The Big Advent Giveaway!

I mentioned a week ago that I would be doing a giveaway soon.  Here it is:

As you know, I am determined to make this a lovely, joyful, spirit-filled Advent season.  I have lots and lots of ideas in mind that I might do, but I’m having a difficult time narrowing it down.  So, I’d like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment to share your suggestions for creating a beautiful Advent season.  You might answer one of these questions:

What are your plans for this Advent season?

What devotional are you going to commit to?

What practices are you going to put in place with your family?

What have you done in the past that worked well?

What did you try that didn’t work so well?

Or you may have something I haven’t even thought of that you’d like to contribute.

Regardless, when you leave your comment, you will be entered into a drawing to win this beautiful Holy Family Figurine.

The winner will be chosen on Saturday, Dec. 1st.

Please tell your friends so that we can have a wonderful sharing of great ideas that will help us all more fully prepare our hearts for Christ this Advent!

**Please note: All comments are moderated and any offensive or irrelevant comments will be removed.**  Another note: I changed this post to correct a spelling error I can’t believe I made.  “When” instead of “win”.  Woops!

 

Just a Quick Post…

…because it’s 11:52 and I really should be in bed.But I was laughing at myself because I just completed my Snapfish order at 11:51, 8 minutes before the Penny Prints deal expires.

Last night, I completed my Shutterfly Christmas card order at 11:05.  Their special expired 55 minutes later. (Or, at least, my sister said that it did.  I looked tonight and it was still running.)

Procrastination?  I’ve got it down to a science, my friends.

At this point, I might as well stay up a few minutes more to share some of these adorable photos that I just printed.

So now, an hour later, I’m done with this “quick post.”  It’s less than perfect, but bed is calling.  Sweet dreams!

Healthy Blessings… A Thanksgiving Reflection

I went to the doctor yesterday and received some potentially alarming news.  Fortunately, we caught it in time and I should be able to fight it through diet and supplements.

Unfortunately, on the day before Thanksgiving, I was told I cannot eat meat, white flour, sugar, or dairy products for the next few months.

It’s now been 33.5 hours that I’ve been on my new diet, but who’s counting?  I have stuck to it pretty faithfully, and I must say that this is the first Thanksgiving where I have not spent the bulk of the day feeling bloated and gross while scarfing down yet another piece of pie and wondering,

Why on earth do I do this to myself?”

I didn’t go hungry, but I confess that not partaking of turkey, chicken and noodles, cranberry salad, buttery dinner rolls, sweet potato casserole, and apple pie did rob some of the joy from the day.

Just as I’m not counting the hours of dieting, you can see that I’m also not paying any attention to the yummy foods that I missed out on.  Hopefully, by now you can hear the violin playing in the background, and tears of sympathy are streaming down your cheeks.  Go ahead.  Set your laptop down and go grab the Kleenex.  Woe-is-me. There are starving children in Africa, but I couldn’t eat apple pie today.  Life is rough.

Anywho…  today, I’m thankful for this opportunity to develop my self control.  I am also thankful that never once today did I feel like a complete and total glutton.

And I’m thankful for…

The warm smoothness of my baby’s cheek pressed to mine,

and the sparkle in her eye when she knows she’s made me laugh.

The chilrens’ silly antics that sometimes drive me nuts,

And the moments when even the big kid still wants to cuddle.

The soft cushiness of a hug from my mom,

and the solid strength in a hug from my husband.

The bare winter trees reminding me that beauty exists in simplicity,

and a baby’s tiny fingers and toes, reminding me that God creates amazing complexity.

The moon on a clear night, a harbinger that tomorrow is a new day,

And the glorious colors of the rising sun… life is rarely black and white.

Surrounded by all of God’s many blessings, I remember…

“Even when I walk through the dark valley,

I fear no harm, for you are at my side.”

(Psa 23:4)

Preparing for Advent

I can’t believe that Advent is less than two weeks away!

As I have been mentally preparing myself, I remembered that, having not made the most of Advent last year,  I posted some ideas on Marthas Heart of what I’d like to do differently in 2012.  I reread it this morning and thought I’d repost it for afewbeadsshort readers.

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Hindsight is 20/20

Being the “Martha” that I am, I got completely caught up in the holiday craziness and let it pass by me with tons of stress and little true appreciation for the joy of the season.  This was despite the fact that I bought relatively few presents for my kids and tried not to overbook myself with activities.  In the last few days, I’ve been trying to relax and enjoy the remaining tidbits before we celebrate Christ’s baptism tomorrow and the official Christmastide is well and truly over.

I have vowed, with God’s help, to do better next year, and thought I’d note the things that I can do differently.  I’m sure this list won’t be anywhere near complete, so please feel free to chime in any thoughts you might have from your own personal experience.

  1. Start my shopping earlier and make a concrete, written list of what I’m buying for everyone.  I ended up doing way to much late night shopping the last week before Christmas.  With all the kids’ activities the last week of school, it would be exceedingly helpful to have everything taken care of before that week!
  2. Have a budget, and stick to it.  We blew the budget with the first item we bought, but just kept going anyways.  Knowing that we were spending way more than we should gave me a general sense of unease that lasted the whole season and still lingers as I examine finances in January.
  3. Commit to a spiritual practice for the duration of Advent.   I had made a commitment in September with the intention to reevaluate at Advent.  I never did reevaluate and instead just stopped doing most of it.  My priest recommended giving something up for Advent, and I think that’s a nice idea as well. (I know this idea might seem crazy to many, but he explained it well.  See his homily at http://bit.ly/fjyudA).  At a minimum, I wish I had kept up with an Advent devotional.
  4. The past several years, my kids and I have enjoyed reading Usborne Books’ Advent Nativity Book every night during Advent (or at least starting Dec. 1).  This book has 25 cut outs that together make a manger scene.  The kids would get very excited about reading it every night and getting to add one more piece to the scene.  Every night, it reminded us of “the reason for the season” and helped keep us balanced.  I didn’t have a good place to put it this year, so we never did it.  I really missed that and plan to reinstate it’s use next year.  If you can come up with a similar practice, I highly recommend it.
  5. Play more Christmas music!  Music is powerful, especially religious Christmas music.

“You belong to God, children, …for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.  This is an absolute Biblical truth, but I was reminded this Advent that we must choose the one who is in us over the one who is in the world.  Today, I choose Him, and pray for the grace to choose Him every moment of every day in 2011 and beyond.

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If you love free stuff, stay tuned for a special Advent giveaway that I am hosting!  Also, I just added a “Subscribe to button” on the right hand side.  If you’d like to be the first to know when I add new posts, please sign up!

 

Wednesday Whippets, Two Days Late

My plans to do a Wednesday Whippets every week have completely not come to fruition.  But now I realize: I’m always late, so why should my blog posts timely?

Here goes…

Seven Great Things in the Last Week:

1. My parents celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary yesterday!  In a world where people don’t get married until they’re thirty-something, and where half of marriages end in divorce, couples approaching their 50th anniversary will be growing few and far between.  I am extremely grateful for my parents and the wonderful examples they set for me and my sisters.

My parents, 48 years ago

2. Ray started his new job and LOVES it.  This company takes such amazing care of its employees, we are both experiencing some serious culture shock after his previous employer.

3. Ray’s been on the job for four days and yesterday I opened the mailbox to find an envelope from his new employer, through whose window I could read, “Pay to the order of…”  Knock me over with a feather.  It was his first pay check.  Can we say, “Christmas,” everyone?

4. My illness only lasted a day on Saturday and no one else got it!  (I must note, however, that since this indicates food poisoning, which I had already experienced in the last month or so, I am considering a hunger strike against food poisoning.)

5. I already have my Christmas shopping list almost entirely figured out, with two major items already purchased.  I think we’re gonna have some very happy kids, without breaking the bank!

6. Thanks to Marriott Rewards, Zach’s iPod Touch (from Santa) was FREE!!!!!

7. Last but not least… We experienced no major medical emergencies during our two day period of being uninsured.

Three Things to Pray for:

1. Our country (duh)

2. Isreal

3. For all mommies who, like me, are struggling to find their peace in the midst of insanity.

Shout Outs:

1. To whatever anonymous person cleaned out their stash of Catholic statuettes and images.  I am greatly enjoying two lovely new Marys as well as a small framed Our Lady of Good Counsel.

2. To Denice, Karin, and our silent partner Jen – and all our wonderful girls – for a great Becoming Girls meeting on Monday!

Thank You, God

I was sick yesterday.  I suspect food poisoning from ceviché I ate Thursday night, but it might have been a 24 hour bug.   Other than making it out of the house for family photos, I spent the bulk of the day in bed.  Thank God it was a Saturday, so I actually had that luxury.

This morning I was lamenting having lost a day of my life, especially since yesterday was a sunny, 70 degree day in November.  Then I took the dog out, and was blessed with one of those most amazing morning sights.  The clouds on the horizon were just beginning to turn orange, pink, and yellow with the sun’s first rising, and the beauty of the bare trees was silhouetted against the lightening sky.    A hand’s width above the trees, a tiny sliver of moon shone bright, with a single star to its right.

Breathtaking.

It felt as if God was saying to me, “You missed yesterday, but I give you today.”

The only words I had were, “Thank you, God.”

The Key to the Next Four Years?

As I consider the seemingly disastrous election results, the bottom line is that God gives us each free will. On Tuesday, just over half of America turned their backs on God and voted for death, debt, and defenselessness.  My heart is broken and I can’t even imagine how God must feel.  Christ died for us, and how do we repay him?  We encourage women to kill their unborn babies so that they can live the lives they want.  We force Catholics and other Christians to pay for those murders.  We adopt an attitude toward the poor which tells them that they are helpless, thereby encouraging them to remain dependent on the government.

We put our trust in government, rather than in Christ, who saves us.

However, I believe strongly that God will use this for good, as He always does.  He is now giving each of us an opportunity to make a difference, to stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Each of us has our own talents – gifts given to us by God – and He is now asking that we use those gifts to further His cause.

Father John Hollowell wrote an excellent blog post yesterday, in which he called all of us to be “warrior Catholics.”  I couldn’t agree more.

As I’ve thought and prayed about Tuesday’s election results, I’ve become convinced that, first and foremost, this is the result of a failure to evangelize.  Not a failure to evangelize Protestants or atheists, but a failure to evangelize our own fellow Catholics.

We live in a world of lukewarm Catholics; Catholics who know neither scripture nor the Catechism, and relegate Christ to Sunday mornings.  If they do know scripture, it’s often through Protestant Bible studies, so while their Christianity may be strong, their Catholicism remains lukewarm at best. i.e.They do not understand the Biblical foundations of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Many Protestant churches support abortion and gay marriage, and almost all of them condone contraception, so those Catholics simply subscribe to the teachings they have received through those Protestant studies. (Please note that I am extremely greatful for the wealth of Protestant Bible studies, as it was one such study that set me on fire for God’s Word.)

I don’t know all the answers here, but as I think about what needs to happen in the next four years, I think of those lukewarm Catholics, and I think that, if we can set them on fire with love for Christ, His Word, and His Church, we will see a very different result in 2016.  I believe that, if we teach the Gospel to these lukewarm Catholics, that evangelization will naturally extend to people outside of the Church.

I do believe that we must proceed with caution.  I think that it’s important to have many of the “Church militant” out there, proclaiming the truths of the Church, including confronting the issues of abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and gay marriage.  But I also think that many people tune out the moment they hear someone discussing these topics from a catechetical view.

So, I believe that some “Catholic warriors” will need to take a kinder, gentler approach, a seemingly more round-about approach, with the goal to bring people more fully into the bosom of the Church, that they may open their hearts and minds to the fullness of her Truth.

Regardless of where you fall, I pray that you will join me in this fight for our country.

Tied Up in Knots

I was stressed out in 2008, and worried in 2010.  Tonight I’m literally sick to my stomach with worry.

Rather than watching the results trickle in, I took long a walk, during which I prayed the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Better to pray than to fret, I figure, but I confess that my prayers were still fraught with fretting.

I know that tons of Catholics across America have spent much of their days in prayer.  I just got a text from a friend who went to two Masses, a prayer service with adoration, and wrapped up two novenas today.

I didn’t fast.  I wish I had fasted.

But, in the end, I must apply to the results of this election the same words that I’ve used to defend Richard Mourdock’s campaign misstep:

No matter what happens,
God can make good come of a seemingly terrible circumstance.
We must simply be open to His will, and
seek out how we can be His servants
in bringing about His plan.

We don’t know the road ahead of us, but He does.

 

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.” Jer 29:11

 

Big Bird Doesn’t Need a Hand Out

The eight year olds at school are talking politics.  And guess what?  Word on the street is that if Romney gets elected, Big Bird will die.

First, let’s agree that these kids haven’t been watching the news, reading the Huffington Post (btw, thanks for the image, Huffi), or checking out memes on Reddit.  No, this is coming from the parents.

Way to go, parents.  Way to focus on the big, important issues.  I mean, who cares about which president will lead to the death of more human babies?  If one of them is going to kill Big Bird, that’s the end of the discussion.

But let’s just take the human babies out of the equation, since I know some grown ups are uncomfortable approaching that topic with children.

So here’s what I told my eight and six year olds (after explaining that, first and foremost, we as Catholics must vote for the candidate who upholds the sanctity of life):

“Sweetheart, right now, under President Obama, our country’s debt – money that we don’t have, and owe to someone else – has reached $16 Trillion dollars.  Sixteen trillion.  Can you wrap your head around that?  I can’t.

“Who do you think is going to pay that money back?  It won’t be your father and I, or our generation.  It’s going to be you, and your children, and your grandchildren.

“So, here’s the question.  Do you want to watch Big Bird now, and work until your 90, trying to pay back all of that money?  Or, would you rather do without Big Bird – and some other things that are nice to have, but we can live without – and be able to retire when you’re 62, and enjoy the rest of your life?”

Being an insightful child, Dude responded, “Do without Big Bird.”  It may help that he’s way to cool for Big Bird these days.

“That’s an excellent answer, honey.  But you know what?  PBS has lots of Big Bird and Elmo stuff that they sell to make money, so that show’s not going away.”

“Big Bird can support himself.  He doesn’t need a hand out.”

(for more information on Big Bird and PBS, who gets $450 million annually from the feds and pays only $1.5 Million in licensing for Sesame Street, check out this excellent article from the Washington Examiner.)

Why I Probably Shouldn’t Homeschool

I love homeschooling Bear, but I’m not very disciplined.  Take this morning, for instance.

We had to take the dog in for his regular checkup (all is good!) and just got home about half an hour ago.  Bear walked into the living room and turned the tv on.  Sesame Street!  Hmmm. That’s educational, so why tear him away?

So, I got everyone a snack, and then thought I’d get the classroom ready for a very, very, short class before I have to take him to speech class, where I know they’ll be covering the letter “j” as well, which gives me an excuse to not cover it fully myself.

So I got the classroom all set, and thought I’d see if the song I wanted to sing to start class, was available on Youtube.  It’s not, so then I thought I’d moderate blog comments, which I did, and there was a new commenter, so I thought I’d check out her blog, which I did, and I liked it, and it made me think about writing this post.

So here we are.  We need to leave for speech in ten minutes.  Boo is sitting on the classroom table, writing in Bear’s workbook, on the table, and on the white board with an Expo marker.  Bear is still watching Sesame Street, and the lovely Jesus I had drawn under the J on the whiteboard has all but disappeared under Boo’s scribbles.

And THAT is why I probably shouldn’t homeschool.