Faith in Practice

I was blessed with the opportunity to model faith for my children today; and to teach them how to put their faith into practice as well.

We had to go to LegoFan’s Anxiety Disorder Group this afternoon. I had very little money in my account and needed gasoline in order to make it to the group. I left a little early and put $5 in the tank, and this should have brought up my available mileage up to about 35 miles. Knowing I didn’t have much more money and that it was only about 10 miles to the doctor’s, I set out.

However, I didn’t notice that my available miles never changed. When I got back in the car to return home, my available miles read 8. I’ll be honest that my initial reaction was one of a little panic because I thought I somehow didn’t get the gasoline I paid for. But I took some deep breaths – learned that from Anxiety Disorder Group – and started to pray. There were more miles between me and home than there were in my tank, with no gas stations in between.

LegoFan started to get very worried and was counting down the miles for me from the backseat – isn’t he helpful? Diva began to ask what would happen if we ran out of gas? Did I mention that it was cold and raining? I calmly told them how we would handle it if the car ran out of gas, and then I suggested that everyone pray.

I told them that Jesus could get us home. That we needed to have faith. I began to remember how long the oil lasted for the Israelites. I began to repeat to myself that I had faith and that I knew that Jesus would bring us home.

At each major milestone, we gave thanks. We made it around the Beltway – Praise God! We made it to the next stop light – Praise God! We made it to the final stop light before home, at which intersection there was a gas station – Praise God! The light was red, so I pulled out my phone and checked the balance on my account. I had $6.99 left. I was able to pull into the gas station and put $6 in the tank. We had made it.

But when I pulled out of the gas station, the available miles still read zero. I began to play with the buttons and eventually the available miles came around again, and it was 68 miles, more miles than should have been added when I put the $6 in the tank…

God is good – All the time! All the time – God is good!

Today was a great lesson in faith; and in modeling that faith for my children. Not only do I thank God for making it to the gas station, but I thank God for the opportunity (and ability!) to show my children where to turn in such situations. Thank you, Jesus!

Jesus

7 Quick Takes #2

— 1 —

Confession. Reconciliation. Penance. Good things happen there. Especially when you ask God to help you make a good, honest confession. Something enters your mind that you hadn’t considered mentioning. Apparently God had something to tell me.

God nudged me this afternoon; and, believe it or not, this post is part of it.

Crucifix

— 2 —

Psalm 41: 10-14 ~ (10) Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me. (11) But you, Lord, have mercy and raise me up that I may repay them as they deserve. (12) By this I know you are pleased with me, that my enemy no longer jeers at me. (13) For my integrity you have supported me and let me stand in your presence forever. (14) Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, from all eternity and forever. Amen. Amen.

Someone whom I trusted hurt me. A lot. This someone still jeers at me. A lot.

When I first read this, I looked at verse 11 and thought it sounded a lot like revenge. However, perhaps it means something a little different. Perhaps it is more about my attitude and outlook. When the Lord has mercy on me and raises me up, that in itself is the repayment this person deserves, in that I am not controlled by that person’s hurts and jeers.

I think there is a secular saying about this: Living well is the best revenge. I don’t wish revenge on this person; however, I do wish to live well. And it is by God’s grace and mercy, as well as my integrity, that I shall.

Decoupage Cross

— 3 —

Legofan saw his pediatrician this week, who was pleased with how well he is doing. He warned me to expect growth of approximately four inches over the next year. Ummm… can we do that all in the summer time so that the length of his pants doesn’t matter??? He’s already coming close to looking me in the eye. How bad does a 40-something year old woman look in these?

High Heel Boot from JustFab.com

— 4 —

One of the things I’ve been doing for LegoFan is giving him Plexus Slim and ProBio5

I actually signed up with the company so I could get the products at wholesale. The ProBio5 is a probiotic, which many doctors suggest for kids on the spectrum. The Slim was actually designed for diabetics, but has improved the lives of many by helping them get off various medications.*

*(Standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I cannot diagnose, prescribe, or treat anything. If you are interested in these products, not only will I make a commission, but I would suggest you talk to your doctor before using them. I am only sharing our experiences with them.)

LegoFan has shown some incredible improvements after using these two. In general, he has become more compliant and less argumentative. He has allowed himself to step out of his comfort zone and actually talk to people. And his art has improved! He used to rush through art and barely follow the directions. Now he takes his time and actually puts details into his creations. I love these positive changes we are seeing!

Bowling

— 5 —

Diva has been amazing me with her creativity and sewing ability. She watched a video about how to sew one of the Mario characters out of felt. This video came with a template and she set out to make it. Ever since then, she has been designing her own patterns! She has made Captain Toad, Waccas (your guess is as good as mine!), Benny the 80s Spacesuit Guy and a Micromanager from the LEGO Movie, and the Unknown (don’t ask me which one) from Pokemon. Most recently, she has designed a princess doll, but she’s not finished with this yet, so I don’t have any pictures. This girl is amazing!

LEGO Movie Benny
Sew - Captain Toad
Sew - Micromanager
Sew - Waccas

— 6 —

For me, I am loving that spring is finally here! Despite allergies, I am enjoying having the door open in the house, and the windows down as we drive. Flowers and trees are starting to bloom, and even parts of the city are starting to look pretty.

Flower Up Close

Rose

— 7 —

April is the month for Autism. Given that LegoFan is on the spectrum, and I run four different businesses, I decided to team up with some other vendors to do a fundraiser for an amazing group called Pathfinders for Autism.

LegoFan has benefited directly from their services, and we just love the ladies associated with Pathfinders! To that end, I am donating a percentage of my profits from all of my businesses to Pathfinders this month! So, if you are in the market for…

Hair Jewelry from Lilla Rose

Hair Jewelry from Lilla Rose

Personalized Jewelry from Origami Owl

Personalized Jewelry from Origami Owl

Health & Wellness products from Plexus

Health & Wellness products from Plexus

Essential Oils from Young Living

Essential Oils from Young Living

… please click on the photos and they will take you to my sites. You can order directly from there, and then come back and post your order number in the comments (I can delete order numbers so they don’t stay on the blog). That way I can track things and make my donations accordingly.

* Just in case I wasn’t clear, the links will take you to my websites, where I will make a commission off each sale. In this case, your purchases will not only help me keep my kids home, but they will also help a worthwhile organization, Pathfinders for Autism. Thank you for helping us!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Blessed

Blessed

For a few years now, I’ve been reading people’s “One Word” posts. I even wanted to select a word for myself. But last year, I had three words I liked and I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. So I did what any sensible person would do…

I just gave up on the idea.

Ok, not so sensible. But this year, as soon as I remembered the “One Word” idea, my word was there for me. There was no hemming and hawing. No deciding. It was just there.

BLESSED

Apparently I’ve been having too many pity parties over the last few months. Or maybe I just need to be reminded that, despite my current circumstances, I truly am blessed.

With this being 2014, I thought I’d kick off this year of the BLESSED with 14 blessings I can count in my life right now:

  1. My God ~ My Faith ~ My Salvation – This wonderful God blessed me with the gift of His Son; and, thus, the gift of salvation. This Son, Jesus, died for me, so that I might live. This photo is of my Origami Owl locket. In it is a plate that is stamped ‘Blessed,’ the word ‘Love,” and a cross – all to remind me of the love my God has for me!  Blessed Locket, Origami Owl
  2. LegoFan – I’m listing him first, not because he’s loved more than his sister, but because he was born first. LegoFan has been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, as well as a host of other things. He has taught me some much-needed patience. He has shown me true joy. I am blessed to know him and to be his Mama.  LegoFan Ornament
  3. Diva – Obviously, she was born second. She is developing into a beautiful young lady. She has brought femininity back into my life. She has humbled me. I am blessed to know her and to be her Mama.  Diva Ornament
  4. My Mother – I don’t have a photo she’d be happy with me posting, so this will just be text. My mother is one of the few family members who truly supports me in my endeavors to continue homeschooling the children, despite being a single parent. She has supported my decision in word and deed. I am so blessed to have her in my life and to know that she supports us.
  5. A Place to Live – We are not currently living in a place I would choose to live. But, my children have a safe place to be, play, and learn. We have a place that is warm and shelters us from the elements. We have something soft under our heads when we sleep at night. We are blessed to have somewhere to be each day. A Place To Live
  6. A Car to Drive – Earlier in 2013, my car was a mess. It had dents, a crack in the windshield, a hole in the floor from the driver’s heel, and had parts falling off of it. The worst thing? Two windows wouldn’t stay up and there was no heat. Then the brakes went out… It was time to send it to the auto graveyard. So I looked for used cars. I set my budget and was determined to stick to it. I made a list of cars available at a few different dealers in the area and we set out to look. We had struck out at most of the dealers and there were only two left. We drove onto the lot and were a little disappointed in this little lot with some broken down cars and a trailer for an office. They didn’t have the car I came there to see. But being the good salesman he was, the employee told me he had a few cars come in the night before that had not yet been advertised. He showed me one, but it wasn’t what we needed. Then he showed me another one. It would not have been my first choice, or even my 10th probably, but I gave it a chance. It was $500 less than my budget, that was a good start. He gave me the VIN and told me I could go run a CARFAX on it. I got on my computer and researched the make and model only to discover that it was one of the better made cars out there. I ran the CARFAX to discover that this car had no accidents or any other problems reported in its history. It seemed like this car was supposed to be for me. After I bought it I realized that I had asked God for something safe and reliable; and He delivered. But not only that, like Solomon asking for the right thing in Wisdom and getting more than he asked for; I, too, got more than I asked for. I got some features I’d only dreamed about having! I am very blessed to have been directed to this car; and it has grown on me too! A Car To Drive
  7. Food to Eat – Food has been something of a struggle for us. LegoFan has battled food allergies all of his life, and each time he’s tested, we find something new. This past year, we ended up going gluten-free, and change is not always easy. But we have found things to like, and new ways to prepare some of our favorite foods. It’s a journey. But we have food, and we are able to prepare and enjoy good things to eat. We are blessed to have our daily bread! Gluten-Free French Toast
  8. Clothes to Wear – I am definitely not a fashionista, and I’ve had a love-hate relationship with clothing over the years! So right now, my wardrobe consists of jeans and t-shirts. It’s not where I want to be, as I’d like to feel a bit more feminine most of the time. But I have something to wear. My children have things to wear. My mother sometimes picks things up for them too. And then there’s the time when I found jeans for LegoFan for $2.67 and blouses for Diva at $2 – what blessings! Then Cammie over at A Woman’s Place posted about her thrifty find called thredup. I went over there and found a treasure-trove of dresses for Diva at great prices (if you go over there via my link, you will get $10 off your first order with them, and so will I). We are truly blessed to have such clothing to wear. "New" Dresses
  9. Homeschooling – I love this blessing! To be able to be such an integral part of my children’s education is amazing. I get to see the light bulb go on when they figure out something new. I got to be the one to not only teach them how to read, but also the one to show them the joys of a good book. I was privileged to be there with Diva as she struggled through long division and came out victorious. I am able to encourage LegoFan as he tries to find ways to communicate his knowledge, even if they are a bit unconventional. It’s a road we travel together; one in which we learn and grow together as well. I am blessed with the freedom and ability to be my children’s teacher. Science Experiment
  10. The Internet – I know, this can be a blessing and a curse. It is both to me sometimes. But coming from the perspective of blessings, I have been reunited with friends from college, high school, and even elementary school through facebook. I have had the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals through twitter and facebook. I have the chance to write, explore my thoughts, and share parts of my life via this blog. I have found deals to save money on things we need, as well as ways to earn a little money. I have ‘met’ several wonderful ladies through blogs and homeschool groups. I am blessed by what I have chosen to use on the internet, and what it has to offer.
  11. My Plexus business – I recently decided to join Plexus to help improve my health and to help me earn a living to take care of my babies. This company is dedicated to natural ways to get your body in tip-top shape. Their most notable product is Plexus Slim and I just started taking it. I guess I will have to post before and after photos along this journey.  I am blessed to be in business for myself with a company that helps to improve others’ health.plexus_slim
  12. My Origami Owl Business – This was the first business I really joined. I fell in love with the concept of Living Lockets – I loved being able to design and re-design my own jewelry, and that it told my story! And it’s just plain fun – fun to wear and fun to present! I am blessed to be in a business that is fun and prides itself on being a “Force for Good.” Locket - Heart-Shaped
  13. My Lilla Rose Business – I just love my Lilla Rose business. I ended up joining Lilla Rose at roughly the same time as Origami Owl – and it wasn’t planned that way! Lilla Rose has the most beautiful hair accessories – I call it Hair Jewelry! But it’s not just that they’re beautiful, they actually hold my hair! All of it. All day. And NO headaches! But I got something else when I joined Lilla Rose: I got a Lilla Rose family! We have a group on facebook that is so supportive and encouraging, that it’s impossible not to succeed. I am very blessed to be a part of this company, to be able to wear these lovely products in my hair, and to be a part of the Lilla Rose family. Lilla Rose Flexi Clip
  14. God’s Majesty – God sends reminders of His blessings constantly. Sometimes it just takes me longer to see them. But they’re always there. God is the Master Artist and there is just so much beauty in His world. God’s Majesty fills me with awe. I am blessed to live in a world with so many beautiful sights, that He provides them for my (and your) enjoyment!

Fall GlorySunset on the WaterFlower Up Close

As this year continues forward, I know there will be difficult times. I know there will be days that I have a hard time remembering to be grateful. This post will serve as a reminder ~ and permanent record ~ that I have a lot for which to be grateful.

I am truly blessed!

What is your word for this year? If you’ve written a post about it, feel free to share a link in the comments.

* Disclaimer: Most of the links in this post are for my businesses, one is an affiliate link. All are ways to help me help my family. I am a single parent trying to keep my babies home and take care of them in the way I feel God wants me to. If you click on the links and make a purchase, you will be helping us, and I will be grateful.

Desire of My Heart

Something happened to me at Mass today…

…but it started last night.

I was talking with a friend who was describing a difficult situation. My heart cried a bit for this friend and all those involved. So I prayed.

There’s something I want. It is something extremely important to me. Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached for it? I’m not talking about something material. It’s not a new car or expensive jewelry. It’s not a new wardrobe or more furniture. Sure, I wouldn’t mind having these things, but they’re not a priority like this desire is.

But somewhere during mass today ~ I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened ~ my focus shifted. While I would still benefit directly from obtaining this desire, for the first time in a long time, I realized that I truly wanted this desire for the benefit of at least three other people. My heart now ached for my friend and a couple others. I truly found myself thinking about how it would benefit each of them more than I considered what it would do for me.

It was an amazing feeling! I returned from Communion with tears in my eyes. I knelt there, as I usually do, and offered prayers of Thanksgiving. I have my standard list of gratitude, but this time It. Was. Different.

It all held deeper meaning ~ All because of a shift in perspective.

As we approach Thanksgiving this week, perhaps we could use a shift in perspective. We can look at the gifts in our lives and see how they can benefit others. I do not believe that God blesses us with gifts just to hear us say “Thank you.” I do not believe that He blesses us with gifts so that we can keep them to ourselves. I do believe that He gives us our gifts to share them and to directly effect others in our lives.

So, whether or not God blesses me with this particular desire of my heart, I know that my heart is in the right place. I know that I am blessed.

Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Ps 16:11)

The Other Day

I think I’ve figured out what bothered me the most about the other day ~ Intimacy.

For me, attending Mass is an intimate experience. I am there to praise and worship; to connect with Jesus and be filled by Him. It’s a special time to be shared; not an obligation.

So, attending Mass with a man who is technically “my husband” but who is actually living elsewhere and participating in an intimate relationship with another woman; is disconcerting to say the least. It should be a spiritually intimate experience; but it’s difficult to share any type of intimacy in this situation.

But this Mass was about love; ok, they all are. However, this one in particular was about Jesus’ love for His earthly mother. He loved her. He honored her. Mary’s life is one from which we can  learn a lot. She loved. She sat at the foot of the cross as her Son hung there dying. She held Him in her arms after He was taken down from that cross.

She prayed.

So I prayed. Admittedly, I prayed for my children and myself first. I know. I’m working on it. But I prayed for him too.

It was still a difficult experience; and I can’t say it actually helped at that moment. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t. God hears all prayers; so I know He heard mine. Praying for the person who has caused me so much pain was/is the right thing to do. It’s what Jesus Himself did. In fact, I borrowed His words:

Father forgive {him, he} knows not what {he} does.

I may never see the results of these prayers; but that’s not important. What’s important is that I pray them; and continue to pray them. For both of us. I believe it’s part of my path to forgiveness.

Please know that I don’t mention this  for my own glory. I am not seeking to be praised for my prayers for someone else.  The purpose behind me writing about my painful journey is twofold: to give God the glory and to help someone else who may find themselves in a similar situation. If my pain glorifies God; and possibly helps someone else, then it will be worth it.

Untitled – On Purpose

Today was a rough day. I didn’t blog about it, but I had a second foot surgery in six months a couple of weeks ago. I had gone back to the doctor wondering why I was still experiencing pain after February’s surgery. At first, the doc thought that the muscles and tendons were just taking a little longer than usual to heal. But then he felt it – another, relatively large, cyst. In fact, he ended up finding two more. He looked at me and said since it’s giving you so much pain, you know what we have to do… So I scheduled the surgery.

It was different this time. This time I had no illusions of any spousal support. He was gone and I was alone. With two children too young to care for themselves. Fortunately, my mother was able to come and help. I was even able to employ some of Lorrie’s Freezer meal techniques to ensure that there was some food in the freezer for those days she wasn’t able to be there. So, while not ideal, it was ok. God provided for my children and myself.

I was officially cleared to walk, with caution, on Monday. He told me I still had to take it easy so I didn’t overdue it; and so that the inside could continue to heal. I was also told that I could drive IF I could get a regular shoe on my foot. Well, I can’t do it yet without pain.

And that’s where today’s difficulties come in. Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Catholic Church. I know that there are some non-Catholic Christians who believe that we, as Catholics, worship Mary; especially with feasts like today. However, it really is as simple as this… Jesus grew up here on earth with the same commandments we were given; and following those commandments He honored His mother. And so, we follow His example and honor her too. It’s honor, not worship. But I don’t want to argue that point with anyone. The point is that I wanted to attend Mass with my children on this day that is special to us.

We had the option of attending Mass on Tuesday evening at our usual church a half hour away from the house; or tonight at our church or the church down the street. Going back to my doc’s rule, I tried to get a shoe on my foot. It wouldn’t go on. I was frustrated. Then my ex called and wanted to see the kids on Wednesday evening. I told him about church and the shoe not fitting; and he surprisingly said he was willing to to take us all to Mass and spend a little time with the kids afterwards. I was surprised, but hesitant.

So, if I wanted to attend Mass, I had to be humble and accept his help. I told him I’d accept, but I didn’t say ‘thank you’ fast enough and he yelled at me for my lack of gratitude. I immediately regretted accepting; but I had already told Diva, and she LOVES going to church. I was not going to disappoint her.

We went tonight; and it was difficult. The priest mentioned turning to your spouse for support during his homily. And here I was sitting near a man who is legally my husband, but who I know is going ‘home’ to another woman. I couldn’t stop the tears. I tried to wipe them before LegoFan saw them, but I was too late. It’s amazing to me that he seems completely out of touch with his and other people’s feelings; yet he is completely in touch with mine. He always knows. Always.

Breaks. My. Heart.

After Mass, he told the children that he was going to get them dessert and we went to Rita’s. They began to enjoy their dessert, but he rushed them and told them they could finish at home. As were getting out of the car, he took the kids up to the door and unlocked it. As I was getting my purse, his phone beeped. I looked at the screen. It. Was. Her.

So… He takes us to church and out for dessert. A strange, unsettling feeling.

Jesus, thank you for your love, and the strength to walk through this difficult time. I know you are by my side.

Not Just A New Chapter

Last summer I made a decision to blog regularly. I had even decided to work with someone to redesign the blog and move it to a new domain.

However, none of it ever happened. My laptop stopped working and a nine-day fix turned into a two and a half month ordeal; resulting in a new laptop, but a corrupted hard drive. I lost everything!

But that loss pales in comparison to several life events that began to unfold during the summer as well. I have been debating whether or not to post about this; and every time I decide to post it, the debate becomes how much to share. I love reading blogs; and getting a glimpse of other people’s lives. I have loved getting to know several people I have ‘met’ in this blogosphere. But my pet peeve is reading blogs where the author seems perfect; where it seems that nothing negative ever happens in his or her life. While I don’t believe that bloggers should reveal all the intimate details of their lives, I do believe that if you are blogging about your life you should be real. So that is how I finally made my decision to write this post. I want to be real. Please remember that I come from a Catholic background. Everything I have done has involved prayer and consultation with Godly people, as well as my priest.

So, here goes… last summer I discovered that my husband was having an affair. I certainly did not condone this behavior; and have not, as of yet, forgiven him for it (I’m working on it). I did feel that it was only right to try to fix what was wrong. I prayed, bought books, and sought out couple’s counseling. We even attended a Love and Respect video conference (I highly recommend this conference!). I tried changing to be the wife he said he wanted.

Out of respect for my children & a little privacy, I won’t go into all the details; but let’s just say that nothing made a difference. In fact, a tragedy revealed that he had never really ended the affair. The husband of the woman in question chose to commit suicide. It was this action, in combination with his deception, that began a severe downward spiral. We each spoke separately to a priest at our church, and I had hoped we could somehow reconcile this and move forward. It wasn’t to be. In fact, things began to get worse.

Something seemed to snap in my husband. He began to verbally and emotionally abuse me; in private and in front of my children. He began to get more secretive – removing my name from accounts, changing passwords, and refused any attempts to reconcile. He still went through the motions – we tried to appear ‘normal’ during the holidays and for my birthday in January, but it didn’t work. I would find out later that he was still involved with her, even after her husband’s suicide. The abuse continued to escalate and he claimed his health was beginning to suffer as a result. He blamed me.

At the end of February, I had foot surgery. I was told that I couldn’t walk or drive for three weeks. One week after surgery, he moved out; leaving me with two children unable to take care of themselves. He has been gone ever since. I don’t really know where he lives. To his credit, he continues to pay the bills; though he has mentioned that he does this so the courts won’t consider it abandonment. However, he threatens to shut something off on a regular basis; he’s even threatened to withhold our food money unless I did something he wanted. He does come and visit the kids about once a week for a couple of hours. Ironically, he spends more time with them now; and pays more attention to them, then he ever did before.

But my children are suffering. They don’t understand. I am doing all that I can for them, but it never seems to be enough. I pray for them and with them. I spend ‘alone’ time with each of them separately. I have counseling available to both of them. I’ve kept things as routine as possible. It’s all so difficult – I can’t explain to them why this happened; I can’t change it; I can’t bring their father back; I can’t give them the daddy they so desperately desire. They deserve better. So I pray for them. I remind them that God wants to be their Father. At their ages, it’s just not enough for them.

I have met with my priest and discussed all the details with him; including many not mentioned here (hard to believe, huh?). He said that the separation was probably a very good thing. It would hopefully prevent things from escalating further. He also told me that since we were married in a civil ceremony (at my husband’s insistence), the Church didn’t consider us married. I know that some of you will disagree with that; but it does help in the event I am blessed with another opportunity for marriage. Which means this one will have to be dissolved legally…

I know God hates divorce; but I also know He loves me and my children. He doesn’t want us to remain in a situation where there’s potential danger. I know some people would say to remain married and just live apart. However, that, in my opinion, just condones his adulterous behavior. It’s just not something with which he is concerned. He has already moved on. Also, remaining legally married prevents the children and me from having the opportunity to find a Godly relationship. I believe that God will provide a Godly man for us who will teach my children what a Godly marriage looks like; what God intended husbands and fathers to be.

While I know not everyone will agree with my decision to divorce my husband, I have prayed about this and talked about it with Godly people. It’s not a decision I made lightly. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother with no income. With God’s help, I intend to maintain that. As you may know from other posts, my son is on the Autism Spectrum and he needs to have his mother home with him, as it has been for the entirety of his life. Neither of them need any more changes right now. I have decided that I am no longer going to subject them to the abuse. It certainly doesn’t teach my son how to be a Godly man; nor does it teach my daughter how a man is supposed to treat a woman. What I am trying to teach them is strength, integrity, and reliance on God. I am at peace with this decision, even if it’s not what I wanted. I am at peace with it, even if it’s difficult. I ask that instead of judgement you say a prayer for my children and me.

Thank you for reading, and not judging. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for allowing me to be a bit transparent and real. My life is far from perfect, but it contains the most perfect thing there is: the Love of the Blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

Contentment

As this holiday season comes to a close with Epiphany, I find myself reflecting on how this last month or two went. As I think, I realize that this has been one of the best Christmases ever.

  • It wasn’t because I got the best gifts.
  • It wasn’t because we hosted the best parties.
  • It wasn’t even because we attended the best parties.
  • It wasn’t because we had the best clothes.
  • It wasn’t because all the food turned out great.

I am realizing that for the first time, I really put Christ in CHRISTmas.Here’s how:

  • We participated in Holy Heroes Advent Adventure;
  • We took my daughter’s doll cradle and some shredded paper (added for acts of kindness and sacrifice) and made a bed for Baby Jesus;
  • We wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a Manger;
  • We followed the genealogy of Jesus with a homemade Jesse Tree:
  • We celebrated the lives and Feast Days of some Saints who loved Jesus long before we were alive – we discovered we can learn a lot from their faith and example!
  • We made many of our gifts, removing ourselves from the malls (we did go to a couple of stores, but were determined not to participate in the madness);
  • We made Christmas Eve Mass a priority – it was something special – we arrived early and didn’t rush out. We lingered. We studied the beautiful Creche. Then we went home and read The Night Before Christmas, but the last thing we did as a family was to read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke.

It was such a beautiful time this year. There was no stress. There were no worries about the ‘perfect’ gift. There was just family and love. From the First and Holy family, to our immediate and extended family.

I am convinced now that this is a lot closer to the way things are supposed to be. It’s amazing that the more I let go of the way the world thinks I should do something, the more I feel at peace. How about you? How did you make your Christmas season centered more around Christ? Happy Feast of Epiphany!

Feast Days

Growing up we didn’t celebrate a lot of feast days, so I never really thought about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when we really started homeschooling, that I thought about celebrating feast days with the children. However, they always seemed to creep up on me and I was never prepared. I would find a great idea here or there, but it would be too late to do, or I wouldn’t have the right supplies/ingredients to make it happen.

But I decided to change that this year. Since Advent is the beginning of the Church year, I thought it was a good time to start and we actually began celebrating some feast days. Keep in mind that we are new at this, so our celebrations are not huge or elaborate in any way. However, I’ve also realized that they don’t have to be – the children enjoy the celebrations and they learn something about someone who loved Jesus. Just stopping the ordinary, changing the routine, is a way to signify that this is something to remember.

So far, we’ve celebrated St. Nicholas (December 6th), The Immaculate Conception (December 8th), St. Juan Diego (December 9th), Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th), and St. Lucy (December 13th). We’ve also made our very first Jesse Tree.

For St. Nicholas (sorry I didn’t take pictures, but it’s pretty explanatory) tradition has it that he helped a poor man with dowries for his three daughters and that perhaps one of those ended up in a hanging stocking. For this reason, the children put their shoes out overnight and received a small amount of chocolate (wrapped, of course). Throughout this feast day, we read several books about the life of this generous, Christ-loving man.

For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we attended Mass at a local church. Our church is a little farther away, so when we have a Holy Day during the week, we usually attend a more local Mass. We remember at this Mass that Mary had to be without sin in order to carry Jesus as fully God and fully human within her womb.

The feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe are intertwined and tell a beautiful story that resulted in the conversion of Mexico. Mary appears to a humble widower and asks for a chapel to be built. The local bishop asks Juan Diego to ask for a sign. Mary shows Juan Diego where God has allowed roses to bloom in the winter, and he gathers them in his tilma. When Juan Diego shows the roses to the bishop, that’s not the only amazing thing: a beautiful image of Blessed Mary is imprinted on the tilma. That image still exists and scientists have not been able to figure out how it got there. We enjoyed some Mexican tostadas and recalled the story as told on Glory Stories at Holy Heroes. Diva even colored some coloring pages.

For St. Lucy, it is a tradition (Scandinavian, I think) that the youngest daughter wakes the household dressed in white with a wreath of candles on her head (if you have Kirsten’s Surprise by American Girl, this is the image on the cover). She brings with her sweet buns and coffee/cocoa. While this is a great thought, Diva is not quite old enough to accomplish this on her own. Nor do I want lit candles on my daughter’s head! So, we compromised. She woke us up in an almost white dress with a paper wreath on her head. {This is where I know I’m not a professional blogger yet – I didn’t have my camera on my bedside table to get a photo!} Then we made some biscuits, cocoa and coffee and we all had a nice breakfast together.

Lastly, we have begun making our very first Jesse Tree. This tradition follows the lineage of Jesus from Creation through His birth. Each day there are Bible stories and a new ornament to make. We kept it simple this year and are making everything out of paper. I went to get a piece of poster board and the only green they had was neon, so our tree is neon. As we discuss each day’s readings, either LegoFan or Diva draws the day’s symbol and attaches it to the tree. I love how they can look at the ornaments they have made and can tell the Bible stories in order. This auditory, visual, and tactile project has enabled them to internalize Biblical history even more! We are getting our ideas and explanations from the Advent Adventure Series by Holy Heroes. Now, please don’t laugh at my crude tree drawing or the neon color…

I really think these traditions have helped my children to learn more about people who have loved Jesus before them, as well as more about Jesus Himself. They are doing much more this advent then just making lists and succumbing to the commercialism and greed we see so much of nowadays. I pray that with Advent seasons like this, my children will grow up with the true “Reason for the Season” in their hearts.

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First Day of Homeschool

Let’s try this again. I’m a little less stressed than I was last night (or early this morning) when I apparently deleted my entire post about our day. I still have no idea how I did it, but life goes on.

Our first day this year went very well. They enjoyed their new school supplies – personal dry erase board, notebooks, long floppy erasers, and a little gift. LegoFan got a box of erasers shaped like puzzle pieces (He loves the Autism Speaks logo!); and Diva got a mini notebook and pen, decorated with butterflies.

Then we had one of their favorite dishes for breakfast: French Toast! While I”m sure it has a bit too much sugar on it, I didn’t hear any complaints!

Then, before the academics began, we started both our year and the day with a little scripture. We decided that we would read one Psalm a day, in order, and the Proverb chapter that coordinated with the date. (We actually skipped #5 as I did not feel it was appropriate for young kids getting ready to start school!)

On to academics! For history we do <a href="Click here to visit RC History.” target=”_blank”>RC History and love it! I cannot say enough good things about this program. We have completed Volumes One and Two; and are currently working on Volume Three.  It’s great to know that all the living books suggested in the program have been pre-screened; so I’m not afraid to give either child any book on the list. We are working at the Grammar Stage now, but it’s set up so that we can spiral back through and delve deeper into history as the children get older.

This week, so far, they have done two map exercises. I don’t expect them to know how to fill everything in at this point so we talk about it and they fill in the important boundaries, names, rivers, etc. Then they get to color! We use Knowledge Quest’s Blackline Maps for the ancient world and the Americas.

We also learned a little bit about a couple of saints from the same time period. One was St. Anthony who is said to have been blessed by a visit from the Infant Jesus.

The second one was St. Hyacinth who was saving the Holy Eucharist from and invasion when he heard the Blessed Mother call out for him to save her statue as well. Apparently, this statue was much too heavy for him to carry, but it became miraculously weightless as he carried it out of the church. All were safe from the attack.

Science is Exploring Creation Through Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day. We’ve been through their Astronomy, Botany, Zoology 1, and Zoology 2 courses as well. The kids enjoy the short lessons and activities; and I enjoy the fact that God and His creation are at the center of the program.

For Language Arts, Diva is finishing up with First Language Lessons of the Well-Trained Mind, Level 4; but since there is no Level 5, we had to find something else for LegoFan. What we found was Lingua Mater. We haven’t started it yet, so I’ll have to report on that a bit later.

Our spelling program is also amazing: All About Spelling. This program works great for LegoFan who had Asperger’s and ADHD; as it is a multi-sensory program. He gets to learn to spell words through magnetic tiles, color-coded cards, speaking, and writing. Diva likes all the different activities too. In fact, this program has eliminated many of the, “Mama, how do you spell…?” questions.

Math is Singapore Math. The spiral format, again, is great for LegoFan as he gets just the right amount of one topic and then moves on to another one. With each book, they delve deeper into the various skills.

We are also doing Art (Artistic Pursuits), Music (Classics For Kids – Free online course), Religion (Faith and Life), French (a free program from the BBC), Geography (using Holling C Holling’s books), and an introduction to Shakespeare. It’s a full year, but the kids and I are looking forward to it!

We found, and are following, a curriculum put together by Michele Quigley and Kathryn Faulkner called Mater Amabilis. I wish I would have found this curriculum earlier.

But back to our day… after the academics were complete, we had a dinner of the children’s choosing – pizza!

All in all, it was a very good beginning to our school year. After their prayers, they each told me that that they enjoyed their day; and that they were looking forward to more. That sounds like a first day of school success!

This post is being linked to Building Our Homes Together and Women Living Well – hop on over to see what these other ladies are doing this week! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links; and they are all for books we have actually used and enjoyed.