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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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"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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May your Lent be truly fruitful and fill you with longing for His Resurrection!
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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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