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Advent Preparations – Day #9 – Mercy Awaits

December 7, 2015

So today was a day spent at home, doing laundry, getting caught up on a few tasks here, and painting. The weather was gorgeous today. It was the perfect opportunity to send the little girls out to play while I watched from the kitchen table. I had my little painting project set up and I was content, big kids were schooling, baby was sleeping, and the girls were happy to play on the swings and the trampoline out back. It’s winter(ish) so there’s no bugs which makes leaving the doors and windows open even more appealing. I love high 60 degree weather!

At any rate, my little painting project is one that is sort of long-standing. I’ve been creating (along with the big kids) saint peg dolls. They are all over Pinterest and Etsy and I’ve had my eye on them for several years. I’ll blog more about this when they are finished, but today, I was working on the final dolls for this year of Mercy along with the kids’ patron saints.

Tomorrow, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, begins this year of Mercy. No doubt, God has a lot of work to do in all our hearts as the graces are showered upon our family, country, and world. I think the timing couldn’t be any more perfect. So as I layer paint upon these wooden shapes and these saintly images begin to become more distinguished, I’m praying our hearts would be more open to receive the depth of graces the Lord has to give us this year. I’m pondering how I will be challenge, how I will have to die to self just a little more, in what ways I’ll have to eat humble pie (my Achilles’s Heel for sure), and yet the glory that awaits on the other side of these moments of growth.

I’m also praying that the right meditation material cross my path in this journey and lead me to greater contemplation! Please pass along anything you find particularly poignant. I’m happy to make time for it in my day! A college friend passed this one along today; It’s Time for Mercy Sisters. I’m anxious to continue reading it just before turning out the light tonight. I, especially, want to take a look at the text contained in the links at the bottom of her post.

Blessings to you and your family! May mercy be upon you!

Happy feast tomorrow! Mother Mary, pray for us!

Advent Prepare – Day #8 – St. Nicholas

December 6, 2015

Oh happy day. Today is the second Sunday of Advent and the calendar tell us it is the feast of St. Nicholas.

Celebrating this feast is a tradition Nate & I adopted for our family separate from how we grew up. When I was teaching KG it was a tradition we were asked to encourage in the classroom.  Where does this tradition originate? Check out the St. Nicholas Center for all things St. Nick.

This is a special little mid-Advent celebration. We try to make the gift moments special by not rushing it and taking time to spend it together. This year, Katie changed into her new “Southern Darlin'” shirt and promptly started making french toast for breakfast. Oh my. It’s something we never make, but boy was it good this morning.

We then watched one of our favorite little Christmastime cartoons, Nicholas the Boy Who Became Santa.  It is such a great little way to introduce the origin of this great gift-giving tradition, outside of the Magi bringing Jesus gifts. We will celebrate that feast in January as a time to give gifts to one another…homemade gifts. It’s probably my most favorite celebration of the year, and has become cherished by the oldest kids also. I think Clare will partake this year for the first time. She’s finally at the age where she enjoys creating and could come up with a few great things to gift. She’ll love it!

The premise of Nicholas’s life was that he saw the beauty in giving gifts, giving of himself, giving whatever he had to bless another person. We will give of ourselves in a beautiful way during our Epiphany celebrations. Here, we’ve already begun thinking about what we will create for one another. Nate and I are cheating a bit, and combining efforts this year for a more elaborate “gift”. I can’t wait to share those celebrations with you. However, today, was the beginning of that gifting spirit.

To all our Nicholas friends, happy feast!! To everyone else, happy preparations on this second Sunday of Advent. May your preparations toward Christmas be richly blessed throughout this week.

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Advent Hope – Day #6 – The Wild Goose

December 5, 2015

So I didn’t get this post written last night. It was a full day yesterday and I was admittedly quite tired when I crawled into bed last night.

However, today, I’m sharing my morning meditation.

The Wild Goose is a video series given by a dear priest we knew in college. My memories of Father Dave are so rich. He was there to form Nate & I during our college years and I’ve read several of his published things since. Not only does he make me smile…gosh we had a great time in our 20s with him, but he truly has a spirit of God. Father always had a smile and a listening ear. I remember so many times when we spoke just in passing, always available even if just for a few minutes.

I love how human relationships can touch your heart and soul in ways that just aren’t easily explained. To see Father Dave on this video, to hear his words of love, to remember standing next to him so many years ago as he spoke both in person and from the pulpit, to remember we were just kids (before marriage and before parenthood), and to know that God’s love in and of itself and, as an extension, Father Dave’s preaching and vocation is still the same.

I am so very thankful for the richness of our Catholic faith. I’m eternally grateful for my own experiences of the Holy Spirit, awakened while studying and living at Franciscan University. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were sealed upon me at my confirmation, but not understood until my time at school. There were so many profound moments of love and growth of the soul as I delved deeply into prayer and lived surrounded by holy friends and adult formators while living at Franciscan University. My list of people who have shaped who I am today, my understanding of God, my experience of Divine love are numerous. My time at Franciscan was more than just a college degree, growing up away from home, or forming lifelong friendships. It was truly a time of experiencing Christ. It’s those moments, those places I lived while in college that I revisit when I want to center myself again. I’ll maybe blog about college another time, but I wanted to leave you with my meditation material for today.

Thank you Father Dave for bringing Christ to me again. There’s a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart. God’s love is alive!

Come Holy Spirit. Enlighten the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

God’s Love Poured Out

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Advent Hope – Day #5 – Where are you?

December 3, 2015

We have been using a little devotional reading at our meals this Advent. The Greatest Gift is more Protestant than I’m normally accustomed to reading, but we are going to stick with it for now. Thankfully, Nate and I live under the expectation that we simply infuse greater Catholic depth when it seems to be relevant. There is no exception here.

I chose this book on a whim as it included Jesse Tree ornaments and appeared in a homeschooling thread. I’m happy to see the kids begging to be the one to color the day’s Jesse picture. We read the bible passage when we say Grace Before Meals and our saint litany. The first person finished eating reads the Advent meditation to everyone else at the table. Knowing our evening was going to be rushed, we opted to read it at lunch today (and partially again at dinner).

The line in the meditation that struck me most was, “How would you answer if God asked, ‘Where are you?'”

I have to say my first response was, “Here. In the middle of the noise and activity of our big family life with young kids. You’ll find me in the middle of it.”

However, I am certain I’m not meant to read this bible passage quite so literally, right?

When I choose to DO my lists instead of being in prayer, or scurrying about instead of sitting in contemplation, or raising my voice instead of speaking charity, I’m no doubt running from something. My hiding from God is all the moments in my day when I am self-reliant, getting it all done. It is the activity void of holy connectivity. So…today I tried to listen more, sit longer, hold a bit more, connect more meaningfully in the everyday moments presented to me.

Today, it was relationships that were most on my mind. It was a consciousness to smile more, to use nonverbal communications to convey love. It was a setting down of things in front of me to be interrupted by a little voice.

I read many weeks ago the most fantastic meditation on motherhood. Admittedly, I’ve kept it open on my phone for many opportunities to reread it. It speaks to my soul in ways that bring me to my knees and often tears to my eyes also. For me, it is God’s voice directly spoken to my heart. It is the very desires I seek and yet so often miss in application.

Please take the time to read it. Read it as a mother of littles that needs the reminder. Read it as a dad looking upon the sensitivity of a feminine mother’s heart. Read it as a Grandparent who understands the reality in a different perspective. Read it as a child of God treasured by the Father in ways we can’t fully comprehend until we gaze upon his face. Oh the wonder of that moment; the Beatific vision. How magnificent! We shall long for nothing more in that moment.

Thank you Danielle Bean for your words of love. You are truly a gift and an instrument of God’s voice.

Check out this mini meditation:  A Mother’s Liturgy of the Hours

Today’s blessings included an abundance of childhood giggles and a house full of voices!

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Advent Hope – Day #4 – Forever Learning

December 2, 2015

GOD IS GOOD! 

Why? I’ll tell you one of an infinite number of ways He shows me this everyday.

Four weeks ago, I picked up one of our littles and she went limp in protest of what was sure to be a repeated consequence. In a split second, doing a move (simply picking her up off the floor) I’d done a zillion times before, I was significantly injured. Pain shot up my spine, I lost my breath, and I was almost completely paralyzed in fear. I knew I couldn’t really stand. I couldn’t walk. I for sure wasn’t going to be able to get off the floor if I chose to just fall. What do I do? I opted to steady myself against the wall and just breath through it. I’ve had practice with lamase breathing, right? Thankfully, standing seemed to be the key, but holy cow. After several days of crazy tough pain, not constant, but definitely intense when I did certain things, I was able to isolate the pain to my tailbone. Great. That’s never easy to heal and the ache was so far inside, nothing seemed to really ease it. Couple that with the shooting pain up my back, and the dull ache through the back of my left thigh, and I was losing my mind. 

I learned not to sit for very long, and to hold my breath when I stood up. I always walked gingerly in case my back didn’t aupport my torso with the next step, and for goodness sake, never move the mid-section as that electrifying pain was sure to return. The house was a mess, the babies didn’t really understand, the big kids were slacking in school, and I was grumpy. It’s just not the ideal way, right?

Desperate for some normalcy and feeling like I was at least a bit more mobile, I asked Clare’s friend to come over for a few hours. God is so good. After suffering for two weeks, He sends the little girl’s aunt to my rescue. She happened to be visiting from the northwest and had knowledge of chiropractic care and sports therapy, and deep tissue massage. Oh my. When God brings a literal “savior” directly to your door, even I can see the wisdom in listening. She was so very kind to extend to me her knowledge and skill, and laying on my dining room floor, with children rambunctiously playing all around us, she stretched certain areas and had a bit of relief. She offered me another hour session at her sister’s house that night. Clare was ecstatic – two play dates in the same day! 

Holy cow. This type of massage is not for the weak. Wow. She surely found every knot I had ever managed to create, and released it. I just kept saying, “God you surely sent her. Guide this path as it might be the craziest thing I’ve ever hastily agreed to do.” I don’t typically make fast decisions, nor try new things without considering the hell out of it. Desperation was a big motivator in this case. 

At any rate, I’m certain this little angel in disguise, started both physically and mentally my healing process. She will always be a true gift to me, and of course her sweet sister and niece are already counted among our dear homeschooling friends! God is good right?

This tiny woman with a huge heart and a great deal of strength coached me on the benefits of a good chiropractic adjustment and how to find a credible Doctor. She also lit the fire under me to get an appointment the very next day. 

Again, God has blessed me beyond imagining as I have continued to say yes a hundred times over in this journey of healing. Nothing in this chiropractic treatment plan is familiar to me, and yet Dr. Annette has spoken truths that even I can understand as she’s taken great care to justify both a reasonable diagnosis and treatment plan. Golly she’s been patient with me.  

Satan wants desperately for me to doubt. It’s always the best way to get me to change course. I’m forever grateful for this good doc’s wisdom and life experience to coach me through the pain, to remind me these are intensely strong core muscles and it is going to take some time to make them happy again, and that it will work. Be patient. Rest. Let your body learn not to fight itself to stay in balance.

Hhhmmmm. Think there is some divine wisdom there? How many other areas in my life do I need to let go of this “super woman” battle I insist upon fighting?

So? What now?

After five adjustments, I am dancing with joy. I’m out of pain, I’m progressing and getting stronger in ways that even I can understand, and I’m eternally grateful to have knowledge I didn’t previously possess. God is so good to give us the intricacies of our human body. I am grateful to understand that in ways I could never have seen without this crazy injury and alternative treatment.

So. Why did I say all of this? Well I’m not sure really. I guess I could have just stayed with God is good, and closed the post in the first sentence. However, there’s much to learn from this month of November. 

Taking care of me is honoring both God and my family.

Pain is a powerfully humbling force.

Friends are a true gift. Profoundly really.

Small yeses can become life-changing moments.

When HOPE is sometimes all you have, hold on tight. (Guess the name of this amazing woman brought to my literal doorstep! God is truly amazing.

Thank you Melody for sharing your own love and sister, Hope, with me. Thank you Hope for blessing me more than you knew. God you are awesome!

Continue to hold on to whatever HOPE is on your horizon! 

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Advent Hope – Day #3 – Teaching & Women

December 1, 2015

Look at this. I’m hanging in there with this little blogging commitment, and it is only 10:30 tonight, not 11:30 p.m. like last night. Yea! (To be fair, I’m blogging instead of helping my husband fold laundry. So….for the record, I am incredibly thankful for him. Although, tonight’s post is not all about him. His turn will come, I promise. Just know that I haven’t totally neglected my real hierarchy of gratitude. He is very often at the top. Wink. Wink.)

It has been such a very full day today.

Thankfully, I think the morning’s discipline was relevant and fully understood. Now, tomorrow I’ll get a chance to speak to the other teacher involved and get her feedback, but I’m proud of our “unnamed” child for stepping up today. We have a way to go in this lifelong journey of managing difficulties, but my prayer remains and I hold on to the HOPE of Divine guidance to overflow my own imperfections as parent, teacher, and formator. It’s daunting without HOPE. I choose to hold on to the promises given us and the HOPE that all faithfulness will be rewarded, on all our parts!

I had an incredible woman of God mentor me my first year’s teaching.  She taught me well to focus on a child’s good when the going gets tough. Sometimes I’d have to have help finding their good, but she assured me when I’d get overwhelmed by my class of “dysfunctional” kiddos, that each of them had bright spots. It was my job to find them. Moreover, it wasn’t enough just to know them, but she challenged me to focus on every good I found, even the tiniest of things. Celebrate all the good, even if it seems trivial. Celebrate it and celebrate it some more, obnoxiously celebrate it if you need to be convinced. Why?

Well I learned that not only did I need to see the good, but oftentimes the child needed to see the good also. What happens when we celebrate good? More good emerges, right? Sure enough. 16 years ago as I sat in my first classroom as a teacher and started to celebrate the often ridiculous things, great things started to emerge. It wasn’t long that I didn’t have to simply overlook all the dysfunction, I could instead easily see goodness as it began to outweigh what had previously been taking precedence and making everyone crazy.

I’m afraid I’ve lost sight of that reality lately. As teacher to my kids, I choose to renew my efforts in celebrating their good with HOPE that profound greatness will emerge; greatness that I can’t even imagine. I limit God constantly. I know this. I also know I limit my kids. They say knowing is half the battle. Well, I’m holding on to HOPE that the other half will come with Advent graces.

I’m forever grateful for my vocation to teach. I firmly believe it is where God wants me to serve, and thankfully he feeds my soul when I’m in the classroom. Today, it was in a one hour afternoon tutoring session and with 25 art students creating magnificent pointilism images honoring baby Jesus on his birthday. Aren’t they magnificent?

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In addition, I was reminded of the gift holy women can be to one another. I’m so very grateful for our little homeschooling village who feeds my mommy soul too. I’ve come to love so many of these magnificent women and their children also.

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Today was a total fail on healthy eating goals, but we will improve there too. Today, I choose to look at all the ways we did succeed. There were so many great moments. Tomorrow, we will jump back on the bandwagon with an easier schedule and less tight timeframes. A plan is already in place.

Here’s to celebrating more good! Happy 3rd day of Advent! How are your preparations going?

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Advent Hope -Day#2

November 30, 2015

It’s late. Tomorrow is busy. I made a promise yesterday that I have contemplated all day today. It is 11:30 p.m. and I am here, on this blog, ready to write.

What to say?

Parenting. Loving. Disciplining. Cheering. IT IS NOT FOR THE WEAK.

I pray constantly that despite myself, our kids would grow up to be better than they believe they can be. I HOPE they know how much they are loved here on earth, but even more in heaven.  I HOPE they learn to find virtue in the depths of their soul – virtue that will change the world. I HOPE and pray I will learn to hold my tongue more often. I HOPE and beg God to give me enough grace to nourish our tiny little army with a true and unwavering ability to fight the good fight.

Tonight as I prepare for sleep, I pray for my marriage, my kids, my strengths and shortcomings. I pray for wisdom and HOPE in the promise of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Tomorrow, when I wake, may I have the right words, a tender heart, and a guiding spirit.

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Happy New Year – Advent Day #1

November 29, 2015

So…

It’s been awhile again.

I am sure I have things to say, but I’m afraid as of recently, my words have been used in other places…many, many other places actually. Life is quite busy, it’s full, and some days it is exhausting. Actually, lately I’ve managed to have the deck stacked against me regarding my “super woman” powers. (It’s the phrase Nate coined many, many years ago when I was in the out-of-control-DOING mode and then beating myself up when it didn’t all get done. We still use it often for many different scenarios.) I’m happily starting to find my moxie again, but more on that another day.

For now….it’s a new year. Actually, to be fair, it’s a new Catholic liturgical year. The year’s cycle has begun again. We have left Ordinary Time and the doldrums of the green vestments and have entered the preparations of a great feast and the majesty of purple vestments. Gosh. I like these moments a lot…the begin again moments. I seem to need them often. I love my lists, goals, event planning, contemplating, etc. etc. etc.

So here it is.

I was talking to Nate today as we were driving ALONE and mulling over Father’s convicting homily from this morning, and considering areas that needed some renewed focus. This blog is one of them. I need to take the time for myself, for my family, for whoever might be reading this, to consider my own words.

Katie was sick recently and I got the privilege of sending the family out of the door and crawled into bed with her to watch a movie. She chose Mom’s Night Out. We’d never seen it. What a cute movie and oh how I could relate. I haven’t truly LOL’ed while watching TV in a long time, but the end scenes truly had tears streaming down my face. Oh how I could so relate to the neurotic main character and her “feeble” attempts at virtuous heroism (like when she frames the artwork under the stairs). At any rate, she had something to say. I’m challenging myself (with greater prayer too) to find something to say. You are welcome to come back EVERY DAY and check it out. I’m really going to do it.

Really!

Today.

Hhhmmmm.

I think I’ll show you instead. It was a full day and I have to get back into the habit of photo documenting our day. I used it do it much better and now with my new iPhone, it is much easier to do again. I just have to retrain my brain to think of it.

Blessings to you and your family as your own New Year begins. Catholic or not, I challenge you to look at this Advent as your own new beginning. How will you prepare your heart for the Christmas celebration to come on Dec. 25th?

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Until tomorrow!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2015

It’s a day of thanks! What did our day include?

Family.
An earlier than normal morning sprint out of the house.
Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.
Food.
Gigantic piles of fall leaves.
Drawing. (Sara & Michael had a special project.)
First embroidery project.
Rummikub.
Football.
Haircuts.
More time to play outside.
More food.
Tired & dirty kids.

I’d do it all over again if given the opportunity.

There was a time when Nate & I spent Thanksgivings with friends here in Atlanta who so graciously loved on us when we were transplants without family. It is still hard to believe that almost all the Donovans are here. Gosh. Who would have thought?!

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Lemonade out of Lemons

November 16, 2015

So it seems that life has taken a few twists here lately and this little blog has been on the back burner for sure.

Last week, I picked up one of the littles who then decided to go limp and created that perfect unprecedented moment you wish upon everything you could redo. It seems that I have a tailbone injury from it…well probably from a series of things over my lifetime, but definitely flaring up now. I’ve had to say no to many things, ask for help, and take things slower. The kids have had to become just a bit more independent and I’ve had more time to consider our life and how we spend our time. There are changes afoot I think. The immediate changes are obvious. The future changes are more contemplative and worthy of pondering further.

Today, it’s a new week and the weather is sunny. Fall is here for sure with leaves on the ground and cooler temperatures too. Today, we celebrate a new week and the chance to turn this crazy tide that has been an injured momma.

Still injured, but determined, we set out to join our homeschool friends at a tree climbing field trip. Thankfully Papa (my dad) was planning to join us. However, it seems again God had other ideas. My mom landed herself at urgent care for x-rays and inevitably with crutches for torn ligaments in her foot. So…the kids and I ventured without Papa. God bless us all.

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What a fantastic day, and despite it’s many curves, everyone had a great time and we all look back on the day with great memories and the anticipation of a future spring trip also! For now, this momma is thankful to be home and with great memories of my own (and the familial pressure to actually blog the day). Hear me roar! We survived the day, injuries and all, and all are smiling.

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I spent a great deal of time with Clare today at the Chick’Pea course; ages 4-6. What a great little combination of obstacles. She conquered her occasional fears and mastered each of them!

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She had a great time and was so very, very independent and responsible with her rope safety! Everyone was smitten by her and quite ready to help her along the way. The staff at the Treetop was superb!!! Seriously fantastic. Hats off to Sarah, Brandon, & Sean! I’m so very, very grateful.

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Sweet girl fell after having finished her course. She put a big hole inside her lip and attracted everyone’s attention with the blood spewing from her mouth and her screaming too. I’m thankful for our little homeschool village that always comes to be my extra hands. (This is Mr. Sean who was one of the fantastic guides. He even played the harmonica later for Clare & Elizabeth while supervising Clare in the trees.)

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Katie is the only one who has been on the course before. She loved it as much as she did the first time. I’m so very glad as I didn’t really get to experience the big kids course much.

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Ziplines are everyone’s favorite!

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Michael says the day was “awesome. The best part was Level 3 HIGH because the ziplines were fun and it contained the most. To be on the ziplines, it felt like you were as light as air.”

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What a great way to start the week! We’ll ignore the little hiccups along the way!

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We will spend our week simplifying and enjoying our little home in preparation for a great 9-year-old birthday celebration, thanksgiving, and holiday decorating too. Wow! Five Mondays until Christmas!

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