Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The Christmas story has an unconventional hero-- not a warrior, not a worldly conqueror, not an individual at all, but rather a family."

"The family is the key to Christmas. The family is the key to Christianity. Pope Saint John Paul II noted that everything good--history, humanity, salvation--'passes by way of the family.' When God came to save us, he made salvation inseparable from family life, manifest in family life. "

"The truth of Christmas begins with a family...And now the heritage is ours! We are Christ's family, and so the joy of Christmas belongs to us."

-Joy to the World, by Scott Hahn

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Christmas Tour: Welcome to my home!

I've had some heavier-topic, reflective Advent posts lately so I decided it was time for a fun picture post! Ready to check out how I've decked my halls? Here we go...


A little reminder in the morning and night...O Come Let us Adore Him in the picture frame



Hot cocoa, anyone? I found a recipe for salted caramel hot chocolate as well as
dark chocolate with cinnamon...getting all sophisticated this year. ;)



My Advent wreath, created with the help of my mom :) I love real greenery!!!



Mmm...one of my favorite places to sip, pray, read...



This was to be one of my projects but alas...I couldn't find a shadow frame in my price range.
I want to trim the picture to 11x11 and then put a little straw in the bottom of a shadow frame for some added texture.
Next year. :)



My favorite spot this year.


Hand-me-down red bulbs from my mom added a new look this year.
I love the elegance of the red with the gold. And the little package underneath matches!
It's a decorative package that says "Joy." Love it.


Would you guess this picture is from an old Christmas card?? :)


A rustic touch to this end table. The snowman lantern fits a tea light inside, so adorable.


Going to try displaying Christmas cards this way...although I received a few more this week
so I'm afraid we're on to plan B!


I love decorating this chalkboard for each season!


Many of my decorations, including this one, are Pinterest inspired!
You can find the link to follow me to the right below my blog picture. :)


Nothing like nostalgia at Christmastime. It distracts me from pulling out goodies from the freezer,
which s a good thing. ;)



This garage-sale find always find its way into my kitchen each year!



A P. Graham Dunn print on my refrigerator. One of my favorite artists.



We can't forget the festive bathroom! It's pink and black decor
so I kept with that for Christmas. Pink lights and a black O Holy Night print.


Pinterest printable :)


I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour! Enjoy this last week of Advent!
The Word Made Flesh dwells among us.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Knowing the Savior

I'm in full week-before-Christmas mode, my friends. A little Christmas energizer bunny, let me tell you. In some ways I'm loving it because my schedule is so much lighter this year-- I'm able to do so many DIY things, which my heart just relishes. On the other hand, I have to be careful to stay focused (or re-focus!) on Christ. Ready for some realness? This morning, I spent my usual time in prayer with coffee mug in hand, talking to Jesus as I sipped my Nutcracker Sweet brew. Yet not once, not twice, but THREE times I found myself trailing off into Christmas gifts, recipes, and traveling. Shameful. Praying for the grace to delight the treats and traditions, but to cultivate a heart like Mary's-- always pondering the mystery of Christ.

Our Savior.

I'm sitting here looking at those two words again. Words I so often take for granted, this Jesus who is our God and Savior. But a conversation at work last week brought me back to the reality and gift of those two words...

I work for three amazing cardiologists. They are great doctors and great men. I enjoy a wonderful working relationship with them (and their accents are charming!). Dr M is close to my dad's age and enjoys teasing me mercilessly. We've also had some thought-provoking conversations about life and politics and religion.

So during a lull in the schedule last week, Dr M sought me out for some teasing and conversation. When I was getting married. How many kids I would have. Questions that for a Catholic, will inevitably lead to contraception vs. being open to life and God's will! It was such a graced conversation, friends! I shared my heart and faith...and he shared his. I was so grateful for the Holy Spirit's presence, giving me a calm heart and helpful words (not always what happens when I try to evangelize, you know!). But I was also saddened by the reality of our differences...the difference of life without Jesus as Savior.

For my dear Muslim doctor-friend, Jesus is merely a prophet. God is a master. A just God who requires obedience.

But for us, for Christians...Jesus is our Savior. God is our Father. A just God, yes, but also a God of mercy and forgives us when we fall. What a difference! What a gift to know God in this way.

This is Christmas! That God our Father sent His son to be our Savior. The story we 'all' know, right? Or do we all? This conversation reminded me that we don't all know the story of Christmas...or at least not everyone knows the God of Christmas. The One who became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we could touch Him, laugh with Him, watch Him cry, listen to His stories, and then see Him victoriously conquer death. A God who wants to be known in the most intimate ways...as Father, Friend, Lover.

Perhaps the challenge is for all of us, even me. To share this God, this story of Christmas, this gift with those around us. 

But also for us to go ever deeper into our relationship with Him...so that we not only know about Him, but we truly know Him.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Prayer Requests

In the joy and beauty of this season, we can sometimes forget that this season can be a real struggle for others (or perhaps for you this year). Infertility, death of a loved one, financial poverty, loneliness-- these painful realities can make it so difficult to celebrate when our world places such emphasis on parties and gifts and laughter.

Just this week, my heart has been impacted by three strong women and the suffering of their families at Christmas this year. In each of their stories, I see a reflection of the strongest woman I know--Mary, the Mother of God. She knows the difficulties surrounding Christmas, she who traveled to Bethlehem and gave birth to our Savior in a stable...and years later, knelt before the cross of her suffering Son, trusting without fully understanding God's plan.

Would you join me in praying for these women and their families?

For E., my dear friend being treated for a brain tumor this year. An MRI in January diagnosing it, a repeat scan in July after surgery only to find a new tumor had grown, and now in December a follow-up MRI after non-surgical treatment. This woman is one of the most hopeful, joyful women I know, with a trust in God that lights up her eyes even as she walks this road. We pray for good test results, and for her strength and hope in the midst of her treatment.

For B.'s family. Years ago, B. and her husband adopted two precious little girls. Having overcome cancer when they were young, it then returned in the past couple years. B. passed away a year ago this month, leaving her godly husband and two beautiful teenage daughters. I saw them at the cemetery at church yesterday, remembering the anniversary of her death and praying. I couldn't help but cry for their loss as I drove past praying for them. May God comfort her husband and her daughters as they grieve, and guide and bless them with renewed hope and joy in the future.

For L. and her son. Little J.T. is an adorable two-year-old who won a pro-life photo contest for Down Syndrome children. At a routine doctor visit less than a month ago, they discovered he has leukemia. He was admitted the same day and is receiving chemotherapy. We visited L. and little J.T. at the children's hospital last weekend, where they are staying until the first round of treatment is finished. J.T.'s siblings are praying he will be home for Christmas. We pray for healing and strength, endurance and trust for their family.

Thank you for lifting up these strong women and their families to the Lord. Know that if you are reading this and you are also struggling this holiday season, I am praying for you, too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Legend of the Candy Cane: A Book Review



This was such a delightful children's Christmas book! The book itself is a sturdy board book-- safe for little hands! My favorite part hands-down was the illustration. I could look through this book over and over just for the beautiful pictures. I can only imagine how much a child would enjoy it-- especially the pages with the candy store pictures! The story itself was shorter and simpler than I expected when I first ordered the book. In some ways, the detailed illustrations and the meaningful story seem like they would be more appropriate for an older child audience, yet the board-style book and short length would fit a younger child. Other than that, I'm so excited to share this book with my precious niece and nephews for Christmas, and to read it to my own children years from now. I firmly believe you can never have two many Christmas books, and this is a lovely addition to my collection.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my review copy at no charge to me! These are my honest and original comments.]

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Presence


A few weeks ago I shared with you my struggle this Advent about the clutter in my stable. My soul-searching questions on what to do with the messiness of my life and heart this season.

I considered giving up Facebook or Pinterest. (umm...ok. I take that back. I didn't actually consider giving up Pinterest, not even for a brief moment.) I tried decreasing my cell phone use. I bought Scott Hahn's new book Joy to the World. (hashtag: favorite Catholic author.)

And those were good things to do and to give up.

But I ended up taking a different route this Advent...a different path to Bethlehem, perhaps.

I chose a word.

Just one word. My thoughts and goals and desires stripped down to one single word to simplify my season and focus.

Presence.

(Now since you are reading this instead of hearing it, I can't use the play on words that I did at an Advent presentation for my parish the other night about presents vs. presence. Just pretend and we'll move on.)

I want to be aware of God's presence in my life. In my day. Because that's Emmanuel, God with us. He really is with us every moment. He with us right now--you at your computer, me at mine...He's with us. We forget that, don't we? We're never alone. He is present. He is with us. He loves us. 
In our busy lives, how often do we pause and remember that God is with us? It's a gift. And I think if we paused more often this month to remember that truth, it would help guide the choices we make, the gifts we buy, the ways we fill our schedule and spend the time.

I also wanted the word Presence to remind me to live in the present moment. I so often am thinking about the future, whether it's planning homemade Christmas gifts, my wedding next May, or even what I can find to make for dinner tomorrow night. I miss out on the gift and grace of the here and now. I forget to be grateful. There's only ever enough grace to live the moment. God has the rest in His hands. I think we feel less rushed when we live one day, one moment at a time. Instead of worrying or planning for tomorrow, I'm committing to simply accepting the gift of this day and living it with gratitude.

Finally I want the word Presence to call me to be more fully present to others. Maybe that's the cashier at Walmart (because I hate shopping there this time of year, you guys; too many people and carts, and too. much. stuff.)...maybe God is calling me to make conversation with her because she just lost her mom and is dreading the holidays. Maybe it's the patient I had last Monday who was recovering from a stroke. Her mind was healthy and hard at work but there was a disconnect as she struggled and tearfully stuttered her words. Watching her and helping her made me slow down and be more fully present to her than I had realized I could be. Afterwards, I noticed my whole being was more at peace, because I had slowed down, lived in the moment, been fully present to her, and saw Jesus in her.

Choosing this word and reflecting on it this season hasn't changed my life, but it has changed moments. It hasn't given me a spotless, decluttered manger-heart for Jesus to enter, but it has helped me look for Him more in my day and make more room for Him in my life.

Today may you be aware of God's presence with you personally right now, His love for you, His desire for you to experience Him and his hope, peace, and joy this Advent. Be in this present moment. Let Him speak to your heart. He always speaks with love. And being filled with Him, may you find moments this season to be more fully present to the hurting and needy around us.

Happy Gaudete (Joyful!) Sunday, dear friends. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be joyful, and neither do the holidays!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Clutter in the Stable

Stuff. We can't seem to get away from it. We're so blessed with stuff yet we trip over it at the same time.

It's this paradox I struggle with. The boxes of Christmas decorations on my kitchen floor, the piles of dishes in the sink, the endless mountains of mail and paperwork, the tornado aftermath of glitter and glue and cardstock from my attempt at making Christmas cards.

It's driving me crazy. All this clutter.

And it's driving me crazy that it's driving me crazy! Because I'm thankful too. I really am. The stuff is also the blessing. I'm thankful for holidays and festive touches, for the time and money to cook at home, for the sweet cards people send in the mail, for the fun hobby of crafting.

Of course, let's not even talk about the clutter of my mind. You know, all those woman-thoughts we juggle every day as we plan, ponder, worry, and solve everything in the world. I'm pretty sure I live everywhere but the present moment. (Well, and there's the wedding planning perpetually on my mind. There's the little-girl-princess dreaming of a fairy tale wedding but also the adult-saint-in-progress overwhelmed by the materialism of it all and trying to keep it simple and holy!)

Even this post is clutter-y as I lay it all out there in no form of organization. (Has anything I've said yet really made sense?!)

So. I'm wondering.

Does the outer clutter cause the inner clutter? Does my cell phone, my social media, and my own perfectionist expectations cause the messy mind?

Or do I need to clean my heart out before I clean my house?

It's Advent, friends.

So I'm thinking about these things. About the my own messy stable. The manger of my heart. Is it clean? Is it comfortable?

More than anything, is it available?

Or is it full of stuff? So full to where I too often reply to Jesus like a crowded innkeeper? Too much going on today, no room to speak to Him, to see Him in others, to receive His love and listen for His voice. My stable is cluttered. My manger is messy. I need help this Advent.

Lord Jesus, my Savior, help me please. Help me make room for you this month. Help me quiet my space, simplify my schedule, prepare my heart, and invite you in.



Love,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello, beautiful friends. I'm so thankful for you!

It's a blessed Thanksgiving day here. My heart overflows with gratitude. Mass with P. and my family, precious time cooking with P. and setting up the Christmas tree. On our way to my parents for celebrating with dinner and time together.

At Mass, Father T. reminded us that we can't stop at enjoying the day with family or celebrating with food and football even though those things are certainly blessings. (eh, football...that's negotiable.) This is a day for thanking the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). Our Father in heaven who loves us so deeply and lavishes upon us His grace and mercy every day.

My holidays haven't always been picture-perfect like today feels. For five years in a row, I went through some type of breakup, including a broken engagement. I know what it's like to feel keenly the emotions of loneliness, disappointment, grief on a day like today. In the midst of my joy and thankfulness this year, my heart hurts for those struggling today. Those without food, without family, grieving the death of a family member, going solo to the get-together, those who do not know Jesus and His love for them. So I pray a special prayer for you today, that you will feel the presence of God with you. That you receive His outpouring of love, strength, comfort, and sufficient grace. And hope.

He has given us good things. And He has good things in store (Sirach 2:9)! He prepares our paths with love and care, and He walks each step beside us.

Let us give thanks together for this day, this moment, and the simplest of blessings contained in them.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Little Bit O' Homesteading {my successful attempt at baking pumpkins and squash}

We had a Thanksgiving potluck at work last week and as most of the meal dishes already had cooks signed up for them, I decided to snazzy up our coffee in the morning by bringing Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Scones.

But alas! The day I was to make them, I opened up the cupboard, dug through the, uh, perfectly organized cans of course...but no pumpkin was to be found. What's a girl to do? Call her sister, of course...who had no canned pumpkin either!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. She suggested sacrificing my Fall decorations. The prairie woman within was awakened.

So I solemnly took my cute little pie pumpkin near the candle and potpourri and brought it to the kitchen, adding a butternut squash for company.

Want to try your hand at making real pumpkin puree and butternut squash? Follow along...


Here are my cute little guys.



First, slice off the tops and bottoms.



Cut each in half so you can then see the seeds to scoop out.


For the butternut squash, you will want to cut the sides off like you would a pineapple.





Scoop out the seeds and pulpy stuff of each. Remember to save your pumpkin seeds for roasting!




I chopped the butternut squash in chunks but the pumpkin I left in fourths, with the outer skin on.



I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. No oil on them or the pumpkin will not make a good puree.
This is how it looked when I removed it from the oven.

As you can tell, I will never be a food blogger. First, because my pictures are sadly inadequate. Secondly, because I forgot to take a picture at the very end!! I packaged the butternut squash chunks in a freezer bag and froze them until I decide to make a soup or pasta recipe with them. The pumpkin I mashed in a bowl until it resembled puree (a food processor would do the job really well if you have one!).

And there you have it. My fairly successful attempt at homemade pumpkin puree (with some tips on butternut squash just for fun, too).

Many thanks to the real Pioneer Woman for helpful hints along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends! Did you know I'm thankful for you?!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When It's Hard to Find the Strength to Go to Him

Yesterday morning, I was reflecting on John chapter 11, specifically verses 17-37. The story of Lazarus' death and when Jesus goes to raise him from the dead. But I wasn't thinking about Lazarus. Or even Jesus.

I was thinking about the sisters.

Their grief and the way they dealt with it. Their friendship with Jesus and how their brother's death affected it.

When their brother was ill, they called upon Jesus because of their faith in Him.

"So the sisters sent word to him, saying, 'Master, the one you love is ill.'"

He stayed two days longer in His current town before traveling to their rescue. Because He knew--He had another plan, one that would bring greater glory to God and greater faith and trust in Him.

In the meantime, Lazarus died. And sometimes the unexpected happens in our own lives, when we've cried out to God time and time again to save us from an outcome, heartache, pain. But it happens anyway. I don't know about you, but I've wrestled with this at times. The question "Why?" Eight months ago, I sat alone in the back of the church during Sunday Mass, overwhelmed by my grief but soaking in the Scripture readings. John 11 was being read and this tiny hidden verse hit me as it had never done before. Because I related to Mary:

"When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home."

Even though I still believe in Him, still trust Him with my mind...I just don't have the strength or the words to pray. I sit there but my heart struggles. Is that okay? If I had greater faith, would I be Martha, going out to meet Jesus, boldly and actively continuing on knowing He will make all things right? Instead, sometimes I can't find the strength to go to Him. I sit at home.

But this is the God we serve, dear friends. The One who doesn't hold our weakness against us, but instead pursues us in our grieving. He seeks us out to heal us, even when we don't have the strength to go out and meet Him. He will come to you. He will call your name.

"When [Martha] had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, 'The teacher is here and is asking for you.'"

So let Him find you as you are. Fall at His feet and tell Him all your fears and doubts. He knows already anyway.

"When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'"

Your tears matter to God.

"When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said 'Where have you laid him?' They said to Him, 'Sir, come and see.'

"And Jesus wept."

Even though He knew He was about to perform a miracle, Jesus cried. Our God...wept.

He didn't hold it against Mary that in her grieving she didn't go out to meet Him. He came to her. He cried with her. And then He brought good from bad, beauty from ashes, victory over death.

I texted a girlfriend these verses yesterday because of a heavy cross she is carrying right now. She replied with "God is so good" because she had been meditating on a verse from this very chapter for the past few days!

It stirred me to share my thoughts with you. Because maybe God wants you to know this. That He's not holding it against you if you're struggling in prayer or growth because of pain or suffering in your life. He's meeting you where you are. He's coming to you, sweet friend. Take whatever steps you can to meet Him but He will close the gap. Fall at His feet. He has a beautiful plan for you but for now, He is simply holding you in His arms.

I'm praying for you.


Love,
3

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

N.A.S.--How Do You Pray at Home?




I'm linking up with the N.A.S. girls this week! I loved their topic:

How do you pray at home? Do you have a special place in your house? How do you make that area special? Comfy chair? Prayer cards? What suggestions do you have to make a home altar? If you don't do this, in what ways can you begin?


Prayer is one of my favorite topics! Not because I'm particularly good at it, but because I want to be! I think it's one of the greatest gifts to us from God-- how amazing is it that He not only brought us into being but that He wants to continually commune with us. This infinite, powerful God allows us to talk to Him any time!!


My main prayer time would be in the morning. I love to start my day with prayer. I used to pray in the car on the way to work, but a few years ago I challenged myself during Advent to get up 30-40 minutes earlier and pray at home by the light of a candle with a cup of tea. It pretty much changed my{prayer} life. I've done it ever since! (with an occasional miss here and there after a late night or on a rushed morning-- you know, always keeping it real!)


Even though prayer is simply raising our minds and hearts to God, I do find that atmosphere and outer circumstances can be more or less conducive to that. I love to have a cup of tea or coffee and curl up under a blanket...the same way I would be less distracted catching up with a girlfriend than if we were in the middle of a loud, crazy party. We're more likely to connect with God if we take the time to remove distractions, calm our minds and hearts, and prepare to focus on quality time with Him. 


I do actually have a "prayer spot" but I generally just use it for morning prayers, although sometimes I retreat to it after a crazy or stressful or emotional day. It's a corner of my couch in the guest room, where the end table has a basket of devotional, printed prayers, and books on my favorite saints. Several of my religious pictures hang in that room and help me focus as well. 


My favorite aids to prayer are the rosary, the Litany of Humility (Laura P., it gets less intimidating as you pray it, seriously! Sometimes I find myself actually desiring those things, haha!), the Mass readings for the day, and a list of intentions from my women's group. I also honestly just love spontaneous prayer. It helps me feel connected to God when I just talk to Him from my heart or pause and reflect on His truths and promises about His love and care for me individually. 


Despite my love of prayer, I definitely get distracted or allow other things to take priority! My goal for improvement would be to be more intentional during my prayer (and not get habitual or monotonous) as well as to challenge myself to lengthen the time I set aside to pray in the morning and evening (too often I find myself cutting off 5-10 minutes here and there, waiting until I'm too tired, and so on). 


I just went to a spiritual retreat a few weeks ago and purchased this book on prayer by one of the speakers, beautiful and Spirit-led Sister Ann Shields of Renewal Ministries:




I look forward to being challenged and inspired to go ever deeper with the Lord.

Looking forward to reading all of your thoughts, too, ladies!

Check out the other posts on prayer at Jen's blog!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quick Takes Friday! [vol. 18]


--1--

Yay!!! For two reasons. It's Friday (can I get another yay??). And secondly, because I'm actually posting quick takes! I feel like I'm always missing the fun for some reason or another. These are going to be Really Quick Takes though because I'm awfully sleepy.

--2--

Thank you so much for your beautiful comments on my engagement post. Your love, friendship, and support mean such a great deal to me! I really mean that. I saw this quote the other day and thought it really fits my life: "I may have found my man, but I still need my girls!" 

--3--

P. and I decided to do an act of service together each month until the wedding. Tonight we visited nursing home residents together. It was so beautiful and powerful. I bought fresh flowers and Rice Krispie treats (I know, I know-- I should have homemade something, but I let go of perfection and knew they'd still appreciate these sweet snacks!). We both were impacted by the hidden lives we encountered, by the slow pace as we waited for residents to walk with us or respond slowly to a question. I forget how fast we live in our daily lives. Slow me down, Lord, so that I live each moment aware of Your presence.

--4--

It snowed today. Crazy white stuff. I'm not ready for it!!!! (This from the girl who loves holidays!) 

--5--

I am excited about Thanksgiving, though. New recipes to try. New traditions to start. Do you have any favorite recipes or traditions? I love the idea of having a Thanksgiving tablecloth where you write what you are thankful for each year right on the cloth. Would that be distracting and clutter-y or memorable and beautiful?

--6--

And I can't talk about Thanksgiving without Christmas thoughts slipping in...I am ridiculously happy about a book coming in the mail for Advent: Scott Hahn's new book Joy to the World. He's one of my favorite Catholic writers with his Scripture knowledge that's as deep as his sincere, seeking heart. I'm so looking forward to digging into the historical/Biblical truths of the reason for the season. 

--7--

Last but not least: I can't get enough of these three. Had dinner with my parents last night at their new house then swung by my sister's house for some sister-talk and some cuddling with the littles. Melt my heart. Their smiles are the best. (I know the picture quality isn't the best-- Instagram is so much more forgiving with my lack of photography skills!)

I tell them it's time for Instagram and the giggles start!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.

This fairy tale has had its share of fire-breathing dragons, damsels in distress, and tangled forests.

And to be honest? It probably will continue to.

But that's okay...“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 

Our tale?



Once upon a time we met in Summer 2011 at a church picnic. He fell head over heels. I was dating someone else.
The photographer claims she knew it was coming...


I joined as a chaperone for the mission trip in Spring 2012, no longer in a relationship.
Now I fall head over heels for this incredible spiritual leader.
Who also has all the charm of, well, you know, Prince Charming.
So we work together,
We laugh together.


We serve together.


But life gets messy. Really messy sometimes.


We wonder if God is really calling us to play on the same team.
 We ask for a little help from our friends...



A lot of time, tears, grace, and growth. Dragons being beaten. Dark forests being traveled. 


And then one day...


This.



He proposes. I say yes. 


And we live happily ever after.
Well, kind of. Because the goal of marriage isn't to be happy...
It's to be holy.
And to get to Heaven, where we'll be eternally happy.
So we're on this journey together with the hope of a happily ever after.
The end.

Just kidding. It's only the beginning. And I'm beyond grateful to be walking this path with this man whom I admire, respect, and love so deeply. What a gift. What an incredible joy and blessing from above. Thank YOU for your faithful friendship as a reader, for staying with me through the storms and sunshine. Please continue to do so, for I treasure you and love sharing life with you. Pray for us and know that I pray for you.


Life is beautiful. 


"Every person's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers." -Hans Christian Andersen



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The American Catholic Almanac: A Book Review


You know I'm a one-day-at-a-time, live-in-the-moment kind of girl. So bite-size, daily devotionals and quote calendars and the like are just my thing.

I'm also somewhat of a closet history buff.

Enter The American Catholic Almanac. It's perfect. You'll know why when I tell you the subtitle: "A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States." I know. You want to read it already and I haven't even finished this review!

It's so great, guys. One page a day about a little known American Catholic. Such a variety of amazing stories of people from all walks of life! I'm convinced our history books are government propaganda these days. Seriously-- these people are amazing and they're never even mentioned in public school history classes! 

This book is absolutely fascinating. It would be great for families to read around the breakfast table (maybe after the Saint of the Day?), but it's pertinent to anyone whether you're single or married, adult or child. Definitely gets five stars from me. 

Oh, and since we just flipped the calendar and it's time to start thinking of these things...it would make such a neat, unique Christmas gift!!



[I received this book from Blogging for Books at no cost in exchange for a review. These are my honest and original thoughts concerning the book.]




Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The Lord your God will fight for you; you have only to be still."

-Exodus 14:14

What battles are you facing today? Where is God asking you to slow down and be still and trust Him? I'm praying for you, friends!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays



"As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God." 

-Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila



Love,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interview on Triple Braided Life

So delighted to share my heart with Brenda and her blog readers! I've been inspired and encouraged by the stories of the single women each day of this series! Check it out!


Wisdom for Wednesdays



"You don't want my perfection. All You ask of me is that I show up broken at Your feet."

-lyrics from Show Me What It Means, Meredith Andrews



Love,


Friday, October 17, 2014

Quick Takes Friday {vol. 17}


Hello, friends! Happy Friday!! Woohoo!!

--1--

This girl inspired me to write some quick takes. I'm such a perfectionist (or maybe just long-winded) because my quick takes always end up being, well, not so quick. So here we go. Don't blink or you might miss them...

--2--

I'm sipping hot apple cider. Yummy. Made fresh and local at an adorable orchard I stopped at last weekend. Nevermind that I got lost on the country roads looking for it...it just added to the adventure and now my cider tastes even sweeter. 

--3--

I also bought several pounds of McIntosh and Winesap apples. Have you heard of Winesap apples? I love trying new things and these are delicious...sort of like Honeycrisp but richer. I'm ridiculously excited to spend my day off this week baking and cooking (and eating) apples. 

--4--

What do you think of the new look around here? It's been fun to mess around with different design sites and ideas. Still feel very much like an amateur, but everyone has to start somewhere and it's been a great learning experience!

--5--

I'm pretty sure one of my ultrasound patients chose abortion last month. I've had that happen before but never when I had been the sonographer performing the ultrasound. It hit me hard and to be honest, I'm still not recovered from it. Because I saw her baby. Pray for her please. 

--6--

As usual in the season of Fall, I turn inward...melancholic, pensive, quieter on the outside but loud as ever in my mind and heart...is it the changing seasons and the preparation for winter? Is it the past memories of this season? Something about it makes me incredibly nostalgic and reflective. I'm reading voraciously and perhaps I'll share some recommendations soon. For now, my favorite is undoubtedly My Sisters The Saints, by Colleen Carroll Campbell. Check out the book club I'm hosting on it here

--7--

Last but not least, I've caved. I joined another social media site. But not just any social media site.

Instagram.

And it's got me. Hook, line, and sinker.

For all my disdain of our generation's addiction to technology and social media, this one has captured my heart. Because seriously, it's perfect. It's all about simplicity, beauty, moments. You know...that life is beautiful. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays



"God, I run into your arms, unashamed because of mercy."

-lyrics from Overwhelmed, by Big Daddy Weave



Love,


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays



"Faith is not a thing of the mind...or even a felt conviction of the heart...but a sustained decision to take God with utter seriousness as the God of my life."

-Sister Ruth Burroughs




Love,


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays


"Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the day, some part of each week, and each year…the core, the inner spring, can best be re-found through solitude."

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh



Love,


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Snack Girl to the Rescue: A Book Review





Snack Girl to the Rescue! was a fun, informative cookbook. Although I'm not trying to loose weight, I'm always looking for health-conscious recipes and ideas for healthier living. I love fresh, local food and I do get on the organic bandwagon occasionally, but at this time in my life I'm not a Paleo diet enthusiast or boycotting any processed food or stuff like that. I just want to be aware of what I'm eating, why I'm eating it, and where my food comes from. From there, I hope to make wise and balanced choices.

And there's the word that describes this cookbook: balanced. Author Lisa Cain realizes we don't always have the time, money, or energy to follow a strict diet or exercise plan, but that should not stop us from taking the steps (literally and figuratively!) that we can when it comes to healthy living.

The beginning chapters of the cookbook describe her story to weight loss and health, resources for more learning, basic principles and steps to guide you, as well as encouragement and inspiration. I loved her down-to-earth simplicity. The rest of the book has fun, fairly easy recipes for meals and snacks, my favorites being Pumpkin Overnight Pancakes, Baked Eggs and Cheese in Toast Cups, Stovetop Tuna Casserole, and Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (can you tell I'm excited about Autumn recipes??).

The only cons to the cookbook were that I didn't agree with all her principles (she was less concerned about organic, non-GMO, pesticide-free produce than I am) and there were NO pictures in the cookbook (it's just more fun to see the picture of the recipe before you make it, you know?).

Overall, I give it a thumbs-up. It's a family-friend, health-friendly, budget-friendly cookbook by a friendly, relatable author.

Check out the press release for the book for more information!

Or visit the author's website!

[Thanks so much to Blogging for Books for a copy of the cookbook at no cost in exchange for my original and honest review.]

Happy reading and happy cooking!



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays

“The present state of the world, the whole of life, is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I would reply, “Create silence! Bring men to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. Create silence.

~Soren Kierkegaard


Love,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"I am what I am in God's eyes: a poor child who possesses absolutely nothing, who receives everything, infinitely loved and totally free."

-Interior Freedom, by Jacques Philippe

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hidden Kindness

Hardly anyone knew I was nursing a broken heart that day. And every day for the past several weeks. It's just easier sometimes to hide a broken heart and shattered dreams and shameful disappointment.

But whenever I hide from the world during suffering, I find a gift and grace hiding there as well-- the ability to see people more clearly, more slowly, more beautifully. 

And so it was that day.

I was her cardiac stress test nurse. She was my patient for four hours, a quiet little woman who seemed to be hiding from the world, too. In a fast-paced day, she was slow and calm and silent, a nursing home resident confined to a wheelchair and needing help even to stand up. Her mind was slow and her body slower. Neither of us spoke much during the test though I tried to be gentle with her, to take extra time explaining things, touch her hand reassuringly, cover her with an extra blanket.

I was transferring her to radiology for the next portion of her test. We were on a tight schedule, keeping rhythm with the clock, a small margin for delays. But she needed to use the restroom. So we stopped and I donned my gloves and ditched my pride and helped her...because we're all going to need help someday. Maybe it's the slow beating of a broken heart that gives us time to see but all of a sudden it felt like the most dignified job in the world. Assisting this needy woman in her vulnerability was a gift, a mission, an honor.

She slowly, meticulously washed her hands afterwards while I held her by the sink. She took the paper towel and slowly, meticulously dried around the sink, wiping the porcelain basin and the faucet. In a public medical restroom. I never do that and it struck me. Such a little thing but such a thoughtful thing. Why do I think I'm above that? That the hired cleaning help can do that? That I'm in too much of a hurry to make it a little cleaner for the next person? It wasn't even necessarily the action but rather the gentle and humble spirit that accompanied it. The hidden care and kindness.

I was realizing this slow, quiet little woman was teaching me.

But there was more to come.

As I lowered her back into the wheelchair and squeezed her hand gently, she looked up at me with the purest blue eyes meeting my own and said "Thank you." One of the few things she said all day but with incredible sincerity and meaning.

I saw Jesus. 

Unmistakably. Undeniably. In those beautiful blue eyes that reflected a precious soul unseen by many.

We don't always see Him where we want or where we expect...or even where we look for Him. In the wake of my grieving, I realized by now in life I wanted to see Him reflected in the eyes of a baby of my own held in my embrace. But instead He was showing up in the eyes of this woman as I connected with her. As we both hid from a world too loud and fast and uncaring. 

That was months ago. But I now gently and purposefully wipe my sink after washing the dishes or washing my hands and I remember her. The quiet little woman tucked away who showed me the eyes of Jesus...and His heart.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NAS: Back in the Swing!



Linking up with the NAS girls this week! They are growing like crazy-- in grace, vibrancy, and numbers! I'm not the most loyal participant, but I'm a loyal stalker! These young women are absolutely beautiful and I love learning about them and their lives as we all live this season of unique joys and challenges together.

And now. Onto this week's topic...

We are back! As we get into the swing of things with NAS, what other ways can we be more involved at church or in our communities? Is there a parish ministry you have been wanting to help with or start up? What about that after school program for homeless kids? Has something been preventing you from getting involved? How do you think this will help you personally, spiritually and emotionally?

This is such a great topic. One that makes my fingers pause on the keyboard as my mind runs ahead with thoughts...maybe a sip of the tasty lemonade next to me will help sort my thoughts into sentences...

One of the perks of being a single young woman is the ability to be in charge of your schedule (including any and all free time!). For me, sometimes it's easy to want to use that free time for myself. You know, bake cookies, paint my nails, go out with girlfriends, work on a DIY project...I'm pretty much never bored, guys. Yet even though all of that is great and I'm thankful for the little joys, I also want to live this season in a way that glorifies God and brings not only me closer to Him, but also all those I encounter. I don't want my purpose to be simply enjoying these years while I wait for the vocation of marriage. Rather I want to be an encourager, teacher, nurturer, and evangelist--actively waiting for the vocation of marriage while I live out now this beautiful lifelong vocation of being a woman!

The next question is how do we do that?? Honestly, I don't think there's a specific right answer for everyone. Even though we may all fall into the category of "single young women," we also come with unique gifts and talents, personalities, emotional states, and so on. In my post-college years of being single, I've had years of being involved in multiple (probably too many) service/volunteer commitments and I've also had years of quitting every single one of them to pause and allow much-need spiritual renewal after experiencing burnout (or a breakup!). These days, I'm volunteering as an ultrasound nurse at the crisis pregnancy center, a member on our pastoral council, and part of a women's monthly share group. I love that one is counseling and mentoring those in need outside the church, one is a vision team for building up the church, and one is for my own personal support and encouragement. Each one is such a blessing and the time commitment feels just right...but who knows what opportunities God might be getting ready to present!

Here are a few last thoughts on single young women and our involvement in church and community:

-Don't over-commit! I'm pretty sure some people think that since singles have no family, they have no need for free time. Some parishioners will want you to be part of every committee or class or group possible. It's okay to say no.

-Don't sacrifice your own time with the Lord. There's a subtle danger of serving God and His people yet finding no time to actually pray, read spiritual books, and tend to your own soul. If you feel like you're talking about God (in CCD class, small group, whatever) more than you're talking TO God, find some time for some soul-searching and ask God to help you prioritize and to show you how to be both Martha and Mary!

-Do follow your heart. Do you find joy working with youth? Have a passion for women's ministry? Want to start a small group? Like being behind the scenes serving? Sometimes God does ask us to step out of our comfort zones and fill a need, yet most often I think He wants us to use the gifts He's given us. Pray and reflect on what brings you joy and fulfillment and then try to find a service area that calls out your particular gifts and passions.

Looking forward to reading more of how the other ladies use their time, treasure, and talents! You can read their stories here!