so,split up to draw our attention to three different things.

One brought the star we always put above one of our nativity sets right up to our new copy of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a favorite book we used to take out of the library every year and now happily own.

My children quickly decided that Wise Man was hinting that we should make time to unwrap each of our nativity sets and to put pieces of them up around the house as a way to prepare our home for Christmas.

Another Wise Man held a Jesse Tree ornament and was looking at a copy of Jesse Tree, another book we have taken out of the library for years and now own a copy of.  

We decided this Wise Man was reminding us that we needed to catch up on reading Scripture, putting up Jesse Tree ornaments, and praying for those who made them.  So, we did.

We also went through all the Advent Chain strips we've taken down so far this Advent and put hung the ones we have acted upon on our Jesse Tree while putting the couple that we have yet to accomplish on our table as a reminder.

The final Wise Man sat atop a pile of Saint Nicholas books, including The Legend of Saint Nicholas, a different The Legend of Saint Nicholas, and Saint Nicholas.

He was surrounded by oranges, cheese, bread, paper, and scissors, so my children immediately knew that we were to make paper snowflakes and a basket to secretly gift a neighbor as have every St. Nicholas day since the year we organized a St. Nicholas playdate where we introduced this tradition.

On the sixth day of Advent, I neglected to take a picture of our Wise Men vignette. However, since the Wise Men were standing atop a copy of The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood and lugging an empty canvas shopping bag, my children decided this meant we were supposed to find clothing, shoes, or other items we no longer need to pass along to someone who could use them. 

 So, we set a timer for fifteen minutes and filled the bag as quickly as we could. Then, we immediately took a photo of what was inside the bag and posted it in several groups online to see if anyone wanted any or all of the things we'd collected.

On the seventh day of Advent, our Wise Men sat atop an image of the nativity from the beautiful The First Christmas book.  Because it was also our oldest's birthday, we knew the Wise Men were telling us to pray extra for him and to celebrate his birth.

And that brings us to today - the eighth day of Advent.

This morning the Wise Men sat among Giving Tree tags, gifts to give, and "Why We Give Gifts at Christmas" in A Child's Book of Christmas

The children knew it was the day we give gifts to our church's Giving Tree program for the children whose tags they'd picked off the tree the week before Advent.  They always enjoy doing this.

And, I always enjoy the pause we take (almost) daily during Advent to quiet ourselves for picture book read alouds, chatting, and deciding what Work of Mercy, virtue, or tradition we might act upon.

Our Works of Mercy Wise Men has become a beloved anchor of Advent for us as we revisit favorite picture books, read new ones, and spend time together preparing hearts and homes for Jesus.

If you'd like to read about our other Works of Mercy Wise Men ideas, please click through the images below to find some of our some past ideas.

May your second week of Advent be filled with service and special moments as you prepare yourself to encounter Jesus - past, present, and future - and rejoice that the Lord is near!

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Beautiful Devotional for My Daughter and Me {A Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women Review}

If you've got a young woman of faith in your life, the Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Zondervan could make a lovely gift.  

It is a small, hardcover devotional targeted to young women aged 13-18 that can be enjoyed by older and younger women, too.  

The devotional begins with a single-page introduction that explains that the Bible has "a lot to say about the unique challenges -- the heartaches and the high points -- of being female" and invites women to look at the stories of about 60 women in the Bible and to see how they are relevant to us today as beloved daughters of God.

Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women then gets right into 365 one-page devotions.

The devotions are numbered, not dated, which I appreciate, because that means the book is more inviting to pick up and begin at any point during a year. It also means that if you cannot spend time with the book every day, you won't be taunted by a day or week written at the top of page telling you to "catch up". Rather, you can just use the handy attached bookmark ribbon to open up to where you left off and carry on.

Each devotion is laid out in the same eye-pleasing way with a cheerful border of flowers, the number of the devotion, a verse at the top of the page in a reddish font, then several paragraphs in black that bring the tales of tragedy and triumph of ancient women of the Bible into nowadays relevance, and finally a few blank lines in case you want to make notes.

The devotions are also laid out in a logical way, beginning with women from Genesis and ending with those from the Old Testament and ending with those from the New Testament with consecutive days of devotions exploring lessons that can be gleaned from one woman from the Bible before moving on to the next woman that the Bible introduces.

Of course, all the more famous women of the Bible, such as Eve, Ruth, Elizabeth, and Mary are included.

Wonderfully, some lesser known role models are as well.

Each of he 365 devotions in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women is brief, pointed, and inspiring, written in a language that appeals to many young women (with words such as "cool" and "just sayin'" included at times).

The organization, approach, and language of the devotional make
 "meaty" matters digestible, relevant and accessible.

A Gift for Daughter-and-Me

When I received Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women, my intention was to see if it would be appropriate as a gift for my 11-year-old daughter.  Thus, I have not read every page of the devotional yet, because I can only enjoy reading it when my daughter is not around - which is a rarity.  However, I have found pockets of time to read a week's worth of devotions here, another week there, a page here, and a page there, and, so far, I have found the material thought-provoking, encouraging, and edifying.

Mind you, I am well beyond the age that Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women is intended for, so the fact that some of the devotions speak to me personally points toward the fact that, although the book is written for Young Women, the stories of Biblical women are timeless and can be illuminating to all women.  Even when the take on them is geared to be relevant to younger women, we aging ones can benefit, too.  
With this in mind - as well as the fact that the print in the book is relatively small and might frustrate my daughter who struggles with dyslexia,  I have decided to gift 
Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women to my daughter as a mom-and-me devotional. 

My plan is to gift the book to my daughter with some tea bags, a container of cider, and a note saying I'd like to make regular mom-and-me time to read and chat about the book together. 

Why tea and cider? Simple. I favor tea, she favors hot cider, and we both like to spend time outside. This winter, I look forward to making some quiet time for just y daughter and I to read and chat about the devotions outside away from the hullabaloo of family life at home with just her brothers.

I am especially excited about this, because my daughter has been making strides with reading her large-print Bible and other material, and, I think that, with me alongside her, 
Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women might unlock the gift of reading for my daughter even more. For, I know she will love the stories and verses in it and will be moved by many of the thoughts in the devotions. 

Familiarity with the language of the Bible and desire to see what Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women has to say might motivate my daughter to make strides in reading while also encouraging her to keep blossoming as the beautiful daughter of God she is.

If I am wrong about the reading part, however, and the relatively small print and level of reading in the devotionals proves just a little too much for my daughter, I am still confident that 
Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women can be a win for us. I can read the devotions to her and, then, we can chat about them. Whether she reads them or I do, the beauty of their meaning will still be there. 

I truly look forward to seeing how our time with 
Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women will unfold and bless us.

Read all the reviews.

Learn More

From what I've read of Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women so far, I recommend the book for young and older women alike.

If you'd like to see what people who are currently using the devotional with their daughters or have daughters using it on their own, be sure to click through reviews from
60 Review Crew families.  Some are written by people who are not saving the book as a gift, like I am, but who are already using it!

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Get Your Free Prayer for the Child in the Womb Copywork and Consider Offering Spare Change to Spare a Life

Happy New Liturgical Year!  We pray your Advent has opened with plenty of time for prayer, preparation, and joyful anticipation of the commemoration of when Christ was born, of His coming to us daily through grace and through the Eucharist, and of when Christ comes again.

This morning, as we began celebrating Advent, a baby bottle again took a place on our table as a daily reminder to pray and give alms to the unborn and their families.

For years now, my children have eagerly picked up a baby bottle from a bassinet in the back of our church to take home and fill from Advent through Epiphany.

Doing so, has become a meaningful Advent tradition in our home that we initially enjoyed in conjunction with our family's Count, Pray, and Give initiative, and, now, participate in more simply - just dropping spare change into the bottle through Advent and Christmastide and having the bottle sit on our table as a continual reminder to pray.

This year, I have also made a Prayer for the Child in the Womb copywork set, using the words of a prayer from the Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference.  I share it here in case your children would like to use it for your family or classroom.

Get it here.

The FREE Prayer for the Child in the Womb Copywork Set includes the prayer in print and cursive, as well as lined sheets to copy it on.

We are grateful to the Respect Life Committee at our church for introducing us to the Spare Change-Spare a Life Baby Bottle Campaign and pray that by sharing about it here, you may be inspired to initiate a similar tradition in your home, co-op, church, or community.

May we each choose life 
in every decision we make! 


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