Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Book Wonder

I always love good book recommendations!
Therefore, I just had to share a few that I recently "stumbled" upon.

We are working on a Winter Unit (K-3)here at home.  
These are a few of our "new" favorites that we were able check out from 
our local library.
I just loved this one and its sweet rhythm.
It reflects a large family in a joyful light
and ends with a gentle spiritual touch.

This book can be set to the "Twelve Days of Christmas" tune!
(Perfect right after Christmas)
The story centers around all the things you can use to build a snowman...
Some good ideas and fun counting.

I just love author Lois Ehlert.
Her books are great for art projects as her illustrations are often created using shapes.  We read this one and got some great ideas!
This site called Kinder Korner has some great learning extension ideas for Lois Ehlert books and other winter themed books, to include a  wonderful Jan Brett author study!

This is a true story about a boy who was homeschooled!
Fascinating fit for kids.
Wilson A. Bentley developed a technique of micro-photography
to reveal to the world the grandeur and mystery of the snowflake!  He followed his dreams, using the gifts God gave him...Great for after-reading conversation!

This was just a precious little story and great counting fun!
I enjoyed the watercolor illustrations.

Our absolute favorite is one that I already mentioned in another post about the virtue of Charity.  This was the cutest darned book with a wonderful lesson!  It ended up being a new purchase for our  book shelf.

So these are a few of our recommendations...
How about you?  We would love to hear about your favorite winter stories!

Almost forgot to mention this "Through The Looking Glass" link .  It also gives some great reviews on winter books and others.  I like that it shows a little picture of the book cover.

And one final recommendation for Mamas!
I am loving this easy little book of reflections, new from Karen Edmisten.
~Through The Year With Mary~365 Reflections~
I find these snippets of soul food to be perfect prayer aspirations for my day, keeping me focused on All For Jesus, Through Mother Mary.
Ave Maria!

Prayer Request For A Sorrowful Mother...

Please join me in praying for Patty at Reasons for Chocolate...
For David and Patty, their family, and the recent loss of their precious child in the womb.
We pray for Patty's health, their peace, and consolation.

Prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as you loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daily Divinity

I'm just the kind of person...
Always searching for signs, seeking the Divinity in every day life,
Looking for God in the little things, little ways, little sights and sounds.
I know He is there waiting for us to find him, if only we open our eyes.
My life depends on Him so I'm just that kind of person.

I was out for an evening walk the other day, it was dusk and the sun was setting.
For a winter's night, the sky was unusually clear and crisp.
As I rounded the corner, headed west on the final stretch towards home,
the sky lit up in glory and  "Light Up The Sky", by The Afters, came on my ipod.
I could hardly believe how the words fit perfectly to the glowing sky before me.  

I couldn't resist snapping some pictures with the camera on my phone while I walked. .Just had to share a few of the photos... I was amazed how beautiful they turned out, just using a phone camera!

"Light Up The Sky"
When I'm feeling all alone,
with so far to go,
The signs are nowhere on this road,
Guiding me home.
When the night is closing in,
Its falling on my skin,
Oh, God will You come close?

Light, light, light up the sky,
You light up the sky to show me You are with me.
I, I, I can't deny,
No I can't deny that You are right here with me.
You've opened my eyes,
So I can see You all around me.
Light, light, light up the sky,
You light up the sky to show me, 
That You are with me.

When stars are hiding in the clouds, 
I don't feel them shining.
When I can't see beyond my doubt,
The silver lining.
When I've almost reached the end,
Like a flood You're rushing in,
Your love is rushing in.
So I run straight into Your arms.
You're the bright and morning sun.
To show Your love, there's nothing You won't do.
You are with me,
 You are with me.

He never fails to reveal himself, just when we need it the most!

"Every little glimpse that can be gained of God exceeds every pain
and every joy that man can conceive without it."
~St. Catherine of Genoa~

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Small Steps For Life

7th Annual West Coast Walk For Life
~San Francisco~
*January 22, 2011*

God is Good...Therefore, Life Is Good!
Thought I'd share some photos of our Walk For Life~San Francisco.  God provided a glorious sunny day for us to make "life" matter.  It was a privilege to be one of the chaperones for 10 High School youth from our parish, which included my oldest son.  
~Our Parish Group Family...
Taking a few small steps for LIFE~
Some amazing speakers inspired all 50,000+ of us to take action...If not today, when?
 {38th Anniversary of Roe-vs-Wade}
Including Author and Pro-Life Warrior, Abby Johnson.
Have you heard this incredible story?  It's amazing!  Abby, once "Planned Parenthood Employee Of The Year" is now a leading Pro-Life advocate.
Please pray for her coming into the Catholic Church this Easter!
Be sure to purchase her new book, UnPlanned from Ignatius Press.  (It may be 'out of stock' but they are accepting orders with another round of books to be shipped soon) An Amazon review reveals that the Amazon version is abridged and leaves out her conversion to the Catholic faith.

Just loooooved this beanie!
Some awesome sights and SIGNS!  
~Mama Mary with us all the way, Protectress of the Unborn~
2.5 Miles a long the Embarcadero... 
Down by the San Francisco Bay!
(Bay Bridge to our right)
I am inspired with each small step.
Mighty love and peace surround us...
God's mercy shines like a beacon of light!
All around, He shows us {despite our fallen humanity} the way to perfect joy and freedom.
With each year I attend, I am more in awe by the young people...
Hands down, our future generation is
HOPE at its best!
There are no words to express the witnessing of thousands of young people walking for life.
It truly knocks your socks off!
They have more conviction than I could have dreamed of at their age.

I am humbled,
I am nothing,
I am grateful.

This was the most beautiful part of the walk along the waterfront...
Can you see the stream of people AND the famous Ghirardelli Chocolate sign in the background?
Almost near the end...
Up one more hill!
Top of the hill...
This photo didn't turn out well for faces but you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background!
Bridge to bridge, it was a beautiful day to soak up God's glorious creation all around us...
Just a few small steps for life.
We praise Him because He created our inmost being.  He knit us together in our mother's womb.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made!
~Psalm 139:14~
"We may be but a drop in the ocean...
But the ocean would be a drop less without our participation.
Just one person at a time,
one day at a time,
doing little things with great love...
If not you, who?
If not today, when?
For me and you, let it be now."
~Mother Teresa~

Be sure to visit Tracy at Slice of Smith Life for a view of Walk For Life, East Coast!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

St. Agnes Flowers

Happy Feast of St. Agnes!
January 21, 2011

Some people refer to snowflakes as St. Agnes flowers because she holds a winter feast day.  I first read about this in our Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions.  Since then, I have seen some really cute crafting ideas around the bloggy world, though her primary symbol is the lamb.
Today we made these fun St. Agnes Flower Brownies with a snowflake stencil and powdered sugar.
Making these stencil designs is my new favorite way to decorate dessert!

Lacy at Catholic Icing has a neat post for St. Agnes.  She found a glittery paper plate craft by Sun and Candlelight that inspired us on this feast day (below).  Be sure to stop over and check out Catholic Icing's post on snowflakes too.   
Joyfilled Family also has some wonderful resources to share for St. Agnes as well.

We rarely get snow where we live so it has been fun doing a winter theme unit to include lots of reading and studying about snow!  Next week, we have a science project planned to make our own snow crystals.
Until then, we closed out our week with some snowflake projects, dedicated to St. Agnes.
Our family loves the story about St. Agnes, the brave and lovely 13-year-old martyr, who gave her life TO Christ and FOR Christ, her bridegroom.  You may read more about her at Catholic Culture.

We also painted a few snowflake rocks, using the colors of white and blue to represent purity.
Then we placed them at the feet of our Sacred Heart of Jesus, who welcomes visitors to our 
front door.
I am also looking into these St. Agnes "Snowflake" or Snowdrop Flower Bulbs for next year!
Tomorrow, we are making paper snowflakes to decorate our windows...We can pretend there's snow outside, right?

All-powerful and ever-living God,
You choose the weak in this world to confound the powerful.
When we celebrate the memory of Saint Agnes, may we, like her,
remain constant in our faith.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Virtue That Studied Us

~St. John The Almsgiver~

 I didn't "plan" to study one of the Theological Virtues this past week...
But somehow the virtue of Charity found it's own way to our studies! 
It all began with the reading about the life of St. John the Almsgiver
on his Feast Day, January 10th.
On Monday: Our favorite daily saint reading book described John the Almsgiver as a Christian nobleman who used his position to help the poor.  Because of his great charity, he is called the "almsgiver", which some of my younger children learned means someone who gives money, food, or clothing to those who need it.  When people asked Bishop John how he could be so charitable and unselfish, he told a story about a vision that he had as a young boy.  "Charity" came to him in the form of a beautiful girl, the oldest daughter of the King.  Charity tells Bishop John in his dream that she will lead him to Jesus and no one is as powerful as she is.  Charity goes on to tell John that it was for her that Jesus became a baby to redeem humankind.  
Wow, the power of Charity and Love really sunk in!
This story prompted a lively (impromptu) discussion, as the lives of the saints often do.  A verbal list of actions for our family began to develop from the hearts of the children, including almsgiving that can begin right here at home! [Especially since Lent is right around the corner]

On Tuesday: I picked up one of the many books that I had recently found at the local library for our Winter Theme Study.  Most of the books I had just chosen randomly.  My sister suggested this one with the adorable illustrations.  As it turned out, it was the sweetest story about CHARITY!  I highly recommend this precious book for K-3.  You won't be disappointed.

On Wednesday: I visited JOYfilled family to "discover" Lena's beautiful post on, YES, CHARITY!  She posted a Charity Litany that was a prayerful addition to our virtue that studied us!

On Thursday: I learned a bit more about charity (myself) during my Holy Hour.  Oh, the power of love!

On Friday:  The news came out that our beloved Venerable Pope John Paul II, The Great, will be beatified on May 1, 2011.  (Divine Mercy Sunday)  This was an amazing finale to our study as we talked about his life, lived for others in love and complete charity.  We also learned that he will be Patron of  World Youth Day (WYD), 2011.  This will be a lovely spiritual experience  for my husband and oldest son who will be attending WYD with other parish pilgrims in August!  I have my own connection with VJPII, The Great, who shares the same death anniversary, April 2, (different year) as my late husband.  Pope JPII taught me many things but one quote in particular sustains me: 
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair, we are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
Our Venerable Pope was a personal witness to love.

I just love this man and I share this Christian love with so many.  Like the quote from Mark Twain: "He loved to love people, therefore people loved him."
His exhortations for Catholics, and all people of good will, was to “stand up when human rights are attacked, when the unborn are threatened, when marriage is undermined, and the poor and suffering are neglected.”
How's that for ultimate Charity?

I never could have planned out such a week in the providential way it unfolded on it's own.  
I couldn't be more grateful for the virtue that studied us!

Friday, January 14, 2011

How Do I Adore Thee?

The young woman at the foot of Jesus inspired me yesterday...
Causing me to ask: "How Do I Adore Thee?"

She came from the back of the church, slowly shuffling down the aisle on her knees.
The soft brush of her pants against the carpet signaled her advancement.
As the shuffling grew louder, she drew closer.
She moved past me.
 All the while, her gaze was locked on Our Lord, there on the altar.

I was sitting near the front reading Morning Prayer from my Magnificat.
I couldn't resist a continuous glance up from my prayer.
Keeping her eyes fixed on Him, I witnessed a beautiful love story.
Though I must admit that I felt a bit like Martha,
busying myself before the Lord,
my desire to love increased with each passing moment.
With each glance, I was infected by this contagious devotion.
A prayer swept over me:
"Lord, praise and bless this woman who loves You so deeply.
Praise her more than me.  Oh yes, Lord, praise her more than me."

Was I feeling inadequate for being Martha instead of Mary?
But only I placed that burden upon myself.
I didn't feel less loved but I questioned my own sense of loving in return.
How Much Do I Adore Thee?
How much do I love God so that I can better love others?
I sat in silence after the young woman left, pondering these questions in my heart.
Penetrating through the depths of my spirit, I heard:
"Come closer, my child."
Practically leaping from the pew, I rapidly moved toward the altar,
kneeling before Jesus, beckoning from the Blessed Sacrament.
Fixing my eyes on Him, my heart followed.
Silence and peace filled my soul as I repeatedly heard:
"Come closer, my child...draw near."

I realized later that the busyness of every day life pushes me to the periphery of the spiritual life, leading me to adore Jesus from a distance.
This changed as an infusion of love surged from the monstrance,
shifting my love from arm's reach into a loving embrace.

Like the inspiring young woman, He desires that all of us come closer,
continually drawing near.  There are no exceptions.
He is waiting and beckoning for us all to desire Him as He desires us.
Only then can we begin to love.

I am full of praise for the Mary that drew this Martha a little closer...
Lest I slip back to love at arm's reach,
I must continually ask myself:
"How Do I Adore Thee?"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Companion Saints

St. Lucy

we had fun choosing a few saints to guide us through the New Year, using the Saint's Name Generator...

But what we really believe is that these saints chose us to be our companions for the year.

Now the fun part begins...
Learning, praying, and discovering these new saints in our lives!
First of all, we have 2 new Family Saints:
~St Lucy and St. Leopold ~

We believe it was providential that these two saint's names begin with L 
and our last name also begins with L!
We also noticed that female saints chose the boys (with 1 exception) and male saints chose the girls in our family!
This began with St. Lucy popping up on the Saint Generator as our family saint for hubby and 
St. Leopold popping up when I used the Generator on a prior occasion.

I was particularly excited about St. Leopold because he is a Croatian Saint.  I learned about him during my Medjugorje Pilgrimage.  There is a statue of St. Leopold outside the confessionals at St. James church in Medjugorje since he was know to be the ultimate confessor.

I decided to post a photo of each family member with their companion saint.
The first photo of my husband and I begins the introduction to our companion saints.
Next in line, our oldest son was chosen by
St. Catherine of Sweden

~St. Catherine of Sweden
is a special guardian over "life" as
Patron Saint against 
Abortion and Miscarriages.
This is a special connection to
17yo Mer-man who is passionately Pro-Life~
St. Walburga 
Chose our 2nd son, Army Dude (Age 11), whose real name also starts with "W".
We had never heard of this saint.  However, we are discovering her beautiful story, which includes a miraculous healing oil that began to leak from her bones many years after her death.
Did you know there was a Benedictine Convent here in the U.S.(in Northern Colorado) called
St. Walburga Abbey?
We have now added that to our list of places to visit if we ever make a drive across country!

St. Mark, the Evangelist
Chose our daughter Princess (Age 8)
We know that Mark's name and Princess' real name both mean "Gift of God."
Mark also became a beloved disciple of Peter, our first Pope.  He worked hard to found the first famous Christian school.

St. Basil the Great
Chose Superboy (Age 6)

He is said to have had a kind and generous heart.  These characteristics reminded me of our sweet Superboy.  He is patron saint of lawyers and hospital administrators.
His grandmother, mother, father and four of his nine siblings are canonized saints.

St. Juan Diego
Chose Angel Baby (Age 2)
I loved this connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe and have written about it in a previous post.

Our Lady and the True Devotion Consecration is what led to Angel Baby's Conception and she is also named after Mary... It is special and quite fitting that Angel Baby was chosen by 
St. Juan Diego, hence Blessed Mother too!
St. Teresa Margaret Redi
Chose Hubby!
We had never heard of this saint either.
What we have learned in recent days is that she was a pious child who saw God in all things, and she was confused to learn that not everyone knew that God loved them.  Her short life was spent in contemplative union with God and her favorite phrase was: "God is love."
If you knew my dear husband, you would realize that this saint makes a perfect companion for him!

Wrapping things up...
The Infant Child Jesus

Chose me through

My assignment is to be "praying for the reign of the Child Jesus in all hearts."  
I am looking forward to exploring the divinity of the infant King in more depth over the coming months.  I am reminded of this quote that convinces me that I have lots of work to do myself!
"We should submit our reason to the truths of faith with the humility and simplicity of a child."
~St. Alphonsus Liguori~
Closing with a quote from St. Lucy, one of our Family Saints:
"Those whose hearts are pure are the temples of the Holy Spirit."
My goal is to have the children make Liturgical Folders to display all they have learned about their companion saints.  Gardenia is my inspiration for this idea and I can only hope to do as lovely a job as she!  Be sure to check out her blog and links for Liturgical Folders.  Xhonane from Familia Catolica has paired up with Gardenia to make them in Spanish...Beautiful!

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