Celebrating Santa Lucia

There are so many possibilities for celebrating saints’ feast days that I usually barely manage to pull something together for those our children are named after. But there are a couple extra that are just too good to pass up.

St. Lucy is one of those. You can read about her life here (scroll down to the very bottom to read about the popular celebration and the reason behind all the crazy hats below).

My husband initiated the celebration of St. Lucy’s day, which might have had something to do with the fact that traditionally the oldest girl in the family gets up super early and makes a delicious sweet bread to bring to her parents for breakfast. But we didn’t get up quite early enough for that today.

We did however finish making our wreath crown with candles for the oldest girl (or in our case the girls decided to take turns), garland crowns for the rest of the girls, and cone hats with stars for the boys. We’re going to get all dressed up and deliver cinnamon rolls to the neighbors after dinner tonight.

IMG_7590I’m pretty sure this goes without saying, but the kids are *loving* this feast day. :)

 

Advent Chain With Gospel Readings

Happy New Year!

If you woke up this morning and realized you haven’t yet accomplished that glorious Advent calendar you pinned for the kids this year, don’t worry! I have a simple Advent chain for you that you can print out and put together today. You’ll still be right on track with Advent, and for a bonus, instead of feeding them candy with this Advent calendar you’ll be introducing the daily Gospel readings into your Advent preparations. Perfect!

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There are a lot of Advent chains available to print for free but I wanted a way to help us prepare our hearts for Christmas, not just count down the days until the tree filled up with presents. So I gathered the daily Bible readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site and printed a little excerpt of each day’s Gospel reading on the chain, along with the date and the reference to look up the full reading. Of course you could just take a link off the chain each day and read the little excerpt, but it will only take a minute and be so much more helpful for your kids if you keep a Bible nearby and read the entire Gospel message with them.

Free Printable Advent Chain with Gospel Readings

1. Choose which PDF file to print. The strips in the “small” file are fairly narrow because I was printing this for a class of 20 kids and wanted to keep the first 24 strips on only two pages. The strips in the “large” file are wider and leave more room for error when cutting. If you are only printing one and would like your child to be able to help with cutting the strips, the larger one is probably better for you. You can print the whole file on white paper and have your kids color the backs of the pages with Dec 1 through Dec 24 on them, or you can print those strips on purple or rose colored paper (2 pages in the small file, or 3 pages in the large file).

Advent Gospel Readings Chain SMALL

Advent Gospel Readings Chain LARGE

2. If you printed on white paper, have your kids color and/or decorate the backs of the first two pages (small file) or three pages (large file) for  Dec 1 through Dec 24.

3. Cut all the strips along the black lines.

4. Starting with Dec 1, make a loop from the strip and secure with glue, tape, or stapler. Continue with Dec 2 and on, looping each strip through the previous loop before securing to make a paper chain from Dec 1 through Dec 25.

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5. I included a 25th strip on the last page, which I printed on white paper, so we would have a final reading for Christmas morning.

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6. Each day, remove the link for that day from the chain and read the Gospel passage with your kids.

This is a no-fuss craft that could have a big impact on your family’s preparations for Christmas. If you’ve been wanting to add daily prayer or Bible readings to your routine, this is a great time to start!

A Mother’s Day List

TenThingsFromMyMom

Ten Things (among many) I Learned From My Mom:

  1. how to love the outdoors
  2. how to love challenges
  3. how to love chocolate
  4. how to love quiet
  5. how to love widows and orphans
  6. how to love adventure
  7. how to love learning
  8. how to love what you have
  9. how to love my kids
  10. how to love, regardless

Thanks, Mom (from me, and everyone who has to live with me).

Let Us Begin

Do you know what I find overwhelming sometimes? Everything. Some days, I think about everything, and everything is much too much for one day.

Keeping the house picked up (“dusted” doesn’t even enter into the equation), the laundry folded, the dishes clean, the bills paid, and food on the table… overwhelming.

Decisions about what to feed my kids, their medical care, their discipline, their education… overwhelming.

And that’s just inside my home. What about outside my walls,  the kids in our city, in every city around the world, who don’t have food to eat, or medical care, or discipline, or education (or even parents to worry about those things)? Every minute there are lives being lost to hunger, exposure, violence, even loneliness. Every minute there are lives being destroyed by wars, drugs, and human trafficking. Human trafficking?! Have we stopped teaching the Golden Rule in kindergarten?

There are people, children, all around us, who believe they are unloved.

This is the tragedy of our time, and just thinking about it enough to type that paragraph is overwhelming, because me sitting here thinking about it isn’t helping anyone, and yet the problems are so vast and the pain is so prevalent that I am paralyzed from action. What, truly, could I possibly do to make a difference?

This is a common mindset, and very often the reason, or perhaps the excuse, we have for doing nothing. Because what would it matter, the little we can do? It is but a drop in the ocean.

Mother Teresa had similar thoughts, but she found the solution:

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one. So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand….The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.”

No, there is a very good chance that today, you will not be able to tell a desolate orphan child that you love her and hand her a piece of bread and a cup of water and secure for her a home and a future. But perhaps that is not the place that you and I are to begin. We begin by making sure that when our own children wake up, the first thing they hear is that we love them. So we’ve begun.

Often we are discouraged because we want to help but we simply don’t know what to do, and we don’t know what to do because we don’t know what the people near us need. So let’s begin by actually getting to know our families or our neighbors well enough to recognize their needs. We don’t have to travel the world to save it.

Most people in the modern world have heard of Mother Teresa, and if they know nothing else about her, they probably know that she helped a lot people. She is now famous for taking care of people, and she helped thousands upon thousands of people by not being overwhelmed by the masses, by not being paralyzed by the enormity of the job, but by seeing and helping one individual. She began with one.

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You and I can each find one person to love and to help today. Maybe it is only a drop in the ocean, but it is enough that we begin.

Love, Indefatigable

Oh, Valentine’s Day. It seems like most people either love it or hate it. Which way do you think he’s leaning? Ha.

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So now that another Valentine’s Day has passed, are you thinking “Phew, glad that’s done with.” or are you of the “Man, I wish every day was Valentine’s Day!” camp?

I like chocolate as much as a lot more than the next person. I’m also a sucker for flowers, little notes, and fantastic dinners out (movie dates, balloons, and jewelry I don’t really get, but that’s quite possibly just me). That being said, I find Valentine’s Day a little odd, like it’s missing the mark just a bit.

Yes, of course we should celebrate the people we love and make sure they know we love them! The confusing thing to me is the idea that love requires this grand expression, like we don’t take it seriously unless it’s proven by something sparkly and expensive that we can share on instagram and get a hundred (secretly jealous) likes of the picture on facebook. Valentine’s Day gifts and schemes are nice and all, but one great gesture does not a relationship make.

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”

– Mother Teresa (who else?)

Sure, maybe what we want is to show off or even just see that we are appreciated spelled out loud and clear for one day. But what we need in our homes — every day — is love that turns off the tv and does a load of dishes. What we need is love that makes a double batch of a meal and delivers the extra to a neighbor. We need love that pockets the phone and plays puzzles and wrestling with the kiddos. Love that smiles even at the end of a long day, or a long argument discussion. Love that answers question 483 as patiently as question 1. We need love that forgives, not one time, every time.

On one hand it’s a bit of a relief to accept that we don’t have to write a famous sonnet or park a gift in the driveway wrapped in a bow the size of a small person in order to express genuine love. On the other hand, if you have any doubt that modern-day love is easily tired, a quick view of the divorce rate should clear things right up. Momentum is hard to maintain; all the forces of nature are against it, and very few of us can claim to excel at perseverance. But if our loved ones are worth celebrating on Valentine’s Day, they’re worth the effort the rest of the year as well. No matter what you were able to give or receive on Valentine’s Day, loving faithfully doesn’t mean adding a diamond to the collection every day of the year. It’s a smile, it’s sharing the load, it’s a kind word spoken even if you suspect the other person knows it without being told.

We need love to motivate the care of all our little tasks and big responsibilities throughout the day. It’s not grocery shopping; it’s love through planning, budgeting, and nourishing your family. It’s not putting one foot in front of the other to get out the door for another day of drudgery work; it’s love through providing for your family, giving, and spending wisely.

Whatever your day entails, it doesn’t have to be a string of mundane tasks. See it for what it is: the product of love, indefatigable.