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Well, today we have several updates!! Here is the new VLOG from the Teen Take Team - see if you can guess the saint faster than the team in this new "Guess the Saint" Challenge! Also, if I could ask a favor...the team is trying to get noticed on YouTube as an upcoming Catholic Teen vlog...if you could pass this on to anyone that you think might enjoy it, we would really appreciate it!! (Tweens might enjoy this just as much as the teens, and it's Catholic!)
Also, we've added some new music links to encourage your Lenten journey: to listen, just click on the buttons to the right of this blog entry!
Have a fabulous day!
Now here is a Lego Challenge that can really stir up the imagination! We've all heard this story. Perhaps you can watch the "Ten Commandments" this week with your family; you're bound to get countless ideas!
We can't wait to see what you come up with! May God provide that creative spark just like He did when He sparked the bush to burn for Moses!
THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE: Moses and the Burning Bush
(Feb. 28 - March 5)
What would you do if you saw a bush burning, but not burning up? And to add to that, you suddenly hear the voice of God Himself speaking to you? Would you be scared? Would you be excited? Read the story of Moses and the Burning Bush from our first reading at Mass to see how Moses responded when that very thing happened to him, and then watch the video below to see the story in stop action film with legos. Then show us something from the story with your own legos!
Read the story in Exodus 3:1-8A, 13-15
Check this out!!
Here is a cool stop-action Lego film about Moses… Lego Life of Moses
Sometimes I amazed at how much our children pick up, even at a young age. We do our best to help them to develop a strong faith to support them and give them the foundation they will need throughout adulthood, but we're not always able to see the results.
As I have matured (hopefully) throughout my life, making sure that my children have a strong, deep-seated relationship with God has become more and more urgent. I had a much more relaxed view when they were little because time seemed to stretch out forever....in other words, I felt that there would be plenty of time to teach them!
How naive I was back then, really. That old saying, 'Time Flies', is not just a saying to me anymore. I realize now just how quickly time does pass, especially as the children get older!
Also, watching my teens confront the issues of our day has really awakened in me a desire to do all I can to encourage their spiritual growth. They will certainly need a treasure trove of tools under their belts to be able to stay strong in a world that questions their faith at every turn.
I suppose that this is why I am so glad when God provides periodic little "holy eye-openers" that allow me to get a glimpse into whether or not our children have been getting the message. God graciously gave me one of those last night as we left from Stations of the Cross (which are awesome, by the way...please don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of walking with Christ on His Way of the Cross, held at most Catholic churches on Fridays during Lent):
My seven-year-old had to sit in the back of the choir (where we were singing short meditation songs between each station)and had a difficult time seeing Father and the alter servers approach each Station of the Cross on the walls of the church. Despite trying to sing and participate in the beauty of this ritual, I tried explaining each station to him in the lowest whisper possible.
Naturally, his lowest whisper and mine are not the same. His tends to mimic the low rumble of an approaching freight train.
Him: "Are you sure that's Mother Mary?" (As he pointed to a picture on a book in front of him.)
Me, startled by the oncoming fright train: "No, it's Veronica."
Him: "Are you sure? Because it looks like Mary."
Me, putting my finger over my lips to signal him to quiet down: "It's just the artist's version of her."
Him: "I still think it's Mary!!"
Me: "We'll talk about it later!"
Well, at home, we did talk about it. But interestingly, there were deeper thoughts lying in the wings under that blondish-brown hair.
"Mom, we never should have watched that show before we went to Church. It didn't have anything to do with God. We should have watched one about God to get us ready."
Now, mind you, the "show" he was talking about was a quick animated film that we had viewed to fulfill another obligation...but I knew he was right. Truly, the right thing to do would have been to choose something that would open our hearts and minds even more to being filled with the beauty of what we had just witnessed: the sad, heart-wrenching yet merciful and compassionate Stations of the Cross.
His perception of this after the fact filled my heart. I was amazed that he had come to this conclusion, especially when it seemed that he could not see enough (or be quiet enough) during the stations to be able to take away very much.
How grateful I am that God gives us these moments!! Each one comes with the added side affect of giving me a feeling of peace and hope for the future, not just for my child but for the world in general.
It also keeps me motivated to do what I can to keep Christ a huge part of his life.
Children are so dear to Our Lord, and we should never underestimate His hand in their lives. Let's continue to be open to any "holy eye-openers" that God give us this Lent, whether it be through children or those adults we come in contact with everyday. A little peace and hope added to our day is always a good thing!!
"Mom, I made a really big Italian mark!" my son called out from the living room.
"You made a what?" I called back, confused.
"A really big Italian mark!" I hurried over to where he was working on his math. I couldn't help but laugh.
"You mean tally mark…that's called a tally mark."
"Why is it called that?" he asked, naturally.
"Ummm…Well, I'll have to look it up, but I can tell you that more cultures than just Italians use it!"
Yes, my son LOVES math. He obviously takes after his father.
For me, working with numbers was fine until I neared high school. Suddenly, my writer's brain couldn't make sense of Algebra. For the first time, I had to learn another meaning behind earning my education!
I discovered the delight of burning the midnight oil as I poured over my homework, trying desperately to make x + y = z. Finally, one day as I was studying for an important test, my mom found me lamenting over my work, softly banging my head on the table.
"Why is this so hard for you?" she asked. I didn't think she could understand. My mom, after all, was a former NASA employee, incredibly gifted in the field of numbers, charts and equations.
"Mom, I just don't get it," I started. She sat down next to me.
"What don't you get?" Her voice carried convincing notes of sympathy.
"Well, it tells me that this formula will produce this result, but why? Why does it have to be done that way? Why can't I do the problem another way if I end up with the same result?"
"Will you end up with the same result?" she asked.
"I'm pretty sure…." and I quickly attacked a problem the way I thought it should be done to demonstrate my supreme wisdom.
To my disappointment, the answer was close, but not correct.
"Let me try another one…." (I had serious pride issues back then…well, maybe not just back then…)
My mother waited patiently as I went after another problem, determined to prove that my way was best.
Again, the answer came close, but fell short of being correct.
I looked at my mom, slightly embarrassed. She smiled.
"There are many times in life when we just have to trust that things are so. We have to trust that even though we don't understand, what we are being told is true. This is one of those times. Brilliant mathematicians came up with these formulas…I think it is safe to say that these formulas are correct, especially as they have been developed and refined over time by many, many more brilliant minds."
I leaned back in my chair with an air of surrender. I knew she had a point. Just because I struggled did not mean that following these formulas was a wrong way of going about things…it just meant that I needed to work harder to do my best to follow the way already paved for me.
Amazingly, I have never forgotten that conversation. And it happened quite a long time ago. (OK…maybe not that long ago; I am only 21, after all!)
Seriously, though, I took away more than my mom would have ever guessed. Once I quit trying to buck the system and accepted that perhaps others knew more than I did, I began to do very well in Algebra. I even ended up with an A at the end of the year.
Would I have ever achieved my goal of a good grade by following my own plan and design? Nope. Definitely not.
And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to take it a step further and apply this concept to God's plan for us.
So many times I try so hard to achieve a certain dream or to reach a certain goal using my own plan of attack. Never mind that God might have a different plan. And, even if I feel strongly that I know what God wants as my end goal, it doesn't seem to matter much that He has already paved a way for me. I have my own plan of how I am going to achieve success.
Why does it matter if I reach the same result doing it my way?
Well, that's pretty easy…I really won't reach the same result. In life, how we get there means just as much as actually getting there.
The journey really is just as important as the destination. Only the Divine, Omnipotent God could ever possibly know the importance of each growth in virtue, the significance of each soul we meet, and the gravity of every decision we make.
The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End….
The Creator of the Universe and time itself…..
If success is what I'm after, then I think I know who's plans I had better follow!!
"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." C.S. Lewis
THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE: The Ninevites Repent (Feb. 21-27)
Did you ever wonder why we wear ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday? Well, ashes signified repentance throughout the Old Testament. The story of the prophet Jonah is a perfect example of ashes in action! Read about the amazing adventures of Jonah in the Bible (Jonah chapters 1-4), and how the Ninevites responded when he finally delivered God's message to their city (after one MAJOR diversion involving a whale!).
What stood out to you the most? Was it Jonah being thrown from the boat? Jonah inside the whale? The Ninevites repenting? Or Jonah and the withered tree? Show us with legos!
To help, check these out!!
Here is a cool Lego project movie from a teen who made a stop-action Lego movie about Jonah...it's cute! Kids might get a kick out of it!! Jonah Lego Mini-Movie
Here is a quick version of this story for kids by Holy Spirit Interactive: In the Belly of a Fish
Today has been one of those days with ups and downs all over the place. And when I say ups and downs, I mean it: both literally and figuratively!
At 4 am this morning, we embarked on a little journey to retreat to the mountains of West Virginia. The family of my brother-in-law owns a cabin there and so incredibly graciously and generously allows us to use it, which we VERY gratefully do about two times a year. The cabin is a very special place to us, containing almost 20 years worth of precious family memories; on our first visit, for example, I announced to my sister and brother-in-law that we were expecting our first child!
One of the really neat features of this historic cabin built so many years ago is that it holds a literal record of almost every visit of every visitor. Anyone staying at the cabin is asked to write down a few words about their trip. This adds up to decades and decades of history and many, many logbooks! It is such blast from the past to go back, year after year, and remember our previous visits. What a treasure!
Anyway, about those ups and downs. So, since the purpose of this trip was to spend some much needed family time away from our family businesses and to recoup a bit from health issues, we turned it into a ski trip. This, of course, meant lugging 6 pairs of skis, ski boots, snowsuits and accessories, and boots. Add that to the clothes, sleeping bags, meals, and extras, we realized that we would have to pack the van and leave ourselves at home. There just wouldn't be enough room. So, after much thought, we made the decision to take our Excursion...our oldie but goodie. Well, it was good until it started breaking down like crazy recently.
Thankfully, I am married to one of those rare people who can fix almost anything given the time and right parts! Well, he'd been working on it (here's a pic of one of the barn cats jumping in alongside to "help") but it turned out to be one of those mysterious car ailments that seemed to match Rod's continuous unknown health issues. As always, he was able to coax it back to life, but he did not feel fully confident it would make the trip. Still, we went ahead with our plans.
All went well for 4 hours until we faced the steep uphill climb of the mountains. As we got closer and closer to our destination, the car worked harder and harder, and Rod was doing everything he could to make it easier on it. My stomach sank as each hill came into view, and I wanted to close my ears to the car's sounds of struggle. I began to pray through each one, and an interesting thing happened!
Thoughts of gratitude entered my head....things I would normally not think of. I was grateful that it was daylight, grateful that I had a husband who is gifted at fixing things, grateful that we had the opportunity to go on this trip. I realized that the sluggish pace we were forced to make as we climbed each hill prevented the possibility of speeding or going too fast around a turn near the cliffs, some of which often turn me a bit green. I also realized that a couple of my children who are plagued with motion sickness weren't having as hard of a time, most likely due to our much slower activity.
There were more thoughts as well, and it came to me that it quite possibly is due to a new book that our parish has generously provided to each family for Lent. It's called "Rediscovering Jesus" by Matthew Kelly. Basically, it's a Lenten Journey that walks you through a few pages at a time for each day and corresponds with a quick online video as well.
I SERIOUSLY encourage everyone to read this book and others by Matthew Kelly, like "Discovering Catholicism." REALLY good stuff, and really perfect for Lent.
So, as I turn in tonight, finally here at the cabin, I really hope you all are having a beautiful Lent.
I'll leave you with a picture of God's amazing, artistic masterpiece that we have been so blessed to see here today. Imagine the care that He took in creating such genius...and that is nothing compared to the care He took in creating us!!!
Painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Wow…this last Lego challenge brought the most submissions yet!! We are just so impressed with the creativity that is being sent in. The depictions really help to bring the themes to life and not only inspire us, but so many others as well!! I've attached the new challenge below this short reflection on it's theme this week.
So, this past weekend at Mass we heard about the story when Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil. This is one of those pivotal points in the Bible on so many levels that books have been written about it.
On one of these levels, this story takes the spiritual warfare that is going on in the shadows all around us and brings it out into the light. It shows us clearly that the devil has a plan at all times to pull us into the shadows, and even the Son of God could not be exempt from that attempt. Satan had hoped that Jesus' humanness would not be able to stand the tests that he presented, but, as we know, His perfection of humanity passed those tests with flying colors.
Jesus shows us that being human does not make it impossible to conquer sin. Being that our human forms were created by a perfect Deity who created us in His image, He shows us that as we strive for perfection we can become more and more able to pass the tests that Satan gives us. The trick? We have to try to become more like Jesus!! Satan knows this perfectly, and daily tries to convince us to sit back on our haunches and not make this a priority.
Why does He do this? Because he knows that it is his only chance to gain possession of our souls.
I, for one, cringe at this thought, and it makes me more determined than ever to look only towards the Lord who saved me and can perfect this weak, frail body of mine.
So, this week, let's try to pray more, to honestly invite God into our lives to help us grow in strength through Him. He is our God, the lover of our souls, and He will come to our aid!
This week's challenge has to do with this theme; we can't wait to see the submissions!!
THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE: Satan Tempts Jesus in the Desert
40 Days. 3 Temptations. 1 Lord. Reread the Gospel reading, Luke 4:1-13, about the amazing display of Jesus' strength and faithfulness to His Father during a very difficult and challenging time in the wilderness, or click on the link below to watch a video about it. Then build something that stood out to you from the story!
(February 14 - 20):
Short Video for Kids - may be a little slow for some, but worth the watch!
Happy Saint Valentine's Day!!
With St. Valentine's Day right around the corner, here is a cute homemade valentine craft that can be made pretty quickly and easily (as long as you have a sharp pair of scissors!).
As I'm sure you have seen, many people have gone gung-ho over the amazing world of duct tape. Seeing what others have created is simply astounding, and my daughters have been very inspired by their incredible imagination!
With this inspiration, Justina and one of her best friends have made many beautiful things out of duct tape over the years and she would love to pass some of that on. So, she and her younger siblings created a quick tutorial explaining the very basics of creating the simplest of flowers. Using this knowledge, there is no end to what can be created!
Have a blast, or if you know someone who might want to dabble in this unique art form, pass it on!
"Mom, are these cookies for Fat Day?" My seven year old's words caught me off-guard. "Oh…Fat Tuesday, you mean?" I corrected, trying hard not to laugh. "Right! The day when we're supposed to get fat." I had to hide a smile as I explained, "Well, I made those to thank the neighbors for their help cutting wood this week, but yep…they are perfect for getting fat!"
Hmmmm….perhaps I have a few more Fat Tuesdays in my life that are not on the calendar, I thought, as I eyed the dwindling cookies from the last couple of days.
Some people make goals for their New Year resolutions…I tend to hold off until Lent. Truth is, with my sanguine temperament I have a very hard time sticking to resolutions unless I feel God is holding me accountable. That is why I honestly almost heave a sigh of relief when Lent arrives.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. God holds me accountable all year long. So why is it that I feel like I can successfully fulfill my goals of sacrifice and repentance during Lent yet struggle throughout the rest of the year?
There are probably many answers to that question, not least of which is this: I'm human. (In fact, I'm so human, I could offer myself for research!)
God knows well my weaknesses, and so does the Church. It was with great wisdom that Lent was created. Or was it created??
In the early years of the Church, acts of repentance and sacrifice were all the rage. If you were Christian, you sacrificed and fasted. Why? It was what Christ asked us to do. He set the perfect example of this and asked us to serve others as He served us.
In fact, there is evidence of Lenten practices as early as the year 203 when St. Irenaeus wrote to Pope St. Victor I, trying to explain the different practices between the East and the West as they prepared for Easter. "The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their 'day' last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own way, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers." (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24.)
So, the Church has theoretically always practiced some form of deeper preparation of our souls to get us ready for celebration of Christ's Resurrection. It was a natural response to our call as Christians and it organically molded itself into Christian culture. And the Church finally made it official in the year 313 A.D.
But, to get back to my humanness. (Is this really a word?) It has become painfully obvious that life goes on and gets in the way of my preparation for Easter. Really, since each Sunday is a "Little Easter," I should be preparing every day of the year! Still, I know that I need to have a block of time set aside to assure that I will give time to God. Knowing that in God's wisdom this time has been set aside already, I am intensely grateful! And it helps to know that as I offer up Lent, I am joined by the Body of Christ who is offering herself up as well. I am definitely not alone here. (And this also helps hold me accountable!)
Over the last few days my family has been thinking about what we are going to do this Lent. Each person has their own private sacrifices, of course, but we also try to do things as a family as well. My daughter had seen a tutorial on making a polyhedron out of paper plates and helped her brother create one. Then, we came up with the idea to write down a simple act that we could do for Lent on each flat side. So, every morning during Lent we will each toss the polyhedron to see what comes up to do that day. My son, especially, can't wait!!
There are so many wonderful ways to prepare for Easter and each year we choose something different, from Lenten beans to growing Easter grass, from glueing little tissue squares on a cross to a 20-sided polyhedron. They are all just great ways for getting us ready for the Resurrection!!
So, if you are getting out some paper plates to celebrate Fat Tuesday, you might want to leave out 20 extra and let the kids make this craft: http://allfortheboys.com/home/2014/06/16/paper-plate-polyhedron.html. Then, write down some simple things to do each day!
As my son would say, I hope you have a great Fat Day, and may God guide you as you enter into tomorrow, ready to take advantage of the time that God has set aside to prepare our hearts for Easter!
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