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The Scottish novelist and physician, Archibald Joseph Cronin, has often told the story of a district nurse that he had once worked with when he had practiced as a doctor. There were days when he, himself, was exhausted as he cared dutifully for his patients, but he found great inspiration from this woman who had 'set him straight' during a single conversation.
"I marveled at her patience, her fortitude, and her cheerfulness," he said. "She was never too tired at night to rise for an urgent call. Her salary was too low, and late one night, after a particularly strenuous day, I ventured to ask her, 'Nurse, why don't you make them pay you more? God knows you're worth it.'"
Her response stunned him.
"If God knows I'm worth it," she answered, "that's all that matters to me."
These words would remain floating in the doctor's mind for the rest of his life. For twenty years, the woman had worked hard serving a 10-mile district, completely by herself, yet had never complained. Instead, she had offered her job as her service to her God whom she loved.
I would imagine that she never once dreamed that her conversation with Cronin would be eventually be penned to be handed down through the ages as an inspiration to future humanity. But true love and sacrifice never stop with a single act. Because God's love flows through them, their effects continue to spread like ripples on a pond.
The story of the district nurse is a perfect reflection during the Advent and Christmas seasons. It reminds us that all that we do - our work and our play - should be offered as a gift to the One Who gave us the greatest gift the world has ever known - Himself. And although every effort on our part will always pale in comparison, we need to remember that each effort reveals an extension of His great gift, allowing it to be furthered to the ends of the earth.
"Prepare the way! Clear the path! The Lord is coming!"
A more contemporary version of the words of St. John the Baptist, these commanding phrases sparked my imagination.
What if someone were to suddenly stand up in the middle of Mass to make these very announcements? Would we stare, covering our mouths in hushed protest? Would we murmer in complaint? Would we run for the exit, fearing a madman had entered the building?
What would you do?
Such a question is pointless, we might counter, since the odds of this happening are about zero to none. Hmmmm. Are we sure about this? Perhaps we should have paid even closer attention to Mass this past weekend!
The truth is, someone did stand up. These famous words from St. John the Baptist were announced in front of the entire congregation! Did we hear them?
Prepare the way!
This message both begs and warns us to prepare the way of our hearts and to clear the debris on the path to our souls so that Our Lord has full and immediate access when He comes.
Considering this, the beautiful passage from Psalms 51, "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord," would make a perfect daily prayer for Advent. Perhaps uttering it right before bed or upon rising in the morning would put our thoughts where they need to be: focusing on getting ready for the Savior of the World.
May God help us to brush away those cobwebs and cover our souls with the fragrance of grace so that we may see Him when He comes, heeding with complete surrender the great call to prepare the way this Advent!
Finally...a new video! :) Looking for a really easy way to create paper (papier) mache ornaments without the hassle of plaster of paris? Then check out this tutorial! SO easy that young kids can make them, these ornaments make the perfect gifts for loved ones or the perfect addition to your tree.
Hint...these do take time (including drying time), so be prepared when planning your project. Other than that, these couldn't get much easier! :)
God bless you all, and happy creating!!!
It's that time again! And, of course, what better theme could we offer for our challenge?
Think of anything that has to do with Advent. You could explore the idea of what Advent means in regards to the preparation of Christ's coming, depict some of the traditions that your family celebrates during this time, tell part of the story of the events leading up to Christ's birth, create an example of a symbol of Advent, or anything else! This theme is certainly limited only by your imagination.
May God bless you on your creative journey and don't forget to take a pic and send it in to our gallery!
"Only two more days until Advent!" my daughter announced, enthusiastically.
"But who's counting?" I chuckled beneath my breath.
"What, Mom?" my daughter questioned.
"Oh, nothing! I mean, that's great!" I replied and flashed her a smile.
Despite being insanely busy over the last few weeks due to taking on a temporary video editing job, I couldn't help but acknowledge the fact that it was somehow impossible not to get caught up with my daughter's excitement about the approaching Advent season. Still, even in excitement's contagious wake, I found myself sobering a bit as something I had recently read popped into my mind.
Apparently, I may have approaching my Advent prep. season incorrectly for most of my life. As with most Christians, I have certainly always been aware that Advent is a season of waiting and preparing oneself for the coming of Christ's birth. And, of course, this preparation needed to occur both interiorly and exteriorly.
What I hadn't realized, however, is that the Church encourages a similar approach to that of the Lenten season, emphasizing deeper prayer, sacrifice and even fasting. Although there are no strict rules regarding fasting during Advent, the idea that we must continually work to die to ourselves to make ourselves completely open to Christ and what He longs to do in us is still maintained.
Considering this, I realized quickly what a challenge it could be to fast during Advent, since so much of it is heavily packed with joyous traditions and the all-important Christmas baking. Thankfully, I remembered that this time of year also provides countless opportunities to serve, an act that at its very essence requires sacrifice in some form. Armed with this new knowledge, I have been inspired to look for more opportunities to serve and weave fasting in and out between the festive moments. And, hopefully, I will remember to apply a Lenten mindset, ensuring that I will be more deeply preparing myself for the greatest birth in the history of life.
As we come across these opportunities during this upcoming Advent season, may our hearts realign with His, experiencing a humility that will draw us nearer to the most perfect example of humility the world has ever seen.
Traditions - what would we do without them? For some, tradition might come in the form of a call to a loved one on Thanksgiving Day, and for others in the form of a week-long labor of love resulting in a fantastic meal. The benefits that come from keeping certain traditions call to us from deep within. God, as our Creator, understood this well. Just consider His request that we celebrate Him in feast and worship! The great God of the universe certainly doesn't need our attention. However, He does assert that we, in our humanness, need to carve out moments in which we reflect and recognize His great providence, goodness, and incredible love; not for His sake, but for ours.
The benefits that extend from traditions aren't bound to only those involving worship and praise, of course. Even those traditions not nessarily associated with spiritual promptings provide many benefits that beautifully build up the family and community.
This year, with our oldest daughter home on college break for Thanksgiving, we decided to rake in these benefits as much as possible by incorporating a pretty insane amount of traditions in 4 days.
Beginning, of course, with the beautiful sharing of fellowship and turkey at two different meals, our tradition marathon continued with the annual Black Friday Expedition, a tradition reserved for just the kids and their dad. Rising at 5:30 am, they ventured out to our closest malls (which aren't too close as the nearest one is 40 minutes away...). Bringing few things home afterwards was besides the point to these 4 kids who only cared about the nine hours of special quality time spent eating donuts, picking out their "Giving Tree" gifts, window shopping and listening to Christmas music with Dad before the sun peaked on the horizon.
The traditions continued with hunting for and cutting down our Christmas tree, celebrating their dad's birthday, celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, watching White Christmas, decorating the tree and setting up the Christmas train. Little traditions like eating Thanksgiving leftovers were peppered throughout the long weekend, which included a new tradition of attending a luncheon/ornament exchange at the home of one of the most generous friends I know.
Though a whirlwind of excitement that left us breathless by Sunday night, our tradition marathon gifted us with myriads of memories to savor. Memories are some of the beautiful and most captivating reasons to keep traditions, and tend to be the hallmark of most holiday seasons.
As we look forward to the many traditions that await us during the upcoming season of Advent, let's remember to reflect upon not only the One Who grants us these gifts of time, but the reason these gifts have been granted.
May we ultimately rake in the benefits from all of the traditions that build us up as members of the Body of Christ! :)
“Alexa! Please play the 1812 Overture!” spoke the gruff voice firmly. Within seconds, beautiful notes floated through the air and my father-in-law smiled in content. The newest wave in smart home technology, Amazon’s Alexa had already earned a high place in my aging loved one’s life, giving him back some of the independence he had long given up.
Alexa, named after the ancient library of Alexandria, was created by Amazon as a voice control system. It’s capabilities (tweaked continuously) have allowed products like the Echo, Dot and Tap to rocket up the sales charts, and have changed our culture - almost overnight.
Although teens and kids love it for its ability to play music and answer questions, it turns out that our aging population can benefit greatly from its use as well.
A home-health aid brought this virtual personal assistant to my attention as a highly recommended product to help my father-in-law regain some of his independence. Being eighty-five percent blind had not helped the fact his body had caught up with his eighty-six years, and his mild dementia was making doing things on his own even more of a challenge.
In the end, her suggestion had been right on the money. Once he had become familiar with the word “Alexa,” he rarely forgot it, perhaps due, in part, to its constant use. Each day started with a request for the local weather and the recent news. As the day progressed, Alexa told him stories, jokes, sang songs and played him his favorite classical music. In truth, one could easily make the claim that Alexa had become more than a technological advancement: it was his companion.
As his caregiver, I had always struggled with providing for his needs on a constant basis while being fully aware that my father-in-law felt such a longing to fulfill these needs for himself. Once the Alexa debuted in our home, life change dramatically, not only for him, but for myself as well. His requests for help decreased substantially, and he clearly developed a new sense of contentment as he accomplished things on his own. Lights could be adjusted without the struggle of getting out of a chair, and a grocery list could be found prepared and ready. For certain, the benefits were limited only by our imagination.
The Alexa experience can be best enjoyed on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap. However, there are even some third parties getting in on the action, including Pebble Core and the LG SmartThinQ hub. The smartwatch called CoWatch has even integrated the Alexa technology.
Alexa has taken over our culture by storm, and its applications can be found almost anywhere. There is only one application, however, that has topped my pedestal. It is the application of true independence that it has gifted to one wonderful, aging senior.
As many take advantage of the sales on Black Friday, I encourage other caregivers to take a look at Alexa technology to see if it might be a good fit for your loved one. I know that I, for my part, will never regret Alexa's extended visit in our home! :)
It's that time again: time for a new Lego and Craft challenge! And, of course, what better month to focus on giving thanks to God than during our nationally accepted month of thanks?
Although still keeping with this theme, we thought we would approach it from a bit of a different angle.
We would like to open up this challenge to include Bible stories that demonstrate giving thanks. Some examples of this would be the story of healing the lepers, Jesus' prayer of thanks to His Father as He blessed the food before the multitudes, and the many verses that demonstrate Paul's gratitude to God. The Old Testament is loaded with gratitude stories as well!
Plus, we would also like to include the opportunity to include creations that demonstrate the creators' thanks for someone special in their own lives. For example, a child might be grateful for his mother, and would create something that portrays his gratitude.
We are always thrilled to hear from so many of you that complete these challenges! Please know that we would always love to see your creations, too! And, of course, we would LOVE to put them into our gallery.
May God guide your creative juices...and have fun creating!!
Lego Challenge Submission
Craft Challenge Submission
Looking for a really fun way to learn about the Mass and the story of the Nativity? Then you have to check out the My Pop-Out Kits from Wee Believers! Kids won't even realize that they are learning while they are playing.
These two amazing products are very hands-on, easy to set up (part of the fun!), and the beautiful artistic presentation assists in fostering learning through play and imagination. A neat feature that we liked is that each piece is named on the back and is explained on the insert provided.
Wee Believers also offers free printables on their website to go along with the sets including flash cards, color by numbers, crosswords and other activities for even more fun!
Definitely a must see, check out our unboxing video and their website: weebelievers.com !
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PLUS, use the code HOME&HEART to take an extra 25% off of all of their Nativity of Jesus Collections! This would be a perfect time to nab the My Pop-Out Nativity kit!!
"Don't let the sins of those around you keep you from the Family of God!"
These words hung in the air during Mass this past weekend long after our parish priest had uttered them. I had been privileged to be part of a core team for a Sacred Heart of Jesus retreat which had taken place this past weekend, and his statement had been a response to many of the talks given at the retreat that he had supported through his presence.
His take-away from these talks struck a chord in me as well. Sadly, I have met many people who have shied away from the Catholic Church due to the hypocrisy that they had encountered in some form or another. I would imagine that you can relate well to this. Knowing a Catholic who speaks one way yet walks a walk that differs substantially from his/her claims can truly cause injury to others and can cause serious distrust towards the general Catholic population.
One would think that with all of the therapy that is offered for our culture's issues and the concepts of "enlightenment" towards relativism and "loving all without judgement," people would be slower to generalize and hold entire populations accountable for the actions of one person. Incredibly, however, these same concepts have actually pushed the envelope in regards to generalization, putting many souls at risk and robbing them of joy and a faith-filled life.
The sins of hypocrisy are not the only players in the devil's game, though. He is an expert at using the sins of our parents, spouses, children, teachers and priests to blind us and keep us from seeking out the Family of God. These sins often have no hypocritical value whatsoever, but the pain and the disillusionment that they inflict and create can cause such brokenness that we might feel incapable of making such a commitment in our lives. The affects of these sins can convince us that we are not worthy of joining God's family. They may persuade us to believe that idea of the "Family" of God is actually a detriment - perhaps even a threat - to our present lifestyle, and would only cause more harm and discomfort.
Are there times that you wish you could bring someone like this before God Himself so that He can wash away the lies and illuminate the truth? It can be so difficult to watch those around us choose to miss out on so much joy and peace.
When you encounter those that struggle under the weight of the Devil's hand, try to remember that, despite their resistance, they are God's children. Never stop praying for them. Be LOVE to them. Satan loses power when he is faced with love. When the occasion arises, be ready to share something of Christ with them, whether it be a scripture verse, an invitation to a retreat or church event, or even a kind word or hug. ANY loving action can bring them one step closer to their acceptance as a brother or sister to you in Christ. Each step can make all of the difference.
We were all created to be a part of the Family of God. Let us never doubt our inheritance, nor be afraid to share it with any of our lost brothers and sisters. In the end, what an amazing time will be waiting for all of us as we share our home together for eternity!
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Prepare Ye the Way
Here are some beautiful songs just for Advent!
If a song's title includes (family recording), please refer to the blog entry on 3/8/16 for info...
Hi! I'm a Catholic mom who loves to encourage and support others in their journey to live the beauty of our Catholic faith in a modern world. It can be a struggle, no doubt, but God has given us the tools we need! Join my family (both immediate and extended!) and me as we take on this incredible journey of our path to holiness.
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