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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The REAL Night Before Christmas

Our 35 year-old Nativity set (hand-painted by my very talented Mother-in law). One of my favorite treasures!

*Just found this little story that we are reading tonight in great expectation…Had to share!*

The Real Night Before Christmas
By: Sister St. Thomas

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
St. Joseph was searching, walking up roads and down;
Our Lady was waiting, so meek and so mild,
While Joseph was seeking a place for the Child;

The children were nestled, each snug in their beds,
The grown-ups wouldn't bother, there's no room they said;
When even the innkeeper sent them away,
Joseph was wondering, where they would stay;

He thought of the caves in the side of the hills,
Lets go there said Mary, it's silent and still;
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Made pathways of light for their tired feet to go;

And there in a cave, in a cradle of hay,
Our Savior was born on that first Christmas Day!
The Father was watching in heaven above,
He sent for His angels, His couriers of love;

More rapid than eagles God's bright angels came;
Rejoicing and eager as each heard his name;
Come Power, Come Cherubs, Come Virtues, Come Raphael,
Come Thrones and Dominions, come Michael and Gabriel;

Now fly to the Earth, where My poor people live,
Announce the glad tiding My Son comes to give;
The Shepherds were watching their flocks on this night,
And saw in the heavens an unearthly light;

The Angels assured them, they'd nothing to fear,
It's Christmas they said, the Savior is here!
They hastened to find Him, and stood at the door,
Till Mary invited them in to adore;

He was swaddled in bands from His head to His feet,
Never did the Shepherds see a baby so sweet!
He spoke not a word, but the shepherds all knew,
He was telling them secrets and blessing them too;

Then softly they left Him, The Babe in the hay,
And rejoiced with great joy on that first Christmas Day;
Mary heard them exclaim as they walked up the hill,
Glory to God in the Highest, Peace to men of good will!

Merry Christ-mas from our house to yours!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent and Celebrating Mary~Ideas to Share!

This was our Immaculate Conception treat after morning Mass…Not exactly fancy or original!  Over the years, I have heard of other families treating themselves to white powdered donuts (or other white food) on this feast day to remind them of Mary's purity from the moment of her conception.  Most importantly for us, it's always a great discussion as inevitably there's a child or two who has forgotten that big word and what it means!  

I love the special Advent Masses…True peace of the season:)  Today Fr. M. reminded us in his homily that God chose Mary to model the relationship with Christ that we should all strive for…Complete trust and love.  Through her intercession she is always there to help us get better at this.  Leading us to the manger is what she does best.  Advent is such a wonderful time to reflect on all of this!
It is my greatest desire to be close to the manger and help my kids do the same.  I can only imagine this feeling magnified a million times for Mary…Her desire to bring all of her children close to the manger must be enough to make her Immaculate Heart swell.

  This is year is special for our family because it marks about the 10th year since we've started celebrating the Advent feast days in the home.  I've enjoyed each year so very much!  As I look back, I have fond memories of introducing new traditions, prayers, stories, and activities.  I've come to realize that it's the simple things that really matter.   For me and our family it boils down to simple... Otherwise I would never do anything at all.  After all, the manger was simple, wasn't it? No matter what we do, it's the priority of thought and prayer that counts.  There is just too much to do this time of year not to keep things simple, at least at my house.  I have learned that with one simple step at a time, we can bring new meaning to our lives and our homes.  Most importantly, this looks differently for each of us as we move forward on our individual journeys. What a blessing to share this with one another as we are families on the journey together!

I close my eyes and try to remember that like the Holy Family's journey to Bethlehem, Mary brought God into the world with simple and steady steps.  We can do the same…One small step at a time.  

That being said, the two Advent Marian feast days are my absolute favorites…The Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  No matter what else is going on, we stop what we are doing and make these days a priority.  I've also come to realize that we never regret making these special days a priority.

We put out a few visual reminders for the feast day…a couple are crafts from days gone by:)  
{Candle links below}
Out of all of the books about Our Lady of Guadalupe, these are my 2 favorites.  In the beginning, I learned right a long with my kids by reading faith-filled story books!
This is a new one I bought this year and it quickly made it to my "favorite" list:)
We will definitely be eating Mexican food this week!
 This year I also had a "lightbulb" ornament idea that I wanted to try…Well, let's just say that it looked a lot cuter in my head.  It didn't exactly turn out how I envisioned but it was a worthy try.!?!
It's just a lightbulb painted with acrylic paint and a gold sharpie.
My oldest daughter is finally at an age to be a wonderful helper and she is patient with my ideas:)
Mary, Mother of God AND Mother to us all, never ceases to fill my heart and soul with wonder…She beckons me to quiet myself and be filled with a simple message...the miracle of her baby…A baby that she delivered to deliver us all.
+Gentle woman, please lead us to the manger.+

Mantle Lantern link (Our Lady of Guadalupe and Immaculate Conception)

Our Lady of Guadalupe Candle Craft

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Prepare Him Room, Not Rejection

Advent is here again…Another chance to prepare!
On the outside, most Christians prepare their homes for Christmas (the birth of Christ), while being keenly aware that we are also preparing for His promise to come again.

On the inside, we are preparing our hearts, often the most difficult thing to do on an ongoing basis, let alone this time of year.

This Thanksgiving, our whole family had the honor of serving the needy in our community.  Each year, this event serves over 1,000 homeless, elderly shut-ins and less fortunate citizens.  I can't express in words, the heart warming experience this was.  
A few of our American Heritage Girls served the event and were honored to do so!  

As I helped an elderly lady to a table, who was feeling lonely with no family, my heart connected with her rejection.  I felt her pain and it humbled me to the deepest caverns of my soul.

We have all felt rejection at one time in our lives, haven't we?
If you think about it, we see it all around us every day…

How easy is it to reject someone even via social media?  (Facebook, blogging, etc) 

It hurts to be rejected, not only by those we love and care about,  but from those we thought to be friends and acquaintances around us.  I think rejection is one of the most painful things to experience on an emotional level…
Maybe we get ignored,
Maybe we try to be friends with someone, only to be shut down.
Maybe someone doesn't accept our apology;
Maybe we aren't liked;
Maybe someone else gets chosen instead of us;
Maybe we aren't the favorite;
Maybe we are judged.
Maybe we are the rejectors on the other end of some of these...
Maybe we cause our own rejection, and
Maybe we are rejected for no apparent reason at all.
I've been reflecting on this rejection as we move into Advent.
I think rejecting and rejection takes up a lot of room in the dark corners of our souls.

I'm reminded of Mary's rejection as she was shunned by her neighbors and friends when she was discovered to be pregnant out of wedlock.  Even though she was known for her pious,  kind, and gentle nature, it all went down the tubes when she was discovered to be with child...Son of God or not, she was rejected.

How can we begin to overcome the small rejections, let alone the big ones?  Mary bore hers so patiently…If only I had an ounce of her courage!

I know for sure, the answers lie in the past…From the manger to a selfless Cross;
They certainly lie in the present…Through the sacrifice on the Altar;
But they also lie in the skin…Through Us, created in His image and likeness, to love one another as He loved us. The answers lie in the questions we ask ourselves…

How can I open my heart, this Advent?
How can I open my eyes to search for someone who might need a smile?  
How can I open my hands with a cup for a thirsty soul?  
How can I open my ears to hear someone crying for help?
How can I prepare Him Room, Not Rejection?

A novice master once responded when asked about a life lived in Christian authenticity, that "to be a Christian was not to know the answers but to begin to live in the part of the self where the question is born…"

Whew, that's a good thing with all the questions I have going on in my head! 

Ultimately, we learn that when we set ourselves aside, like Mary did, God's light takes over.  Please, dear Mother, help me move over, this Advent and beyond!

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