Seven Quick Takes: More on Advent, The Domestic Church, and Family Activities before Christmas

Linking up with Kelly for the first time in a really long time for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

-1-

Advent so far has been wonderful.  I think the concerted effort to be more aware of what this season is all about is paying off, because I find myself a bit more at peace during this hectic time of the year than I normally am.

The week of the 5th kick-started the craziness of the season for me and my family.  We hosted two parties in one week at our house, and have since celebrated three feast days (Saint Nicholas, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

I have always wanted to be more mindful of the Feast Days in the Church, and seeing the beautiful and thoughtful things that other Catholic moms put together for their families has always left me feeling a bit #inadequate.  Sometimes the pressure to be the “perfect” mom is ridiculous–especially the perfect “Catholic” mom– and I love what Simcha had to say about her family’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception. (“Pant, pant”…just get their butts to Mass.)

The biggest thing I took from her article was that we don’t have to put together these elaborate things for our family for them to get the most out of these special days.  We just need to put our focus on what really matters, and we need to continue striving to share the faith with our kids in the best ways we know how.

So we’ve begun doing that and it has been awesome, and really alleviated the silly guilt that comes from being so very un-pinterest worthy most of the time.

-2-

This new outlook on building our domestic church came just in time, because in the craziness of hosting people at our house on the 5th, I completely forgot to weave together the narrative of Saint Nick’s legendary stories to Eli and stick carrots and other such things in his stinky little shoes before Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day the next day .  I did buy coins and carrots and had a whole thing planned out, but completely forgot in the rush of all things. #Momfail

But I rolled with it. Who really cares?  I mean, I may not be Martha-friggin-Stewart, but that’s okay.  And let’s be honest, Eli (and certainly Lucia) didn’t even notice.

I decided to nix the whole plan and just work with what we normally do every night, which is sit together as a family and eat dinner.  I parked our ol’ Santa Claus “Saint Nick” down with us for dinner,

saint-nick

gave Eli a few details about his life (Lucy nodded along, too), said a quick prayer in honor of him, ate dinner, and afterwards celebrated by eating chocolate coins and drinking eggnog by our tree. It was wonderful and simple and I think Eli got the general jist of what is really so special about the jolly old man, Santa Claus.  It’s not so much about getting the presents and toys he brings as it is about the character of the real man (a saint) who existed; a man who lived for the Lord, and loved and gave without reserve.

-3-

We also celebrated with our friends this Advent season, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The group gathered together and came up with this great idea to make tilmas (an idea one of the girls got from Catholic Icing), eat cookies, watch a movie about Juan Diego’s vision of Mary, and carry red roses up to Mary in honor of this day.   It was so fun and I am so glad that my kids are making friends in the Church.

-4-

One of the parties I hosted was for Joey’s 30th Birthday!  It is becoming kind of a tradition to have a Christmas party at our house for him every year, and I think this 3rd year was our best.

img_20161211_161734

We changed the entertainment up this year (from our usual white elephant game) by playing the seran wrap game, and it was such a hit!  Highly suggest it for your family parties—except instead of candy we purchased a bunch of small gifts (chotchkies and stuff) for people to win.  Funny enough though, most of the grown men were vying for the big league chew packets of gum.

-5-

A friend gifted me the Blessed is She Advent journal this year and I am absolutely loving it!  It is probably a bit late to buy the journal for this Advent, but you can also buy it and download a digital copy of it if you are interested!

-6-

This year I wanted to make something that I could gift to people, and I settled on these caramel candies.  I was super nervous about making these because my history with baking is not the greatest, so I only assumed candy-making would be worse.  With only a minor hiccup (a big caramel spill, because my pan wasn’t big enough) I came out unscathed and they came out delicious!  Be happy I don’t have pictures of the process, though, because it wasn’t very pretty.  The recipe I followed was super easy, albeit a tad time consuming (took me an hour and a half to make).  Try making them for Christmas! They don’t disappoint!

caramels

-7-

Eli had his very first Christmas program yesterday.  It was priceless.  I especially love how he pretty much “watermelon-coconuted” the whole thing, and clapped for himself at the end.  At-a-boy, you little cutie. At-a-boy.

That’s it for me this week! Hope you have a wonderful week, and if you are traveling for Christmas–safe travels!!!

Untitled

 

 

 

Our Homes as “Little Churches” (Day 3)

as for me

A really good friend of mine (love you Lynne) mentioned to me once that our houses should be like little churches.  In our community church we gather together to worship and adore God.  Our homes should be a reflection of this; a smaller unit of that larger community. I have always really loved walking in to her home because the second you walk in the door you are met with a visual presentation of her family’s faith.  She has beautiful art pieces here and there, and icons of saintly people and crosses hanging on the walls.  I love walking in and getting a sense of her family’s faith, without them ever having to say anything.  It is like their home is speaking for them saying, “Welcome.  We love and serve the Lord in this house.”

I know a lot of people (our family included) tend to shy away from making their homes “little churches”, and I think there are a few common reasons for this.  Maybe it is the fear of scaring away or offending people who aren’t into their faith.  Maybe it’s the idea that they don’t want their home to be gaudy (no pun intended), and the idea of putting a reflection of their faith reminds them of old gothic artifacts and churches.  Or maybe people just don’t know how to go about doing this in the first place.  Whatever the reason may be, I  think the priority of making our homes a reflection of our faith tends to sit on the back burner.  I think one thing that everyone can agree on, though, is that the homes that are the most pleasing to walk into are those homes that are a true reflection of the family that lives within it.  I always love walking into homes with pictures of the family hanging on the wall, and little reflections of who the family is in pieces around the home.   We are all part of this grand family and communion in God, so shouldn’t this also be reflected in our smaller communities—our families?

Inviting God into our homes, though, is more than just nailing religious artifacts on the wall.  Decorating our home should merely be a reflection of our faith, a sign of the life that we are living, and a reminder to us of God’s love.  Our priority should start with truly seeking to serve God in our own lives, in the life of our family, and in our homes.  I think one of the problems today that have a direct impact on this, is that people view God as an absentee God.  I have met a lot of people in my life who believe God exists and is real, but that He is out there somewhere, not truly present to our world and especially to our individual lives.  I think in some way, we all view God as a little bit absent in our lives.  It is hard not to think this way, because we are trained for immediate gratification and instant results.  It’s easy to give up on God when we don’t hear the thunderbolts of His response when we our seeking Him and praying to Him.  It’s easy to gloss over building our relationship with Jesus because he lived 2,000 years ago, and to allow ourselves to get too busy in our lives, forgetting to take the time to invite Him into our home.  How do we come to know and love Him today, when He feels so very absent and far removed from our lives?   How do we invite Him into our homes, when we have not yet truly opened our hearts to Him?

We have to call to mind that God is not an absent God; He is present, and He is living.  He is the God of love, and because He is the God of love He is always seeking to be in communion with us.  Just as a lover seeks to know and communicate with his or her beloved, God seeks for His people to know and love Him.  He wants to build a home with us and to be there for all the joyous occasions we experience, and even all the sufferings we are called to endure.  God is always present to us, but are we present to God?   Do we invite Him first and foremost into our hearts?  Do we allow Him to enter into our homes and reside within our families?

Over the course of these next 28 days, I want to write a few tips for how we can go about opening our homes (our inner home, and our physical home) to God.  I came up with a list of a few ways that I have found to be helpful in this and that I have witnessed working in other people’s lives.  I also am leaving room for God to reveal to me a few ways that I haven’t thought of before, because I still have so much to learn from Him, and there is so much space for my own family to grow in this.

I think the biggest challenge in doing this is actually starting—beginning to seek God and respond in faith to His call.

I look forward to writing more about this and I hope you continue reading!

Lauren

31 days bigger

 

 

First Comes Love…

Is it okay to use another’s blog post to prompt one’s own?  I sure hope so Shane, because your blogs are always so inspiring, and they usually capture some essence of what I am feeling in my own life/mind.

Like this one: The Birth of Life…To the Full!

I love how he talks about being so overjoyed with life; most especially after the mere act of placing his sleeping babe in her crib, and gazing upon his other little snoozing son.

My parents always told me growing up that “you’ll know” when it comes to the love of a child.

“You’ll know someday when you have your own.  You’ll know what it feels like.”

And now I do know, and it is incredible.  The love I have for my son is so overwhelming, it is almost too much to describe.

It’s just as Shane said:  It’s in a moment.  You get caught up in the silliest of things:  a sneeze, a quick smile when I go to pick him up from his nap, the way he reaches out for my face to touch it and try to understand it.  Sometimes when I am holding him it feels that suddenly I am going to explode with laughter.  Nothing is funny.  Nothing actually happened to spark this emotion.  It is, as Shane says, pure joy.  I am so happy I want to laugh.

In those moments my mind always wraps around how completely good God is to us.  He gave us the family.  He gave us people to share our lives with.  People who are our own.  People to share in a love that is unique and unified.

Family is so intricately woven into the fabric of our being that we need each other to feel this kind of joy.  It is an extending outward towards another that is the deepest kind of love (charity), and family is the unique unit which always turns back and reciprocates that love.

I read recently this woman describing how much she hated that people had kids to “fulfill” something within themselves.  In fact, she gave 10 reasons why she wasn’t having kids, the top 2 reasons being: “I love my husband too much to share,” and “humans are too versatile to be fulfilled through having children.”

To me, it is funny that these made the top 2 in the list for reasons why she didn’t want to have children, because I think in a different light, these two things are the most significant motivating factors for having kids (the positive sides of these things, that is).

When my husband and I decided to get married, we both agreed that the only way for us to be completely open with one another was to practice NFP (Natural Family Planning).  NFP for us meant that in the sexual act we would be offering ourselves totally and completely to one another (i.e. no contraceptive barriers).  NFP can end up being a touchy subject for a lot of people (mainly because it is not widely practiced), so I can only attest to what it means to me here.  The reason why it is an important factor for us is because, when we got married, it was the only way we could communicate bodily and spiritually the following: I love you so much, I want to offer myself—my whole body and what it is capable of—to you completely.  This didn’t mean when we got married that we needed to plan ahead for the Dugger-load of children we would have (a main aspect in NFP is abstaining when necessary to avoid pregnancy), but it meant that our love was to be so open that having children would not be a negative thing, but something which would enrich our love for one another.

And it has.  Boy has it.

I see my husband as a father and it has opened my eyes even wider to the greatness that he is capable of being.  I have learned how much more patient he can be.  How he has reached beyond himself even further and serves his family in two ways now (as a loving husband, and an amazing father).  His being a father hasn’t changed the dynamics of our marriage.  Sure it has played a factor in the logistics of some things, but it has not changed how we are intimate with one another, or how much I love him.  I have never once felt like he is splitting his love in half to compensate for the new little being in our lives—nor do I think he feels that of me.  Rather, the love has doubled.

daddyneli

We didn’t have our son because we weren’t “happy and fulfilled” in our marriage (as she says if she wasn’t, she would maybe consider having kids).  Having children is not a result of a lacking, it is a product of love.

Now there is someone in the world who shares the love we have for one another.  He is the closest human being we will know (until our other children) who knows what our love for one another is like.  He gets it, because he knows it.

mifamilia

Am I saying that having children is the only way to be fulfilled?  No.  I am not trying to convey this, but rather my belief that it is definitely one of the most beautiful and charitable ways to fulfill oneself.  Children are not an accessory, or a stepping stone in the path of life.   They fulfill us because they are a unique expression of our love.

Richard of St. Victor describes the Trinity in the following way:

“That love must be mutual is required by the fact that supreme     happiness cannot exist without the mutuality of love… a                 further analysis of the nature of true charity reveals that three persons, not two, are necessary. For charity to be excellent, as well as perfect, it must desire that the love it experiences be a love shared with another… Thus charity is not only mutual love between two; it is fully shared love among three.”

The family unit mimics the Trinity, the most perfect expression of love that there is.

trinity1

It is no wonder my heart overflows with joy at the very sight of my son.  He is love expressed.  And he is gorgeous.

God is so good to us.  Let us never forget to thank Him daily for our families.