Friday, May 30, 2014

A Mother/ Daughter How-To

For over a decade, I worked for a local diocese in various capacities hosting what we called "Mother/daughter"s.  These were essentially afternoon retreats for tween/pre-teen girls and their mothers.  Our goal was to open communication between mothers and daughters, while instilling the Truth (with a capital T) of God's design for womanhood.  We hosted various talks, always had a lovely tea party, and offered a huge selection of resources, among other things.  It was always a touching and exhilarating experience.  The mothers who participated were always thankful and the daughters inspired.  It was some of the best work I ever did in my life and my one salary was the deep sense of gratitude I felt at being privileged enough to be part of such an amazing project.

That program, unfortunately, ended.  After being a part of something so profound for so long, and helping scores of mothers and daughters bond as they faced the life changes as blessings not misery; I found myself with no outlet for my own daughter who is on the cusp of her tween years.  So, friends of mine and I have banded together to create our own mother/daughter experience for our girls on a smaller scale this June.

Every year, as part of Little Flowers, I hosted a Mother/Daughter tea with a different theme.  They were all little baby steps toward what I felt the girls needed to know as they blossomed into womanhood.  These tea parties, weren't just a time to dress up and eat fancy foods.  My main goal was to create in them a love of who God made them to be, and an abiding trust in who He wanted them to become. This upcoming Mother/daugher is really just the next step on the journey.

Over the years, I have read countless books, given talks, and researched teens and the world around them.  Touching the lives of these young girls and supporting the moms became a great passion of mine.  So in the coming weeks, I am going to offer a series of articles that gifts to you what it took me a decade to learn.  I am going to include outlines of tea parties for young girls and teens; the scripts of my talks, where to find resources, and lists of books that every girl and/or mom need to read.  At the end, you too will be able to establish your own Mother/daughter program and begin to spread light one girl at a time.

Please join me on this journey, and come back for each post.  There is so much I wish to share and so much that girls today need to know.  If you have not already done so, please subscribe to the blog to get posts delivered to your inbox.  Also, if you are on Facebook, please like the Veils and Vocations page.  Once we reach 100 likes, I have a wonderful surprise in store!  Lastly, if you haven't heard, Veils and Vocations is now on Pinterest.  In addition to links to every post, I have several boards--and more to come--that correspond to the posts I have written.  It is another resource for you as you strive to raise saints.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Raising Lovers of Life in Three easy Steps

Yesterday, we looked at why how we perceive children is so important.  No matter what vocation your children take up, a love of life will translate into a love of humanity.  There is no profession or venture that would not benefit from that.  It will serve them to be honest and faithful, they will be patient with others and caring in difficulties.  Raising pro-life children in a dark culture is a tall order--there are no easy steps.  However, I have a list of three things that I believe will develop empathy and love for children in your children and thus lead them to be pro-life.  If you have any other suggestions, please add them to the comments.  We are all looking for inspiration.

Be lovers of life yourself!  Preaching about the evils of abortion or denouncing the latest alterior motive of the "culture of death" will not win your children over.  See you love life will!  I always make a big fuss about babies, when we hear someone is expecting or just had a new baby, I talk to the kids about how special babies are.  I gush over the gift of a new life.  We talk about how big the "baby int he belly" might be right now, what he or she can do, how long until we can meet the baby.  We have silly conversations about possible names and make up fantastical tales of the funny things "Suzy" will do when she is the age of my children.  I recount stories of when I was pregnant with each of them, how exciting it was, silly things that happened, how we couldn't wait to meet each of them, how we picked their names.  (Name picking is an Olympic Event for my husband and I).  When I was pregnant with Little Man, we all went for the 5 month ultrasound together--it was a big day for Daddy to take off work AND to go out to lunch--we pointed out the different features of the baby, narrated what he was doing, and let the kids ask questions.  

When we are with babies, I remind the children to be gentle. I tell them how special babies are and how they need our protection, and our love.  I instill in them an awe for little children and once again gush over the little one.  (In truth, I just like to gush over babies, but I do use it strategically as a teachiable moment!)    In short, I make babies seem like they are the most wonderful thing in the world, every baby, because, well, they are.

Give your children pro-life media.  I am not talking anti-abortion pamphlets or March for Life posters.  Those have their place but, for children, it needs to be enjyable.  Remember we want them to love life, not fear death.  Some of our favorites are:

Product Details

Product Details
* Please note that Precious Life Ministries that published this book as well as The Most Beautiful Thing in the World appears to be out of print.

Get involved with charities that help children in need and do it in a tangible way.  Our favorite ministries are Mary's Meals and Operation Christmas Child.  Mary's Meals feed the poorest, most hungry children one meal a day at a local school so that they get life saving nutrition and life changing education.  They do this all for a nickel a meal--A NICKEL!  It is such a simple concept.  Operations Christmas Child is not a Catholic organization, but I think that it is a great way to teach the children about giving to the needy.  The concept is also simple, pack a shoe box with necessary items like school supplies, personal hygiene items, and small toys; then have it sent to a child in need somewhere in the world.   Packing a shoe box is a tangible way for children to help and lends itself to conversations about caring for the needy, loving all children, and the importance of helping others.  I have seen my children grow in love for other children by participating in these charities, and if they love and want to help other children that they have never met, they realize the value of life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why Seeing Babies as a Gift Instead of a Choice Makes All the Difference

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  Genesis 1:28

Little man's profile at 20 weeks old

This is the first command that God issues to man, generations before the Ten Commandments were handed to Moses.  It is simple, but profound.  Children throughout the Bible are seen as a blessing, a gift, a miracle.  The most pivotal men in salvation history are those whose conception, birth, or childhood are miraculous--Issac, Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist, Christ.  In so many instances, when God wished to bless the world it was through the birth of a child.

In our times, the debate of what constitutes life has led us to question the worth of children.  However, I would argue that everything hinges on how we view children born and in utero.  A person's outlook on the entire world, is built on that single idea because all of Creation past and future has depended upon a child's birth.

There are many customs surrounding gifts and it is universally accepted that a gift is something that is graciously received.  To question or refuse a gift, is not readily tolerated around the globe.  Gifts are not always the perfect fit or style; they may be delayed or repeats of what you already posses, but as the saying goes, "It's the thought that counts."  The thought, the idea, the action of bringing a feeling of wanting to gift something to fruition.  Much as Creation was considered and then spoken into being.

When children are seen as a gift, each and every person is celebrated, no matter his size, color, fit or style.  Gifts are cherished, handled gently, kept safe and thought of fondly.  Gifts are hoped for but not demanded, gifts may be wished for but are always a surprise until unwrapped.  A gift is meant to mark a special occasion or say you are special, you are loved, you have meaning.  A gift can be returned or re-gifted (as in miscarriage and adoption), but that doesn't change that you have been given it.  Gifts bring joy to both the giver and the recipient and even if you are in need of nothing a gift is always welcome because of how it touches your heart; likewise if you have nothing, even an impractical gift is a ray of light and hope in your darkness.

A choice can be wrong, can be debated, can be denounced.  Choices can be regretted or second-guessed.  Everyone makes choices differently, even at different stages of life.  Choices can be coerced or abandoned.  Choices can be celebrated, but also reviled.  Choices can be rationalized or trivialized, hidden or denied. Choices are something that must be done, but range from the mundane of which socks to wear to the extraordinary  of dedicating your life to finding a cure for cancer.

How you see life, every life, even the smallest, shapes how you see each person.  If every human began was a thoughtful gift, no matter the circumstance of it's arrival or delivery, then everyone deserves to be cherish and handled gently--from the screaming newborn at 2 AM to the feeble and incapable senior citizen, from the handicapped boy to the injured veteran.  It all begins with how we see the source of life.  Yes, there are biological processes and we understand astutely the exact step by step procedure for a new being to be--but who created those steps and procedures?  The same God who created it all.  (Wouldn't we as a culture be more mindful of how we used those processes, too, if we truly all believed that they were a gateway to a gift not just a momentary choice?) He breathed His own breath into the first man, the same as he breathed an immortal soul into each and every person ever conceived in a mother's womb.  The rest of creation, God spoke into being, but man He formed with His own Hands.  Why?  Because where to divide the waters and the land, how to light the day and the night, what creatures should roam the Earth and swim in the sea; those are all choices, and who among us has not lamented the sun setting or rising too soon, the sting of a mosquito or damage of a rodent.  However, man, he was a gift and like all the best gifts he was well planned, thoughtful, and hand delivered.  And if that weren't enough, the first and ultimate gift of Christmas was a child conceived by an unwed teen, born in a filthy stable to parents who had nothing to offer but love--imagine if we had chosen to refuse that gift!

Please come back tomorrow (or subscribe to have updates delivered to your inbox) for the second half of this article on teaching our children to love life, for that is at the heart of how we serve and worship our God--the Creator and Lover of life itself!
 Buddy meeting Little Man for the first time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

7 Quick Takes--Sharing is Caring

Happy Memorial Day, and blessing and thanks to all those who serve and have served.  As our Pastor said yesterday, "We don't get the privilege of worshiping here each Sunday just because God is Lord, many have given their lives for this privilege and we owe them thanks."

So, I am working on a couple of posts, but since Little Man is sick and seems only interested in hindering helping me type, I am going to attempt to put together a 7 quick takes post of shared wealth while he is distracted with a salmon cake (his favorite food)


First, Jessica at Shower of Roses is offering a giveaway through Catholic Child for a PAL (Pillowcase and Literature set) in honor of the Feast of St Joan of Arc.  Click over for a chance to win.

 This isn't a giveaway, but an opportunity for you and your children to celebrate the month of Mary in a fun way.  Kimberlee at Pondered in My Heart is hosting an Artist Trading Card exchange for children and adults to enter.  Cowgirl is currently working on hers, I will post pictures when she is finished.

Ascension Thursday is coming.  Jennifer at Catholic Inspired has posted a really nice craft with free printable. She always has such great ideas.

If you have never heard of Catholic Deals, please check them out.  There are always such great sales posted there and often lovely giveaways as well.  Currently, there is a listing of books perfect for graduates, so check out the list before you start shopping.  I always enjoy giving gifts that are faith based, how much better to feed the soul than just give money.

Catholic Deals 
Memorial Day is usually when I begin thinking about Christmas shopping.  I like to shop during the summer so that I have the fall to dedicate to starting school and then Advent to well, prepare for the Christ child instead of battling crowds and indulging in consumerism.  Whether you like to shop for Christmas right now or you just need some gifts or you enjoy a good deal check out the sale and one day coupon at the Catholic Company.  They have many items on sale and an additional 10% off coupon for all purchases for today only.  
   Catholic Company

The beginning of summer means the beginning of taking summer vacations if you are blessed to do so and the end of school, both of which lend themselves to finding fun things for the kids to do.  My children really enjoy coloring on car trips and we keep a bag of car safe art supplies, paper and coloring books in our back seat at all times.  Looking for some nice diversions for the kids?  Check out Charlotte's free Catholic coloring pages at Waltzing Matilda.  She also has an Etsy store that sell beautiful embroidery kits so you can make saint pillows that are "colored with thread."  I got Cowgirl one for Easter and another for a birthday gift for her friend, they were so well made and packaged.  I can't wait to see the end result, Cowgirl has been saving it to do as a summer project.

 Waltzing Matilda
This last one is a caring call for prayer.  Lena at Joyfilled Family is experiencing some really difficult times right now.  She has asked for prayer and I am joining a host of other blogs in getting her intentions out.  Please read about her story here and consider making a donation to help out her family herePrayer is the best gift, it is always free and benefits the giver even more than the recipient.

That's it for my quick takes.  Have a lovely day and please like my page on Facebook.  

Do you have any giveaways or deals to share?  Please comment below. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Veil

*Please note this post contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and add anything to your cart, my family receives a small commission that helps us to continue this blog. Thank you for your support
By tradition, the sacred has always been veiled.  The Holy of Holies of the Old Testament Tabernacle and the Temple was veiled because it was so sacred that it was not permitted to be seen by the average person.  Even priests were only allowed very limited access behind the veil.  In the Traditional Latin Mass the tabernacle, ciborium, and chalice, among other sacred objects are veiled.  Many parishes still hold to the tradition of veiling statues and crucifixes during Holy Week.
Until recent times, women were veiled as well.  Consecrated women who hold to traditional habits, still follow the call to veil themselves.  But why?

We first have to look to the Blessed Mother.  Have you ever seen her without a veil?  In all of the apparitions that have been authenticated and confirmed, Mary has always appeared in a fashion that was familar to the people who saw her, but she has always had a veil no matter how she appeared to be dressed.  The veil represents many things.  First, it represents the place of Mary in submission to God.  She is the "handmaid of the Lord," not the slave, but the handmaid, she has relinquished her whole self to service and thus is revered for her submission.  Second, it represents modesty, a covering to shield that which is precious from the world.  In her modesty, Mary honors God, her Creator, Savior, and Spouse.  She sets herself apart from the world.  Lastly, the veil represents the sacredness of her being.  Mary was the first tabernacle, she held the living God within her and lent her flesh to His unborn body.  Mary is sacred and blessed because of her role in salvation history and her purity throughout her life.

In the tradition of the Church, women have always been veiled as a sign of reverence.  They were also veiled because they were revered.  Their precious gift of being life bearers made them sacred, just as Mary is sacred.  It is true that it has always been a symbol of submission and modesty, but not in a negative connotation as the modern world views these traits.  Modesty and submission are virtues practiced even by Christ.  He washed the feet of the disciples, submitted to the Father's Will and gave up His human life in a horrendous death. He did not walk around expected to be waited upon and receive special treatment because of who He is.  Jesus was subservient to the Father and modest in all His Earthly dealings, even staying silent when falsely accused.  Everyone is called to submission and modesty but women are called to a special modesty and submission because of our sacred role in the creation of life.  By veiling, we are saying that we are special, not worth less, but worth MORE!

I began veiling at Church about 5 years ago, however, I was curious about veiling from the time I was a child and called to veil for many years before I was willing to offer up my pride and take up the devotion myself.  It is an outward sign of a continued inward struggle to veil my life in God's honor, to veil my heart in service to Christ, veil my words in praise of God, veil my actions in glory to the Father on High.  I am not there, I am not a saint, however, I am trying.  My veil reminds me of the love that God holds for me, my promise to follow him and my vow to my husband in our sacramental marriage.  It keeps me focused on the LORD even when there are so many distractions, including my children, and grounds me in my tiny corner of the universe as I live my heartbeat of a life.

Veiling of our heads at Mass is not the only veiling we are called to take up.  As I said above, consecrated women are traditionally (and I am always so happy to see a nun in full habit) veiled.  Their hair completely covered, their body in modest clothes, an outward sign of an inward and Heavenward vow.  But, we all should be veiled in modesty in our dress, action, speach, and entertainment.  We should all be veiled in humility, service, self-giving, and love.  There are many veils that can cover our hearts and souls if we are open to letting them.  None of them are automatic, they all take work and decisiveness and prayer to pursue, but all are great blessings in the end.

If you are curious about veiling, or have a testimony about it to share, please leave a comment.  If you have always wondered where women get the veils or what the difference in color is, here is some additional information.  Traditionally unmarried women wore white veils , while married or widowed women wore black ones.  However in recent years, as the veil has returned as a private devotion, these rules have been changed.  Women you feel the call to veil are permitted to wear whatever color they choose.  Veils range from the elaborate to the simple and inexpensive.  There are also many colors available now, and many women wear veils to coordinate with their outfits or liturgical colors.  I personally wear a brown veil because I wanted a color that did not stand out as much--I am not veiling to be seen--and I just haven't wanted black.

Even If you do not feel called to veil, remember the veiling of our hearts and lives if everyone's call, thus the first half of my blog's name.  In future posts, I will explore veiling more as well and begin discussions of vocations and show you ways to teach both to your children.  Thank you for coming by, please leave a comment or questions.  God bless!

Here are some additional articles about veiling that explain the practice and theology behind it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Bride of Christ

So many times we hear, "the Church doesn't like women," or worse, "God doesn't like women."  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For a few years, I led a Little Flower Girls Club group at my church.  It was something that the girls enjoyed and I felt passionate about, but it became increasingly difficult to get solid commitments from families with the pulls of so many other activities and sports.  Anyway, organizing the meetings required me to study not only the virtue of the month but Catechism and scripture to support it.  I believe I actually learned more than the girls I was teaching.

In my studying, I found an explanation of why women can't be priests that blew me away. It wasn't because of oppression, it wasn't chauvinist ideas, it was a solid truth that actually elevates women, not degrades them.  (Forgive me for not remembering the source, if anyone recognizes this and knows the source, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.) The core of the argument went like this, priests are married to the Church, they are the caretakers and guardians of Christ's bride.  They are the Church's earthly husbands, while Christ is ever the head of it all. However, women religious are--get ready--the brides of Christ.  Let that sink in, THE BRIDES OF CHRIST.  Is there anything better than that?  They are wedded directly to the Lord of lords and King of kings.

However, it is not just consecrated women that are special, all women are special.  Women have the hidden beauty of cooperating with God in His plan of creation.  They come as close as possible to being the very Hand of God.  When a woman conceives in her womb by God's grace, her body not only lends itself to the Will of God, but also works to construct what God has deemed to be created.  Women are a miracle of God's love.  Think about it, Adam was created from dirt, Eve from his rib.  God could have chosen any means possible to introduce new humans into His creation--stork deliveries, cabbage patches, anything!  We think that the tales of storks gliding down from heaven with a blanket sling that hold a precious baby to be left on someone's front porch is ridiculous child's play, of course that isn't how it happens. Think, though, about our all powerful, all capable, all knowing God who is able to speak, simply speak, anything and everything into being.  Yet, He chose a mere mortal to be His source of continued creation. It is through a woman that the world was first occupied and subdued, and it is through a woman that the Savior, the Son of the Living God came to redeem us all.

Mary was the first tabernacle, a living tabernacle.  She cradled in her body the Redeemer of all mankind, the prophesy of ages, the Alpha and Omega, the incarnate Word of God.  Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine the thoughts that raced through her head as her abdomen grew and she felt tiny feet kick her ribs.  Can you even imagine? While priests are anointed to consecrate the hosts and are placed as guardians of the tabernacle; a woman WAS the tabernacle.

We must always be mindful of how God loves women and reveres them.  As the hymn goes, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed in turn all women, too." (Hail Mary, Gentle Woman by Carey Landry) Our daughters and Goddaughters must know also how loved they are by God and how special they are in His Plan.  In upcoming posts, I will explore more deeply how to teach our girls their beauty and purpose in the Church and in Creation.

Does anyone have any other gems of wisdom that they have shared with women or girls about their beauty in the Faith?


After years of thinking of doing a blog, my friend, Jessica at Shower of Roses, finally encouraged me enough to take the plunge. So I thought I should start with an introduction to me, my mission, and my family.

I am a homeschooling mom who is married to my high school sweetheart.  While it's not all roses and violins,we have built a good life together and truly enjoy being together as much as possible.  We have three children here and three more in Heaven.  We are conservative Catholics who believe that our love of Christ should govern everything we do. We are also human, and make many mistakes, but through prayer, confession, and a lot of reading, we are trying harder and harder to become saints.  We practice NFP and are happy to answer any questions anyone has about that.  My husband works hard, commutes far, any generally tries hard to provide the best he can for our family.

We lost our first two pregnancies due to hormonal imbalances.  That is when we discovered NaPro technologies and have been blessed with the knowledge of a few great and Godly doctors and nurses who also love the Catholic faith. Through their efforts, a lot of prayer, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, we conceived our first born.  For this blog, we will call her Cowgirl.  She is a nature loving, horse-riding, free spirit who is likely to be found with her hand either covered in mud or paint, as she is a passionate artist as well.  She is part of my inspiration for this blog,because I realize the lack of information on vocations, and the need to feed our children with grace and insight into hearing God's call for them.

When Cowgirl was just minutes old, my husband turned to me and said, "Can we please have more?"  I, of course, wanted more but after 36 hours of labor was not really in the mood to talk pregnancy again. However, after about six months, we returned to our doctor and started trying for another baby.  It took three years and even more prayer and grace from the Holy Spirit (a topic for a future post) before we conceived our first son, Buddy.  He really is my little buddy, he spent the first three and a half years of his life on my hip with his cheek pressed to mine.  It was only after the doctor informed him that he was nearly 50 lbs and Mommy could not carry him night and day, that he began to venture away from me.  He is a rough, tough boy with a sensitive heart that he wears on his sleeve.  Buddy enjoys sports, inventing things, and spending time with family.  He loves deeply and has insight into matters of the faith that can rock your world at times.  Buddy has a brief crying episode about every 6 weeks because he wants to find a good girl to marry who loves babies and he hasn't found her!

When Buddy was 16 months old, we found out that we were once again expecting. We were amazed and excited.  We had planned on returning to the doctor to start the whole procedure of charting, lab tests, and hormone balancing but due to family illness (another future post) we had waited and had just decided to contact the doctor to make an appointment.  Unfortunately, at almost 11 weeks, the baby's heart stopped. Our daughter, who we never got to hold, but loved very much was born to God.  We were heartbroken.  It was a difficult miscarriage, emotionally and physically. We were advised to wait at least a year before trying again, however after a year, my body and our circumstances seems to still not have recovered.  As the hormonal problems seemed to increase, I was told by my primary doctor that I was entering early menopause--at 36!! I was upset, but thankful for the two miracles that I did have the blessing of mothering.  In the meantime, our original NaPro doctor retired.  We started to look for a new one and found a doctor that is the most wonderful doctor I have ever met.

At first look, after a battery of tests and charts, it didn't look good.  The good doctor put me on hormone supplements, more than I had been on in the past, and diagnosed an underlying infection that other doctors and tests had missed.  I  left the office with the request, "I just want to feel better."  I did start to feel better, but with all the scar tissue from the infections and D & C, the hormone problems, along with other factors, another baby was something I barely dared to hope for, but still continued to pray for.  God is good!  At the end of November 2012, I contacted the nurse from the good doctor who was also a personal friend.  My cycle was crazy and I didn't know what was going on.  She listened and said confidently, "Jennifer, you're pregnant."  What!  Really?  WOW!  We took a pregnancy test that evening after the kids were in bed, and sure enough, it was positive.  We were both filled with joy, absolute joy.  The first thing my husband said to me, I will never forget, "This is a great gift from God!"

Our baby truly is a great gift.  It was another difficult pregnancy which was dicey up until the final moments, but it was so blessed.  On July 31, 2013, our beautiful son, Little Man, was born.  I have to say, I never liked the nickname little man, but  it fits him perfectly, he truly is a little man.  He has brought such joy to our lives.  I am so thankful for this gift and will never be able to express how thankful I am.

So, that is my introduction.  Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you here, again, soon.