Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A new tradition for Shrove Tuesday

From a wonderful family friend we learned of the tradition of burying the Alleluia during Lent.  I had never heard of such a thing but this year we are excited to participate in the tradition ourselves.  Here are our Alleluia’s made lovingly out of construction paper and glitter:

 Tonight before bed we will all hide our beautiful alleluias somewhere in the house, so they will not be seen during the Lenten season.  The idea is to put away the Alleluia's we have made in the same way Alleluia is "put away" liturgically during the Lenten season. Then, when finally Easter is here and we can celebrate the Resurrection, we will pull out our Alleluias and display them prominently for all to see, just as we will again proclaim “Alleluia” joyfully in our Church!

I love this idea!  Thank you so much Mrs. C. for sharing this beautiful tradition with us!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book review: Common Sense 101- Lessons from G.K. Chesterton

            After months of reading, I am finally finished!  I have been known to finish a whole book (sometimes two) in one day.  My rule is when love a book, really love a book, I get so wrapped up in it, I literally cannot put it down until I finish it.  Every rule has its exceptions though.  

Dale Ahlquist’s Common Sense 101- Lessons from G.K. Chesterton is my exception.  I loved this book.  I really loved this book.  I loved it so much I would pick it up and get so wrapped up in it, that I had to put it down.  I had to put it down so I could process the depth of wisdom, truth, and just plain common sense that infused every page.  I had to put it down so I could ponder Chesterton’s radical observations and his amazingly simple ideas that blew my mind with their complexity.  Sometimes my mind was so twisted with his explanations of the paradoxes and crazy contradictions of truth that I had to put the book down just to sort it all out.  This was not a book that could be read in one day.  This was a book to take my time with, to savor, to relish.  

It takes time to understand the amazing mind that was G.K. Chesterton.  On the surface so much of what he said and believed was absurd.  Yet through his writings and through Ahlquist’s wonderful explanations and commentaries that accompany all of Chesterton’s quotes and passages, he shed so much light on what should be obvious.  

Ahlquist calls himself a Chestertonian and in this book he seeks to convince the rest of the world to join him in reading, understanding, and revering the 300 lb British journalist, who despite his absentmindedness, spontaneity, and overwhelming humility, was truly a genius.   I, for one, am convinced.  

Chesterton makes common sense obvious.  He makes common sense make sense.  He makes the contradictions that seem impossible and that the world passes off as balderdash, so apparent they cannot be denied.  I have heard that reading Chesterton’s original works is a little like traveling through a complex labyrinth without a map or guide.  I have heard his writing rambles and twists and many get left behind long before they truly grasp the depth of the words or truly appreciate the wise messages.  Ahlquist makes Chesterton available and accessible.  Ahlquist makes Chesterton understandable.  Overall, a fabulous read full of wisdom, paradox, and humor- like Chesterton himself. Highly recommended!

You can purchase this book here.  I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My need for want

Lent is only days away!  I need this Lent.  I need this time of repentance, this time of sacrifice, this time of examining my life and the choices I make each day, and this opportunity to grow closer to Christ.   I have been looking forward to Lent for weeks now, maybe months, and now just days before it finally begins I realize I have not really decided how to go about accomplishing the repentance, sacrifice, examination, and growing that I know I so desperately need.

Here are my thoughts right now--   I could give up sweets.  I could pray more.  I could end each day with a thorough examination of conscience and act of contrition.   I could hold myself to the 2 times a day of checking the computer that I already strive for (but often fail to stick to), I could fast once a week.  

Fasting is not easy for me.  I struggle not only with fasting in the traditional sense of not eating.  I LOVE food.  But also fasting from other things I like as well.  I like my comforts.  I want my life to be nice and easy.  I don’t ever really want to sacrifice but I have found, over the years, that when I bring myself to do it anyway, I am a happier person.  I have found there is great value in getting used to living with a feeling of want in my days, rather than a feeling of always being satisfied.  

God wants us to want.  

He wants us to want Him.  If we are used to always satisfying our wants immediately, we fail to recognize that deeper desire for Him that fills us all.  I remind myself often that there are more graces in sacrifice than in gratifying my every whim and desire.   

I pray this Lent will be a fruitful time.  A time of repentance, sacrifice, examination, and growing for you and for me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

World Marriage Day

           Back in November, Tim and I renewed our wedding vows.  It was something I had always wanted to do but we had never had the opportunity before then.  Thankfully, when we asked our pastor he was able to officiate for us in a really beautiful ceremony.  It was just Tim and I in front of our family and the morning was very special.   
I, take you for my lawful *spouse* to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
After 15 years of wedded bliss the marriage vows took on even more meaning-  for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Over the years, we have seen days that have been better and days that have been worse.  We have had times of richer (sort of) and times of poorer.  We have experienced sickness (thankfully only minor illnesses- stomach flus, colds, etc….) and we have experienced health.  As we said the words of the vows to each other the second time around, we really knew how deep and meaningful they were.

            Life has been busy since then- crazy days that are filled to capacity and weeks that leave no time for relaxing.  Tim works his two jobs, often going from one to the other and not coming home until the sun has set and it is practically bedtime.  Our weekends are taken up with activities for the kids and we are often found running them in opposite directions.  Tim and I work well together.  We balance our responsibilities and juggle our commitments and make it all work so everyone gets what they need.  The only thing that sometimes gets neglected is our time together.  At the end of the day, at the end of the week- everything has been taken care of or attended to, except sometimes our marriage.  We both understand that this is where we are in life, and that this chapter will not last forever.  We both try to make time for each other and make the best of the brief moments we do have together but sometimes it is hard, and many days I pray that God will bless our efforts and bless our crazy life, and above all- bless our marriage in the midst of it all.

            This morning at Mass we celebrated World Marriage Day.  In the past, on this special Sunday, we have been given a blessing.  Our church has had all the married couples stand and the priest has prayed over us all and blessed us all.  Today, for the first time in our life together, the priest announced that for World Marriage Day all married couples would be invited to stand and renew their vows.  He had us take each other’s hands and repeat the vows after him all together.  It was certainly a different experience than the first time we said those sacred words to each other, and even very different than the second time when we had our own ceremony just for us.  

 This time, Tim and I had to squeeze past our five kids that sat between us and as we stood looking into each other’s eyes and reciting the vows our 2 year old came up and handed me her empty cracker package.  But, it was still just as special, because it was so timely and so unexpected and the perfect reminder of what we are doing in our life together and why God has brought us together.    

Friday, February 10, 2012

A birthday at our house- time for more balloons!

Happy birthday to my 7 year old!
            In our house we have a special little tradition….on your birthday, the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning is a bunch of brightly colored balloons.    I firmly believe no one should start their birthday off in a room without festive birthday balloons! 

We started this tradition when our oldest was two years old.  On her second birthday, she awoke to two balloons tied to the end of her bed.  She was so excited that day to see two big balloons, just for her!  Every birthday since, the number of balloons has increased by one.  Her siblings have had birthday balloons from the very start- beginning with their very first birthdays. 

This morning it was my youngest son who awoke to a big bunch of bright birthday balloons on his bed.  Seven colorful balloons greeted him to remind him that today is his special day.  After breakfast, he posed with his seven balloons for the official birthday picture.  This latest picture will join the others of him, one from every year with the corresponding number of balloons, to mark off the passing of time and the joy of growing older, wiser and taller with each additional balloon.  

Our birthday balloon tradition actually had its roots in my childhood.  I remember only one birthday, my fourth, waking up to balloons over my bed but that early morning festivity and the cheerful feeling it filled me with made for such a special day that I had to make it a yearly tradition for my children.  

 The pictures of each of them with their birthday balloons has made the tradition that much more special for me too!  Looking back at all the pictures and the changes in their little smiling faces is such a beautiful way to commemorate their birthdays and the growth and maturity each year brings.

Happy Birthday to my big seven year old, may your 7 balloons be only the beginning of the magic and joy of the day!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When we were kids....

            My kids, every once in a while, have conversations about what age they consider “old.”  They have some interesting ideas about it.  My middle daughter has decided you’re not old until you reach 72 years old.  I have no idea why she thinks 71 is still young but 72 just isn’t.  Neither Tim nor I are anywhere near our 70’s but I think we may have crossed over to officially old anyway.  Lately we keep having conversations that start out with the words, “when we were kids….”  I really did not expect to be saying things like that before my 72nd birthday but here I am in my mid-thirties talking about the good old days when I was young…..  

            Our latest conversation about “when we were kids” was about how different our social lives were than our children’s are today.  “When we were kids”…. no one ever had play dates.   Play was not something that was scheduled ahead of time and written on the calendar and worked out by our moms.   Play was what we did when we walked outside and all the other neighborhood kids were out and we all just played together- spontaneously, without adult intervention, without constant adult supervision even!  Sometimes a friend would ring the doorbell unexpectedly and we would invite them in and spend hours playing in our bedrooms or our basements.  My mom knew my friends of course, but she did not set up my play time with them or run me to play dates or offer suggestions on what or how we should play.  

            My kids actually do have some neighborhood friends and they have had the experience of walking outside and joining in a game of hide and seek or tag in the front yards but just as often their play is scheduled ahead of time by me and their friend's moms.  Play dates are not so bad really, but now that I have five children all of varying ages and all going in different directions I find myself starting to reminisce about the good old days.  Wouldn’t it be nice, I sometimes think, if the kids just played without my intervention?  Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just walk to a friend’s house down the street and knock on the door and spend hours having fun without any adult conversation preceding it to plan and work out the tiniest of details?  

            The world is not the same these days- we receive a neighborhood newsletter once a month that includes the number of “registered offenders” living nearby, my children are home schooled and don’t know many other children who live in our neighborhood within walking distance of our house, I don’t trust the influence of just any kid they might meet and am not comfortable with them playing at anyone’s house until I have met their parents and know what their values are.  

  I understand the value of play dates.  I understand even the importance of them.  Play dates are safe, they are convenient, they are fun- after all they are planned that way.   But sometimes I think my children would really benefit from a little more spontaneous, kid-initiated, creative, not-necessarily-so-convenient fun without my influence or planning or involvement.  Sometimes I just can’t help but remember the wonder and excitement of the good old days of my childhood, waaaaaayyyy back when…..

Friday, February 3, 2012

Date night for Tim and his girls

The girls' dresses all laid out and ready for the dance....
            Tonight my wonderful husband is going out on a date.  He will dance the night away and feast on special treats, and I will not be with him.  

He will be spending the evening with three very beautiful young ladies who adore him as much as I do and I am not one bit upset about it.  It is the annual Father-Daughter dance at our church and, as they have for the past four or five years, my little girls will dress in their best party dresses and be taken out and treated like princesses by their daddy.   It is one of our favorite traditions for Valentine’s Day.  

It said on the flyer that the organizers passed out after Masses the past few weekends:
            “We began hosting the Father-Daughter Valentine dance with the goal of creating a ministry to emphasize the importance of father-daughter relationships.  The hope is that fathers (and father figures) can help to set a dating standard by showing their daughters how they should expect to be treated on a date.  That mission is being accomplished in addition to having lots of fun!”
            How awesome is that?!?!?!?   And it is so true.  I tell my girls all the time that they should pray God will send them husbands who will treat them as well as their father treats me.  I hold Tim up as an example all the time and tell my girls they should settle for nothing less than a man who will honor them and respect them and love them completely.  I can think of no better way to encourage that, than to let them be the object of that honor and respect and love as their daddy’s date for the Valentine dance.   Of course, since we have three girls they have to share daddy at the dance……. but I am pretty sure they understand that on a date with a real suitor someday (in thirty years or so), they alone should be treated with honor and respect.

            My girls are all still (way) too young to really be thinking about dating or how a man should treat them or what to look for in a husband but it is never too early to set a standard and give a positive example of what a Christ-centered relationship looks and feels like.   

            So my girls and my husband will all set off this evening for a night of fun together that will hopefully remind our daughters of their beauty and dignity as the princesses (daughters of the one true King of all heaven and earth) they are.  

            And me?  I will be just fine at home, with my own dates.  My two charming boys and I will be having a party of our own complete with ice cream sundaes and games. After all, the girls and daddy should not have all the fun!   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


            I probably have always struggled with distractions but lately I have been noticing them more.  Lately, my prayer life seems to be nothing but distraction.  Every night I sit down, after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is quiet, with my Bible and my prayer journal.  I do the Sign of the Cross and then, inevitably I start to think about my grocery list, or something my son said to me while we were discussing his religion lesson, or how much laundry I have to get caught up on, or a conversation I had a week ago with a friend, or what Tim might want for dinner the next day, or ……. whatever else might pop into my head....

My lack of focus has been causing me a lot of stress and a lot of guilt.  I want to give the time to God and focus completely on Him, I really, really do, but my mind seems never to stop processing my busy life and reviewing all I encounter each day.  As I have agonized over my lack of focus and felt guilty about it, it has occurred to me that I should take it prayer.   

But, if I could focus enough to do that, would I even need to?  

Anyway, though I have yet to actually utter the words, it seems God has seen my struggle and read the desire of my heart.   I was sitting in Mass last weekend listening to the readings and the homily (feeling halfway distracted there as well), and all of the sudden, I realized God was speaking to all my concerns and worries.  Here is what I heard in the Second reading: (1 Cor. 7:32-35)

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

         As I thought about what God might be trying to say to me I realized that first of all, He knows my struggle.  He understands that as a married woman I am “anxious about the things of the world”.  He understands that I cannot be completely free to focus on Him alone and “be anxious about the things of the Lord” only.  Then as I thought more, I came to really understand that my distractions are a part of my vocation as a wife and mother.  I must try to work through them and focus on God surely, but I also must accept that they will always be there.  I was not called to live a cloistered life away from the world and free from the distractions that come with marriage and family and keeping a home.  My distractions are a part of my life and a part of the cross I must bear.  I must find peace with them and be at peace even in them.  I must realize they are an unavoidable part of my devotion to care for my family and live out my vocation.  I must turn them into a conversation with God, inviting Him into my thoughts and concerns, instead of letting them pull me away from my time with Him, but I cannot hope to avoid them entirely. 

            I have, on the door in my kitchen, a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux.  It says,
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”   
          I love that quote because it gives me hope that even in my distracted state I can still accomplish real prayer as long as I remember, every once in a while, to glance towards heaven in between loads of laundry and cooking dinner and changing diapers and grading papers and chauffeuring kids and making to do lists and..........  

God is there in the midst of it all.


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