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

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 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all of you a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving!  
I am truly grateful for the many wonderful people I have met here in this little place of cyber:)  
Thank you for touching my life!  
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving
And his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
And his faithfulness to all generations."
Psalm 100

Monday, November 19, 2012

Advent Book Winners!

We have 2 winners!
I realized that I had already purchased this book for myself last year so that left us with 3 books.  (The author so graciously sent one to give away and one for me).  What a blessing that I already had one so we could give both copies away!
We mixed up all the names and the littlest one got to pick:)
+Here are the 2 winners+
Please send me an e-mail with your home addresses and I will do my best to get those books out in the mail right away:)

Thanks to everyone who entered and a special thank you to the authors, Sharon and Christine, for this fun Advent opportunity!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Advent Giveaway!

~Hi Everyone~
I am so excited to offer a book giveaway in time for Advent...
Yes, Advent is coming...Beginning on December 2nd!
I was contacted by the author, Sharon Altman, who co-authored the book with her daughter, Christine Winkelman.  It's called Destination: Bethlehem...A Family Advent Adventure.
This is a delightful Catholic chapter book for each day of December leading up to Christmas – and is both entertaining and educational for the adults reading it aloud and the children listening.
There are a number of Advent books out there but what attracted me to this one was 2 things:
1-Sharon wrote this book for her grandsons (Her daughter and co-author's boys) and they decided from the start that they would donate profits from the book to a sister parish in Guatemala to help the kids there. I loved this! 
2-It's do-able! Reading small amounts during a busy time of year is very appealing.  I love that you can read a chapter a day and savor the real meaning of the season with our children. 
I was happy to do this review, hopefully stirring up interest in a book for more families to enjoy during Advent, and to help the children in this Guatamala mission parish.
And as their motto states:
"It's more than a book, it's an experience"

 If you would like to enter the drawing, please leave a comment to let me know and share the news, if you can.  The last day for entry is next Sunday, November 18th!
The authors also have a book blog that you may visit for more information on their book:)

Yay, this is kicking off my own Advent planning!
I'm starting my review with what we did last year...
Preparing a J.O.Y.ful Advent.
Don't forget to enter the drawing and help spread the word!
(Remember, this would also make a great gift:)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Traumatic Election Disorder (PTED)~10 Things To Tell The Children

Are you suffering from the results of the election...A little (PTED) Post Traumatic Election Disorder, maybe?  *Can't help but chuckle to myself* Well, I am.  It's hard not to be disappointed.  Very hard to see the biggest pro-abortion President ever to be elected...Yep, re-elected.  Life is valuable, it's beautiful, it's created by GOD...How can elected officials continue to be blinded by this?  Hasn't he seen the numbers of babies being killed on the abortion clock?
MY children see it, understand it, and ask *why*... 

What we are telling our children...
Sometimes there are no easy answers but there's always something we can do.  We are called to action but we turn to the word of God first. (Several of these inspired by my friend Hannah)
 1. We Are Disappointed But Never Defeated...
Most importantly, as Catholic Christians we are never hopeless.
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song." ~JPII~
"For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance." ~Romans 8:24-25
2.  Fear Not. 
The pro-life issue isn't the only one that we took to the voting booths but regardless of the issues or whether we win or lose in the election, we never lose our faith.  No one can take this away from us...Despite possible persecution for our beliefs, we shall not be afraid. 
"Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God"~Isaiah 41:10
3.  In God We Trust.  
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of Him, and he will make straight your paths. ~Proverbs 3:5-6
4.  Don't Worry, Be Happy.
"Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."~Matthew 6:34
5.  Always Be Thankful.
"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests know to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.~Philippians 4:4-7
6.  Let your light shine
Be the best Catholic Christian you can be, living your faith by example, with humility.
"For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.  For God said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ."
7.  With God, All Things Are Possible!
"Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."~Matthew 19:26
8.  God Works All Things For Good.  
"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."~Romans 8:28
9.  This Is Not Our Home.  
This time on earth is only our temporary home.  We aren't perfect by any means but we do our best to keep our sights on heaven. 
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us."~Romans 8:18
10.  Be At Peace, In God Alone.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
11.  OK, we thought of 11 things.  
+Love The Lord And Your Neighbor As Yourself
We could hardly call ourselves Christian if we forget the second greatest *toughest* Commandment!
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."~Matthew 22:36

And one last word...Praise God for the Sacraments that bring us His grace when we fail.

I am sharing a few other links that inspired me today:
From a Warrior Priest: Election Reflection for Warrior Catholics
Be The Change You Desire By: Lisa Hendey
Putting Our Faith Into Action By: Lena@Joyfilled Family
Reductio Ad Lady Parts
He Asked Me To Paint Him Something Beautiful 
By: Melody@Blossoming Joy
Shining Lights By: Anne@Imprisoned In My Bones
And a little "music medicine", as my friend Jackie said...
Grace @Our Catholic Life has a great music video posted called God Is In Control.  I shared it on my FB page:)  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Patriotic Rosary

Sometimes we forget that prayer is such a wondrous gift.  It's something that we can give, a light we can shine and love we can share. Even when we feel like it's not much to offer, it's everything we have to give.  Offering ourselves up for the good of others is a little action that packs a big punch!  Only in giving do we really receive...
On this glorious Autumn day, it was such a blessing to offer up the gift of prayer for our nation as we prepare for the upcoming election.  Our American Heritage Girls Explorer Troop hosted a Patriotic Rosary as one of their special event requirements.  We highly recommend this beautiful prayer service!  It would also be fitting for the 4th of July, Patriot's Day, or Veteran's Day too. You may also visit the link and print out the prayers on your own. 
"Believe me, there is no more powerful means to obtain God's grace than to employ the intercession of the Holy Virgin."~St. Philip Neri
Not all of the girls were able to attend and we had a fairly small gathering at the church but the impact on our hearts was enormous!
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Mt. 18:20
In addition to the Rosary prayers, we prayed for each of our 50 states by name, listened to some powerful reflections by 5 famous Americans, and sang some beautiful patriotic hymns. It turns out the gift we offered up came back to us ten-fold...our spirits were soaring:)
It was a special treat to capture a photo with nearly all members of our family in scouting uniforms...We are an official scouting family!(Though it does make me miss our college boy all the more :( The littlest one will be eligible to join American Heritage Girls in the Spring:)
Have I mentioned that the Boy Scouts of America have officially partnered with American Heritage Girls?  It's such a blessing to be able to take part in scouting as a whole family unit.
The girls hosted a small reception after the prayer service with goodies and drinks.  Here they are cleaning up!
It really was a special event.
Something that really struck me were the words to all of the extra verses of the traditional patriotic hymns that we never learned by heart.  Many of them have deep, spiritual, meaning that I never realized.  This third verse of America The Beautiful speaks volumes...
"O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And ev'ry gain divine."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saint's Day Pumpkin Art

St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Happy All Saint's Day!
Here I am sharing a fun art project...An idea that emerged from my disappointment!  I was feeling really bummed out that we were missing our annual All Saint's Day party with our homeschool group this year, due to a family conflict.  (I think I look forward to it, every year, more than the kids!)  I started wracking my brain trying to think of something fun and meaningful that we could do as a family here at home to celebrate this important feast day.  Always thinking about things that are "do-able"(My main priority for a project), I was inspired by Lacy's Saint puppets.   I figured if we couldn't dress up as our favorite saints this year, we could dress up some pumpkins!  We used many of the awesome Catholic Icing templates as guides for our faces and saintly symbols. 
Setting up "shop" in the garage, we had art class all morning!  All ages could participate...Age 4 an up:)
This would be a great idea for an All Saint's party too...It really only took us about 2 1/2 hours to make about a dozen Saint pumpkins!  (Not including set-up and clean-up) Our only supplies were sharpie pens and paint.  Tip:  Washable Tempera paint definitely works well but we liked the acrylic paints best...More vibrant colors.  Everyone wore aprons since acrylic paint is not washable.
We always discover new gifts and talents when we do art projects!  Princess created an adorable Holy Family:)
We are using it for our kitchen table centerpiece for November...Maybe even December!?  The rest of the pumpkins also made the cutest liturgical decorations:)
Angel baby made St. Therese (mostly) on her own...
+Superboy made St. Michael the Archangel+
Here we have St. Francis of Assisi...
St. Clare...
(Blessed) Mother Teresa of Calcutta...
A few saintly pumpkins made it the fireplace mantle...How's that for a power trio?
Let's see, we also had St. Patrick...He is (teenager) Army Dude's patron saint...
He's just too cute!
And one of my favorite's...Our Lady of Guadalupe:)  We ran out of pumpkins but I wanted to do Juan Diego to go with her!
I really think Princess did a nice job with St. Kateri Tekakwitha...One of her patron saints...Perfect decor for Thanksgiving too!
Here they are all together!  
They really turned out much cuter than I ever expected...Certainly making up for my original disappointment;-)
+...All you holy men and women, pray for us+
I've linked up!

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