Friday, December 30, 2005

The Feast of The Holy Family

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Normally, this feast falls on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's (also a Holy Day - the feast of Mary, Mother of God), but with those days falling on Sundays, this feast got "bumped."

The Gospel reading for today (Luke 2:22-40) tells of Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus to the temple to consecrate him to the Lord. Here the prophet Simeon tells Mary "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel . . .and you yourself a sword shall pierce." We also have the prophetess Anna, an old woman who lived in the temple, who hears the good news of the baby Jesus and then goes out to spread the good news to all who would listen.

It's hard to imagine what Mary might have thought as she heard Simeon's words. The gospel tells us that "she kept all these things in her heart" (Luke 2: 51)While others, like Anna, rejoiced at the coming of the Savior, I wonder if she ever hesitated. While she willingly said "yes" to the angel and was willing to take on her role in salvation history, I imagine at times she questioned the cost. Jesus was her little boy. As he played in Nazareth, she must have feared the future that was to come. No mother ever wants to see her son hurt. She knew the role he was to play, and her part in it was to sacrifice all that she had.

Dear Mary, please help us to willingly sacrifice to help our children to fulfill the roles God has given them. Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Back in Quilting Mode

After my pleasant experience reading "The Christmas Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini, I decided to pick up the first three books in the Elm Creek Quilts series, which conveniently came in one large book called "An Elm Creek Quilts Sampler." So far, I have finished the first book called "The Quilter's Apprentice." While much of the story was the same as "The Christmas Quilt," it did help to fill in some of the blanks and I am looking forward to reading more.

Mostly, however, the stories make me want to quilt! I have loved quilts for as long as I can remember. When I was nine years old, they were having a book fair at my school and there was this big book with patterns for 100 quilt blocks that I just fell in love with. I begged my mother for the $10 to buy it and for whatever reason, she actually agreed to it. I still have that book.

I didn't actually make a quilt until I was 24 years old however. One of my closest friends and his wife were having a baby and I was so jealous! I wanted a baby so much but circumstances just weren't right for us yet. So, I set out to make a quilt for the baby to give me something productive to do. Knowing them, the quilt has since been sold in a tag sale! But, hopefully it is being loved by someone else. Since then, I made two more baby quilts - one for each of my children, and one wedding quilt for my best friend (picture below). That was my only full-size quilt. I was very proud of it. My stitches and measurements are no where near as precise as they should be, but it came out beautiful. The best part is, when I visit their home and sleep over, I get to sleep under it! Anyway, that was two years ago. I have plans to make a quilt for my own bed, but so far all they are are plans! Hopefully soon I'll have the time to put those plans into action!

Art and creativity are important in our lives, and I'll leave you with a quote from "The Quilter's Apprentice" that echoes that sentiment:

"As far as I am concerned, women need art at least as much as men do, even if no one sees their work but themselves. We all need to give ourselves that time."

God Truly is Mercy and Love

Kathryn Mulderink graciously allowed me to post an excerpt from her amazing book His Suffering and Ours. Please visit:

God Truly Is Mercy and Love

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What a Wonderful Day!

While the boys and I often go out of the house and do activities, I usually have at least one day a week when we just stay in the house, decompress, and enjoy each other's company. Today was one of those days, and it was amazing. Sometimes you can get up in the morning and magic comes out of the ordinary. We played on the computer and with trains and with play-dough and a few games of Isaac's new "Sesame Street Chutes and Ladders" game which he absolutely loves. When Bernie came home from work, he played with us. It wasn't like we were doing anything extraordinary, but the boys were getting along and behaving themselves (no one went on time-out today!) and we were all laughing and having fun. Right before bath and bedtime, we were watching some music videos. Isaac was up in my arms and we were dancing as David jumped around the room. Isaac was just so cuddly with those soft blond curls pressed against me and I just wanted to freeze the moment forever.

Thank you, God, for the beauty of simple moments!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Spiritual Woman Website Updates

I made quite a few updates to the website tonight.

Check out the following articles:

Artist and Mother Shines God's Light in Her Work

Is God a Romantic?

and the following book reviews:

His Suffering and Ours: Words of Hope for Pierced and Wounded Hearts
by Kathryn Mulderink

Catholicism for Dummies

Do Not Go Gentle: My Search for Miracles in a Cynical Time
by Ann Hood

A Personal God

Today in Living Faith Claire King writes about how God is concerned with all that concerns us. God is aware of all that we take in through our senses and experience in our emotions, the people we meet and the conversations we have. No matter where our day takes us, God is there. He is with us in the mundane and the extraordinary, when we are joyful and when we are hurting. How wonderful it is to have a personal God who cares about all that we are and all that we do!

Monday, December 26, 2005

And then it was over . . .

It always amazes me how quickly the world gets back to "normal" mode after Christmas. It's like all that peace and happiness vanishes in the blink of an eye, and all that is left is the memories. Of course, in the Church, our Christmas season has actually just begun and will continue through mid-January. So, while everyone else takes down the decorations and puts away the Christmas music, we get to hear carols and enjoy the Holy Season a little while longer.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus

Well, the end is near. The preparations have been made and all is ready to celebrate the Christmas event. The boys can hardly contain their enthusiasm. David is all set to be a shepherd in our parish Christmas pageant to take place at the Christmas Eve mass, and both boys are looking forward to the parties and Santa's coming.

As for me, this Christmas finds my heart at peace and that is all I could ask for. I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Letting Go

The first reading for today is from the book of Samuel, telling how Hannah, Samuel's mother, brought him to Eli, the high priest, at the age of three. Hannah had longed for a child for many years. She promised God that if He gave her a child she would in turn offer him back to God. I can't imagine her heartbreak at bringing her little son to the temple and giving him up.

Terri Mifek in "Living Faith" writes that "When we are faced with letting go of the people and things we cherish most, we have no idea what good might come out of our loss." It is hard to give up that which we love, hard to know what good God might bring out of our pain. In Hannah's case, Samuel would grow to be a great prophet. In our own case, we must trust in the Lord that He does have a plan, and that no sacrifice will go unrewarded.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mary's "Yes"

The Gospel reading for today (Luke 1:26-38) tells us of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to tell her that she would become pregnant with Jesus. Mary's response, despite her hesitation, her fear of the unknown, was "May it be done to me according to your word." It is interesting, isn't it, that God needed human cooperation to fulfill His plan to save us. He needed Mary to say "Yes."

I'm currently reading "His Suffering and Ours" by Kathryn Mulderink. She is an amazing writer and this is an incredible book. It is Lenten themed, focusing on the seven statements of Christ on the cross, which makes an interesting counterpart to our current Advent season. The Christmas event makes the Easter event possible. At the cross, Jesus will remember the woman who said "Yes." (John 19:27) He gives her to us all as our mother. Mulderink offers her own insight into Mary's "Yes":

"She didn't say 'yes' to Gabriel for her own glory; she said 'yes' because she was willing to be used by God for His own purposes, and also because she knew that the salvation of all of creation depended on her 'yes.' She accepted it all, for love of all. . .

We must each utter our own fiat , donate our own bodies, keep our hearts open to Him, so that He can act in the world."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Waiting for a Child

Two of the liturgical readings for today deal with announcements of impending births by angels. Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 tells of the birth of Samson. Luke 1:5-25 has an angel appearing to Zacheriah telling him that he and Elizabeth would have a son who would grow up to be John the Baptist. Both of these women were barren, a fate almost worse than death in societies in which child-bearing was the mark of success for a woman. Yet in the end, God rewarded their patience and faith, giving them children who would go on to do great things, although both would ultimately meet sad ends (at least in human terms).

Christmas is about waiting for a child to be born. Unlike with Christmas which you can pretty much guarantee will come around at the same time each year, human children tend to arrive on their own schedules. You can try to plan for them, but God tends to send them when He chooses. And then there is the pregnant waiting, when for nine (or in my case nearly ten) months, your whole life revolves around this child growing within you. And the last days when you can barely walk and every moment has the potential for a miracle. When will he come? You are getting ready and filled with excitement and fear and happiness and sadness and every other emotion known to woman.

Each year, we remember how Mary, and all mothers who came before and after her, have waited for a child. We wait with Mary and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus.


Speaking of motherhood, tonight I found a blog by a colleague of mine - Dionna Sanchez at www.EmphasisOnMoms.com Her blog is at http://www.emphasisonmoms.blogspot.com.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What a Busy Christmas Day!

Christmas is the time of year when things get so busy. Today was one of those days. We had a Christmas party at Church, then we had mass, then David and I had CCD where we both had Christmas parties in our respective classes. Actually, today my 4th grade class combined with the 1st grade class in order to share materials to work on a Christmas craft. It really was alot of fun. David had a good time in his Pre-K class, too.

Then we had to hurry home because we had our long-distance friends coming for a Christmas celebration at 1 pm. It was wonderful to see everyone and everything went well. The boys had a good time playing with their friends that they hadn't seen in quite a while and opening their presents and we grown-ups had the opportunity to get caught up.

I love to see everyone and have Christmas parties, but I also breathe a sigh of relief after. It's 8 pm and everyone (including my husband) is sleeping. Everyone was worn out by our busy day. Thankfully this week should be pretty quiet before all the festivities of next weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"The Christmas Quilt"

I finished reading "The Christmas Quilt" today. What a wonderful Christmas story, spanning several generations, talking about the importance of family and forgiveness, and making the most of the time we have on this Earth. What an important message any time of year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Old Memories and "The Christmas Quilt"

I went to playgroup this morning with the boys. We have a new member who started coming just a few weeks ago. She has two boys the same age difference as mine (19 months) except somewhat younger. Her older boy is 2 1/2 and the younger is turning 1 next week. The little guy is just learning how to walk. As he toddled to me today with arms outstretched, I couldn't help getting lost in his big hazel eyes! He really is the cutest little guy. I commented that I used to have little boys like him. One of my other friends responded that my boys were never that small - that they were just born big! Not true, I have pictures - I have proof that once upon a time they were small. Unfortunately, I have very little memories of those days - they have been mostly lost to the sleep-deprived haze that I walked through those days with. Thank goodness for my journals. At least I can go back and read them and acknowledge that those days did in fact exist. I love my boys right where they are, however. I love the people that they are becoming.

I'm also indulging right now and reading a Christmas novel - "The Christmas Quilt" by Jennifer Chiaverini. It caught my eye at the library this past Saturday because I was looking for a Christmas story and I love quilting. I don't get to do it much, but it is one of those incredibly relaxing things that I should do more. I do it the old-fashioned way - by hand with needle and thread, because I like to just sit on the couch and sew while I watch T.V. I also don't know how to work a sewing machine! I'm sure that I could learn, but I really don't have the desire. I like the old-fashioned method, even if it is more slow. Anyway, this book is one of a series about an old house that has been converted into a quilters' retreat. This particular book is telling the story of long-ago Christmases at the house. I may have to pick up the others. I'm about 1/2 way through and enjoying it very much.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Meaning of Christmas

There has been alot of uproar lately about people replacing the word "Christmas" with "Holiday" as in "Holiday Trees" and "Happy Holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!" I'm not going to add my voice to the din. I tend to think of such moves as more of a realization that we live in a multicutural world and less of an assault on my Christianity. After all, the outside trappings of Christmas - the tree, the ornaments, even the presents, have very little to do with the religious holy day. They are wonderful and there is certainly no harm in taking advantage of any of them. One can even assign them a spiritual significance. But that is not where it is at. What matters is what is going on in our hearts - the spirit of giving, the belief in miracles, and the celebration of a God who loves us so much that he sent His son to walk among us. The Bible tells us that they will know we are Christians by the way that we love one another. That is what Christmas is about. It is about love - God's love for us, and our love for others.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Caring for Creation

I help teach fourth-grade religious education in our parish. One of the topics for the year is taking care of creation. We all have a responsibility to take care of the planet, primarily so it will be here for our children and our children's children, but also because God entrusted it to our care.

Scientists agree that we are experiencing global warming. While we can't stop it, we should do what we can to try to limit it. The difficulty comes when we must balance caring for the planet with our own needs. For example, we know that using our cars is bad - all that exhaust going into the air is not doing any good. Yet, in our modern American world, a car is a necessity. Yes, there are those good souls who use bicycles , but I have yet to figure out how to transport two children on one and do my shopping! The same holds true for heat - whether you use electric, gas, or oil, you are still polluting the planet. Wood is at least a renewable resource, but still a pollutant.

So, what can we do? Until the perfect non-polluting energy source becomes readily available, we need to choose to conserve. Replace your lightbulbs with the energy-saving kind. Turn off lights and TVs that are not being used. Drive your car only when necessary - no joy rides just for the sake of riding around. Keep your thermostat low and put on an extra sweater or blanket on the bed. These are simple easy steps. While in and of themselves, they may not make a tremendous difference, but if everyone made an effort we could make a huge difference in the state of our planet.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Finding the Right Path

"I, the Lord, your God teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go." - Isaiah 48:17

Sr. Joyce Rupp, meditating on this quote from Isaiah in today's devotion in Living Faith wrote "Each day we take another step on our path of life. That's as far as we can know where the road goes."

Sometimes it is very hard to know what God wants of us. Anne Lamott writes in "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith" (the book I finished reading today!) that "The problem with God -- or at any rate, one of the top five most annoying things about God -- is that He or She rarely answers right away . . . I, on the other hand, am an instant-message type." I am with her. How many times have I wished for a phone call or email from God telling me what my next step should be. I have envied those who claim with such certainty that God has spoken to them and directed their steps. I seem to have poor reception!

Many times, however, I have seen God at work in my life (sometimes at the moment, more often in hindsight.) So, I trust that He is guiding my steps even though I am often hesitant about where I should go or what I should do. I keep reaching out to others, hoping someone will have an answer for me, that perhaps God will use them as a conduit to get his message across. God often does speak through others. So, I keep my ears and eyes open, and my feet to the ground, taking one step at a time, trusting that God will lead me where I should go.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On Hope

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength . . ." Isaiah 40:31

Sometimes it is very difficult to hope, yet hope is part of what it means to be Christian. We hope for a better tomorrow, a better world, and a better life. In this season of Advent, we hope for the coming of Christ, and a Christmas in which there will truly be peace on earth.

Many years ago, a boss of mine gave me a card with the following quote which I still have on my bureau:

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all." - Emily Dickinson

I read those words and it reminds me that deep inside, even on days when it seems that there is little reason to hope, there is still hope inside of me.

To be human is to hope, because if we ever lose all hope, we cease to have any reason to live. We hope because no matter how bad life is, we trust that tomorrow may be just a little bit better. We believe that God will come to our aid, that life has a purpose, that the sorrow and despair we may feel are only temporary. We hold on for one more day. We continue to hope.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Good Soul Cleansing

I went to our parish's Advent penance service and to the sacrament of Reconciliation this evening. It is important to have a good soul cleansing once in a while. The last time I went was 8 months ago. Before that, it had been four years! I'm trying to get back in the habit of going more regularly.

Getting up the nerve to go to confession always take some work. Even tonight, standing in line, I was sweating. There is something incredibly humbling about baring your soul to another person. That is why going to penance services is wonderful. There is safety in numbers, and something comforting about watching all these other people of all ages and colors doing the same thing. You also have the opportunity to go to someone other than your parish priest. Somehow it is easier to talk to a stranger who you won't have to see on a regular basis!

But confession is also remarkably liberating. Non-Catholics always say that God himself forgives sins, and of course He does. There is something about going through the process of sweating, and listing your sins, saying your act of contrition, and hearing the words of absolution that makes you feel lighter than air. A young woman standing next to me in line was talking to her grandmother while we were waiting. She told her that every year when she goes to confession, she just asks for a fresh start. How wonderful that we have that opportunity! The sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a chance to begin again, to wipe clean the sins of our past, and to attempt to change.

For a wonderful discussion of the Sacrament of Confession, check out Lord Have Mercy by Scott Hahn. It is a great book and what convinced me to return to the sacrament after my four year absence.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Comes a Little Early

We had our first Christmas party yesterday. The boys received a couple of presents there and another one today. I really enjoy having the Christmas presents spread out. It gives the boys the opportunity to actually enjoy the gifts and play with them as opposed to having this onslaught on Christmas Day where they end up with a pile that they are so overwhelmed with.

Rebecca Drake, the editor of "The Catholic Observer", our local diocesan newspaper wrote in an editorial how at first she was annoyed to see all the Christmas decorations out in the store back in October. Then she thought about it and realized we are right to celebrate Christmas at any time of the year. That is something good to remember and meditate on. We are always in a state of both anticipation and waiting for Christ to come, as well as celebrating that which has already happened. Christmas should always be with us.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Potty-Training Blues

There are few things in this world that cause me as much stress as potty-training. Three-year-old Isaac and I have been at it now for the past three months. He's making progress slowly but surely and I know that he will eventually get the concept. I know this because his brother David took almost a year.

It is entirely possible that I did everything wrong a mother could do when potty-training, not intentionally of course. I had talked to other moms who had successfully potty-trained children and I read books and magazines. I even prayed. I was told if I put him straight into underwear so that he had accidents, he would quickly become potty-trained (most likely within a week). David was so traumatized by wetting himself that first day that he sat on his little potty for 12 straight hours. He refused to get off. He played there and we read books there and he ate his meals there. The thought of it now just breaks my heart. We spent five days in the house (thankfully he did get off the potty on those days) with a few successes and alot of accidents. Maybe he just wasn't ready. The books said if he wasn't ready, try again in a month or two. So, we did, off and on for several months. The boy just didn't get it.

He got so upset by the whole process that he started holding back his poops, which ultimately landed us in the pediatrician's office. By this time he was three and four months old. The doctor prescribed mineral oil and once he was pooping regularly again, she set us up with a plan to get him potty-trained. She had me ask him what he wanted as a reward for using the potty. He said he wanted little Matchbox cars. I went to BJs and bought a 100 pack and each time he even sat on the potty for one whole minute,he could get a car. After he was used to sitting on the potty, he would only get a car for successfully using the potty. He loved getting the cars and would sit on the potty but consistently using it just wasn't going to happen. The doctor even surrendered, telling me that he would do it when he was ready.

I was so at my wits end, I even did the St. Jude Novena that our parish does every October - 9 days of masses. St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes! I remember looking around the Church thinking "I bet I am the only person here praying for a child to use a potty!"

Then came one day in early December of last year, when he was three and eight months old. He got up and said that he had to go wee-wees and that he didn't need me, and sure enough he went! And continued to go. The boy who the day before had been leaving puddles on my floor was potty-trained and he never looked back.

So, with Isaac, I vowed I wasn't going near a potty with the child until he was three. But at 2 years and 9 months, he asked to go. Unlike his brother, he actually had the mental component where if he had to go to the bathroom, he could make himself go. Wonderful, I thought. Finally, a child who would be easy to potty-train! I rewarded him every time he went, but soon his enthusiasm waned. We change rewards, trying to keep him interested. Right now, his reward is one gumdrop. Some days he actually does all his wee-wees in the potty, other days maybe one or two. Poops are still a struggle. But I know he will get it. When he is ready he will be potty-trained.

I know this, and yet, today at a party talking to a friend whose little boy turned three and was potty-trained within a week, I wanted to cry. I still want to cry. What is wrong with me that I cannot potty-train a child? Why do I fail at this basic test of motherhood? And yet, I know, it is not about me at all. It is about them. As adults, no one will care at what age they learned to use a potty. Heck, at kindergarten, no one will care. I somehow need to keep my ego out of it, and just need to keep encouraging Isaac and let him go at his own pace. I know this, and yet . . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

Momentary Indulgences

Lest you think that I spend every waking moment dwelling on spiritual issues, I feel compelled to confess that I do indulge in some momentary pleasures. For one, I love ice cream - couldn't live without it! In fact, I just finished a bowl while I was sitting here at the computer checking my email.

Second, I enjoy reading magazines, in particular ones on home decorating. I love "Better Homes and Garden," "House Beautiful," and "Home and Garden." On occasion, I'll even venture into Martha Stewart's "Living" even though I would never put that much effort into my decorating or my cooking. I even enjoy "Town and Country" - a magazine which features products and services I could never afford in my wildest dreams. Honestly, even if I had millions of dollars at my disposal, I really am not the $5,000 dress kind of woman!

I just like to look at beautiful things. Art and beauty are important wherever you find them. Whether that be in your decorating style, or the plants in your garden, or the clothes you wear, if we are surrounded by beauty, we are happier people. Above my computer, I have a collage of art pictures that I have cut from books and magazines, and no, you will not find that in any reputable decorating magazine. These pictures are literally just taped to the wall, but I enjoy them and that is what matters. So, find some beauty in your surroundings and indulge!