Monday, December 22, 2014

An Open Letter to Grief

I am linking up with Kate for her pre-holiday letters to grief link-up.



Dear Grief,
You have found me despite my hopes to escape you. You have become a travelling companion through this journey of life, but never a friend.

You are the proverbial glass of spilled milk, happening when most inconvenient, spilling all over me and my home. You splash and roll into unexpected places, hiding for me to find as I go about my every day work, clinging to ordinary items and ringing them with painful recollection. Left unaddressed, your spill begins to smell and turn the stomach, causing disorientation, upset, and regret. Crying over you changes nothing, but in tears I can wash you away, I can shine the marred surfaces and begin anew. In tears I may respond but I am not vanquished, you have not won.

In the end these three remain, hope, faith, and love--the greatest of these is love. I am loved by my Beloved, and by those for whom I mourn. For without love what is there to grieve? Because I have love, I have faith. Faith that my tears will turn to joy, my weeping to dancing in my Father's Kingdom. From my faith, I have hope, a hope no one can kill, a hope no pain can squelch.

I am not abandoned, I am not alone, you will never make me an orphan. I am a daughter of the King of Kings and His Reign will never end. He has prepared a place for me, and filled my heart with grace, washed my soul with peace that surpasses all understanding.

I will never be your slave, I have been bought at a price, ransomed to His own, exaulted by His Holy Hand. He has sent His angels to minister to me, with legions of heavenly armies goes before me, and stands behind me through the valley of darkness to the mountain of plenty.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. Through the familiar carols laced with bittersweet recollections, is the story of my past, present, and future. Your hold on my heart is illusion, your power over my emotions a fleeting whimsy. I have been promised the Kingdom and you have already been destroyed.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!!  His Joy is my strength, and I will rejoice in all things, for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow again, I will rise up and greet the Son.

In Him,
Jennifer

You can read more about my struggles with grief here, here, and here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nativity Birthday Cake for Jesus in Seven Quick Takes

I started collecting my nativity pieces when I was 18. Every year I added one or more. Most are just from Wal-Mart, there are a couple of special ones like my olive wood camel from Bethlehem, and the Angel Buddy bought me. It isn't really worth much, but for my family it is a treasure. I decided this year instead of buying a new piece, I would craft one with Cowgirl's help. Here's our tutorial in 7 Quick Takes. 

1

Using a Tupperware tumbler and a piece of 1/4 inch foam board, I traced and cut out four small circles (about 2 inches) and one large one (about 3 inches). I can say that the easiest way to do this is cut squares, then trace a circle on each and cut out. It is very difficult to maneuver scissors in a big piece of foam board. An exacto knife is probably the ideal solution for this, but I don't own one.


2

Using a glue gun pipe glue around the edge of one small circle, stack the next circle on top and repeat until you have a four layer "cake"




3

Glue 7/8 in white satin ribbon around the edge of the cake. I finished the end with a flame to seal the ribbon, but you could also just tuck it under. See this tutorial for explanation of finished ribbons with a flame.



4

Cut a circle of white felt the same size as the cake top and glue on with hot glue.



5

Color the large circle your choice of colors(Cowgirl chose purple for one and yellow for a second).  Then Glue a 4 inch doilie to the top. Be sure to center the cookie. This is your cake plate.




Glue your cake to the center of the plate.

6

Decorate your cake with ribbons, lace, Rick rack, beads, whatever you like. We used some scraps of matching hem tape and plastic strings of craft pearls.




To make a candle, cut a one inch piece of white pipe cleaner. Put a large dot of hot glue in the center of the cake. Stand the candle straight up in the glue and hold for a few seconds so the glue can set. We glued a ring of plastic pearls around the candle for decoration, but you can skip this if you want. If you use enough glue the candle will stay on its own.



Lastly, cut a flame from scraps of felt and glue to the top of the candle.




7

Wish Jesus a happy birthday come Christmas morning.



O come, O come Emmanuel!! 

I'm linking up with Catholic Bloggers, click over there for more information and inspiration.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pennies from Heaven

First, thank you to all who are praying. I cannot believe the outpouring of love that my middle of the night heart cry has received. God bless you all.

I wrote this after my father died. God has always made His presence known during the hardest times. Yesterday, as I was getting back into my car after dropping my two oldest at a friend's home, I found a penny outside my car door that wasn't there when I had gotten out. It reminded me once more of this story, and I had to share.




Pennies from Heaven
The day my father died was a warm and sunny late spring day.  I awoke
to the phone ringing over and over with my cell phone signaling text
messages simultaneously.  With my heart and soul I knew there was a
problem.  When I finally was awake enough to answer the phone, my
sister calmly recounted the events of the early hours and pleaded with
me sincerely, but sternly, to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
 I at first thought of taking a shower and making the kids breakfast
but then her words sunk in and I quickly dressed and coaxed the kids
to do the same.  I hurriedly called a friend to watch them for awhile
and then piled my two little ones into my car.
After ushering the children into our friend’s home and quietly making
my exit before the little guy noticed, I found a single, shiny penny
next to my car.  I recalled an email I had received years earlier from
my Godmother about a rich man who always picked up every penny he saw.
 One day someone questioned why he would bother to pick up a penny
when he had so many millions of dollars.  His reply changed my view
toward the meager penny forever, he picked them up because they said
“in God we trust” on them.  He said a little prayer of thanks that we
could trust God every time he saw a little penny.  I knew that this
penny was a sign that I could still trust God.
I slipped the penny carefully into my pocket and thought to myself
that I would keep that penny forever because I found it the day my
father died.  He was still alive at the time, but in my soul I knew
that it was only a matter of very short time before he would be gone,
perhaps I had already missed him.  I jumped back in my car and began
the drive to the hospital, praising God for His provision while
pleading for a miracle on the scale of raising Lazarus after four
days.
It had been a hard two years already, yet they had begun on the
ultimate high of my life—the birth of my son.  Our daughter had been a
very high risk pregnancy.  It was a miracle that I was able to carry
her to term, even a bigger one that she was completely healthy.  After
we had her, we experienced a three year battle of infertility that
dragged me to the deepest depths of despair.  The doctor was stumped
and prepared us that a pregnancy may never be possible.  When I had
pushed myself as far as I possibly could go on my quest for another
child, I threw myself at the feet of the LORD and begged for mercy.  I
was okay if His final answer was no, I just needed an answer so that I
could move on.
 By His grace, I conceived despite the amazement of the
doctors and all my hormonal issues disappeared much to their
confoundment.  And so, my Samuel was born and I felt like I had
conquered the world and held a piece of Heaven itself in my arms.
However, the high was abruptly thwarted by my mother’s diagnosis with
stage four brain cancer.  Despite my absolute love for my child and my
longing to just spend endless hours just soaking in this precious
little love, I put my motherly desires aside a bit and tended to my
own mother.  Through prayer and powerful intercession she made it
through Chemotherapy, radiation, two surgeries, and came out on the
other side of cancer—remission.
 My little love had been the glue that
held me together through it all, however when I opened my eyes after
endless months of a complete blur, he wasn’t a baby anymore.  I longed
to have another chance to cuddle and kiss my newborn.  I dreamed of
getting to hold a baby for hours and hours without interruption.  I
begged God to find a way for us to have one more child.  But, I knew
that I had already been blessed so greatly.  I finally realized that I
had two remarkable miracles, I was satisfied, and I had made peace
with the events of Samuel’s first year and praised God that our family
was moving forward again.
Then, much to our amazement, I became pregnant.  I felt as if the
storm was finally over, we had been through the valley and were
heading up the mountainside once more.  However, at ten and a half
weeks the baby’s heart stopped beating.  On the ultrasound screen, I
saw a perfect little face, hands and feet so still and peaceful.  My
heart sank immediately at the absence of a fluttering heart.  The
ensuing miscarriage ripped at my soul.  The emotional turmoil was
matched only by the physical agony of an infection, emergency D&C, and
two weeks of painful recovery.
The day before I found that precious penny, was only the second time I had
seen my father in nearly three weeks, I never dreamed it would be the last
day I would see him.  I was in shock, I text messaged friends and
asked them to pray and pray hard.  It all seemed too terrible to be
true. I kept thinking I must be wrong, this will pass.  But in my
heart I knew the truth.  It hadn’t been what my sister said, but how
she said it.  The calm, metered tone of her voice said more than any
words could convey.  I could feel in her voice what she wasn’t saying
and the weight of her knowledge of an unfolding tragedy that she could
not allow her brain to absorb yet.  She was caring for our mother as
her husband and our brother tended to our father at the hospital.  She
had called and sent me a text message when the ambulance left our
parents’ home, but it had been the first night I had slept in nearly
three weeks.  I am usually a light sleeper, but this time I slept
right through it.
When I arrived at the hospital, my entire family was there.  We sat
crammed into a room that was more like a closet waiting for a doctor
to talk to us.  A nurse finally came out and told us we could go in
soon but cautioned that he was very sick.  Moments after she left we
heard the beeping of machines and the announcement of a code blue in
room 420—our father’s room.  We all knew what had happened, but still
held out hope that we were wrong.  Less than two days earlier, Daddy
had gone for a “routine” prostate biopsy.  A twenty minute procedure,
took his life only 36 hours later.  He developed a case of sepsis and
was beyond any earthly means of medicine.
As we gathered at my mother’s home later that day, my husband, Drew,
and I dawdled and debated on when we should tell our kids.  We decided
to let them play and have fun as long as we could before breaking the
news.  Our God-sent friend kept our two through breakfast, lunch,
snacks, naps, and dinner while six months pregnant and tending to her
own three children.  At six o'clock Drew finally picked up the
children.  He sat them down and explained what had happened, our
daughter’s only concern was who would take care of Grandma.  The kids
agreed that they wanted to go to Grandma’s—we had given them the
option—and so the two came bounding in.  We tried to keep things light
and as my husband flipped Samuel upside down in a tickle monster
frenzy, pennies fell from his pockets.  More pennies to remind me to
trust God.
I saved those pennies and decided to give one to each grandchild along
with a photo memory book of their grandfather.  However, the pennies
didn’t stop there.  In the weeks that followed I found countless
pennies all over the place—on my countertop, in the laundry, in the
diaper bag and my pocketbook, in shoes and on the ground, in grocery
bags at Shoprite, the bathtub and dresser drawers.  Each a reminder of how
good God is.  The pennies all told would not even amount to enough to purchase a cup of
coffee from Dunkin Donuts , but I know that when I prayerfully accepted
each one another brick was laid in my mansion in Heaven.
Just after my father’s death, I heard people questioning how God could
do this and whether there even could be a God.  But, truly this was a
act of free will.  My father, of his own free will, chose the doctor who
performed the procedure and this doctor—who we have discovered does
not have a good track record—chose of free will to not take certain
precautions.  I think the bigger question is how could God give us
free will?  Why would a God who can simply speak an entire universe
into majestic being, give people free will to single handedly destroy
it?  Why would the God who formed Adam with His own hands and filled
his lungs with His own breath, who knew each of us from before the
beginning of time, then give man the free will to take a life out of
rage or desire or convenience?  God did not do this, but He has been
there through it all.
I praise Him for the little girl that He gave to me for almost three
months who peacefully died and rests now in Heaven.  I praise Him for
my mother’s conquest of cancer and the outpouring of love that we have
received and continue to receive from friends throughout her battle.
I praise Him for the 34 years I spent with my father and the chance
to see him and kiss him goodbye one last time before he passed.  I
praise Him for the eternity that I will spend with my daughter,
Ashley, and my father, and all those loved ones I hold only in my
heart now.  I praise Him for my two little miracles that are snuggly
asleep in warm, safe beds.  I praise Him for a country that was
founded by men who trust God and allows me to worship, praise and
trust Him any way I want. I praise Him that I have a family who is
willing to stick together in good times and bad no matter our
differences.  And I praise Him for pennies from Heaven, a wealth that
I neither created nor deserve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Very Special Prayer Request

I have a couple of posts that I am writing, and I apologize that it's been a few days since my last post, but I have a favor to ask. My mom's health is failing. After an almost six and a half year long goodbye, it seems that her time really is getting short. There are so many emotions right now. I pray for a swift and easy death, but it is hard to wish her gone. However, she is suffering so, and it is selfish to want that to continue for the sake of continuing.

Source



God has been filling my heart and mind with memories of my mom. My real Mom, the person she was, the person I miss. You see, I really lost my mom six and a half years ago. She has not been the same.

While it may seem that having someone promised six weeks, hang on for over six years is a blessing. It is also a cross. It is like removing a bandage. You don't want it to happen so you want to take your time, plead with the nurse to not just pull it off. Pulling it swiftly is a shock, even if you have a few minutes to know it is coming. It hurts, stings, sears itself into your memory. On contrast, going slowly still hurts, but it becomes a form of torture because you know it is coming off and will continue to hurt as it goes. The slow approach is agony. My father was ripped away in a matter of hours, my mother bit by bit over years and years. Both are hard, but long goodbyes are worse.

Please pray for my mother, for a peaceful death, for a converted soul, for a gentle passing from misery to tranquility. Pray also for my family, we are weary and hurting, but mostly tired of hurting. Christmas is also fast approaching and our eager children are getting excited, as we wonder how much longer this goodbye will last. We do not know what to do with this holiday in so many ways. Pray lastly for my 94 year old grandmother who does not want to lose her daughter but is weary of the fight and her own uphill battle with congestive heart failure. In so many ways we are falling apart but trying hard to stick together as my father would have wanted.

Please just pray--Thank you!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Feast of St Lucy: Plans and Treats

Happy Feast of St Lucy to everyone. We were greeted early this morning with sweet saffron rolls, lingonberry jam, hot chocolate and this smiling face.

My sister in law took a trip to her nearby IKEA and picked up a large bag of treats. We have Lussebulles (saffron rolls), lingonberry jam, lingonberry juice, a special Christmas soda, some little marshmallow snowmen, and a few other treats. Now, I am not promoting IKEA, but I must say they have quality Swedish imports at reasonable prices. Lingonberry jam online went for up to $9 a bottle plus shipping. If you are blessed enough to have a Swedish import store locally, please support them, if not IKEA to the rescue.

We had breakfast in bed and spent some time relaxing before the busy day. We have a crafting afternoon planned, since we didn't get to on St Nicholas Day.  We are finishing up gifts for the family. I need to get to the library to print some items for godparent gifts. I am thinking of printing these Christchild ornaments and discouraging them onto foam board. I am also going to have each child design a special card.

Tonight, my husband and I have our TEAMs of Our Lady group meeting, so we are doing our main meal for the feast in the afternoon. I am making gluten free Swedish meatballs, hot buttered noodles (not gluten free), peas and onions, and the other treats from IKEA.  We will also watch Holy Heroes Advent Adventure, read about St Lucy, and listen to an audio book, then light our Advent wreath.

Later, we will go to confession and Mass. After which, Grammy will pick up the kids and we will head to our friends' home. I am making peas porrage to bring along, another Swedish favorite. It's a full day!

Remember, tomorrow is Guadete Sunday. Wear pink!

Santa Lucia, ora pro nobis! 

Linking up with Catholic Bloggers, click over there for more instructions and inspiration.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe Statue Tutorial in Seven Quick Takes

It's Seven Quick Takes Friday!

When I was a little girl, I loved dolls--actually I still do. When my mom finished a bottle of dish soap, we would craft homemade rag dolls using the bottle as a form. I have not made one in over 25 years, but as I was finishing up my last bottle of dish soap, I had a yearning to do it once more. Perhaps it was a wish to reconnect with my memories of my mom. Either way, I wanted Cowgirl to have a taste of my childhood. So, I put the empty bottle aside and took it out today for a special Our Lady of Guadalupe craft.

1
Assemble your materials.
We raided the scrap pile and also took out a Styrofoam ball, floral wire, two cotton balls, glue gun, gold glitter glue, ribbon roses, and a couple pieces of ribbon. Please note, in the photo is a pipe cleaner, I know my mom used to use this for the arms but it didn't seem long enough so we switched to floral wire. You will also notice the knee high, that is needed for our first step, and thankfully I had a stray in the laundry area just the right color.




2
Attach the head.
Take the Styrofoam ball and place it in the toe of the knee high. Tie a knot at the base of the ball and cut off the remainder. Save this for later. Glue the ball to the top of the bottle. Make sure to run a bead of glue around the edge for stabilization.






3
Add arms and hands.
Cut a 16 inch piece of floral wire. Find the center and place it at the back of the "neck", then twist the end around and over each other twice. Secure with a little glue.



Bend the two ends up in loops to form hands. Glue a small cotton ball over each hand.then cut a two 1" lengths of knee high. Cut one side of each tube to make a flat rectangle. Cover the cotton balls with the knee high rectangle and glue around the "wrist." Adjust arms to fall naturally.


4
Add hair.
We used a scrap of black felt, but black yarn works well, too. Cut strips of black felt and glue to either side of head. We also cut and attached half moon shaped pieces to form bangs. Hair is only needed in the front because of the mantle.


5
Put on the gown.
I folded the pink fabric in half. I then cut a rectangle that was about 11.5 inches wide and 9.5 inches high, with the crease at the top so that the total rectangle is about 19 inches high.  Keep crease at top and cut a small neckline about 1.5 inches wide in the center. Also, cut a one inch slit down from the center point of the back neck hole. This will help to get the robe over the head.



Slip on the robe.Glue around neck to secure. Then with a 1/4 inch wide ribbon or scrap of fabric, make collar to cover top bottle as well as edges of fabric.



6

Tie waist band and add roses.
Us a a ribbon about 8 inches long to tie the waist band. Adjust gown to form arms and secure with glue around wrists. Glue roses to front hem of gown.




7

Add Mantle.
Hold blue sheet of felt in a diamond shape. (I realized after we were finished that her mantle should have been green. However, we didn't have any green felt. Once I get to the craft store, I am going to put on a green mantle over the blue one and make new stars.)  Fold over top corner and glue to top of head. Secure around head and in lower back to keep from it popping up. Then decorate with dots of gold glitter glue for stars.






Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Linking up with Catholic Bloggers, hop over there for more inspiration.








Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A St Lucy Crown Tutorial

We began celebrating St Lucy's Day about four or five years ago when Cowgirl and I first read the American Girl Kirsten series, which is about a Swedish American Girl on the plains.  Since, I thought this would be a one time event, I made a simple crown out of a fake evergreen wreath that I had and a pack of battery operated votive candles that I picked up at the dollar store.  It was cute enough but nothing special. Once, St Lucy's Day became a fixture, I began to wish I could buy one of the beautiful metal crowns from Sweden. Alas, they were always more than I could afford and although I promised myself every year that I would save money and buy it next year, it never happened. Fast forward to this year when Cowgirl is now over a foot taller than the first year and I began to realize that the years of her serving us coffee and buns all dressed up are rapidly dwindling. Add to that, the little dress up robe I bought for $5 is now at least four sizes too small. I knew something had to be done, but I still couldn't afford what I was seeing online.


I found a beautiful white nightgown on eBay for $15 with plenty of room to grow.  Then I turned my attention to the crown. I returned to Dollar Tree and found just what I was looking for. Here is a tutorial for the crown I made that cost only $5, not counting the ribbon I already had. I purchased a package of artificial pine garland, two 2-packs of battery operated tapers, a sprig of berries, and floral wire (not pictured). We also used two inch wide red ribbon, about a foot of curling ribbon, and a glue gun.



First, I measured the garland around Cowgirl's head making sure to leave a little space for growth. I then wound the rest of the garland around my "head mold."  I secured the new wreath with two pieces of curling ribbon approximately six inches long each. I tied each tightly, then clipped the tails of the knot.





Then came adding the candles.  I took one candle and pushing up from the bottom pulled it between the "branches" of pine until the bottom of the brass holder was flush with the bottom of the wreath.




To secure the candles, I cut a sixteen inch piece of floral wire. Now, this part was difficult to photograph, so bear with me as I attempt to explain. I took the first six inches of the wire and wove it over and under a few branches to the right of the candle. I then pulled this piece around the back of the candle and had it meet the long section of wire in front of the candle. I then twisted the short end onto the long end to resemble the neck of a wire hanger.

After that, I threaded the wire through three branches to the left of the candle and finally, wound the remaining wire tightly around the brass base of the candle until all was used up.  I then put a small amount of hot glue around each of the bases to add security.





The hardest part was over and it took less than twenty minutes. Cowgirl then cut the lingonberries off the stem. (Disclaimer: My entire knowledge of lingpnberries consists of the facts that they make good jam and grow in Sweden. These may look nothing like a lingonberry should, but they cost a dollar, close enough.)  We arranged the berries around the wreath, then secured each with a little more hot glue.



Cowgirl had a little bit of holly  left over from making her clips, and decoded to add it to the wreath. We glue one piece to the base of each candle.


The last part to make was the bow. For those of you who do not know how to make your own bows, here is a tutorial to check out.  I first cut a five foot length of ribbon that we folded in half and attached to the back of the wreath for the tails.





Then I wrapped a DVD case seven times and made the large bow, this brought back so many memories of crafting with my mom who had taught me how to make bow many years ago. I attached the bow via floral wire, then reinforced with hot glue.



Voila, a St Lucy Day crown. We were both happy with how it turned out.  I will be posting more about our plans later this week. God bless.

Linking up with Catholic Bloggers Network,click over there for more information and inspiration to enrich your Advent.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Feast of St Juan Diego

Today is the Feast of St Juan Diego. He is a special friend of my older children. It is very interesting how they developed a love and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe at a young age, even though I knew very little about her. So, one year, I purchased Holy Heroes vol 1 about St Juan Diego and Blessed Imelda as a surprise for Our Lady of Guadalupe Day. That developed their love for Juan Diego also. Holy Heroes is offering this CD for FREE this week. If you don't own it, I encourage you to get it! We will be listening to our copy today.



Since we have  big celebrations for St Nicholas, St Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation all in one week, for this feast we do something easy. Some years it is premade burritos, in the car, on the way to basketball practice. As Buddy would say, "True story!"

This year we are having tostadas topped with black beans, cheese, salsa, and sour cream.  I have a special craft planned for Our Lady of Guadalupe this Friday, so please be sure to check back.

St Juan Diego, faithful servant of Our Lady, pray for us!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Empty Box

I think the wise men are trying to tell me something!



That's right, I openly admit it, it is the second week of Advent and we have not made our candles yet!  I feel like Advent is flying by and I still can't get it all together. It has been a rough start with sickness, unexpected delays, my husband working lots of overtime, and general chaos. I looked around today and thought, I am failing! This is not what Advent should look like. Where is the family Nativity that consumes the entire entertainment center with over 25 unique pieces?  We made a fresh, evergreen Advent wreath, but have yet to roll the candles, and have consequently only prayed the Advent prayer once. We are doing a Jesse Tree, but do not have an actual tree to use, so we are settling for an artificial pine garland that is precariously draped over the bookcase. We are only behind on two days of Holy Heroes videos, but there are only three of our handmade ornaments hung because we have been reshaping the few paper clips I could find into hangers, since I have not gotten back into the attic to find the boxes upon boxes of ornament hangers we own. I am following Father Barron's Advent reflections, the Magnificat Advent ebook devotional, and the Christmas Crib devotional but am behind by two days in at least two of them. Where is the beauty? Where are the Angel choirs resonating through an Advent ready home? Why is my mission not being accomplished, my to-do list not being done? What would those who read my blog think if I were to photograph right now, right here? Sigh, deep sigh!

In my heart cry, God reached down to me and quieted a spinning head. I was reminded of Fr Barron' s description of how we are all held in bondage. We are all seeking deliverance by a Savior. Deliverance from a messy home, and a toddler bent on making it messier. Deliverance from constrains of finances and a volatile economy where prices continue to go up faster than our budget can adjust. Deliverance from sick children, nasal drips, infected wisdom teeth, and teething in general. Deliverance from tight spaces, too much togetherness, housing options that you can see but not touch.  Deliverance from loneliness, self consciousness, battles of will, and defeats of spirit. Deliverance from mourning, from dying parents, from family interference, from family abandonment.  It goes on and on. O come, o come Emmanuel and set the captives free!!

We are saved, we have been redeemed, we are delivered from slavery; but we are still in process of being moulded and fired into the dainty treasure of a freshly, and completely emancipated victor. Our journey has not ended, but our happy ending has already been written. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. It is a chance to sweep out the cobwebs, trim our wicks, ready our wedding garments, and openly accept His invitation. We are called to do this each day, every moment, but we lose focus in the midst of bondage and burden. Advent sets us back upon the path, it is our job to make it straight, to flatten the mountains, and fill in the valleys, to wash our soul and the body that clothes it in the river of renewal. This is the ultimate spring cleaning, as we begin a new year, and anticipate the entrance of the King into each of our humble abodes.

However, it is impossible to clean deeply while keeping your house in a state of company ready. You cannot perform home improvements and not disrupt the flow of work, people, and general life. Purging of unwanted baggage, boxes, and clutter, always produces bags, trash, and piles that must be addressed before the room is returned to normal. It always gets worse before it gets better. And so it is with spiritual growth and preparation. In cleaning out our heart and soul, a lot of dust of darkness and cobwebs of sin get stirred up and flung into the air before being swept out the door.  It always gets worse before it gets better, if you are doing it right. (I'm not claiming to be an authority, nor have the answer to it all. I am a sinner, a sinner who fails, but one who is trying very hard this Advent to clear out the old sin weighing me down and build up my D-day preparedness so I am ready when my Master returns)

At the start of each Advent, we are each handed an empty box, what we do with it for four weeks (and a few days) determines how wonderful and fruitful a Christmas we will enjoy, and how ready we will be at the dawning of NOT just a new year, but a new world.  We can take the box, spent endless hours finding the perfect wrapping paper. Calculate out to the nearest millimeter the ideal size to cut the wrappings. We can spend days painstakingly folding, creasing, and taping to perfection, only to top it off with a ribbon of such exquisite quality, we can scarcely believe our eyes. We have reached the summit of present perfection to rest under our tree.

Or, we can dig out our bin of present trappings that got stuck way back in the attic, lift the lid on the Advent box and dust off the inside. We can gently smooth all the wrinkles out of our many layers of multicolor tissue paper and create a prudent cushion to rest the Gift upon. We can inspect the seems of the box and reinforce them with tape or glue, then take time to meet with the Maker to learn more about the Gift and the wrappings it needs. We could spend days listening and taking notes on all that the Maker wants us to know. And then when our box is sturdy, clean, and softened, we can request politely for the Gift to be placed inside, tieing it gingerly with a ribbon from our own gown.

When it comes time to meet the King for the presentation of our Advent boxes, which will please Him more? The humble, possibly mismatched colored, box cradling in protective care the Ultimate Gift or the award winning, elegance of overworked, perceived perfection opened to reveal an empty box?

In the trapping of holiday achievement is the distraction from our true goal. While we fret and fluff, Jesus is seeking a humble "Yes!" As we tuck and pinch, pull tight and secure strong, Jesus is seeking arms that fall open and rise up. During the time we spend coordinating paper to ribbon and decorative sprig, debating symmetry and color balance to conceal our empty box, Jesus is seeking a heart emptied at his feet, a gift of our whole being not just a tidy package of how we wish to appear. As we scurry about the room finding the perfect lighting, placement, and platform for our box to rest, Jesus is seeking that door we blocked to be flung open. Is there room at your inn?

Advent is messy and often difficult, but Advent is a journey not a sprint to the finish, nor a means to an end. We are given four weeks, plus a few days to get our box ready and as we learned from the tortoise and the hare, rapid beginning do not necessarily equal solid finishes. God's Mercy is new each day, even more so during Advent. We must accept the gift of each day and pledge to get closer and closer to making Him not just the King of Kings on our lips, in our dusty Bibles, and according to our head, but in all we have, do, are, and desire. In Him we dwell, in Him we move and have our being. Let us stop chasing the trappings and be. Be with Him, be for Him, be in Him, and invite Him to be in us.

How is your Advent going? A little messy? Do not lose heart, the Son is rising as the prophecy has foretold. He will sweep away the broken, illuminate the shadows, accomplish all that must be done and all we never even knew was required. Messy on the outside is alright if it is the result of clothing the inside in light, joy, and peace. Stand before the mirror and look deep within, that is your empty box---is it fit for a King?


God bless you all! Thank you for journeying with me.  Linking up with Catholic Bloggers Network.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pretty-Happy-Funny-Real Thanksgiving and Advent Edition

This is a two week edition, since Thanksgiving was last week. I'm linking up with Auntie Leila, hop over there for more posts fills of contentment.

Pretty
It was a white Thanksgiving, and although I am not a snow lover, I must say, the scenery was breathtaking. These pictures don't do it justice. It truly was a winter wonderland. The lake had not frozen yet, and the gentle flow of the water under the snow laden trees was postcard perfect.



Happy
The children and I visited our wonderful aunt for a day of crafts. As I mentioned before, they are working a booth at a craft fair this Saturday.  Cowgirl is selling barrettes, ornament key chains, bracelets, fancy bobbie pins, and some little fairy figurines.  Buddy is selling lego mini fig head jars, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ornaments. At our aunt's, we finished the Lego jars and many, many clips. The children were happy to get their inventory stocked up and have a visit.  Look at all these clips! It was a happy, but tiring day.





Funny
Back to Thanksgiving, for a twist, our cousin decided to replace her kitchen table (which was moved to the dining room for a "kids' table") with the knock hockey table from the basement. All of the kids had fun with it, all day. One, especially amusing, game they developed was putting the babies on the hockey rink and having them knock the pucks around. I'm not sure if the big kids or the babies found it funnier.



Real
Buddy is super excitable and Christmas is the apex of excitement for him. As soon as Advent began, his energy level shot through the roof! I tested my brother in law on Monday to let him know that Buddy was up at 6:30 am to open up the first door of the Lego Advent calendar brother-in-law had given him.  I then tested"He is so wound up, if I let him go, he may reach the moon! I don't know if I can survive 24 more days of this type of excitement."

 To which my brother-in-law replied, "Jennifer, you say that every year." So, I am trying hard to offer it up, practice patience , and exercise gentleness as my boy continues to get more excited, which almost seems humanly impossible.  Below is a picture of him doing the "Charlie Brown Christmas Running Happy Happy Dance " Yup, he's REAL excited!