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One year ago today, Catholic Conundrum was officially born! In honor of this, I thought I would re-post this entry because it still pertains to how we feel today and offers some suggestions (that really do work!) to help with the preparation craziness.
God bless you all for being part of our blog family! :)
Stay Awake, Be ready
There is a popular kids’ Advent song written by Christopher Walker called “Stay Awake.” Although found in many church missals, including the Breaking Bread editions, it is NOT your typical hymn.
“Stay Awake” calls to mind the joy and excitement that children share as they wait for the birth of our Savior. Walker even has rhythmic clapping built in (hint to music teachers!) to enhance the effect and make his point. And although I tend to prefer ballad-type hymns during Advent, there is something about this little song that speaks volumes.
These two words alone are interesting food for thought when we apply them to Advent. Many of us have dreams of the perfect Advent: a sublime mixture of prayer and spiritual activities, family get-togethers, snowmen, crafting, Christmas cookies, etc. Sublime plan, indeed. Reality? Not so much.
I don’t know about you, but my Advent preparations tend to be exhausting! Our family greatly enjoys the many traditions we have developed over the years, but trying to fit them in with the everyday chaos of life is a challenge. Sometimes, I secretly wish I could just drop one or two and replace it with rest. But just the mere mention of this throws my family into a great stage of lamentation (not necessarily the wailing and grinding of teeth kind, but close). How can we get the best of both worlds? And, more importantly, how can we make certain that we stay awake and focus on making this Advent one that God intends for us?
First and foremost, prayer HAS to be the number one priority. Begin the day asking God to help you ‘stay awake’ and center on His coming. Establish a time during the day that your family can stop and realign its Advent focus. Our family loves to read special prayers at dinner while we light the candles on the Advent Wreath and sing a verse (or 2 or 3 if the younger ones pick it!) of a favorite Advent song. There are many pre-composed prayers that can be found online or you can take advantage of the many beautifully written Catholic family Advent books that are out there. Each year we try new ones, and the kids love taking turns reading or responding. Then, as your day ends, take time to thank God for the immeasurable gift of His Son and ask Him to supply the grace needed to be adequately ready for His great coming!
Second, prioritize your activities and accept the limitations of family life. There are enough Advent and Christmas opportunities to fill every Advent waking minute, but that doesn’t mean that God is calling us to experience each and every one. As long as our prayer focus is on the birth of the Savior and we are viewing the holiday season through the lens of our faith, we have already satisfied the most important part of our preparations for Christmas. This alone should give us peace and comfort as we take on the cooking, shopping, crafting, wrapping, Christmas tree hunting, decorating….and, well, everything else!
Even with the knowledge that we have put Christ first, the strain of expectations can bring us to our knees. For many, the getting “ready” part of this season of peace turns out to be the most stressful 4-5 weeks of the year. Here’s a possible solution that takes little time to accomplish and might actually lighten the load.
Quick Advent/Christmas Prep. List
The beauty here is that if you can successfully implant some items following the line, you can consider these as bonuses and know that you are achieving a better sense of balance. More importantly, utilizing this list gives you a good indication that your family is accepting its limitations and that you are living an Advent that is more balanced and appropriate. Do, however, recognize that these lists are not written in stone and have a good chance of evolving as Advent unfolds. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide!
Advent should be a time of prayer, family togetherness and peace. The demands of today can make this seem more like a dream than reality. However, with appropriate expectations, a dash of organization and a generous helping of grace, we can arrive awake and ready at the foot of the manger to adore the Newborn King.
Yep, this is my tree-hugging bunch! I am proud to say that my family is honored to be tree-huggers, but not necessarily for the reason you might think!
Today, we began the Advent season by choosing our Christmas tree. Sadly, our beloved tree farm that we have faithfully visited for years had to close this year, and it seemed that our fun memories of enjoying the special activities that were offered there would end with it. However, thanks to my dutiful husband, we not only found another fantastic tree farm to search for the "perfect" tree, but its plethora of Christmas themed activities (all free!) included an opportunity to serve those in our military, a notion I find quite significant and gratifying.
Although the tree in the picture above was not the one we ended up choosing, it's soft needles lured the kids in, and they could not resist a huge hug! This specific tree happened to be far softer than the others we had scouted out, including several that left painful memories on our hands. However, these deceptively pretty needles became sharp reminders as to why we consider our devotion to our hardy growing neighbors.
You see, my little domestic church honors the Tree of Life - the tree of Wisdom and Knowledge. This is a tree we surely hug spiritually since it is so significant to our creation story. We also bow to the Tree of Salvation, the cross on which Our Lord died and paid the ransom for our sins. How could our emotions of love and devotion not pour out when we approach this tree upon which our entrance into heaven has been granted? Such trees are objects of our devotion because they lead us to our God; we willingly run to "hug" them, for in doing so, we "hug" the Lord Whom we love so much.
So, how about you? Are you a tree-hugger? My guess is, you really are! :)
Let's consider this as we prepare for the coming of a newborn babe who will soon be nestled in a manger made of yet another tree.
Praise the Lord - and let's prepare our tree-huggin' hearts this Advent season to welcome Him in! :)
Photo attribution: George GrimmHowell, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=28014, 2016, Common Domain
Whether you're out and about doing Black Friday shopping, getting your Christmas tree, or trying to recover from the eating spree yesterday, we hope that you truly feel blessed by our amazing God. We also hope that you were able to be with family this Thanksgiving, but, if you weren't, please know that you were in our prayers yesterday as we sent up some special "knee-mail" that God would be with you in a special way.
As we think about things that we are grateful for, we want you to know that we are grateful for YOU and are so thankful that you are willing to spend some time with us on your journey towards heaven!
God truly bless you and keep you safe this weekend as we live out the last couple of days in this liturgical year.
Be safe, Live life fully, and Give thanks to our Almighty God! :)
What do Jesus' story of the eye of the needle and a famous song from Survivor have in common? This music video!
Check out the new lyrics, graciously provided by Jesus Himself! You've never seen His words presented like this before. Have fun and be forewarned: you may find yourself singing this song for a long time afterwards!
Thanks to Catholic Online for the Saints Fun Facts Image!
Ever feel like your voice could never be enough to evoke change? Or that your single life is just too insignificant to make a difference for good? Well, here's a shot in the arm for all of us.
Years ago, my daughter did a report for school through our history program. Her subject was the unique saint that we celebrate today - St. Margaret of Scotland, otherwise known as Margaret of Wessex in many history books. One of the unique things about this saint is that her story is by no means an obscure one. Due to the part she played in history, we actually have a lot of information about her, which can be hard to come by for many of our older saints.
St. Margaret was also unique for another reason. She could also be referred to as the saint that "killed em' with kindness" due to the amazing nature of her life. Extraordinarily, her life centered around an astonishing example of kindness and love in an environment that turned most heads in the other direction.
Having been born into wealth, she suffered a shipwreck that brought her to Scotland where King Malcolm Canmore III sheltered and fell in love with her. St. Margaret's example of deep faith and kindness began to take incredible effect. They had 8 children, all of whom were raised in a beautiful, Catholic family. But her attributes would extend much further than her domestic church. Her kindness and love literally changed the face of her nation. Leading by true example, she physically fed the hungry, prayed with her people, promoted the arts and built up education in her nation. In other words, she showed Christ to a very ungodly people who eventually whole-heartedly embraced their beloved queen's Catholic faith.
Now, some might say that she had it easy because she was a queen. Actually, reality tells it differently. There were many people in power who were NOT happy with her and her strange "goings on." Some were angry because she was not behaving as they felt a queen should, and plans were concocted to put a stop to it.
However, her genuine kindness and love had a winning effect on even some of them. And her devoted husband who truly loved her with his whole heart (this is a great love story, by the way), continued to stand by his wife and promote her great devotion to her people, watching as the entire nation changed before his eyes.
I love this story! It shows that we are ALL called to "kill em' with kindness." That does sound a little rough around the edges, but it just means that if we answer the call to literally shower down kindness around us, the ripples will extend further than we can ever imagine. And I'm not just coming at this from an angle of motivation. This is actual reality.
Our lesson today? Be KIND!!!! Kindness holds the power to change the world.
God puts this power into our hands: let's use it! :)
My mom, dad, and father-in-law are veterans. Growing up, my siblings and I were taught how important it was to remember those who have served and are serving our country. Besides God's mercy, of course, it is due to the sacrifice of these noble men and women that we have the freedoms we do today.
I have developed an even greater appreciation of this fact as I have gotten to know more of these great people and their families as life has gone on.
Years ago, my siblings and I got together to make a CD of music for my parents as an anniversary gift. Since my parents met in the service and formed a singing group that helped to boost morale for their local troop, we felt it was fitting to add some songs that pertained to that era in their lives. Thus, the song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was one that we just had to add to the list!
My brother has an audio engineering degree and worked painstakingly to bring our vision to life; without his hard work and the sacrifices of his wife (who was very pregnant with #6 at the time!) and the amazing work of my sisters with arrangements and figuring out the harmonies, this CD would have never happened, so I do want to give a quick shout out of thanks to them!
And I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention my deep, deep gratitude for my parents and their influence on my life as well as their dedication to our country!
I truly hope you get a kick out of our version of the song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy! As I've said in a past blog post, we're not professionals by any stretch! Still, we truly enjoyed the opportunity to sing together again as we had done so much while growing up.
May God pour His blessings up all of our veterans and service men and women! We love you and thank you!!
Introducing our next Teen Take Vlog Video: Bible Charades!
Using the popular app, the Team tests their Bible know-how as they attempt to guess the answer on the screen through the clues from each other! See how fast you can guess the answers or how quickly you can come up with clues for each answer!
FYI…this can be a very addicting game. We had to edit out a LOT just to keep it at a favorable watch time! :) We definitely recommend it. HAVE FUN!
Also…stay tuned for our next music video to be revealed very soon! To get it when it's "hot off the press," subscribe to our YouTube channel or Click on the "Subscribe" link down further on the right side of this page.
As our 12-year-old daughter handed us our "key," we approached our closed bedroom door and noticed a sign with the words "Room 105" displayed on it. I glanced warily at her and her younger brother standing with a full, expectant smile as we opened the door. It didn't take long to see that they had surprised us with a gift: they had given our room and bath a makeover!
Our newly-made "hotel" room came equipped with the finest of details, including mini-toiletries, a stand with extra "goodies" as they called them (mints, sample lotion, etc.) and a special welcome note. The bathtub and sink even had special towel decorations with more toiletries! Then, on top of this, included on their welcome stand was a walkie talkie by which there was a note explaining that we could call for room service using morse code. Now what decent, upstanding hotel room would ever be without morse code? We are certainly living in the lap of luxury!
The whole thing was so incredibly adorable. This grand plan, of course, was spear-headed by our daughter who came up with the idea and the fancy details, but you could see evidence of our guy's assistance as well.
And why did they do it? Well, as they said, they "just wanted to."
These young children of God are so much better than me in so many ways. It would be impossible to count how many times I have really wanted to do something for someone but for whatever reason never got around to doing it. Obviously, some of my excuses were valid and made sense. However, perhaps there is a lesson for me here.
How many times have I made excuses that really had no grounds? And how much did I really want to do things for others in the first place?
Perhaps I need to recognize when those thoughts of helping others pass my way again. I think that I will try to take a harder look at following through, and, like my kids, do it because I "just want to."
Isn't that what God does all day long?
God bless your day as He has mine…showered with little moments where His love shines through those around us! :)
Also, I do want to encourage you to be on the lookout for our next videos coming very soon, including another Teen Take Vlog as well as a new music video!
Photo attribution: Gido Silhouette, 2014, https://www.flickr.com/photos/103499652@N04/13965692785, CC
Sorry about the lag in posts this week! The last few weeks have been one of those periods of time we all have when everything seems to hit the fan at the same time and there doesn't seem to be enough time in a day. However, God has made good use of that time. Part of the craziness included a trip out of state to a conference for our small store. And, naturally, being the homeschooling parents and science geeks that we are, we just had to turn the visit into a field trip by visiting a nearby science museum. That visit proved to be very enlightening as always, although perhaps in a new way to me.
Next fall, our oldest will be heading off to college. Due to the hectic pace of life right now, I have allowed little time to dwell on this fact. We've just pushed ahead with God's plan for her. However, right in the middle of our visit at the museum, I stared at my 4 kids participating in the activities and suddenly felt a lump forming in my throat coupled with an incredible sadness. I realized that the next time we visited this museum and took this annual trip, she would not be with us. Honestly, my heart sort of broke at that moment.
I know that many of you have already experienced this moment and understand my sentiments perfectly. And, yes, I do realize that these future changes will bring many incredibly happy times as well.
But, I am human; I am a mom. I long to keep these moments under my belt. I don't want to lose them. In truth, I'm just not ready. But, ready or not, the changes I would prefer to avoid are coming.
Praise God, practicing the difficult art of the gratitude attitude is proving to be an invaluable tool as I approach this emotional challenge. I am remembering that my kids are "on loan" to me as an amazing and undeserved gift from God. Oddly, this fact does give me comfort.
I also am learning to absorb life right now, noting time with the kids together and apart and taking mental snapshots of moments that strike me. And, although I am not overtly affectionate due to some difficult times in my past, I am making more of an effort to be more "there" physically with the attempt to remember Our Lady's affection for her children.
In addition, of course, is deep gratitude for a Creator Who knows the Grand Plan. I am called here for a purpose. My spouse and each of my children are called for a purpose that is uniquely theirs.
This process of letting go, one I am not good at, is a vital part of my purpose here and is a necessary consequence to the fulfillment of my children's purpose.
In other words, it is vital for me to let go so that that the purposes of 4 more children of God can be fulfilled.
A lot does depend on me and how I go about accepting God's plan for my life - a lot more than I realize. When I dwell on this, I am aware that this reality fills me with a sense of control, an aspect that I know I am gradually losing as the clock ticks on. How good God is that He knows the depths of our souls, tending to our emotional needs with such attentiveness!
Our God is such a great God. I am incredibly humbled to have been granted guardianship over such 4 beautiful souls. I can only pray that I am helping to form them, albeit feebly, in the ways in which He has prepared and desires.
May God, in His infinite wisdom, grant all of us the strength, humility, and gratitude to fulfill our purposes here on earth, giving us all of the grace that we need to approach each challenge ahead with love and conquering trust!
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He is Risen!!!!
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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