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!!! 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 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 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


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.


(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.