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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Falling In Love Again *2013*

This sign was my sign...
For 20*13*

I love *13*!
Thirteen is my good number.
I don't say lucky because I don't believe in luck, so to speak.
I believe God has a plan and everything happens for a reason...
That being said, the number 13 has been good for me:)
13 was my street address for the first real house I lived in as an adult, married, Army officer.
13 was my street address again, different house, different state, when I gave birth to my first child.
13 was the date I met my present husband, Rod.
13 was the date we were married, 2 years later.
I already love this new year...20-*13*.  
It will surely be good.
I have no doubts.
Regardless of the valleys and hills we may travel, God is always good.
Knowing this truth with every inch of my being, I still like to ponder the new year, reflecting upon where I am and pray for a goal or theme to carry forward.  As mentioned last year, it helps me to sit before the Blessed Sacrament.  Jesus never fails to help us out when we listen for His guidance:)
This is my answer for the year.
I am falling in love again *2013*
I know I'm bearing my soul here.
Apparently, I need a little work in this area.
I know I do.
I get discouraged when others don't love me back.
I might reach out to someone and receive very little in return.
In this case, my natural inclination is to retreat.
If someone refuses my love, I internalize and shut down.
I'm done loving.
At least for a day. (wink)
Maybe I'm not really loving others and what I really want is for others to love me.
How selfish is that?
I think about Mary.
What would she do?
I have no doubt that she just loved people unconditionally. She did this out of her love for Jesus...She only wanted them to know her God-Son, to love Him and see Him through her.  
Now that's how I'd like to be,
all the time.
I'm going to work on that, as per my marching orders,
read during my recent holy hour in this beautiful book...
"My divine Lover, your devices to attract souls are truly amazing.  Dying for us did not satisfy you.  You had to give us this sacrament as a companion, as food, as a pledge of heaven.  You had to become a tiny baby, a poor laborer, a beaten criminal, even a morsel of bread.  Only a God who loves us deeply could conceive such ideas!
But when am I going to respond to your insistent love?
Lord, I want to live to love you.
My life is worthless if I do not use it for that.
And what is there to love but you, who are so good, so kind, so lovable?
May my soul expand with love when it thinks of you.
And when it hears the names crib, cross, sacrament, may it be sparked with the desire to do great things for you.
O Lord, let me do something for you before I die."
If my soul expands with love for the Lord, how can I ask for anything in return?
Sometimes it's not that easy.
How can we tackle such a monumental task?
The answer can be simple...One little bite at at time.
A very wise friend (and Carmelite layperson) recently told me that it helps to pick one person at a time, someone we are struggling with loving.  In our human nature, God knows we are otherwise overwhelmed:)  Within our desire to love God, we can concentrate on praying for this person and for the strength to love them for who they are, created in the image and likeness of HIM, and not for what they give us in return.  God's love for the unlovable will guide us to His perfect light.
I shall try,
I shall do my best,
to love God more truly, deeply and completely.
Only through truly falling in love with Him over and over again, will I be capable of loving those I have the hardest time loving.
I seek help in the manger.
Lord, I want to live to love you.
My greatest desire is to share your love with everyone around me, including the toughest to love.
This prayer crossed my path yesterday.
I'll take it as another sign that I should pray it daily:)
Radiating Christ
By: Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman
Dear Jesus,
Help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.
Penetrate and possess my being so utterly
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel Your Presence in my soul.
Let them look up, and see no longer me but only Jesus.
Stay with me,
And then I will begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You.
None of it will be mine.
It will be You, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You
In the way in which You love best:
By shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
Not by words but by example,
By the catching force,
The sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love
My heart bears for You.  Amen.
Falling In Love Again *2013*
Won't you join me?
Beloved, let us love one another, because  love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.~1 John 4:7-9
{I'm linking up over at Suscipio's Naming the New Year!}

Thursday, December 27, 2012

All Kids In The CAV

It's been a glorious Christmas with all chicks back in the nest...College boy is home again after a 4 month stretch! Nothing makes a Mama happier than having all of her children home.  It's been the best gift.
College has been good for him and he is very, VERY, happy there!  It's an amazing experience to watch your children grow into their own individual lives...They are out in the world making it their own, making decisions that shape their future, without your daily guidance. It's a very strange feeling. Our prayers fly with them and we cherish when they make it back into the nest again.  They are always our children but new blessings come as we get to know them as adults.  We are all embarking on new and unchartered ground.  He feels the transition and so do we.
The best thing we did was load all kids in the CAV (Catholic Assault Vehicle) a week before Christmas and head to the snow...Just our family for 2 nights.  A fellow firefighter offered up his humble abode to us and we were able to spend quality (concentrated) time, together.  It was a time of getting to know college boy in a new way.  It was a time for college boy to reconnect with all of us.  Just 2 nights was all we needed for some good bonding with a little bumping and bickering grinding too:)
We couldn't remember this little one ever playing in the snow...It's been a few years since we've ventured out in the great white!  Isn't it wonderful when little ones fit right into their older sibling hand-me-downs?  
We had a couple of bins filled with old snow clothes and MIRACULOUSLY, we outfitted the whole family without a single purchase!  Yes, snow angels DO exist:)
We had fun watching movies, 
playing cards, and just hanging out.
A day of ice skating was a treat!
Everyone helped teach the littlest one how to do it!
Dad had to sit out due to some tendonitis going on...But the rest of us had a blast!
I did fall once and bumped my hip pretty good but luckily just a bruise! We had a day pass so we came back and skated at night:)
Thank you, Lord for a special time.
The scenery was spectacular at this lake that never freezes!
How funny that we were standing on a snow-covered beach...Playground and all!
It is true that the present moment really is the best present...In this sense, Christmas came early at our house.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Come, Lord Jesus!

Since hearing the homily during the first Sunday in Advent, this little prayer aspiration has been my mantra for the past 4 weeks of Advent..."Come, Lord Jesus!"  It He has helped me survive during times of holiday stress and Advent sufferings to bear...In reality, it's the reality that He really is here with us and all we need to do is call out His name...And know wherever He is, He'll come running... Just like the old James Taylor song:) And He will come again in glory.

So we're finally here.  Advent closes tomorrow and the Christmas season is upon us...Christmas is just beginning in the life of our faith.  Christmas is not over. I am so thankful for that, grateful to be Catholic.  There's more time.  Time to bake the cookies I didn't get to, time to enjoy the decorations and Jesus in the manger, time to get back to my daily Magnificat readings that have been neglected in the bustling activity, time to reflect on the grace of God that appeared, time to dwell on the word made flesh, time to give glory to our Savior...Come, Lord Jesus!  
Here are a few ideas for celebrating a Catholic 12 Days of Christmas.

I'm hoping to grab some time to blog hop and wish all of you a very blessed and Merry Christmas.  Until I make my rounds, I am thankful for all of you friends here.  Each of you inspire me to live my faith stronger and better with each passing year. 
God bless you all as we celebrate the Good News...To us is born a Savior!  Together, we look forward in joy to the coming of the Lord. 
+Merry Christmas From Our Family To Yours+

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Patroness Of The Americas

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!
+How special this year on 12-12-12+
Some of you may have seen this crafty idea from Domestic Church...I have admired it for years!  This year, we finally planned for it and pulled it off:)
It really is very easy and the beautiful image is printable over at their site with simple instructions and visual aids. (Mandatory for this Mom;)
I'm definitely saving these...Handy for All Saint's Day!
This year, the kids will be wearing them for our Parish Procession:) {Minus our tween who was not thrilled about donning a tilma}  I am enjoy my little ones, who are good sports for now;-)
This feast day is always a mandatory celebration at our house due to a special love I have for Our Lady of Guadalupe, who led me on the path to forgiving a {seemingly} unforgivable crime.  A pilgrimage to Mexico City was the culmination of such grace outpoured... 
I've never written about this particular journey here but the Holy Spirit saw fit that another writer connect to it through my pilgrimage post. Tim Drake wrote a beautiful article and  it's featured in this month's Catholic Digest:)  All glory and honor to God, through His most holy Mother!
If you happen to read it, let me know what you think!
*Feast day blessings to all*

Saturday, December 8, 2012

1st Week of Advent~Finding Room At The Inn

The first week of Advent found no room at the Inn, my Inn, that is.
Every room in the house was a mess.
It was time to purge and the rhythm of the season pushed me  to make room...
There's something about the liturgical cycle of starting over at Advent, with the beginning of the church year, (and again during Lent) that finds me in the mood to empty.
Empty self.
Empty home of junk.
Empty everything.
Empty, empty, empty.  
Only then can I concentrate on preparing anything...
I need to clear the way,
make room in my cluttered heart 
{and cluttered home}
to prepare Him room!
This was the result of three room cleanings...
Quite "fitting" under the JOY sign:) 
All of us, without exception, prepared bags of our material belongings to give to the less fortunate.
We have seen a great light!
Preparing our hearts, we have started kind deeds to make room in the manger for the coming of baby Jesus...We want Him to have a nice, soft, bed, made through our loving deeds to others.
Learning about the genealogy of Christ, through the Jesse Tree, is preparing our spirits.  The word of God speaks through the holy scriptures.  I find myself always learning something new each year, right a long with my children.
Thank God, my cluttered heart is making way...
I am hopeful.
I can do this!
Despite varied forms of flu, colds, and coughs that are running through our family, I'm thankful for the Advent feast days to keep us hunkered down and focused on the goodness of the season, away from the commercial stimulation.

The Feast of St. Nicholas has become a favorite Advent tradition.
Remembering the good bishop of Myra and the kindness he shared with others.
We gave bags of our belongings to the less fortunate and received a few goodies too:)
The first candy canes of the season were brought out to remind us of St. Nicholas' bishop staff...
And we made our traditional Mighty Miter (Bishop's Hat) Cake, in honor of this great saint.

I love this quote.
Moving into our second week of Advent, I am reflecting on this.  Especially that we are called to mimic Christ through our faith and this is not of ourselves.
It reminds me of the perfect role model, Mary, most holy.

I just love our parish Fatima shrine that reflects the beauty of  Our Lady, reminding us of her "Yes" to God, all year round.
On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, I continue to make room.
Through a woman, conceived without sin, we find our Savior.  A Mother's heart was prepared to Mother God Himself and all the world.  We need only to open our hearts for her to guide us closer to the manger...She provides front-row seats:)

This week we prepare for the homecoming of our college boy.  He's been away for 4 long months!   
We certainly hope He finds room at the Inn...Comfort here, back into the folds of our family, even for a short time.

Advent (Week 2) is upon us and the journey continues!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preparing A Catholic Advent

Now that Advent is all around us, many of us are busy preparing our hearts and homes for this special time of year.    
Not only am I always seeking to simplify things and not have it be a stressful time, it's always my heart's desire to bring out the sacred to counter the secular...To bring our faith into all we do.  Here some little ways to prepare for a Catholic Advent...
It's a few random sharings, using the basic premise of our faith...Aiming to know, love, serve God and one another!

Know and Love God...
 Bring out the Advent wreath and print out the nightly prayers ahead of time.  There are many free sources.  Family in Feast and Feria shares some beautiful Advent printables.  This year, I'm supporting a new booklet, O Radiant Dawn, by Catholic author, Lisa Hendey.  I think it's a whopping $1.50.

Many faithful folks use the rhythm of the liturgical cycle to renew their commitment to prayer life.  I know that I sure do!  There are a few novenas this time of year but my favorite has already started, the Immaculate Conception Novena.
I can't say enough about the Magnificat Year of Faith Companion guide...I absolutely love it!  If you haven't picked it up, it's worth every penny:) It's a beautiful compilation of short mediations written by different spiritual authors.  I'm sticking with this instead of the Advent Companion this year.  Here are my other personal picks this year for 
Advent Devotional Reading:
Magnificat Year of Faith Companion
I noticed they also have a Kindle addition!
The Little Way of Advent
My husband is reading:
Exploring Advent With Luke

Consider giving Godparents (or other special people) a little early present by giving Advent spiritual reading, coupled with this holy popcorn made by Benedictine Nuns! (Plus it gets some Christmas shopping and gift-giving done early:)
This is a small gift bag of Chocolate Peppermint Patty Popcorn, it is the perfect gift size, and it's only $4.00! I might add that this company is extremely efficient and my order was sent [almost] as fast as Amazon;)

Consider doing a mini-Advent retreat with your family during Advent, committing to daily family prayer, and a focus on the true reason for the season.  Many families read books together.  We have many favorite picture books that we don't always get through! But we do our best each year...

A family need not make a purchase to bring more prayer into the home. I absolutely adore the free prayer resources at this Praying Advent site!  It's chock-full of good stuff...Hallelujah!

A Jesse Tree Study?
This could also serve as a family Advent retreat...We are giving it a try!

This year, we are using this Jesse Tree Study Guide offered by Sanctus Simplicitus, thanks to Lena at Joyfilled Family, who offered the tip:)  It looks like a detailed study of the geneology of Christ with prayers and discussion suggestions. I am looking forward to this enhancement to our Advent home schooling days!   Sanctus Simplicitus also has some other wonderful resources at their blog!

There are 2 other family Advent books (Designed to read aloud together~One chapter per night) that we love!
1-The series by Arnold Ytreeide (Jotham's Journey) and
2-Destination: Bethlehem

Two-thumbs up for these Christmas cards...
I finally found some Catholic Christmas photo cards!  (Also fairly reasonable in price:)  They are offered by Printery House.  The prices were right too...Some as low as .85!

December 6th~This year, I am keeping the feast of St. Nicholas shoe gifts simple...chocolate coins and candy rosaries!  Real Life Rosary makes these for $3.99 and they are offering to put your children's names on the labels for St. Nicholas day or stocking stuffers.

Serve God and One Another
There are so many ways to serve throughout Advent and Christmas.  To me, the goal is to continue to serve beyond the season! 
Sometimes the little things we do can be positively habit forming.  I stumbled upon this site that sends a daily e-mail with a kindness act to perform for each day of Advent. Giving it a whirl;) It's called Advent Acts of Kindness.  This will also help cushion our manger for baby Jesus!

One other idea...Our family collects alluminum cans and bottles for the whole year.  As a family, we turn them all in during Advent and give the money to a child or family in need through our church or community.  Last year, we were able to donate a generous amount from all we had saved:)

It's better to give than receive.
I'm trying to buy more faith-based gifts this year.
Did you know the Miraculous Medal Shrine has a gift shop?  I don't want to give any gifts away  (some of my friends might find out what gifts I bought for them;)...So let's just say I love their jewelery:)  The gift shop also offers to personalize Christmas Mass cards, also one of the best gifts to give!

The Marian's of the Immaculate Conception also have a sweet little gift store.  These cute little guys are only $4.00:)
 And this beautiful antique holy family necklace, a mere $9.95! 

Have you heard of the Immaculate Waters natural soap and lotion products made with Lourdes Water?  They are a little pricey but I love them and they make great gifts:) You can find them at The Catholic Company or Monastery Greetings.

Catholic Embroidery also offers some unique items and they were another extremely prompt and efficient business, getting the order out immediately. I bought the cutest book bags for my girls.  I just love to promote quality faith-based companies that are customer-service oriented and this is one of them!

Well, I think that's about it for a few random sharings:) I'll leave off by sharing a lovely Advent prayer.  Wishing you all a peaceful and joyful Advent season, through knowing, loving, serving God and one another! 

Dear Jesus: I look forward to Sunday and this new season. But all around me are the signs rushing me to Christmas and some kind of celebration that equates spending with love.
I need your help. I want to slow my world down. This year, more than ever, I need Advent, these weeks of reflection and longing for hope in the darkness.
Jesus, this year, help me to have that longing. Help me to feel it in my heart and be aware of the hunger and thirst in my own soul. Deep down, I know there is something missing in my life, but I can’t quite reach for it. I can’t get what is missing.
I know it is about you, Jesus. You are not missing from my life, but I might be missing the awareness of all of the places you are present there.
Be with me, my dear friend. Guide me in these weeks to what you want to show me this Advent. Help me to be vulnerable enough to ask you to lead me to the place of my own weakness, the very place where I will find you the most deeply embedded in my heart, loving me without limits. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent All Around Us

"There is no better way of growing toward perfection in the spiritual life than to be always starting over again and never thinking that we have done enough."
St. Francis de Sales

Miraculously, the natural world is preparing itself right now...Just like it does every season.  It sets the stage for hope, for new life. 
My soul connects.  

A jog in the rain today begged me to question why I should be surprised that God renews the face of the earth this time of year?
Of course, it's Advent all around us.
His timing is always perfect.

As the name Advent signifies coming, from the Latin word Adventus, our souls prepare for the celebration of Christ's coming.  He came as an infant and He will come again, a time and hour we shall not know.  Just like God's creation, we too, prepare for hope eternal, especially this time of year.
One might think a vibrant explosion of color would signify perfection... but no. Instead, it heralds in a steadfast promise of renewal...never perfect but always striving to be more beautiful, inside and out.  The colors fade and trees are stripped but never without hope of coming back bigger and stronger.
A shedding of the old brings a new beginning, a new color in springtime.
A shower from heaven cleanses all around, making way for wonderful things to come.
Advent is all around us, right before our very eyes...

All of creation stands before us, holding up a mirror to our souls.
Am I prepared? toss out the old and make way for the new?
Who do I see in this reflection of mine as Advent arrives again this season of life?... 
Like the fluttering leaves around me, I see someone who is imperfect, often upside down, 
eagerly seeking to be right side up, more vibrant in faith, hope and love.
I come broken and torn...
deeply desiring to be made whole, again and again.
This I feel, this I see, this I know.
A new creation beckons, always, without fail. 
A canopy of God's love awaits, like a babe in a manger, if we only take heed and harden not our hearts.
Preparing to empty self, start anew, in joyful anticipation of a birth that saved the world, is the reason for the season...We see it all around us.
From the womb of a chosen, virgin, sinless, woman, a Savior reigns forever...
She was made mother for us all.
There is so much to look forward to, to celebrate...
In joyful jubilation we turn toward the coming weeks with much work to do but peace in our hearts, knowing that a magnificent masterpiece is unfolding before our eyes.
A new dawn is coming...
 Advent is all around us with a hope that never ends.

Linking up!
Advent 2012 Button 

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